Federal judge denies FOIA request for Bin Laden photos

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] on Thursday denied a request [opinion, PDF] to release photos of Osama Bin Laden [JURIST news archive] taken shortly after his death last year. Nonprofit organization Justice Watch [advocacy website] filed a complaint [text, PDF] against the Obama administration in May, claiming that the government violated the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text] by refusing to release photographs of Bin Laden's body. Obama announced in May that the US government would not release the photographs and defended that decision [JURIST report] in September, arguing that publicizing the graphic images would encourage violence against Americans and would jeopardize classified military information. Judge James Boasberg agreed: "The Court declines Plaintiff’s invitation to substitute its own judgment about the national-security risks inherent in releasing these records for that of the executive-branch officials who determined that they should be classified." Judicial Watch immediately appealed the decision [Reuters report].

As founder and leader of al Qaeda [JURIST news archive], Bin Laden represents the highest profile terror target captured or killed by the US. Bin Laden was killed [JURIST report] in early May by American military forces in Pakistan. Critics have questioned the legality of the targeted killing, arguing that such an action violates international law [JURIST op-ed]. Bin Laden had topped the US list of Most Wanted Terrorists [FBI backgrounder] and is believed to have approved or helped plan many notorious terror attacks including those against New York and Washington DC on September 11, 2001 [JURIST backgrounder], the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole [JURIST news archive], attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania [PBS backgrounder] in 1998 and the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

 

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