The Osama bin Laden death photos will be kept classified after a federal appeals court agreed Tuesday with the U.S. government that showing the photos to the public could risk national security.
"It is undisputed that the government is withholding the images not to shield wrongdoing or avoid embarrassment, but rather to prevent the killing of Americans and violence against American interests," the three-judge panel overseeing the case in U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia wrote in their opinion.
The ruling sided with the government’s argument that the CIA can classify the bin Laden death photos as an exception to the Freedom of Information Act, which gives the public the right to access certain government documents.
The U.S. government was sued by the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch, which applied for a FOIA request to have the bin Laden death photos and videos released.
Bin Laden, the founder of al-Qaeda, was killed during a Navy SEAL raid of his compound on May 2, 2011, in Abbottabad, Pakistan. More than 50 photos were taken of bin Laden immediately after his death, but the government chose not to release the images, arguing that they would pose a national security risk. The bin Laden death photos include shots of his dead body inside the compound and his burial at sea, which was conducted according to Islamic tradition.
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Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, said the conservative watchdog group is still weighing what its next legal move would be. The organization could try to get the case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.
In a statement to the Reuters, Fitton said Tuesday’s ruling “would allow terrorists to dictate our laws.”
The bin Laden death photo lawsuit isn’t the first time Judicial Watch has filed suit against the Obama administration.
Judicial Watch announced last week it was suing the U.S. Secret Service over Obama’s January trip to Hawaii. The group is seeking records about government funding for “security and/or other services to President Obama and any companions” during the trip, according to a news release from the organization.
“The Obamas’ opulent vacation lifestyle is particularly objectionable during a time when government debt is out of control,” Fitton said. “President Obama is not king and his administration should stop ignoring the FOIA open records law and account to the American people the spending on his luxury vacations.”