As speculation and debate ran rampant in the media and on the Internet, President Barack Obama made a decision on whether or not to release to the public the death photos of the most notorious terrorist in history, Osama bin Laden. After a couple of days of deliberation — bin Laden was killed Sunday — the President told CBS News that the U. S. government would not allow photos to be used as an instrument for violent incitement or for propaganda purposes.
The president, whose remarks were broadcast on “60 Minutes,” said, “It is important 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.”
“We don’t trot out this stuff as trophies,” Obama went on. “The fact of the matter is, this is somebody who was deserving of the justice that he received.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney corroborated Obama’s decision today, stating, “It is not in our national security interests to allow those images, as has been in the past been the case, to become icons to rally opinion against the United States. The president’s No. 1 priority is the safety and security of American citizens at home and Americans abroad. There is no need to release these photographs to establish Osama bin Laden’s identity. And he saw no other compelling reason to release them, given the potential for national security risks. And further, because he believes, as he said so clearly, this is not who we are.”
The president told Steve Kroft of “60 Minutes” that there was no doubt the person killed in the Navy SEALS raid on the compound in Abbottobad, Pakistan, on Sunday was the infamous terrorist. Not only did they have photograph and video proof, they had DNA proof as well. Obama also noted, “Certainly there is no doubt among al-Qaida members that he is dead.”
Obama said that revealing the death photos would make little difference. “There are going to be some folks who deny it,” he added. “The fact of the matter is, you will not see bin Laden walking on this Earth again.”
The Taliban are already denying it, as are some splinter al-Qaida cells and anti-American organizations.
CNN reported Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mojahed as saying, “Obama has not got any strong evidence that can prove his claim over killing of the Sheikh Osama bin Laden. And secondly, the closest sources for Sheikh Osama bin Laden have not confirmed …”
Although some, like Sen. Diane Feinstein of California, have noted DNA evidence was certainly enough and that the death photos should not be released, others, like Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said afterward of the decision that it was a “mistake.”
“If we can’t conclusively demonstrate that indeed he is dead there will be those who say he is still out there,” Graham told CBS News. “Al-Qaida might even try to keep his legacy going and say ‘they got someone else, they didn’t really get him.'”
Although no official death photos have made it to the media, a photo that saw wide circulation on the Internet after the announcement that bin Laden had been killed has been dubbed a fake, according to CNN and British paper The Guardian, the combination of two separate photos.