Monday, November 30, 2009

High Court: Soldiers-Gone-Wild Photos Stay Sealed

Back in April, the Obama administration agreed to release detainee abuse photos that had been sought by the detainee lobby (the ACLU) under a Freedom of Information request. In May, the administration did a 180, and now it appears that the photos will be kept under wraps permanently.
The Supreme Court did all it could Monday to lock up forever some incendiary photos that show U.S. soldiers abusing foreign prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Yielding to Congress and the White House, justices took the expected but formal step of reversing a lower court's order that the pictures be released. Using its budget powers, Congress already had moved to keep the photos secret.
In a brief, unsigned decision issued Monday without elaboration, the court cited a provision in a Homeland Security funding bill that President Barack Obama signed Oct. 28. The provision permitted the Pentagon to block the public release of the pictures in question, as well as others deemed to "endanger" U.S. soldiers or civilians.
"Disclosure of those photographs would pose a clear and grave risk of inciting violence and riots against American troops and coalition forces," Solicitor General Elena Kagan had warned the Supreme Court.
...Technically, the one-paragraph ruling kicks the case back to the New York -based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is all but certain to follow orders not to release the pictures.
Separately, while out of town for the holiday weekend, we happened to catch a glimpse of a TV commercial by one of the candidates in the upcoming special election in Massachusetts that will fill the late Sen. Kennedy's seat. Now this was perhaps just one issues ad out of a series, but the solon looked into the camera and claimed he was running for the seat because the Bush-Cheney administration engaged in torture. Okay, if someone wants to obsess about harsh interrogation, torture, whatever the term of art, until the cows come home, fine. Free speech. However, with the economy in the tank, and joblessness everywhere, a candidate for federal office airs a commercial about "standing up to Dick Cheney." Even in Massachusetts, does that make sense as a political strategy or more importantly, as an effective way to serve the constituents?

ACORN Gets Paid

It seems like just yesterday when the Bush administration was being blasted for politicizing the U.S. Justice Department. Weren't those the good old days? So let's review the bidding, now that Justice is under new management. AG Eric Holder and his agency won't investigate voter intimidation in Philadelphia but will investigate CIA interrogators and allow war criminals to be tried in civilian courts. In addition, the agency has rung up other, similar accomplishments in the past ten months. Here's the latest: "The Justice Department has concluded that the Obama administration can lawfully pay the community group ACORN for services provided under contracts signed before Congress banned the government from providing money to the group."

The full-text of the five page legal memorandum:
Obligations Public Law11168