Judicial Watch, a Washington D.C.-based conservative public interest group, announced today that it has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Defense after the group said the government agency would not comply with their Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking the release of images following Osama bin Laden's death.
According to Judicial Watch, the DOD refused the group request on May 9 with a statement citing the inability to make a release determination within the 20-day time constraint dictated by FOIA.
In other words, the DOD has no intent to comply with FOIA, said Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch. I don't think it's a big deal to release the documents as the administration suggests. It's quite simple: They should be released.
Judicial Watch also filed an identical FOIA request with the CIA on May 4. The CIA has yet to respond to the request.
The American people have a right to know, by law, basic information about the killing of Osama bin Laden, Fitton said. Incredibly, the Obama administration told us that it has no plans to comply with the Freedom of Information law, so we must now go to court.
In the aftermath of bin Laden's death, it was suggested photos would be released to the public. Indeed, days after the raid, CIA director Leon Panetta told CBS News he thought a photo would be released. But President Obama, in an interview with 60 Minutes, said he would not release the photos.
It is important for us to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as incitement to additional violence or as a propaganda tool. he said.
Fitton said he doesn't believe that the president's comments on 60 minutes are lawful reasons to withhold the images.
Nevertheless, legal technicalities could get in the way of Judicial Watch's effort, according to The Hill. If the administration deems them as White House records, they could be exempted from FOIA disclosure law. Or, the president could issue a special executive order to prevent the release of the photos.
Other groups, such as CBS News, the Associated Press, NPR, Politico and Citizens United, have filed their own FOIA requests.