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Could FOIA Suit Force Release of Bin Laden Photos?

Posted May 5, 2011 8:04 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Could a freedom of information lawsuit force disclosure of photos of Osama bin Laden’s body? It all depends.

The National Law Journal identifies a threshold question: Who has the photos?

According to national security law expert Mark Zaid, the White House is exempt from FOIA, but the Defense Department and the CIA are subject to the law. If the White House has all the photos, they can’t be disclosed.

Even if DOD and the CIA have the photos, they could claim an exemption covering documents involving national defense, foreign policy or classified materials, Zaid told the NLJ.

Some of those arguments didn’t work when the Defense Department tried to stop release of photos from the Abu Ghraib prison, according to lawyer Scott Hodes, who was formerly the acting chief of an FBI freedom of information litigation unit. The New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered release of the photos in a suit by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Additional coverage:

Gawker: "Ex-Justice Department Official: Obama Could Be Forced to Release the Osama Death Photos"

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