WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Obama administration has promised to classify photos of alleged U.S. abuse of prisoners and detainees if that is necessary to keep the controversial photos under wraps, a senior Republican senator announced Wednesday.
Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-South Carolina, informed Attorney General Eric Holder at a Judiciary Committee hearing that Graham had just won the promise from the White House chief of staff.
"A moment ago Rahm Emanuel indicated to me that the president will not let these photos see the light of day," Graham told Holder at a packed Committee hearing.
Graham is pressing for a congressional prohibition against the release of hundreds of allegedly explosive photos of prisoner abuse that U.S. military leaders in Iraq and Afghanistan believe would fuel anger in the region and endanger U.S. troops.
But if the Congress fails to act and the courts rule against the administration, it would be left to the president to find a way to keep the photos from being released.
"I think having Congress act would be a preferred way," Holder replied.
A short time later, Graham went to the Senate floor to push for a vote on his amendment to block the photos' release, and was more explicit in describing the White House promise.
"If the Congress fails to do its part to protect these photos from being released, the president would sign ... an executive order that would change their classification to be classified national security documents," Graham announced.
The ACLU has gone to court to argue for release of the photos under the Freedom of Information Act. The lawyers won a Circuit Court ruling agreeing they should be made public.
The Obama administration then chose to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.