Posted by Brad @ 1:47 pm on May 22nd 2009

Lieberman/Graham to Obama’s Rescue!

In a little-noticed news item, last night the Senate passed the Detainee Photographic Records Protection Act, an amendment to the Supplemental Appropriations bill.

You’ll recall, of course, that the Department of Justice finally gave in in its fight against releasing additional torture memos as part of an ongoing ACLU FOIA lawsuit. Obama was okay with that, and then he wasn’t, and since then action has been stalled. Obama wasn’t going to issue an executive order stopping the photos from being released, but short of that, he was going to make the DoJ keep fighting the lawsuit and, in all likelihood, losing anyway.

But never fear! Joe Lieberman and Lindsay Graham decided to give him an assist, passing a law…

which would establish a procedure to block release of the detainee photos. The Senators plan to offer the legislation as an amendment to the Supplemental Appropriations bill that is being deliberated on the Senate floor this week.

Last week, after consulting with General Petraeus, General Odierno, and others, President Obama decided to fight the release of photographs that depict the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody. Those photographs are the subject of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

This legislation would authorize the Secretary of Defense, after consultation with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, to certify to the President that the disclosure of photographs like the ones at issue in the ACLU lawsuit would endanger the lives of our citizens or members of the Armed Forces or civilian employees of the United States government deployed abroad.

The certification would last five years and could be renewed by the Secretary of Defense if the threat to American personnel continues. Also, the language in the bill is clear that it would apply to the current ACLU lawsuit.

Of course, the ACLU can fight that law, and it probably will, but that’s a pretty damn big roadblock. I figured Obama would go on record against the release, garner the cred with the military brass and neocon hawks, and then the photos would get out anyway.

But, give them an inch, and now we have a law on the books giving the Pentagon yet another “out” to prevent transparency. And, of course, the law makes no provision to challenge their certification that the release of materials they’re otherwise legally obligated to release should not be released. More and more layers of “executive say-so’ just keep getting piled on…

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