May 13th, 2009
07:12 PM ET

Evening Buzz: Prisoner Photo Flip-Flop

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/05/12/prisoner.photos/art.1700.obama.cnn.jpg caption="President Obama discusses the alleged prisoner abuse photos at the White House on Wednesday."]

Maureen Miller
AC360° Writer

Pres. Obama now says he'll try to block the court-ordered release of Defense Department photos of U.S. troops allegedly abusing prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan. He says he's worried about the safety of U.S. forces.

"The most direct consequence of releasing them would be to further inflame anti-American opinion, and to put our troops in greater danger," said Pres. Obama at the White House.

Just last month, when the administration said it would release the photos, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs insisted the photos would not harm U.S. troops.

Today CNN's Ed Henry asked Gibbs about the reversal on the photos.

Here's their exchange at the White House press briefing:

ED HENRY: Was there a failure here at the White House in the first go-round in April to fully weigh the national security implications?

ROBERT GIBBS: The argument that the president seeks to make is one that hasn't been made before. The - I'm not going to get into blame for this or that.

Don't miss Ed Henry's report on the photo flap tonight on AC360°.

The release would have made public for the first time photos obtained in military investigations at facilities other than the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. But the president said the photos "are not particularly sensational, especially when compared with the painful images that we remember from Abu Ghraib," referring to the Iraqi military prison where photographs released in 2004 of detainees being abused and humiliated sparked worldwide outrage.

The ACLU, which won the legal fight to get the latest photos released, is outraged by Pres. Obama's reversal. It's agreement with the administration to have it release 44 photos and other images is now voided.

"This decision makes a mockery of President Obama's promise of transparency and accountability," said Amrit Singh, lead counsel for the ACLU case. Mr. Singh will talking with Anderson tonight about the president's decision.

Do you agree with the ACLU or do you support Pres. Obama's decision?  Sound off below.

We'll have this story and a lot more, including Pres. Obama's commencent speech at Arizona State University. We'll bring you live to Sun Devil Stadium where more than 60,000 people will hear him speak. It will be his biggest crowd since election night.

See you at 10pm ET!

Filed under: Maureen Miller • The Buzz
soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. Ron

    I wonder when this President will ever be free from the previous administration's bad policies.

    He will take the heat and have to try to defend the indefensable.

    Freedom has never been free, it requires payments in the form of blood and treasure. As a veteran, I can promise you, our men and women in uniform are making the payments for us.

    ANYTHING that might have a POSSIBILITY to put the troops in more harms way, is unaccepable. So my freedom to see those photographs I consider my small payment to protect the troops.

    May 14, 2009 at 10:17 am |
  2. Melanie

    I did not want to see all the pictures they kept showing before. I had to change the channel. Just hearing the word torture was sufficient for me to know that we were doing something wrong. We do not need any further reminders of this degrading period the Bush administration subjected us to. He made us complicit by doing it in the name of the government; the American people. They will never punish the men at the top that are really responsible for this, so let's move on and keep our word that we are better people than this, and never do it again!
    I hate the word flip-flop. It suggests arbitrary, unjustified and subjective change. It is actually good to change your mind if you find out new information that makes you reassess your decision. We are finally getting the world to begin to respect us again. We do not need any more reminders of past mistakes.

    May 14, 2009 at 7:04 am |
  3. MLB

    As the parents of a soldier in Afghanistan we applaud this decision. Listening to the Commanders on the ground who are concerned about this situation is the smart thing to do. Keeping our soldiers safe is far more important than the ACLU's push to make these photos public. What purpose do they feel it will serve to make them public and is that purpose more important than our son's safety?

    May 14, 2009 at 5:39 am |
  4. J.V.Hodgson

    Go America go!! Why not just drag ourselves thru the mud again?A few more photo's will only repeat what is fundamentally already known.
    What will it achieve? More damage to Americas reputation, possibly lesd to a re-surgence and further justificationfor Al Qaeda and the like to continue it's war against America.
    These people ( civil liberty activists) and Cheney think they are saving lives by either supporting these previous actions ( Cheney),or publicizing them. ( activists).
    The current US president has said it stops and so it should.Let it end and look to the future please. Raking over the past changes nothing!!

    May 14, 2009 at 2:57 am |
  5. Mary Dippel

    AC – I agree w/ Pres. O's decision to block the photos this time. First,
    anyone with a grain of intelligence knows the photos display more atrocities. Do we really need to go there? Second, there are way more important things happening right now that we, the US of A, needs to focus on things like (a) that WW3 may be starting in Pakistan and that (b) the good ol US de A is not the economic tour de force it once was. Let's focus on the big picture right now folks. At some point, Bush Cheney and Co will have to have their come-upance for human rights abuses to name just one trangression – let's put the witch hunt on hold for a bit and rebuild our country. Is anyone out there actually listening to our president?

    May 14, 2009 at 2:53 am |
  6. RJ Koser

    People have to remember, this is not about the President. It's about a law suit by the ACLU to release the photos under the FOIA. The government already lost twice in the courts. The Pentagon had decided not to appeal as it looked hopeless and maybe still will be. Some of the comments here and some talking heads on TV give the idea that this is about the "President's decision" to release the photos. The only decision he or the Pentagon had to mak was whether or not to appeal. I think the decision that was made is the correct one. However, I do think this appeal will probably be lost.

    May 14, 2009 at 2:25 am |
  7. Ed

    First I would like to thank you Anderson, for straight talk.
    Now I would like to bring everyone's attention to this thought.
    I wonder what the innocent souls and their families of 911 think of the abuse of the detainees. First I dont believe if they were a detainee, they were innocent, but If they are, I believe once free they would understand, with compensation. And finally I was wondering how many people have been tortured by terrorist to get the imformation that they need to do what they do.

    May 14, 2009 at 1:40 am |
  8. Fernando

    President Obama was only thinking about his political views and promises without thinking about the outcome of our troops and citizens. Making this photos public will show the world that we are weak. He needs to show the world that he is the leader of the most powerful country in the world and we will go to any extent to protect our land and citizens. What happens to those that torture our citizens and our troops?

    Fernando Montes

    May 14, 2009 at 1:23 am |
  9. Annette Army Wife

    I think that woman from the ACLU needs a reality check!!! President Obama is doing the right thing by not releasing those photos. He is the Commander in Chief and as a wife, sister-in-law, aunt, and cousin of 9 active duty soldiers I personally appreciate that he is putting the safety of our soldiers above the ACLU and media's witch hunt to paint our military as bunch of torturing animals. It does NOT reflect our military and if anything they are among the best and most giving of people in this country.

    Thanks OBAMA for being a true Leader and protecting the thousands of soldiers you command..!!! Believe me their families appreciate your doing so.

    May 14, 2009 at 1:22 am |
  10. Claus

    Big mistake Obama!

    May 14, 2009 at 12:26 am |
  11. Als

    I am glad we have a Pres who thinks on his own.

    May 14, 2009 at 12:13 am |
  12. Adriane

    There's a time and a place for the type of transparency the ACLU is asking for. Yes, in time those pictures should be seen so the history books can record the mistakes we have made but it's naive for them to be demanding them now while we have so many troops still in harms way. Obama is not going to loose all of us anti-war activists but using caution to prevent more violence. Preventing violence across the board is the underlying tenant of anti-war sentiment. Obama will continue to have my support as long as he makes sure whatever is in those pictures doesn't happen again.

    May 13, 2009 at 11:16 pm |
  13. RLWellman

    The ACLU has no right to stick their nose where it doesn't belong. These are not American citizens that are being interrogated, they are terrorists. It's okay that they killed over 3000 Americans when they ran the planes into the world trade center buildings, plus the ones in the planes. How do you think the people felt when they jumped to their death instead of burning to death.
    These terrorists have no problem cutting peoples heads off, or have you forgotten? Where is the ACLU for these people who died? This administration seems to forget who we are fighting. You can't negotiate with them and you can't tell them our secrets.

    May 13, 2009 at 10:43 pm |
  14. Stan

    President Obama is absloutely correct: Why keep opening up wounds that the U.S. is trying to heal. By showing any photos of abuse by a few personel of the Military only keeps the hate going towards the U.S. As President Obama ststed, the one responsible have been dealt with, lets get pass the uglyness of any bad photos. The sooner we get pass the uglyness, the sooner we can come together and grow.

    May 13, 2009 at 10:37 pm |
  15. Robyn Talucci

    I agree with other comments made, I think releasing the photos will only rub salt in a already open wound. Ultimately, the ones that will suffer will be men/women like my husband who are currently serving in Afghanistan. Anderson Cooper's female guest opposed to this, doesn't have to face the reality of her spouse risking his life every day and night for the next year. I say our Commander in Chief made a wise decision and I give him kudos for rethinking his original decision on the releasing photos.

    May 13, 2009 at 10:27 pm |
  16. mark murphy

    I was an elected delegate for the presedental election and I am and was anti-war. However we are in it now and have to get out in the right way. as for the photo's, I have to agree with Obama.I believe that it will put us in more danger and who will they help? the press will just use them for ratings The terrorists will put them on there websites and use them to recruit more people.Has anyone asked those who were tortured , if they want them released?He is the Presedent and He knows what is best for our safety.He is not Bush, If he says they sould not come out, there is a good reason for it.We have so many other pressing issues to deal with. Economy, Health care, The Middle East

    May 13, 2009 at 10:22 pm |
  17. jorge

    What makes me upset about this issue is that you dont see the aclu really fighting the rights of any americans. How about asking those countries where these detainies are from to bringing to justice the people who beheaded every hostage they had and were kill on there land. Why do we have to continue to kiss other countries butts when we are threaten or when we screw up. And people dont know why american moral is so low. We need to be strong for our troops the very ones who keep members of the aclu safe.

    May 13, 2009 at 10:17 pm |
  18. Ed Murphy

    ACLU is wrong. Obama admitting there are more photos of abuse is enough transparency. Showing them would be inflammatory. Show them after we are outta there. Meanwhile, prosecute the culprits so when they do come out, we can say we took care of it–honorably.

    May 13, 2009 at 10:15 pm |
  19. arrie

    Just because he thinks and listens does not mean he is flip flopping, it is very different having a president that evaluates from all angles and listens, than one who flys by the seat of his pants. This is why Obama has such favor among people. Wisdom isnt an instant thing.

    May 13, 2009 at 10:12 pm |
  20. arrie

    Obama is not afraid to rethink. The only people that want these photos shown are those that clearly are self righteous whiners that were not involved personally anyway. Sure you can have lots of lofty ideals when its not you on the front line. Lets have some photos or videos of our troops being beheaded, otherwise shut up already.

    May 13, 2009 at 10:10 pm |
  21. Helen

    As an outsider and with no loyalties to President Obama or the USA, I would say that I agree with the presidential decision to not have the photographs publically displayed.

    While this may seem to go against the presidential stand on transparency and accountability, one also must seriously look at the potential negative use these pictures can have to enemies of the USA, freedom and liberty in the western world etc.

    It is a tough decision to make, specially when, as President, you have vowed to bring added transparency & accountability to your government but also to be conscious of threat to US troops scattered in countries at war across the globe. The types of photographs, sensational or not, could enrage enemies of the USA and enflame additional hatred and terrorist attacks on troops.

    May 13, 2009 at 10:04 pm |
  22. Scott Stodden

    I never ever thought the photos should be released, its not for the public to see. Yes it is wrong for the Bush Administration to practice cruel and inhumane interrogation techniques but in no way shape or form should those photos be released and Im sure Secretary Clinton would agree, and Im soooo glad President Obama rethought his decision, thank you President Obama

    May 13, 2009 at 10:01 pm |
  23. Colorado voter

    I voted for Obama because he talked about openness and light. I will not vote for him again if he continues in this approach. While these pictures may have a temporary negative impact releasing them will free the US to undo the damage already done by the previous administration. We need to know what has been done in our name so we can correct the issues that led to wrong doing.

    May 13, 2009 at 10:01 pm |
  24. Mary Ann

    Sounds like Obama i s using his brain this time. I love the guy, but honestly this was a bad idea to begin with. We already know its torture, we don't need the pictures to prove it. It will not further anything.

    May 13, 2009 at 9:54 pm |
  25. Lynn

    President Obama listened to his military advisors and upon reflection and further study of the pictures and as commander in chief decided that his first decision was not the correct one. He made a decision that he knew would be unpopular with his base but was right for the military personnel.

    The phrase "flip flop" is a silly one as evidenced by Bush who was stubborn, did not listen and "stayed the course" causing countless death and injuries to both American soldiers as well as Iraqis.

    May 13, 2009 at 9:48 pm |
  26. Annie Kate

    I agree with the President – the pictures probably don't add any additional information to what has been released already and if there is even a small chance they could put someone in harm's way they should not be released.

    May 13, 2009 at 9:22 pm |
  27. Austin

    I see Obama's point, it would also call those troops out. You also have to consider the humiliation that would cause.

    May 13, 2009 at 9:22 pm |