A conservative legal watchdog group says that it is prepared to sue the White House to force it to release photos of Osama Bin Laden’s corpse.
The Hill reports that the group, Judicial Watch, has already filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the photos (along with any videos the military may have) with the Defense Department and the CIA. The administration has 20 days to respond and, assuming it denies the request, the group can then begin taking a series of procedural steps that can eventually lead to a lawsuit.
“I have not heard anything from the president that would provide a lawful basis for not providing the photos,” Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton told the D.C.-based publication. “Not wanting to be seen as ‘spiking the football’ is not a lawful reason to withhold documents under FOIA.”
President Obama announced publicly Wednesday that he would not sign off on the release of the photos. “The fact of the matter is this was somebody who was deserving of the justice that he received, and I think Americans and people around the world are glad that he is gone,” the president said in an interview with CBS. “But we don’t need to spike the football.”
The potential lawsuit faces a number of hurdles. Most notably, if the photos are deemed part of the White House records then there is little a FOIA, or subsequent lawsuit, would do, Daniel Metcalfe, the former director of information at the Justice Department, told the paper.
“If the photos in all forms were shipped over to the White House and placed on Obama’s desk, the Defense Department could respond to a subsequent FOIA request saying that it has no responsive records,” he said. “If an agency does not have even custody of it by the time of the request, let alone control, then that’s it, game over.”