Obama Weighs Whether to Release Photographs Showing Bin Laden’s Dead
Now that Osama bin Laden is dead, the Obama administration may need to prove it by showing photos of the world’s most infamous terrorist after he was shot in the head.
“They need to release some verifiable information that it was bin Laden,” said Brian Katulis, a Middle East and South Asia scholar at the Center for American Progress in Washington who visited Pakistan in February. “You won’t convince everybody, but you need to marginalize the conspiracy theorists.”
President Barack Obama is still weighing whether to release a photo of bin Laden’s body, which U.S. forces identified through photo comparisons, DNA, and other means, White House press secretary Jay Carney said today. Bin Laden’s body, weighted down, was released into the Arabian Sea following an Islamic funeral ritual performed aboard a ship by U.S. military officers, according to the administration.
“It’s fair to say it’s a gruesome photograph,” Carney said at a briefing. “There are sensitivities here in terms of appropriateness,” Carney said, saying an image taken after bin Laden was killed by U.S. commandos may be “inflammatory.”
Photos or videos would help quell conspiracy theories questioning whether the raid happened, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein said.
‘100 Percent Identification’
“I think that this is being very carefully considered,” Feinstein, a California Democrat, told reporters in Washington today. “For purposes of 100 percent identification, there’s value in doing so, and that would be the only reason.” Feinstein said she doesn’t think it’s necessary to release visual evidence of bin Laden’s death because DNA testing has proven the case.
Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who leads the Senate Armed Services Committee, said photos of bin Laden “should be released” at some point, though a release may be delayed to let reaction to the killing “cool down.”
A release of photos may be needed “to quell any doubts that this somehow is a ruse that the American government has carried out,” said Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut independent and chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
Maine Senator Susan Collins, the homeland security panel’s senior Republican, said she agreed that the release of photos or DNA evidence may be needed to counter “those who will try to generate this myth that he’s alive and that we missed him somehow.”
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said releasing photos of bin Laden may do little to convince al-Qaeda sympathizers that the U.S. is being truthful.
“Even if you show the picture, there’ll be skeptics,” Powell said on CNN. Asked if he would recommend releasing photos, Powell said, “I’ll leave that up to the administration to decide. I don’t need to see it. He’s dead.”
“Let’s not pretend that releasing these pictures will convince the conspiracy theorists,” said Matthew Levitt, director of the counterterrorism and intelligence program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Brennan said at a White House briefing yesterday that the administration must carefully review how any material is released to ensure that it doesn’t compromise any future intelligence-gathering operations.
“You want to make sure that you’re not doing anything to expose something that will limit your ability to use those same intelligence sources and capabilities in the future,” he said.
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