U.S. Won't Release Bin Laden Death Photo
May 04, 2011
By Heather Maher
WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Barack Obama has decided not to release photographs of Osama bin Laden's dead body, saying the graphic images could be used to incite violence against Americans or be used as "a propaganda tool."
In an interview with CBS News' "60 Minutes" program, Obama said DNA testing had left 'no doubt' in U.S. officials' minds that the man killed by U.S. Special Operations Forces in the May 2 attack in Abbottabad, Pakistan was bin Laden.
The U.S. president said he and his national security team, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, had discussed the pros and cons of releasing the "very graphic" photographs of the body of the Al-Qaeda leader after he was shot in the head. Agreement was reached that the risk to national security was too high, Obama said, adding, "We don't trot out this stuff as trophies."
Asked his response to skeptics, including in Pakistan, who don't believe bin Laden is dead, Obama said, "There is no doubt that bin Laden is dead. Certainly, there is no doubt among Al-Qaeda members that he is dead. And so we don't think that a photograph in and of itself is going to make any difference. There are going to be some folks who deny it. The fact of the matter is you will not see bin Laden walking on this earth again."
The U.S. president added, "This was someone who was deserving of the justice he received."
Before the announcement, the likelihood of the release of some photographic evidence of bin Laden's death seemed high, especially after CIA Director Leon Panetta said he expected at least one image to be released publicly.
Carney said the decision not to release any photographic material include possible videotape of the burial at sea that bin Laden was given shortly after his death.
"These are graphic photographs of someone who was shot in the face, or the head, rather. And it is not in our national security interest to allow those images -- as has been in the past, to be the case -- to become icons to rally opinion against the United States. The president's number one priority is the safety and security of American citizens at home and Americans abroad," he said.
The reaction of Muslims worldwide to the news of bin Laden's death has been notable for its lack of condemnation. Carney said Obama's broader efforts to heal mistrust between the United States and the Muslim world would not be adversely affected by Washington's actions.
He also noted that bin Laden's religious views were respected after his death. "The efforts that were made to give Osama bin Laden an appropriate burial, following Islamic precepts and traditions, were considerable," he said. I would also say that the respect that was show to him and his body was far greater that the respect Osama bin Laden showed to the victims on 9/11, or any of his other victims."
The White House's decision to keep the graphic photos secret may not be the end of the debate. Experts in the Freedom of Information Act law say if a Freedom of Information Request is filed with the government, the material could yet become public.
The White House announcement was made the same day that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told members of Congress that killing bin Laden was legal. The raid, he said, "was justified as an action of national self-defense" against "a lawful military target."
On May 5, Obama will lay a wreath at the site of the September 11, 2011 terror attacks in New York City. He will meet with victims' families and pay his respects to those who died, but won't make a speech, Carney said, because "the power of that requires no words."
Copyright (c) 2011. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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