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Detainee photo battle likely over

From NBC's Pete Williams
A bill signed into law by President Obama today gives the federal government new authority to withhold photos of detainees who may have been subjected to abuse by their U.S. captors.

After first agreeing to release them, Obama reversed himself earlier this year and directed the Justice Department to seek court rulings that would allow the government to withhold them. They were sought in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. The pictures, several dozen, were taken during investigations into prisoner abuse in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Obama said releasing the pictures would "further inflame anti-American opinion" and would "put our troops in greater danger."

A Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill, signed today, gives the Defense Department new grounds to exempt them from release under the Freedom of Information Act.

The Justice Department has been urging the Supreme Court to wait until Congress finished acting on the issue before deciding whether to take up the case. It now seems likely that today's action will put an end to the issue, making it unnecessary for the court to hear the case.