Osama Bin Laden Death Pictures Now in Freedom of Information Act Limbo


Since President Barack Obama decided that the pictures of Osama Bin Laden were too gruesome to make public, lest they inflame violence or be used as anti-U.S. propaganda, it will be up to journalists to force transparency from the administration. (That, or Obama could have them leaked, thereby avoiding the complications that come with an officially sanctioned government release.) But assuming that won’t happen, the Associated Press has already taken it upon themselves to file a Freedom of Information Act for a pile of Bin Laden dead body-related media being held by the government, which, if granted by the courts, could require the info to be made public. It probably won’t work! But we still have more details about it in our daily media column Press Clips.

Blood Thirsty: Scott Hodes, a former Freedom of Information and Privacy Act attorney, tells the AP that the status of the photos is “uncertain” at best:

The White House is exempt from FOIA, so the law wouldn’t apply if the images are controlled there. The CIA, which had operational control of the mission, and the Defense Department can use a series of exemptions from the act to block release of the images.

The Associated Press on Monday requested through the federal Freedom of Information Act photos of bin Laden’s body as well as other materials, including video taken by military personnel during the raid and on the USS Carl Vinson, the ship that conducted bin Laden’s burial in the North Arabian Sea. The government has 20 days to respond to a FOIA request.

As if to dare the administration, AP notes that the Obama White House “pledged 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.”

“I think that it’s going to be a hard road,” Hodes said. “It’s not inconceivable that a court is going to say to release them. But I think the government will fight because it’s made its decision.”

A chorus of bipartisan voices have called for the release of the photos including a few journalists, along with Donald Rumsfeld and Sarah Palin, who tweeted that Obama should stop “pussy-footing around” because she wants attention. A few senators thought they saw a death picture, but they didn’t. (Here are some fakes.) And then there’s Jon Stewart, who also wants the photos out.

Diet Leaks: The Wall Street Journal launched SafeHouse today as a WikiLeaks-style place for anonymous leakers to give documents to the newspaper, who will make journalism out of them if they’re super-good. Except, you might not be anonymous because, as the Guardian points out, the terms and conditions say that the Journal “reserve[s] the right to disclose any information about you to law enforcement authorities or to a requesting third party, without notice, in order to comply with any applicable laws and/or requests under legal process […].” So just don’t piss off the government, okay?

Daily Stats: News Corporation has spent $10 million so far on its “work in progress” iPad newspaper The Daily, the company’s COO said yesterday on an earnings call. He said there have been 800,000 downloads, but declined to say how many of those are paid subscribers or from the free download period or one-time users or provide any other details. He became “mildly agitated” when asked for specifics, and said, “We’re only a month into this.”

Media Moves: Five people stopped working at the Washington Post this week, maybe because of the hipster invasion or articles like the hipster invasion one.