House and Senate conferees met this afternoon to hammer out an agreement on the war supplemental. They broke up having reached no agreement. The sticking point? An amendment added by Senators Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham that backs the administration’s decision not to further release detainee photos.
The two senators threatened Tuesday to filibuster everything going through the upper chamber until their language is included to either the supplemental war funding bill or another bill. The two see this measure as protecting the lives of U.S. troops serving aboard or could serve abroad who might be harmed if the inflammatory photos are released. “The whole reason for the legislation is to win in court with certainty; President Obama’s administration helped us write the legislation,” Graham told reporters Wednesday. Obama “could, if he chose, sign an executive order classifying the information but the best way to do this is passing legislation.”
The photos are subject to an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act and House progressives have been trying to strip the amendment from the final bill. “No final decision has been made,” Pelosi told reporters today. “The conference committee will work its will and make its decision. But I can say to you there is great concern in the House about making an exception to the Freedom of Information Act while a case is before a judge.”
The amendment passed the Senate by a vote of 86-3 and many senators empathize with Graham and Lieberman. “I haven’t decided if I’m going to vote against the supplemental on the basis of that but I certainly support their effort to keep the photos from being public,” said Senator Ben Nelson, a Nebraska Democrat.
“What’s the risk? The risk is really a certainty, which we know from the past, particularly after the photos of horrid behavior at Abu Ghraib were made public, which is that those photos will go up on violent Islamist, extremist Web sites,” Leiberman told reporters Tuesday. “They will be put in Al Qaida and other recruiting videos. They will lead to people entering the war against the United States, the West.”