Here is secrecy creep in action

The Obama rationale for covering-up torture photos is predictably leading to suppression in other areas.

Published June 16, 2009 9:17AM (EDT)

(updated below - Update II)

On May 13, when Obama announced he would attempt to suppress prisoner abuse photos on the ground that their release would inflame anti-American sentiment, I wrote:

Think about what Obama's rationale would justify. Obama's claim . . .  means we should conceal or even outright lie about all the bad things we do that might reflect poorly on us. For instance, if an Obama bombing raid slaughters civilians in Afghanistan (as has happened several times already), then, by this reasoning, we ought to lie about what happened and conceal the evidence depicting what was done -- as the Bush administration did -- because release of such evidence would "would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger." Indeed, evidence of our killing civilians in Afghanistan inflames anti-American sentiment far more than these photographs would. Isn't it better to hide the evidence showing the bad things we do?

Last Friday, when yet another dispute arose between local Afghan officials and the U.S. military over whether a U.S. airstrike caused a large number of civilian deaths, I wrote a post entitled "Should the U.S. also suppress evidence of civilian deaths in Afghanistan?" and asked:

Using the standard that is now so accepted across the political spectrum in Washington -- information that will inflame anti-American sentiment should be suppressed rather than disclosed so at to not endanger our troops -- isn't it better if we just cover-up, rather than learn the truth about, the civilian deaths we caused in Afghanistan? After all, news reports of dead Afghan women and children at the hands of American bombs obviously inflame anti-American sentiment and Endanger Our Troops at least as much as the disclosure of some additional torture photos would. By the prevailing reasoning of Washington, shouldn't we want our government to hide the truth about what we did -- lest anti-American anger and the risk of attack on Our Troops increase? Isn't that the noble anti-transparency principle we're now endorsing?

Here's what McClatchy is reporting today (h/t Paul Tenny/GregMitchell):

Pentagon wavers on release of report on Afghan attack

WASHINGTON — Defense Department officials are debating whether to ignore an earlier promise and squelch the release of an investigation into a U.S. airstrike last month, out of fear that its findings would further enrage the Afghan public, Pentagon officials told McClatchy Monday.

The military promised to release the report shortly after the May 4 air attack, which killed dozens of Afghans, and the Pentagon reiterated that last week. U.S. officials also said they'd release a video that military officials said shows Taliban fighters attacking Afghan and U.S. forces and then running into a building. Shortly afterward, a U.S. aircraft dropped a bomb that destroyed the building.

However, a senior defense official told McClatchy Monday: "The decision (about what to release) is now in limbo."

Pentagon leaders are divided about whether releasing the report would reflect a renewed push for openness and transparency about civilian casualties or whether it would only fan Afghan outrage and become a Taliban recruiting tool just as Army Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal takes command of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Two U.S. military officials told McClatchy that the video shows that no one checked to see whether any women or children were in the building before it was bombed. The report acknowledges that mistakes were made and that U.S. forces didn't always follow proper procedures, but it does little to reassure Afghans that the U.S. has done enough to avoid repeating those mistakes.

It should be painfully obvious that those defending the Obama/Lieberman/Graham rationale for photo suppression -- that evidence of wrongdoing should be suppressed when it will "inflame anti-American sentiment" -- are endorsing a dangerous mentality that is certain to justify concealment of far more than these torture photos.  Indeed, even before this week, that mindset had already begun to be applied to justify cover-up of government wrongdoing outside of the photo context, and is now -- quite predictably -- creeping into other areas.  That development is as inevitable as it is disturbing.

* * * * *

Here are Rachel Maddow and the ACLU's Ben Wizner last night discussing, first, the forced release by the ACLU of some new information regarding Bush's torture program (specifically, proof that detainees who were tortured gave false information to have the torture stopped), and, second, the Obama administration's ongoing, active efforts to keep as much information as possible about these matters suppressed:



UPDATE:  As usual, fear-mongering claims issued by the government to justify greater power will be quickly embraced by followers of the particular political leader even in the absence of evidence.  From CQ, today (h/t 23skidoo):

No Proof Detainee Photos Led to Military Deaths

The U.S. government’s case for embargoing the release of photographs said to depict abuse of detainees rests largely on a questionable claim that disclosure of the images would endanger U.S. troops.

President Obama and many members of Congress from both parties support withholding the release of the photos, because senior military officers have persuaded them that their release would trigger violence in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. . . . But Defense Department data and independent experts confirm there is no clear link between the Abu Ghraib scandal and violence in Iraq. To the contrary, U.S. troop deaths were cut approximately in half in the month after the abuse photos broke in the last week of April 2004. Attacks on coalition forces were higher in the first weeks of April than they were in the 14 weeks after the scandal broke . . ..

Drawing a connection between the Abu Ghraib photos and the lethal violence that occurred afterward in Iraq “is opinion, not analysis,” said Anthony H. Cordesman, a military expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

People who blindly accept the assertions of whoever their favored political leaders are don't need evidence or proof.  Trust and faith suffice -- no matter how many times that mentality is proven to be destructive.


UPDATE II:  Here is still more on Our New Era of Transparency:

Obama blocks list of visitors to White House

Taking Bush's position, administration denies request for logs

The Obama administration is fighting to block access to names of visitors to the White House, taking up the Bush administration argument that a president doesn't have to reveal who comes calling to influence policy decisions.

Despite President Barack Obama's pledge to introduce a new era of transparency to Washington, and despite two rulings by a federal judge that the records are public, the Secret Service has denied's request for the names of all White House visitors from Jan. 20 to the present. . . .

The Obama administration is arguing that the White House visitor logs are presidential records — not Secret Service agency records, which would be subject to the Freedom of Information Act. The administration ought to be able to hold secret meetings in the White House, "such as an elected official interviewing for an administration position or an ambassador coming for a discussion on issues that would affect international negotiations," said Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt.

The new light being shined on our government is so bright as to almost be blinding.

By Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

MORE FROM Glenn Greenwald

Related Topics ------------------------------------------