President Obama infuriated the ACLU and other human rights activists last week when he reversed his decision to publicly release photos of American soldiers allegedly torturing prisoners at locations beyond Abu Ghraib, from which photos were first brought to public light five years ago. The Abu Ghraib photos became symbolic of alleged human rights abuses in the name of counter-terrorism, and led to a national backlash and debate about the treatment of prisoners in other detainee facilities, as well as the use of torture as an interrogation technique.
The ACLU has been trying to access these photos for 6 years. To that end they sued the government in 2003 under the Freedom of Information act, and in 2008 a federal appeals court ruled in favor of releasing the documentation and photos sought by the ACLU.
Obama, in his theme of transparency, had originally announced that the government would release the photos to the public. He however now claims that the release of the photos could “further inflame anti-American opinion,” thus endangering overseas troops.
While some embrace Obama’s refusal as a welcome stance against the liberal establishment, others see his announcement as a crafty way to play both sides of the argument. What we know: the T-shirts would indicate that the issue of detainees and their treatment is a highly-charged one, with most shirts about Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib clamoring for human rights.
Which is to say that while the government won’t release the current batch of photos, the American people are more than willing to create their own imagery to make a point.