Watchdog Blog

Herb Strentz: FOIA for Bin Laden Photos? Get Over It.

Posted at 9:24 pm, May 4th, 2011
Herb Strentz Mug

Segments of the freedom-of-information community are critical of President Obama for not releasing what are acknowledged to be gruesome photos of the corpse of Osama bin Laden. The public, the argument goes, under the federal FOI Act has a “right to know” about the man’s shattered skull, and the rest of the remains, too.

The flap reminds me of a time, long ago, when the president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors thundered — on behalf of the FOIA and the First Amendment — “We have a right to be wrong!”

Wonderful, I thought at the time and still do today.

What a great motto for the masthead or for the ears of the front page: “Wrong by Right/Accurate by Accident.”

As misguided as it was some 30 years ago to proclaim a “Right to be Wrong,” so it’s misguided today to spend energy fighting for a “Right to Know” about bin Laden’s shattered skull.

The declaration about a “right to be wrong” for the press ignored the fact that the First Amendment protects everyone in the U.S. for being wrong in comments about public figures and public officials. But being wrong is usually nothing to be proud of. Can you imagine taking your car to an auto repair shop that boasts, “We have a right to foul up your transmission!” Hardly a PR masterstroke.

Likewise, the arguments for release of the bin-Laden-dead-as-a-doornail (DAAD) photos. Hardly a PR masterstroke.

1. Even if the federal FOIA does mandate release of the photos, a court or government attorneys could find ways around that or Congress would rapidly provide an exemption that would make access even more difficult. It’s a lose/lose proposition.

2. There is no public interest in release of the DAAD photos, given DNA and other evidence of the demise of bin Laden.

3. Given the sorry track record of much of the press when it comes to using FOI laws to better inform the public, it is grandstanding — to say the least — to argue that the free press can better serve the public through release of the photos.

4. Any argument that release of the photos would put an end to conspiracy theories or thoughts of cover-ups is, in word, delusional.

Besides, there are more important considerations when it comes to taking out bin Laden and the attendant news coverage. For years, I’ve read news stories about how bin Laden was the mastermind behind 9/11 and how he micromanaged terrorists around the world. But Chris Hedges, former New York Times bureau chief for the Middle East, writes:

“…this presence of American imperial bases, dotted, not just in Iraq and Afghanistan, but in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Doha—is one that has done more to engender hatred and acts of terror than anything ever orchestrated by Osama bin Laden.

“And the killing of bin Laden, who has absolutely no operational role in al-Qaida—that’s clear—he’s kind of a spiritual mentor, a kind of guide … That was bin Laden’s role. But all actual acts of terror, which he may have signed off on, he no way planned.”

Observations such as that, when it comes to press coverage of bin Laden, are more intriguing and worth more debate and discussion than any ado about the DAAD photos.

7 Responses to “FOIA for Bin Laden Photos? Get Over It.”

  1. merijoe says:

    This is not a matter of proving anything, the fact is America is not some dictator led third world country and Americans are not SS men/women/children, therefore just “because I say there is DNA testing etc and that should be good enough so shut your traps” isnt going to fly as an argument, so whether you and your other happy henchmen dont like it the will of the taxpaying men and women who have had to put up with being accosted at airports by TSA, overseas wars, terrorism attacks because of this terrorist leader that was finally killed 10 yrs later are entitled to see the “gruesome corpse” of the bad guy responsible and have spoken- thats what needs to be listened to..go ahead and make it more difficult to obtain the pictures-snuff out more of our freedom, thats what was done with the healthcare debaucle crapola and eventually we won.

    The people want to see the photos, you and your “friends” need to “get over it” and stop with the excuses- stop speaking for everyone..don’t tell me what Im “about” or that the “football doesnt need to be spiked” I have a daddy, thank you very much

    Stop whining about morality-this is not about morality or it wouldnt have taken 3 days to decide, this is political and nothing else. And since when does releasing photos of a dead guy inflame and who cares? I should think actually KILLING osama would inflame, not releasing his post mortem photos- I will be waiting for the release of those pictures, because its the right thing to do for the tax payers of America

  2. MS says:

    After reading your missive, and IMO it’s big on the “miss”, I am reminded of Shakespeare’s line, “The lady doth protest too much, me thinks” (yes, as it was meant, as an avowal). The heart of all argument here is the 1st amendment – and does POTUS have the right to determine any limitations on such without Congress. I’m sorry that you failed to write anything about how POTUS and his administration seem to care more about what others think than the safeguard of the 1st Amendment (OK, let’s call it what it is, the administration is sucking up to the Arab world for oil).

  3. jsm says:

    Just show us the goddamned photo. What a bunch of long-haired pussies.

  4. merijoe says:

    what jsm said- He has no problem releasing dead American soldier pictures or beheaded American journalists and that inflames me

  5. jsm says:

    Long-haired pussy, just like out of the pages of a 1978 Playboy Magazine.

    Give me a brrrrreeeaaakkke.

    Show the pictures, shut up the conspiracy theorists (there’s about 10 that I work with and that’s just at one small company) and will soothe the American need to see bloody messes.

  6. merijoe says:

    Whatever the reason for releasing the pics, thats what the people want, I dont know where Stenchz or whatever his name is (the author of this garbage/lying/self serving piece) gets the idea that no one wants to see the pics…maybe hes talking about his group, Prez and the others, you need to release those pics no matter what the friggin reason is..We paid for them, release them. give us the option.

    If you dont want to see then dont look.

  7. jsm says:

    Eh like everything beginning with Kennedy the whole presidential process is rife not only with conspiracy theory, but conspiracy theater live and real.

    Most are going to be fooled until the ufos land.

    (Even that will be a false flag.)

    Question everything. Obama deserves it.

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