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Axelrod Defends Effort to Block Release of Detainee Photos

White House senior adviser David Axelrod discusses President Obama's move to block the release of detainee abuse photos, the search for a Supreme Court justice, and controversy over the president's planned speech at the University of Notre Dame.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Now to our interview with David Axelrod. I spoke with him earlier this evening from the White House Briefing Room.

    David Axelrod, welcome.

    DAVID AXELROD, senior adviser to President Obama: Thanks, Jim. Good to be with you.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Thank you. On the detainee abuse photos, how does the president's opposition to releasing them, to making them public, square with his positions on transparency and public disclosure?

  • DAVID AXELROD:

    Well, Jim, his positions on transparency and public disclosure are strong and well known, but they don't — they're not without limit.

    When he believes that the release of materials may jeopardize the national security, then he's going to make that case. In this case, his concern is that the release of the photos from acts that happened years ago will serve to inflame the situation now and endanger our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. And that's something he's not inclined to do.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    And on what is that based? Why does he believe that it will inflame these folks in Iraq and Afghanistan?

  • DAVID AXELROD:

    Well, obviously, the photos are provocative. We've seen them, photos like them the past. They've had an inflammatory effect. They were used by our opponents and al-Qaida as propaganda tools and recruiting devices. And so we don't want to go back there again.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Have you seen these photographs, as well as the president?

  • DAVID AXELROD:

    I've seen some of the photographs.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    You agree that they would be inflammatory?

  • DAVID AXELROD:

    Well, I think the president has made the right decision. And his first responsibility is to protect the safety of our troops and to protect the country. He's making the decision on that basis.