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Media ban on photos of war dead lifted

The Pentagon lifted a long-standing prohibition against the press covering the returning war dead, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Thursday.

The new legislation gives families the choice of allowing or prohibiting news organizations to photograph the caskets of their loved ones when they arrive at Delaware’s Dover Air Force Base, MSNBC reported.

Photographic images have been banned since 1991, and the legislation was strictly enforced through George W. Bush’s administration. This prevented pictures of troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan from appearing in the news.

“My conclusion was, we should not presume to make the decision for the families. We should actually let them make it,” Gates told Los Angeles Times.

Gates has assigned a group of Pentagon officials to work out the details, including the concerns the families have put forth, including what services will be provided for families who want to be present for the return.

“If they are going to open it up to families, do they have the capability of assisting those families?” Joyce Raezer, the executive director of the National Military Family Assn., told Los Angeles Times. “There are lots of unanswered questions.”

This issue had been revisited last year and determined to stay the same. It was revisited only after President Barack Obama said he wanted to revisit it, and Gates launched a new review, MSNBC reported.

“People were all trying to do what was right by the families,” Gates told Los Angeles Times. “It just seemed to me that we ought to let the families make that decision.”