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Pentagon lifts censorship on some previously
released photos
Released April 2005
Released July 2005
Released April 2005
Released July 2005

PENTAGON RELEASES MORE PHOTOS
OF WAR CASUALTY HONOR GUARDS

Freedom of Information Lawsuit Removes Secrecy
for Flag-Draped Casket Ceremonies

Pentagon Agrees to Process Further FOIA Requests,
Plaintiff Agrees to Dismiss Suit

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 161

August 4 , 2005

 

Newly Released Photos
__

For More Information Contact:
Ralph Begleiter, University of Delaware (302) 831-2687
Meredith Fuchs, General Counsel, National Security Archive (202) 994-7000
Thomas Blanton, Director, National Security Archive (202) 994-7000
Daniel Mach, Counsel, Jenner & Block (202) 637-6313

One of the homecoming images was featured in an op-ed piece entitled "Who's Paying for Our Patriotism?" by Uwe E. Reinhardt of the Washington Post on August 1, 2005.
Return of the Fallen
April 28, 2005
Pentagon Releases Hundreds More War Casualty Homecoming Images

Gallery
The Complete Set of Honor Guard Ceremony Images

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Download the complete set of honor guard ceremony images

July 20, 2005 release
High resolution (16.5 MB zip file)

April 22, 2005 release
High resolution (82 MB zip file)
Low resolution (29 MB zip file)

April 25, 2005 release
High resolution (102 MB zip file)
Low resolution (9 MB zip file)

One of the homecoming images was featured on the front page of the Washington Post on April 29, 2005.
Previous posting
October 4, 2004
Professor Sues Pentagon to Make Public Honor Guard Photos from Dover Air Force Base
Listen
University of Delaware Professor Ralph Begleiter's interview on NPR's All Things Considered, April 29, 2005
Paper
"The Political Manipulation of War Images," by Kelly Gast, University of Delaware
Selected Images
Click on image for larger version
The casket bearing the body of US Navy Machinist's Mate Third Class Nathan Taylor goes over the edge of the USS Enterprise during a Burial at Sea ceremony.
The Pentagon released two versions of this image on April 25, 2005, only one of which is redacted.
Casket being handled on military aircraft with images of honor guard members completely obscured.

Washington, D.C., August 4, 2005 - The Pentagon has released more images of the honor guard ceremonies for American war casualties, and agreed to process "as expeditiously as possible" ongoing Freedom of Information Act requests for such images, as part of a settlement of the FOIA lawsuit brought by University of Delaware professor Ralph Begleiter with legal representation from the National Security Archive and the firm of Jenner and Block.

On July 18, the parties filed a joint status report. On July 20, Begleiter received from the Department of Defense a CD containing more than two dozen images that had been censored in the April 2005 release of 721 images, as well as five photographs that were not previously released. On July 22, he received the Pentagon's written assurance that it would continue to process further FOIA requests for images and video of honor guard ceremonies taken in the period since the lawsuit was filed. On July 28, the parties filed with U.S. District Judge Emmett Sullivan their joint agreement to dismiss the case, and this week received the court's assent to the dismissal.

Ralph Begleiter, the long-time CNN correspondent who is Rosenberg Professor of Communications and Distinguished Journalist in Residence at the University of Delaware, stated, "The Pentagon's decision to release these images is a significant victory for the honor of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in war for their country, as well as for their families, for all service personnel and for the American people. I applaud the government's decision to abide by the law - the Freedom of Information Act - without forcing a court order in the case; it's always better to avoid contentious litigation by making the right decision."

Thomas Blanton, director of the National Security Archive at George Washington University, said, "We joined this lawsuit with Ralph because the Pentagon claimed any release of the honor guard images was a mistake and contrary to policy. Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, we won this lawsuit, not just for the principle of open government, but also for the public honor and respect that is due to our fallen soldiers. Hiding these ceremonies is just wrong."

Daniel Mach, counsel at the law firm of Jenner and Block who represented Begleiter pro bono in this case, commented, "Public access to images of war, and its costs, is crucially important in a free, democratic society. The Pentagon's release of hundreds of previously undisclosed photographs not only helps promote that access, but also honors the ultimate sacrifice of the nation's fallen soldiers."

The newly released images are posted on the National Security Archive website, at www.nsarchive.org, together with the legal documents in the case, the 721 previously released images, a chronology of events, and a history of the Pentagon's ban on photography of the honor guard ceremonies, which dates back to an order by then-Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney just prior to the first Gulf War in 1991.

July 2005 Release [Click on the highlighted thumbnails for larger versions of five photos not previously released to the public.]

 

Full Statement of Ralph J. Begleiter (Rosenberg Professor of Communication, Distinguished Journalist in Residence, University of Delaware):

"The Pentagon's decision to release these nearly 800 images is a significant victory for the honor of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in war for their country, as well as for their families, for all service personnel and for the American people. I applaud the government's decision to abide by the law - the Freedom of Information Act - without forcing a court order in the case; it's always better to avoid contentious litigation by making the right decision."

"Despite the Pentagon's public claims to have kept these images under wraps out of regard for the privacy of the families of war casualties, no such claims about protecting privacy of families have been made in the Pentagon's official letters to me accompanying the images released under the Freedom of Information Act."

"It is regrettable that the government has chosen to censor, in many of these images, the grim but proud faces of men and women in uniform who honor their fallen colleagues by serving as bearers in these instances of casualty returns. It is regrettable also that government has chosen to censor general information about the images, including where and when they were taken, and, in many cases, which military units proudly provided these honor guard services."

"Nevertheless, families of deceased servicemen and women, who have sought release of these images from the Pentagon without success, may now have them if they wish. Other Americans, including troops who served alongside their fallen comrades and who, in many cases, were photographed by the government providing respectful honor guards for the casualties, may now commemorate their service and sacrifice with these images. And the U.S. government and all Americans now may take pride that the sacrifice of soldiers in war - a cost documented by these government images - is no longer veiled by a cloak of secrecy."

"I'm grateful to the National Security Archive and to the law firm of Jenner and Block for supporting the public information rights of the American people through the Freedom of Information Act, and to the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia for supervising the progress of this case."

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