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Obama Reverses On Releasing Photos

In a dramatic and high-profile reversal for his young administration, President Barack Obama wants to block the release of 44 photographs depicting abuse of detainees in U.S. military custody in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Justice Department had already agreed to release the photos in response to a lawsuit, but Obama is shifting course.

“Last week, the president met with his legal team and told them that he did not feel comfortable with the release of the DOD photos because he believes their release would endanger our troops, and because he believes that the national security implications of such a release have not been fully presented to the court,” said a White House spokesman who asked not to be named.

“At the end of that meeting, the president directed his counsel to object to the immediate release of the photos on those grounds,” the aide said.

The American Civil Liberties Union has been seeking the photos for years in a pending Freedom of Information Act lawsuit over records of alleged abuse of prisoners. A federal appeals court ruled last year that the Bush administration could not use the danger of retaliation against U.S. soldiers to withhold

Last month, Obama administration officials said a decision was made not to appeal that ruling to the Supreme Court.

Last week, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) wrote to Obama urging him to make such an appeal and drop plans to release the photos.

“If it’s true that they’re reversing position, we find that wholly unacceptable,” ACLU attorney Jameel Jaffer told POLITICO. “It’s inconsistent with the commitment they’ve made to the court and its inconsistent with the promise of transparency that they’ve repeated many times both before the election and since.”

Jaffer said the ACLU had not been officially informed of the government’s change in stance, which he earlier called an effort to “renege” on the administration’s prior promise.