He’s not saying that’s the only consideration; how could he, knowing it would set a precedent for concealing any evidence of malfeasance in the name of national security? Rather, he emphasizes that the investigations are closed and that the Pentagon’s not trying to justify or otherwise hide what happened — which seems to me an obvious attempt to distinguish this case from the release of the torture memos, where some are trying to justify the tactics involved. Note, incidentally, his insistence that the photos are “not sensational,” which seems a curious counterpoint to his worry that they’ll rile up jihadists. If he loses the court battle and the photos come out and they’re really bad, he’ll have a lot of explaining to do about his characterization of them here.
The meme of the hour, per Republican strategists and Bill Clinton, is that Dick Cheney needs to quiet down about torture and go away now. Really? I find it hard to believe The One would have backed off on the photos if not for Cheney’s media campaign to convince people that torture works and that Obama’s being cavalier about counterterrorism. Granted, he’s personally unpopular with most of the public, but the fact remains that he’s almost uniquely well informed to comment on this subject, which can’t help but be persuasive. If he’s got a liberal as staunch as Richard Cohen questioning himself, what’s he doing to the rest of the country?