Release The Photos

From the Washington Post:

“A month after making public once-classified Justice Department memos detailing the Bush administration’s coercive methods of interrogation, President Obama yesterday chose secrecy over disclosure, saying he would seek to block the court-ordered release of photographs depicting the abuse of detainees held by U.S. authorities abroad.

Obama agreed less than three weeks ago not to oppose the photos’ release but changed his mind after viewing some of the images and hearing warnings from his generals in Iraq and Afghanistan that such a move would endanger U.S. troops deployed there.

“The publication of these photos would not add any additional benefit to our understanding of what was carried out in the past by a small number of individuals,” Obama said yesterday. “In fact, the most direct consequence of releasing them, I believe, would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in danger.”

Civil liberties and human rights advocates said the reversal would serve to maintain the Bush administration’s legacy of secrecy. Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said Obama’s shift was “deeply disappointing.””

Deeply disappointing is right. I gather the administration is appealing on grounds they think have not been made previously; with any luck, these arguments will be rejected.

I have precisely no desire to put our troops in danger. (Just one more reason not to torture people in the first place.) But we are supposed to be a democracy, and what our government does in our name ought to be available to us unless there is some very good reason to keep it secret. And the fact that people would be appalled by it is not such a reason — if anything, it just makes the case for disclosure stronger. After all, the things it is most important to disclose are the things that people care about, not the things that are a matter of complete indifference.

Oh, and Chris Cilizza: I don’t mind this because it’s “a perceived poke in the eye”. It’s not about me; it’s about having an open government that does not act as though we need to be protected from the knowledge of what is done in our name.