Judicial Watch Asks Federal Court to Order Release of Bin Laden Death Photos/Video
“Under FOIA…the American people have a right to these historical artifacts…”
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch, the organization that investigates and fights government corruption, announced today that it has filed a new court document in its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Department of Defense (DOD) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) seeking “all photographs and/or video recordings of Osama (Usama) bin Laden taken during and/or after the U.S. military operation in Pakistan on or about May 1, 2011” (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Defense et al. (No. 1:11-cv-00890)). Judicial Watch filed its lawsuit on May 13, 2011.
On December 14, 2011, Judicial Watch filed a “Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment and in Support of Plaintiff’s Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment.” (In order for a Motion for Summary Judgment to be granted by the court, the moving party must demonstrate that there are “no genuine issues of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”) Judicial Watch also seeks a court hearing on the matter.
Judicial Watch contends that the Obama administration’s arguments for withholding the bin Laden documents should fail because it has “failed to satisfy even the most basic requirements of FOIA.” The agency has failed to provide sufficient evidence that it has conducted an adequate search for responsive records or demonstrate that the records were properly classified pursuant to President Obama’s Executive Order 13526 signed on December 29, 2009 which provided a “uniform system for classifying, safeguarding, and declassifying national security information.” The Obama administration has also failed to provide any evidence of “whether the withheld records are photographs or video recordings, accounted for the various circumstances in which the records were created, or sufficiently correlated specific claims of exemption to particular records or categories of records.”
Conversely, Judicial Watch contends that its “Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment” should be granted because the Defendants “cannot legally justify their claims of exemption” for some of the withheld records. Judicial Watch “does not seek the production of any photographs or video recordings that have been properly classified or would actually cause harm to the national security by revealing intelligence methods or the identity of U.S. personnel or classified technology. [Judicial Watch] solely seeks those records that have not been properly classified as well as those records for which no military or intelligence secrets would be revealed.”
Judicial Watch concludes that the American people “have a right to these historical artifacts to capture this moment. To date, the government has failed to provide a legally sufficient justification for why such records must not be released. Therefore, the government must be held accountable. The law requires it.”
On May 4, 2011, President Obama told CBS News in an interview that he would not release the death photos of Osama bin Laden, who was captured and killed by U.S. Navy Seals, to the public, saying “we don’t need to spike the football” or “gloat.” Obama’s decision reportedly came after a debate within his administration. CIA Director Leon Panetta said some photos would be released. But Defense Secretary Gates and Secretary of State Clinton reportedly lobbied against it.
“We shouldn’t appease our enemies by undermining our nation’s core government accountability law – the Freedom of Information Act. We suspect the administration is playing shell games with the bin Laden death photos and video. President Obama is asking the court to allow his administration to withhold documents simply because their disclosure may cause controversy. There is simply no legal precedent for this,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “President Obama’s political calculations are no substitute for the rule of law. The Obama administration has no legal right to withhold this material from the American people, especially now that he is using this military victory in his presidential campaign. The killing of Osama bin Laden is a tremendous historic event. The law simply doesn’t allow President Obama to put the bin Laden photos and video down the memory hole.”