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Inside Politics

White House: Bush moved by casket photos

Administration stands by publication ban
The Pentagon says that photographs of American war dead arriving at Dover Air Force Base should not have been released.

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CNN's Jamie McIntyer on a Web site's publication of photos of war caskets.
George W. Bush

NAPLES, Florida (CNN) -- President Bush was "moved" by recently published photos of caskets containing U.S. military personnel slain in Iraq but stands by his policy barring their publication, a White House spokesman said Friday.

"We must pay attention to the privacy of the families. That's what the policy is based on," White House spokesman Trent Duffy told reporters, describing that as "our first priority."

Photographs of flag-draped coffins of American casualties in Iraq were released by the Air Force in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, and were posted on a Web site. (Gallery: Photos from Dover Air Force Base)

The Pentagon said the photos should not have been released. (Full story)

A photo of flag-draped coffins in a cargo plane about to depart from Kuwait was published Sunday in the Seattle Times.

The photo was taken by a cargo worker who was then fired by her employer, a military contractor, for violating the no-photos rule. Her husband, who also worked for a military contractor, was fired as well, the Seattle Times reported.

The Bush administration has come under heavy criticism from Democrats and some victims' families, who argue the White House is trying to prevent Americans from seeing daily images of death that could sour support for the war.

Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic White House hopeful, addressed the issue Friday when he spoke before the American Society of Newspaper Editors.

"You see the haunting images of our soldiers loading flagged-draped coffins," he said. "We see rows of them in the belly of a cargo plane for their long flight home. We see images of them being saluted on their final march to their final resting place."

"And those images are paired with a story about a husband and wife who took photos to show the world the touching way we honor our fallen. And they were fired for their openness and honesty. My friends, truth is on the line in the election."

White House officials say the administration is strictly enforcing a policy that has been in place since the Persian Gulf War of 1991.

Duffy said the latest photos are a stark reminder of the sacrifices American men and women have given to protect freedom. He said those sacrifices are the reason the United States "must win."

CNN's Dana Bash contributed to this report.

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