A self-described conservative watchdog group is asking government officials that the burial photos of President Barack Obama be made public.
In arguments made before a three-judge panel of the federal court, Judicial Watch Inc. claims the Central Intelligence Agency has failed to demonstrate how the release of the images would harm national security or reveal classified information. ‘The focus is not on those images that depict a sombre and dignified burial at sea – those images are not discussed,’’ Michael Bekesha, a lawyer for the Washington-based group, told the judges.
During the 40-minute argument, officials said that photos of a buried Bin Laden may endanger the lives of US soldiers and civilians, as well as increase the likelihood of violence against allies.
US Circuit Judge Merrick Garland read declarations filed by American military commanders that cited prior violence and deaths from an incorrect report by Newsweek that military personnel at Guantanamo Bay had desecrated the Koran and publication of a Danish cartoon of the prophet Muhammad.
‘‘Why should we not defer to them?’’ Judge Garland said. ‘‘Both are telling us there’s a risk – not a certainty – that Americans will die if we release the documents.’’
While the Judicial Watch's suit was dismissed by a lower-court judge last April, the group claimed during Thursday hearing that post-mortem photos of US targets were released during the Bush administration that did not pose a threat to national security.
In an interview with CBS' "60 Minutes" in May 2011, President Barack Obama said the release of the ‘‘very graphic’’ photos of the al-Qaeda leader’s corpse might be used by extremists as propaganda to incite violence.
‘‘We don’t trot out this stuff as trophies,’’ he said.
Photo Credit: Universal History Archive/ Getty Images