WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In a reversal, President Barack Obama objected Wednesday to the release of dozens of photographs showing the abuse of terrorism suspects, over concern the images could ignite a backlash against U.S. troops.
The decision was a blow to some liberal Democrats who see the photos as part of a broader effort to investigate Bush-era officials and cleanse America’s image abroad.
Just last month the Obama administration had said it would comply with a court order to release the pictures by May 28, saying legal options for appealing the case had been limited.
But Obama shifted gears after senior military commanders and some members of Congress expressed misgivings about the potential for the photos to generate violence against U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Obama defended his decision, saying publication of the photographs “would not add any additional benefit to our understanding of what was carried out in the past by a small number of individuals.”
“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 greater danger,” Obama told reporters. “Moreover, I fear the publication of these photos may only have a chilling effect on future investigations of detainee abuse.”
Additional reporting by Andrew Gray and James Vicini; Writing by Steve Holland, Editing by Sandra Maler.