Friday December 18, 2015
President Obama once pledged that his government would be the most transparent in history — a claim that is often mocked by civil libertarians and other critics who accuse him of almost Nixonian secrecy policies and inclinations. That troubling record is playing out again before U.S District Court Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. The Administration continues to fight to withhold over 2,000 images of torture and abuse of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan simply because it would make the United States look bad. Ironically, there is a transparent element to this case.
Few Administrations have been so transparently obvious in their use of classification rule to simply bar the disclosure of information that would be embarrassing to officials or the government. Usually, the Justice Department attempts to spin a tale of some other national security rationale for non-disclosure. Here, however, there is nothing even plausible to come up with. The Obama Administration simply wants to deep six the photos because people would be really angry if they saw what the government did, including photos that are believed to be far worse than those Abu Ghraib (like the one above).
Hellerstein gave the Justice Department until December 12th to come a rational explanation why each individual photograph has been withheld from the public. In 2009, Obama insisted that disclosing the photos would “further inflame anti-American opinion.” However, that rationale could be used for wholesale cover ups and information controls by the government.