Daily News: Osama Bin Laden death photos will be released, says CIA boss as White House weighs ‘gruesome’ reveal

BY Jake Pearson, Lukas I. Alpert and Bill Hutchinson
Wednesday, May 4th 2011

CIA boss Leon Panetta said Tuesday night that the Osama Bin Laden death photos – which the White House labeled "gruesome" – will be released.

"We got Bin Laden, and I think we have to reveal to the rest of the world the fact that we were able to get him and kill him," Panetta said.

The government reportedly has three sets of photos of Bin Laden's body, with the clearest shots showing a gaping bullet wound in his forehead.

At a briefing on Tuesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said officials were debating whether to make pictures public.

"There are sensitivities here in terms of the appropriateness of releasing photographs in the aftermath of this firefight," Carney said.

"It is fair to say they're gruesome photographs," he warned. "It is certainly possible that it could be inflammatory."

A debate was brewing over whether bloody snapshots or video of Bin Laden being slid into the sea would appease conspiracy theorists or incite radicals.

Panetta told the "NBC Nightly News" it's just a matter of time before Americans see proof of the terror boss' death.

"The government obviously has been talking about how best to do this," he said. "I don't think there was any question that ultimately a photograph would be presented to the public.

The government has released pictures of dead Al Qaeda members before – in 2006, when terror chief Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed in a Baghdad air strike.

Rep. Peter King (R-Long Island), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said he spoke with people who viewed the Bin Laden photos and believed they should be seen.

"I don't want a conspiracy theory developing, that suddenly he's walking through Singapore or something," King said.

"From what I've heard of the pictures, they're not ghoulish, they are not offensive, they are not going to scare people."

Ibrahim Hooper, director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said releasing macabre pictures "would be unnecessarily inflaming passions in many areas of the world."

"Why take that risk?" Hooper said. "The upside is not going to be that great no matter what you do."

Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) agreed.

"I think it's morbid, and I'm not one that's going to be yelling to make the photo public," Reid said.