Obama decides against the release of graphic photos of bin Laden

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Portrait of Osama bin Laden from 1997.

U.S. President Barack Obama decided on Wednesday not to release graphic images of Osama bin Laden’s corpse after a debate with his war council. Obama feared the photographs could spur on retaliatory attacks and reprisals against the United States and its allies.

In an interview to be aired on CBS News, Obama will say: "The risks of release outweigh the benefits." Skeptics have demanded the U.S. release the photographs of the corpse, and officials in the White House have been debating whether to do so for the past several days. But Obama is to add that conspiracy theorists "will just claim the photos are doctored anyway," and say his decision was partly based on fears that there could be anger in the Middle East if the images were released. "Osama bin Laden is not a trophy—he is dead and let's now focus on continuing the fight until al-Qaeda has been eliminated."

According to White House officials, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton advised Obama not to release images because of, as they argued, the potential national security risk. It would do little to convince sceptics that the leader and founder of al-Qaeda had been killed after a raid on his compound on Monday. The images are reported to show bin Laden shot above the left eye, with parts of his brain exposed.

The director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Leon Panetta, however, argued for the release of the images. "The bottom line is that, you know, 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 added that the eventual release of the photos was inevitable.

According to White House sources, Obama is of the opinion there is not sufficient scepticism worldwide to warrant the release of the pictures. Similarly, officials said those doubting Bin Laden's death were unlikely to be convinced by a photograph in today's age of photo manipulation.