The Obama administration’s strongest option as it fights to keep hundreds of photographs of prisoner abuse secret may be to classify the photos and claim they are exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act, experts on government secrecy said on Thursday.
“A statement from the president of the United States that the security of U.S. forces is at stake would be taken very seriously by the courts,” said Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists. But Mr. Aftergood added that courts might question why the material had not previously been classified in years of litigation under the Bush administration.
“It might lead a court to view the national security claim as flimsy and opportunistic,” he said.
Christopher J. Farrell, of the conservative Judicial Watch, said that at the very least, the administration should be able to delay the release of the photos by months or years. “They can slow-walk and foot-drag and stonewall,” Mr. Farrell said. “My experience is that when the government doesn’t want to release something, it finds a way.”
With the public release of the photographs to the American Civil Liberties Union scheduled for May 28, President Obama reversed course on Wednesday and directed the Justice Department to oppose the release. …