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Pentagon to allow photos of U.S. war dead

February 26, 2009 | 10:19 am

Coffins of U.S. war dead at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware

U.S. soldiers killed in combat in Afghanistan or Iraq have returned from the battlefield via Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. As their flag-draped caskets came off the plane, no news photographers were allowed to witness the scene, no reporters were allowed to interview families, no public record was made about the personal toll exacted by Washington's policies on individual soldiers and their families.

The policy was initiated by the first President Bush during the first Gulf War, and it was continued by the second President Bush, who always said the ban on cameras was designed to protect the privacy of military families. Critics responded that the policy was a public relations ploy to avoid personalizing a far-off war.

Now, the Obama administration has decided to open the gates of Dover. In a policy to be unveiled today, Pentagon officials told reporters, Defense Secretary Robert Gates -- the only holdover from the Bush administration -- will announce that news photos of flag-draped coffins will be allowed, as long as families agree.

-- Johanna Neuman

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Photo: EPA