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Obama signs law blocking release of detainee torture photos

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  1. Freedom of Information
President Obama signed legislation Thursday that blocks the release of photos that depict the abuse of detainees in U.S. custody.…

President Obama signed legislation Thursday that blocks the release of photos that depict the abuse of detainees in U.S. custody. The new law is expected to thwart any chance the Supreme Court will hear the case over whether the photos should be disclosed to the public.

The Homeland Security Appropriations bill Obama signed grants the Department of Defense authority to withhold the photos.

Now that the bill is signed into law, it likely makes the long-fought battle over the torture photos moot. The Supreme Court twice this month postponed whether it would hear the government’s appeal to the ACLU’s Freedom of Information Act suit that sought access to the photos, pending the enactment of the law. Solicitor General Elena Kagan sent a letter today apprising the Supreme Court of the legislation and stating the government would file a supplemental brief regarding its effect likely before the Court’s conference Nov. 6.

In a letter to Department of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the ACLU urged him to "not invoke your new and discretionary authority to suppress images of abuse."

"We are disappointed that the president has signed a law giving the Defense Department the authority to hide evidence of its own misconduct, and we hope the defense secretary will not take advantage of that authority by suppressing photos related to the abuse of prisoners," said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project in a release.

"Secretary Gates should be guided by the importance of transparency to the democratic process, the extraordinary importance of these photos to the ongoing debate about the treatment of prisoners and the likelihood that the suppression of these photos would ultimately be far more damaging to national security than their disclosure, " he said.