They risk provoking renewed hostility in the Middle East as Mr Obama attempts to build bridges with the Islamic world.
He is scheduled to make a major speech in Cairo on June 4 when he will launch his version of a plan to bring peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
One picture showed a prisoner hung up upside down while another showed a naked man smeared in excrement standing in a corridor with a guard standing menacingly in front of him. Another prisoner is handcuffed to the window frame of his cell with underpants pulled over his head.
Others yet to be released reportedly show military guards threatening to sexually assault a detainee with a broomstick and hooded prisoners on transport planes with Playboy magazines opened to pictures of nude women on their laps.
The images emerged from Australia where they were originally obtained by the channel SBS in 2006 in the wake of the Abu Ghraib scandal. They were not distributed around the world at the time but are now believed to be among those the president is trying to block.
It should have been a forgone conclusion that prisoner abuse goes far beyond waterboarding, otherwise why would the administration refuse to release the photos? Otherwise they would show healthy prisoners with no outward signs of physical abuse. It is also rarely mentioned that, if the administration and the neo-cons are so afraid of what these images do to our image, perhaps they should not engage in this behavior in the first place.