Photos Of War Dead OK With Family Approval

Pentagon officials say that news photographers will now be allowed to take pictures of the caskets of servicemembers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, if the families of the dead grant approval. The ban on photographs was instituted before the First Persian Gulf War in 1991.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

The Pentagon has overturned its ban on news photographs of returning flag-draped caskets at Dover Air Force Base. Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced the change at a news conference today.

Secretary ROBERT GATES (Defense Department): After receiving input from a number of sources, including all the military services and organizations representing military families, I have decided that the decision regarding media coverage of the dignified transfer process at Dover should be made by those most directly affected - on an individual basis, by the families of the fallen. We ought not presume to make that decision in their place.

NORRIS: The new policy is similar to one already in effect Arlington National Cemetery. President Obama has asked Secretary Gates to review the ban, which has been in place since before the first Gulf War in 1991. At the time, the Pentagon said it was respecting the wishes of the families of the dead.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Privately, some in the military and in government said photos of returning caskets could undermine support for the wars. Others accused the Pentagon of hiding the human cost of war.

NORRIS: One veterans' group pushed for photographs to be allowed saying that the pictures are a reminder of the sacrifice troops have made in Iraq and Afghanistan. Secretary Gates, a holdover from the Bush administration, says he supports the new policy. He's assigned a team of people to work out how and when to implement it.

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