Nasty Letters To Crooked Politicians

As we enter a new era of politics, we hope to see that Obama has the courage to fight the policies that Progressives hate. Will he have the fortitude to turn the economic future of America to help the working man? Or will he turn out to be just a pawn of big money, as he seems to be right now.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Chimp_junta Goes Berzerk As Photos of Dead Heroes Get Released

Photos of Soldiers' Coffins Revive Controversy (

By Blaine Harden and Dana Milbank
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, April 23, 2004; Page A10

The Pentagon lost its tight control over the images of coffins returning from Iraq as about 350 such images were released under the Freedom of Information Act and a Seattle newspaper published a similar photo taken by a military contractor.

After Dover Air Force Base, the main port for returning remains, released hundreds of government photos of the ceremonies, the Defense Department ordered yesterday that no more photographs be released. In addition, two employees for defense contractor Maytag Aircraft were fired after the Pentagon complained about a photo of flag-draped caskets taken by one of them that appeared in the Seattle Times.

In March 2003, on the eve of war in Iraq, the Pentagon ordered an end to all media coverage of ceremonies for the returning remains of soldiers killed overseas. Although Dover already had such a policy, the Pentagon action enforced a military-wide ban on images of flag-draped caskets that dated to late 2000 but had not been followed.

With few exceptions, the ban had remained in force until recent days. But last week, about 350 photos from Dover were released under a Freedom of Information Act request by Russ Kick, a First Amendment advocate who runs a Web site called the Memory Hole (*. Dover recommended that Kick's request be denied, but officials at Air Mobility Command headquarters at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois authorized the release on appeal. After Kick posted the photos, they appeared on other Web sites, including the Drudge Report.

The sudden spread yesterday of the Dover photos of flag-draped caskets returning from Iraq came a day after Tami Silicio and her husband and co-worker, David Landry, were fired for the photo she took at Kuwait International Airport of caskets in an aircraft. The photo was published Sunday on the front page of the Seattle Times.

"We have terminated two employees in Kuwait who violated Department of Defense and company policy by working together to photograph and publish the flag-draped caskets of our servicemen and women being returned to the United States," said William Silva, president of Maytag Aircraft, the Colorado Springs-based military contractor that employed Silicio and her husband.

According to the Times, Silva said the firing decision was made by the company but the military had "very specific concerns" about the photo. The Pentagon has said that only individual graveside services give the full context of a soldier's sacrifice.

Silicio, a cargo worker who often loaded coffins on military planes bound for the United States, shot the photo in early April, as twin uprisings in Iraq led to a spike in American war dead. She snapped a digital photograph of an aircraft packed with caskets and told her best friend that her photograph of coffins of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq would allow parents of the dead to see that "their children weren't thrown around like a piece of cargo."

Losing her well-paid job in Kuwait was something that Silicio had been very worried about before the photo was published, according to Barry Fitzsimmons, a photo editor at the Times. "She has a mortgage to pay, and she really needs the job," said Fitzsimmons, who said he had a dozen phone conversations and exchanged 40 e-mails with Silicio before the photo was published. He and the newspaper's senior editors wanted to make sure she understood the possible consequences of publication.

"In the end, she felt she would be okay and she would be able to keep her job," Fitzsimmons said. "I think there is a little bit of being naive about the whole thing."

Silicio received no payment, but her name appeared under the photo.

Zuma Press, a photo agency, is handling distribution of the photo. Rights to publish it have been purchased by a weekly newsmagazine, according to Zuma.

Although photographs of flag-draped caskets returning from overseas fighting were common in the 1980s and 1990s, the Bush administration has enforced the ban on such images, saying it reflects families' wishes. Critics of the policy said the administration is trying to airbrush the realities of war.

"I feel if the administration were more sympathetic they would see that this is a positive thing," Silicio said in an e-mail yesterday. "When our loved ones are coming home, the families want to be there with them through the media, coming the whole way home."

Harden reported from Seattle. Staff writer Josh White contributed to this report.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company

*The Memory Hole website is either being spammed by Chimp_junta or is very very busy since this Washington Post story...more to come...aj


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