If politics makes strange bedfellows, it makes even stranger enemies. The Associated Press, which has carried water for both candidate and President Barack Obama, has filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the photographic and video evidence amassed during the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound.
In a statement regarding its rights to examine this evidence, the AP reminded the administration of its pledge
to be the most transparent government in U.S. history, and to comply much more closely with the Freedom of Information Act than the Bush administration did.
The White House has been wildly inconsistent on the question of whether to release the photos, one of which shows bin Laden with part of his head shot off. The Tuesday after the raid, the administration promised that the release of the images was imminent. The following day, they confessed to having misgivings about the release and by Thursday had announced the images would not be made public.
Appearing on 60 Minutes this past Sunday, the president told Steve Kroft, “We don’t trot out this stuff as trophies,” adding his fear that sharing the photos “would create some national security risk.”
Michael Oreskes, the AP’s senior managing editor, responded by noting that “[t]his information is important for the historical record.” Explaining that asking questions and finding answers is a journalist’s prerogative, Oreskes added, “It’s our job as journalists to seek this material.”
In an interview with The Atlantic, Oreskes clarified that it is not the AP’s intention in advance to publish the images but rather to assess their news value and then make an informed judgment. He told the magazine:
We would like our journalists, who are working very hard, to see this material and then we’ll decide what’s publishable and what’s not publishable based on the possibly [sic] that it’s inflammatory.
As James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal notes, it is interesting that Oreskes on the one hand criticizes the president for appointing himself arbiter on what the public has a right to see and, on the other, attempts to reserve the same distinction for himself.
In the meantime, the AP is not alone in its demand that the White House turn over the visual evidence, nor is it the only news organization to file a FOIA request. Politico, FOX News, Judicial Watch, and Citizens United have all since jumped on the bandwagon. Selected members of Congress have also demanded that the pictures be released, among them Senator Lindsey Graham, Senator Susan Collins, and Rep. Peter King.
- White House walks back decision to release OBL photos for now
- White House debates releasing photos of bin Laden’s corpse
- Pictures of bin Laden’s compound (VIDEO and SLIDESHOW)
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