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The Obama Presidency

Friday, May 29, 2009

PRISONER ABUSE

Push to Block Photos

The Obama administration asked a federal court of appeals in New York on Thursday to recall its order requiring the release of photographs held by the Pentagon that depict the abuse of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan.

President Obama, while describing the 21 photos as "not particularly sensational, especially when compared to the painful images that we remember from Abu Ghraib," said their release would "further inflame anti-American opinion" and "put our troops in danger."

The administration had initially agreed to the release, but it reversed its position after Obama viewed the images and heard from his generals, who objected to their publication.

The American Civil Liberties Union had sued for release of the photos.

The government argued Thursday that withdrawing the order is appropriate because Congress may pass legislation blocking the release and that if it does not, the administration will appeal to the Supreme Court.

The government motion also included a statement from Gen. Ray Odierno, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, which said that the "next six to eight months are a time of particular fragility in Iraq" and that publication of the pictures would create a "substantial risk to the Nation's military personnel."

The White House and the Pentagon dismissed as false a report in a British newspaper this week that the photographs the administration has refused to release include images of rape and sexual abuse of Iraqi detainees by U.S. military personnel.

"That news organization has completely mischaracterized the images," said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman, referring to a report in the Daily Telegraph of London. "None of the photos in question depict the images that are described in that article."

The court order, however, could apply to hundreds of other photographs in the possession of the Defense Department. The British newspaper quoted retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, who investigated detainee abuse in 2004, as saying, "These pictures show torture, abuse, rape and every indecency."

Taguba did not return phone calls requesting comment, but he appeared to be referring to the larger universe of photos, not the 21 at the center of the litigation.

-- Peter Finn

GROUP OF 20

Pittsburgh Summit Set

The leaders of the world's biggest economies will gather this fall in a city that once was an icon of America's industrial strength.

The United States will host the next Group of 20 summit in Pittsburgh on Sept. 24 and 25, the White House announced Thursday. President Obama will host leaders from 20 countries that represent 85 percent of the global economy.

At the summit, the leaders will "discuss further actions to assure a sound and sustainable recovery from the global economic and financial crisis," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.

The leaders had gathered in London in April and in Washington last fall. The group had decided during its London summit to meet this fall in the United States.

The Obama administration selected Pittsburgh as the host city to highlight the region's economic transformation after the decline of the steel industry during the 1980s, Gibbs said.

"It's an area that has seen its share of economic woes in the past but because of foresight and investment is now renewed, giving birth to renewed industries that are creating the jobs of the future. And I think the president believes it'd be a good place to highlight some of that stuff," Gibbs said.

The summit will be held at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in downtown.

-- Philip Rucker

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