Story (In the News)


Newsday: Obama: No bin Laden photos to be released

May 5, 2011 by TOM BRUNE

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama decided Wednesday to withhold graphic photos and videos of the slain Osama bin Laden because they won't convince doubters, but will increase U.S. security risks, the White House said.

Despite pressure to release photos to prove the terror chief is dead, Obama told CBS News that "there is no doubt we killed Osama bin Laden," even among members of al-Qaida.

Many are glad bin Laden is gone, he said, "but we don't need to spike the football," according to a transcript of the CBS interview read by White House spokesman Jay Carney.

Obama made the call Wednesday after discussions with advisers and with the support of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Carney said.

"It is important for us to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence or as a propaganda tool," Obama said.

"That's not who we are," he said. "We don't trot out this stuff as trophies."

Obama acknowledged there always will be some who deny it.

"We don't think that a photograph in and of itself is going to make any difference," Obama said. "The fact of the matter is, you will not see bin Laden walking on this earth again."

On Tuesday, CIA Director Leon Panetta told lawmakers a photo would be released, but Carney said that was before the final decision was made.

Meanwhile, Reuters published photos it bought from a Pakistan security official, who took them about an hour after the U.S. assault showing three dead men lying in pools of blood, but no weapons. None of the men looks like bin Laden.

Obama's decision drew a mixed reaction on Capitol Hill.

"It's a mistake," said Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), adding that it would only "prolong the debate" on bin Laden's death.

"The whole purpose of sending our soldiers into the compound, rather than an aerial bombardment, was to obtain indisputable proof of bin Laden's death," he said.

Former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin tweeted: "Show photo as warning to others seeking America's destruction. No pussyfooting around, no politicking, no drama; it's part of the mission."

But Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), who called for a photo release to stamp out conspiracy theories, deferred to Obama.

"This is a decision for the president to make," King said, "and I respect his decision."

Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Roslyn Heights), a top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, expressed ambivalence about the call.

"My initial reaction was that the United States had to be seen as the toughest . . . [nation] on the planet," he said.

The photo decision could have gone either way, he said.

With no widespread demand overseas for proof, he said he respects that Obama "came down on the side of being prudent and protecting" America.