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White House urged to withhold torture photos

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  1. Freedom of Information
After a years-long battle to withhold images of abuse and torture at U.S.-run military facilities -- a battle lost in…

After a years-long battle to withhold images of abuse and torture at U.S.-run military facilities — a battle lost in court — the White House is being urged to reverse its position to release them to the public by two U.S. senators who still don’t seem to get it.

Sens. Lindsey Graham and Joseph Lieberman argued in a May 6 letter to President Obama that the release of the images taken at Abu Ghraib and other facilities that may show shocking behavior by American servicemen and women should be blocked because their disclosure will "serve no public good."

Never mind the accountability and oversight the public has the right and duty to provide over those acting in its name. And disregard the possibility that seeing such potentially atrocious images could prohibit repeat occurrences in the future. Instead, the senators suggest, Americans should be prevented from knowing the extent of such action so as not to "empower al-Qaeda propaganda," "hurt our country’s image" and "endanger our men and women in uniform."

While certainly valid considerations — and doubtless taken into account by the White House — the release of this information will empower Americans to have confidence in our own government in being able to see that the redress for these acts was appropriate. Its release will remind our servicemen and women that, while their service is profoundly appreciated, it must be given lawfully and morally.

And it will underscore Obama’s promise to run a transparent government and release records unless there is "foreseeable harm" for their release. There may be harm to the pride and reputation of Americans after release of these images — just as the senators fret — but potential embarrassment is no longer a rationale for withholding information.