Graham: White House agrees to protect abuse photos

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Wednesday that an agreement has been reached on a two-part solution to ban the release of any photos depicting abuse of U.S. military detainees.

Speaking to reporters in the Senate, Graham said White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel called to pledge to him and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) that President Obama would issue an order classifying the photos if Congress does not pass a law to ban their release.

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“If necessary, he said the president would make sure those photos never see the light of day,” Graham said. “The only way you’d be able to do that is to make sure they’re considered national security documents. That’s their commitment to me and the country, and I take them at their word.”

Specifically, Graham said Attorney General Eric Holder assured him that Obama is considering an order that would classify the photos.

A White House aide had no comment.

Separately, Graham said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has agreed to a July 8 vote on a standalone bill to ban the photos from being released. Graham said that either a free-standing vote would be held or the bill would be passed by unanimous consent.

Reid spokesman Jim Manley suggested an even quicker timetable, saying, “We are trying to see if we can pass their bill before voting on the supp,” referring to the $108 billion military supplemental the Senate is expected to take up later this week.

Obama decided last month to withhold the photos, but the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit to force their release. A federal court last week issued a stay until this fall, keeping the photos under wraps at least until then.

Sam Youngman contributed to this report