Web Photos of Soldiers’ Coffins Prompt Crackdown

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A website dedicated to publishing censored pictures and documents released dozens of photographs of coffins containing American war dead, which caused the Pentagon on Thursday to renew its ban on releasing such images to the media.

Pictures of flag-draped coffins filling aircraft cargo bays and being unloaded by white-gloved soldiers were obtained by Russ Kick, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Kick is a First Amendment activist and investigative journalist in Tucson. He won release of 361 photos by filing a Freedom of Information Act request. A CJN check found his website, thememoryhole.org, was overwhelmed with visits Thursday morning.

Air Force officials initially denied the request but relented last week and sent him pictures of Iraq war dead arriving at the military’s largest mortuary at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

The unexpected posting of the photos on the Internet caught the Pentagon by surprise and provoked a ripple of media attention to pictures the government had been trying to suppress. Many major newspapers published the newly released photos on their front pages Thursday.

Soon after the photographs were posted on the Web, the Department of Defense barred their further release to other media outlets, saying the photos violated the privacy of troops’ families. Military officials said that the media have been banned from taking pictures and videos of returning war dead since 1991.

Government and military leaders acknowledge that such images carry power and can sway public opinion.

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