President Obama will not release 'gruesome' Osama Bin Laden death photos

May 5, 2011 Issues: Killing of Osama bin Laden

BY Lukas I. Alpert, Jennifer H. Cunningham and Helen Kennedy

Thursday, May 5th 2011

President Obama said Wednesday he won't release Osama Bin Laden's death photos - just as grisly snapshots surfaced showing the corpses of the terror leader's son and two couriers.

Obama said publishing pictures of the Al Qaeda leader's cadaver would not quiet conspiracy theorists and might incite a national security risk.

"We don't need to spike the football," he told CBS. "That's not who we are. We don't trot out this stuff as trophies."

Pols on both sides of the aisle mostly backed Obama's decision, but former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin suggested he was "pussyfooting around."

Meanwhile, Reuters published photos of the three male corpses left behind in the Pakistani compound after the Navy SEAL team took off with Bin Laden's body.

The photos suggest the men were all shot in the head. They are lying faceup on the floor in large pools of gore, their faces blood-spattered but unmarked.

One is sprawled across a computer cable and what appears to be a toy gun: a plastic neon-green-and-orange pistol, hardly the weapon to confront a team of elite U.S. Navy SEALs.

Officials have said there were children at the compound.

Reuters said it bought the pictures from a Pakistani security official who entered the compound soon after the lightning raid that ended the greatest manhunt in history.

One of the corpses bears a resemblance to Bin Laden, and could be his son, Khalid, who was killed in Sunday's raid. The other two men strongly resemble each other and appear to be the two brothers who served as Bin Laden's couriers.

There was no photo of the woman who was killed.

Conspiracy theories that Bin Laden is still alive - or died long ago - are spreading fast.

Obama said trying to quell those questions wasn't worth it - especially given the potential threat a photo release could pose to U.S. troops overseas.

"Certainly there is no doubt among Al Qaeda members that he is dead," he told "60 Minutes."

"The fact is, you will not see Bin Laden walking on this Earth again."

Then-President George W. Bush released photos of slain Al Qaeda members - most famously Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, in 2006 - and Saddam Hussein's slain sons, Uday and Qusay, in 2003.

Rep. Pete King (R-L.I.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said he understood the President's decision and "will not oppose it."

In a Twitter post, Palin said Obama should release the pictures "as a warning to others seeking America's destruction."

She compared his decision to keep the photos under wraps with his reluctance to give in to demands he release his birth certificate.

But at Ground Zero, most visitors supported Obama.

"I wanted to see it, but I understand why he didn't do it," said high school senior Hazel Bridges, 17, of Brooklyn. "Nothing good can come out of it."

Rob Donahue, 47, who works in finance near Ground Zero, said releasing the pictures might put lives at risk. "Our military is still in Afghanistan," he noted.

Michael Jacob, 33, of Jersey City, said he doesn't need to see photos. "I trust our President," he said. "If the President tells us he's dead, he's dead."