Obama won't release bin Laden photos, White House says
Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda's leader, seen in an undated photo.
May 4th, 2011
09:27 PM ET

Obama won't release bin Laden photos, White House says

[Updated at 9:27 p.m. ET] Reuters on Wednesday published photos - taken after Monday morning's raid on a Pakistan compound where the United States says its forces killed Osama bin Laden - showing three men lying dead in pools of blood.

One of the dead men bears a family resemblance to bin Laden, but there was no confirmation of his identity. Besides bin Laden, an adult son of the al Qaeda leader, two al Qaeda couriers and a woman were killed in Monday's attack by U.S. commandos, according to American officials.

Reuters says the photos were taken by a Pakistani security official about an hour after U.S. forces left bin Laden's compound and that it is confident of the authenticity of the purchased images. The U.S. commandos took bin Laden's body with them, U.S. officials have said.


MORE: No bin Laden photo release, White House says
CONGRESS: Lawmakers' reaction to photo decision
PAKISTAN: Angry reaction to tone of U.S. questions


[Updated at 8:27 p.m. ET] Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told CNN that Osama bin Laden was near some weapons when U.S. forces shot him in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

"He was right there and going to get those arms. You really can't take a chance," Feinstein told CNN's John King.

Previously, a U.S. official said bin Laden was unarmed but was making a threatening move when he was shot. When asked if bin Laden tried to grab a weapon or physically attack a commando, the official would only say, "he didn't hold up his hands and surrender."

A different U.S. official who has seen military reports of the raid said bin Laden was "moving" at the time he was initially shot. But the official declined to describe the movements more specifically, CNN's Barbara Starr reported.

[Updated at 7:51 p.m. ET] Several U.S. senators who said they saw a photograph of Osama bin Laden after he was shot now say they cannot be sure whether the photo was authentic.

These senators had described the photo to reporters and were using it to help form their opinion on whether President Barack Obama should release pictures of the dead al Qaeda leader. Fake photographs of a dead bin Laden have been circulating the Internet.

[Updated at 7:38 p.m. ET] In addition to computer equipment, U.S. commandos took from Osama bin Laden's compound five cell phones, audio and video equipment, "lots" of paper documents and about five guns, including AK-47s and pistols, a U.S. official told CNN homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve.

The objects were "hiding in plain sight," according to the official, who described the material as a treasure trove of information.

A senior U.S. official previously told CNN that the haul included 10 hard drives, five computers and more than 100 storage devices, such as disks, DVDs and thumb drives, a senior U.S. official told CNN.

At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said of evidence taken from the residence: "As we glean information from that material, we will make appropriate decisions with regard to who might we add to the terrorist watch list, the no fly list, all those things."

[Updated at 6:43 p.m. ET] Although the pros and cons of releasing the photos of a dead Osama Bin Laden were debated at the White House, a senior administration official says that the discussions were "not at all contentious."

The official admitted that "leaks are possible," but said that did not sway the president from reaching his decision

[Updated at 5:08 p.m. ET] Osama bin Laden was "moving" at the time he was initially shot, according to a U.S. official who has seen military reports of the Monday morning incident in Abbottabad, Pakistan. But the official declined to describe the movements more specifically, CNN's Barbara Starr reports.

Previously, another U.S. official said bin Laden was unarmed but was making a threatening move when he was shot. When asked if bin Laden tried to grab a weapon or physically attack a commando, the official would only say, "he didn't hold up his hands and surrender."

[Updated at 4:25 p.m. ET] When President Barack Obama visits New York City's "ground zero" on Thursday, he will take part in a ceremony and meet with families of September 11 victims, but he will not make remarks, White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

The site is where the twin towers of the World Trade Center once stood. The towers fell on September 11, 2001, when al Qaeda hijackers flew commercial planes into them.

Former President George W. Bush was invited to attend, but declined to join Obama.

"President Bush will not be in attendance on Thursday," Bush spokesman David Sherzer said. "He appreciated the invite, but has chosen in his post-presidency to remain largely out of the spotlight. He continues to celebrate with all Americans this important victory in the war on terror."

[Updated at 3:36 p.m. ET] President Barack Obama a few minutes ago praised the military mission that killed Osama bin Laden, saying "the terrorist who started this war and took so many innocent lives learned that America does not forget."

Obama spoke at a White House event for the Wounded Warrior Project's Soldier Ride, which raises money for injured war veterans.

[Updated at 3:21 p.m. ET] U.S. Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House committee on homeland security, released a statement saying he understands and will not oppose President Barack Obama's decision to not release photos of a dead Osama bin Laden.

"While I have said that a photo release may be a good way to combat the predictable conspiracy theories about bin Laden's death, this is a decision for the president to make, and I respect his decision," King, R-New York, said.

[Updated at 3:13 p.m. ET] The U.S. Navy SEALs who raided Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan "had the authority to kill (bin Laden) unless he offered to surrender," White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday.

If bin Laden surrendered, the team was required to accept it if that could happen safely, Carney said. He provided no additional details on what occurred inside the compound when bin Laden was killed.

There was no question that the operation was lawful, Carney told reporters, adding that "consistent with the laws of war, bin Laden's surrender would have been accepted if feasible."

"I think it's entirely appropriate given the circumstances that he was brought to justice the way he was," Carney said.

[Updated at 3:02 p.m. ET] More congressional reaction to President Barack Obama's decision not to release photos of a dead Osama bin Laden: House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, "supports the president's decision," Boehner's spokesman Michael Steel told CNN Wednesday.

But Rep. Duncan Hunter, a Republican former Marine who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, disagreed with the decision. "As Americans we deserve to see them," he said.

[Updated at 2:52 p.m. ET] President Barack Obama's decision to not release photos of a dead Osama bin Laden came after a lengthy discussion with top Cabinet and security officials, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said, reiterating "there is no doubt we killed Osama bin Laden."

Recapping what Carney said about some of the reasons: Obama was worried that graphic photos of bin Laden's body could incite violence or be used as propaganda by America's enemies, and he wanted to avoid a perception of U.S. gloating. Carney cited an interview that Obama did with CBS's "60 Minutes" earlier today when providing the reasons.

[Updated at 2:40 p.m. ET] Shortly before the White House press secretary confirmed that President Barack Obama has decided not to release photos of a dead Osama bin Laden, a senior Democratic official close to the White House told CNN that the president was "never in favor" of releasing the pictures.

Obama felt that releasing the photos was unnecessary given the fact that so few credible voices have questioned the death, and that the conspiracy theorists would never be satisfied, the official said, according to CNN's Ed Henry.

[Updated at 2:36 p.m. ET] One reason why President Barack Obama decided not to release photos of a dead Osama bin Laden is that Obama believes such graphic photos could incite violence or be used as propaganda by America's enemies, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said, citing an interview that Obama did earlier today with CBS's "60 Minutes."

"We don't trot out this stuff as trophies," Obama told "60 Minutes," according to Carney.

Carney said the United States has conclusive proof that bin Laden has dead, citing DNA evidence, facial recognition evidence and his identification by others at the compound where he was killed. Obama, according to Carney, told "60 Minutes" that the United States has monitored worldwide reaction, and that there is no doubt even among al Qaeda members that bin Laden is dead.

[Updated at 2:25 p.m. ET] President Barack Obama has decided not to release photos of a dead Osama bin Laden, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney has confirmed in a press briefing.

[Updated at 2:07 p.m. ET] U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, the House minority whip, has told reporters he supports the president's reported decision not to release photos of a dead Osama bin Laden.

"In my opinion, there's no end served by releasing a picture of someone who's been killed," Hoyer told reporters Wednesday afternoon. "I think there's absolute proof that Osama bin Laden was, in fact, the person that was taken into custody (and) was killed in the process, in the firefight. I don't think there’s any necessity to release a picture."

[Updated at 1:31 p.m. ET] The president has decided not to release photos taken by Osama bin Laden after his death, an administration official briefed by the White House told CNN.

[Updated at 1:27 p.m. ET] President Barack Obama does not plan to release photos of Osama bin Laden to prove his death, CBS News said on Twitter on Wednesday. Obama made the comment to "60 Minutes," the network said.

[Updated at 11:28 a.m. ET] Osama bin Laden had 500 Euros (about $745) in cash and two telephone numbers sewn into his clothing when he was killed, a congressional source present at a classified briefing on the operation Tuesday told CNN Wednesday.

[Updated at 11:16 a.m. ET] One of Osama bin Laden's daughters has told Pakistani interrogators that she saw her father be shot and killed by U.S. forces, a senior Pakistani intelligence source said Wednesday.

The daughter, believed to be 12 or 13 years old, was among those left behind at the compound after Monday's U.S. raid, the source said.

[Posted at 10:34 a.m. ET] Some people left at the compound after the killing of Osama bin Laden are in Pakistani custody and are being interrogated,  a senior Pakistani intelligence source said Wednesday.

There were eight or nine children left behind, including a daughter of bin Laden who has told Pakistani interrogators that she saw her father be shot, the official said.

soundoff (625 Responses)
  1. Gemeg

    Too gruesome? Here's some gruesome images American's have endured - people jumping to their deaths from the twin towers – JFKs brains splattered all over that Dallas limo for 50 years. How much more gruesome could UBL's images be? The decision is political. Save the images for the presidential race. Too much energy on international affairs with domestic issues mounting. Let the cards fall where they may. Transparency - not!

    May 4, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dora

      Rogers actually had the nerve to give this as justification not to release the photos: ""Imagine how the American people would react if Al Qaeda killed one of our troops or military leaders, and put photos of the body on the internet," Rogers continued.
      Maybe I imagined it, but aren't these people we are afraid of offending, the same people who posted beheading videos on the Internet? If you're afraid, just say so – but don't expect the American people to forget the videos of our civilians being beheaded and posted on the web. Don't expect us to forget the video of Bin Laden laughing when thousands perished on 9/11. At this point, there is nothing which will reverse the hatred of radical Islam for the US and it's people. But releasing the photos will at least show that we are as good as our word. We said he would die, and he did. Now show it. Have some cajones, Obama.

      May 4, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tyler

      Amen to that dora!

      May 4, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • GeronimoKIA

      Look at the big picture. This has nothing to do with offending the muslim faith or anyone else. Releasing this photo will turn Bin Laden into a martyr just like a gravesite would have done. Why give Al Quaida something else to rally around while they chant “Death to America”?

      May 4, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dora

      C'mon. He's dead, he's already become a martyr. Sheesh.

      If our boys were sent in to get Osama (instead of a predator), so that there would be proof of death....why can't we see it? Were the lives of our boys at risk just so the high mucky mucks would know he was dead? Why don't the rest of us deserve to see this proof. If you weren't going to share it, O – why not just blow that compound to bits, and not put anymore of our boys in harms way?

      It just isn't logical

      May 4, 2011 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Lotto Cheatah

    I have no problem with not showing OBL with the top of his head blown off. He is gone. Good riddance! Got ya, you S.O.B. Ayman al-Zawahiri you are next!

    May 4, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Canadian

    Why should the Father of a 9/11 victim not have the right to see the dead face of the man that stole the life their loved ones. I for one believe he is dead but telling me this has no effect or "closure" for me what so ever. This is something that is also more important for the history books so in years from now our children can look back and learn from his mistakes. I don't want to see his lifeless face as proof he is dead i want to see his face for the sweet feeling of retribution, the punishment he deserves.

    Retribution

    1. the act of punishing or taking vengeance for wrongdoing, sin, or injury
    2. punishment or vengeance

    May 4, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • GeronimoKIA

      If you need that to get closure over a loved-one's death, then I'm afraid you have some deeper issues to work out.

      May 4, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
  4. victor

    ok folks i am retired army and famililar with the helicopters the old huey and the new blackhawk. listening to all accounts on the raid i have learned there was 25 people on the raid. which a blackhawk can carry 14 soldiers or 6 strechers. so my question is if one helicopter crashed and was destroyed how did the extricate 25 people plus bin ladens body. nobody has explained if there was a backup chopper or not interesting.

    May 4, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • diane

      I thought it made a hard landing. Does that mean it could not fly anymore? I don't know anything about helicopters but I would think they would be abel to withstand a lot to be used in combat.

      May 4, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • James Ruggiero

      good point, i think i may have read somewhere that they were using a new type of chopper

      May 4, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • victor

      dianne they reported destroying the helo that had mechanical problems

      May 4, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • BT

      i dont have the link on me at the moment but i definitely saw in 2 different accounts of the raid that a third chopper showed up near the end to recover the second team.

      May 4, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  5. diane

    It is a sad commentary on our country that we want to see anyone with half their head blown off. It is time to stop talking about bin Laden, he is not worth all this attention. Let's forget him so the rest of the world will forget him.

    I know our government was proven untrustworthy duing the Bush administration since our president told a bald face lie to get us into a war we had no business being in and now are not able to get out of. That administration is over and I think President Obama is owed the courtesy or being believed. If he is lying you can bet it will come out. For now lets be thankful that no Americans were killed and the head of the snake that is Al Quada has been cut off.

    May 4, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. GeronimoKIA

    All of the Obama haters, Limbaugh lovers, Beck biotches, Hannity ho's, Palin pimps & Trump tarts will never give this president the credit he deserves. You all would be curled up in the fetal position if you had to make even one of the decisions that he has to make every day. Thank God we have a president that is up to the challenge of running this country and is not affected by all of the lying idiots that try to discredit him and take him down every day. Obama 2012.

    May 4, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • diane

      Well said, I don't know if I could ever make the call that could leave ameicans dead. I don't thik anyone has the right to judge this action since no one else had to make the decision.

      May 4, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  7. James Ruggiero

    Not only do the American people deserve evidence but the whole world does. After all when are guys get shot and killed over seas their bodies get dragged around and shown all over the world on locals news stations. Lets show the human race what happens when your Americans number one enemy.

    May 4, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Big Game James

    If you think the DNA test is gonna say "This is Osama" or "This is not Osama" like they do on Maury your feelings are going to get hurt. Sadly, some of you probably do. Forgive them lord for they know not how stupid they are.

    May 4, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tyler

      DNA requires a comparison...where did we get it from i wonder? Did the terrorists provide us the comparitive sample that said "yes this is osama". FYI, in the maury shows they compare the father, and the mother...and if it's CLOSE (aka 75% match) then they say "Yes you are the father". There's still that 25% chance they aren't and they admit it because there's nothing to compare to for such an analysis and that's when they ACTUALLY have something to compare to. I'll give up a hair off my head and tell you it's osama too and could you prove it's not? NO! Because i have no DNA sample on file that says that the DNA pattern you have in front of you is "Tyler". Get a clue, DNA evidence amounts to NOTHING without an accurate sample of the source which we do not have anywhere on this planet.

      May 4, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Erin

    I don’t agree but I understand if that’s the decision the president made about not releasing the photos. However! I have a problem with our president feeling the need to give Bin Laden some proper burial according to his faith. When is he going to think about those who lost their lives? Our president seems more concern with making and keeping Muslims happy then us Americans.
    Why did he only invite those families who support him to attend his visit to NYC? Anyone who has negative opinions about our president did not get invited to attend. I thought the reef lying at the trade center site was for those who lost their life and their families? Victims not some political stunt.
    Don’t release the photos but do respect every victim dead and alive and their love one.

    May 4, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • GeronimoKIA

      Erin, it had nothing to do with Bin Laden himself. The burial ceremony was to show the Muslim faith in general that the U.S. respects all forms of religion. I understand your feelings, though. None of the people killed on 9/11 got a proper burial.

      May 4, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tyler

      I agree with gero on this, if we didn't give him a proper burial then we'd be no better than those that the terrorist behead and leave laying on the side of the streets to be found by someone. Let him burn in hell, he can have his muslim burial but that's where he's going no matter what faith he is, it doesn't matter how we bury him or any of his cronies. They'll all end up there together.

      May 4, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Donna

    I agree the pictures should NOT be shown. I am tired of looking at him during his Evil life. Do not want to see anymore of him during is demise.

    May 4, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • me

      only got to show one more picture, dont like it dont look @ it, change the channel..

      May 4, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  11. See

    This was a good move by he prez to not release the photos. It's already flushed out the immature republicans such as Palin to look like a bloodthirsty and insensitive person – will be interesting to see if Trump will try a swing at this angle. Many of the high ranking Reps fell into line and agreed with he President's stance of not releasing the photos.

    We Americans have got all the evidence that we need because we're a developed nation and trust in the science of DNA matching. The photos would only serve to placate people from third world countries – who don't know any better. And that wouldn't help nowadays since photos can be altered and manipulated.

    In addition, the release of the photos would only encourage the more hawkish people to begin demanding the tapes of the burial and operational mission as well. It wouldn't end with just the photo and sadly, there will still be non-believers after that.

    Lastly, this could give Pakistan to redeem itself, by corroborating the info that the U.S. has provided regarding the compound. They have the remaining dead bodies and other witnesses at the scene and can issue a full report regarding their investigation in the coming days. They can either come clean and corroborate what the U.S. already knows is the truth, or they can just continue to look like an inept country with egg on its face.

    May 4, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • diane

      I think it is time to take a hard look at Pakistan. There is no way they did not know that something was going on in that city. As for hurting their feelings by not telling them about the raid well, they'll get over it the next time they want a hand out of some sort. If they were ignorant of bin Laden's presence then they should be willing to help flush out any more of the members of Al Quada that are surely hiding out in their country.

      May 4, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • GeronimoKIA

      Well said See, I just heard that Sarah Palin wants the photos released. I think Obama's policy should be to ask Sarah Palin what she would do, then do the exact opposite.

      May 4, 2011 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tyler

      DNA matching of WHAT?? Where's the source data coming from? You're a fool if you believe in DNA as a true match. Go back to elementry school since even my 9 year old understands DNA comparitive analysis.

      May 4, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tyler Duh

      Duh Tyler,
      Maybe if you'd read the news, they had DNA from bin laden's family in Saudi Arabia. Please don't make us look bad by not understanding how these things work and not being informed when you could have simply read the news about how they matched DNA, it's not that hard to understand, even a child could understand it...

      May 4, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
  12. me

    i see dead people all the time. there just being selfish..

    May 4, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Kodos

    Anyone remember a few years ago that video being released of the guy getting his HEAD CHOPPED OFF by terrorists? I'm pretty sure we can handle a guy with a bullet hole in his head, even if parts of the skull are missing.

    Interestingly enough, yesterday on NPR, I believe it was John Banner although I could be mistaken, said that photos were planning to be released but they had to make sure they were first "in the right condition". That phrase really stuck with me because that would mean they would have to prepare them first. Preparation, means alteration.

    Another point to ponder: We spent 10 years looking for this man, well about 2, apparently Bush didn't think he was so important. So we track him down, send in an officially nonexistent strike team into another country without their permission, with orders to kill the spiritual leader of Al Qaeda (capture was not an option). Even if he wasn't the operation commander, you would think he would still have valuable, sensitive information. After all, we've spent years torturing goat herders and taxi drivers down at Guantanamo, people who may or may not know anything, and this guy isn't worth capturing and interrogating?

    Word is he resisted, but consider this: how much could an old, unarmed, very sick man resist against 12 of the most highly trained secret operatives we have? If that big blood stain by the bed is any indication of where he was killed, it looks like he was practically sleeping when they got him.

    I'm not saying it was fake but I'm not saying it wasn't. Just consider how honest our politicians have been with the public for the past decade. Another moot point to consider: why would two ex-CIA officials publicly admit that they helped fake some of the Bin Laden videos that have been released? Really, look it up.

    May 4, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • healan

      Releasing the photos would just create propaganda for terrorists. "Look how the Americans have no respect, celebrate and dance at our Martyr Bin Laden's Death, and now they show his picture to further make a disgrace of him". It would just further fuel their hate for Americans!

      May 4, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • clarke

      We elect our leaders to make the real hard decisions. They don't need to check with us first. We already gave them the go ahead by the majority vote. We could go on and on about all kinds of theories about this and it will never be resolved. Bottom line OBL is dead, end of story. If the mission didn't go well and he got away, then what is your theory. Justice has been done, but there is still much to do.

      May 4, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • ipman

      Healan, don't you get it they already despise us. Propaganda ? you think that this will prevent propaganda, then your on crack. The Enemy is still there, and will continue to fight us till we are dead no matter what we do or don't do.

      May 4, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tyler

      When they knocked down the world trade center, there were videos of people dancing in the streets celebrating. Those could have been vidoes of a birthday party for all we know and we all got worked up over it. Point is, we were already seeing red when the buildings fell and we wanted blood when our loved ones died even BEFORE those party videos were released. If they're coming, they're going to come no matter if the pictures are released or not. Obama can put em on a government website and say if you want to see them, here they are. If you don't want to see them, don't visit it. He can also give the media instructions not to show the pictures on the news only the URL to the site. There's plenty of ways around this whole "i don't wanna see it" "i do want to see it" crap. The fact is he doesn't WANT to because I think what an earlier poster said "He's saving it for the campaign race". He'll release it when it'll benefit him the most. He'll say "I got osama and there's more to get, let me get em." the fact is, the next president will get em just as good as he will and hopefully he won't hide it from us until it suits him.

      May 4, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Greg

    Even if he released the photos, the disbelievers would cry that it doesn't matter because photos can be doctored. So please just S T F U. For the love of Christ.

    May 4, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Lotto Cheatah

    OBL is a mass murderer of thousands; every race, culture and religeon. He go just what he had coming to him. It is fitting that the last thing he saw was a U.S. Military gun barrel blowing him away. Justice was delivered. He deserves no further lip service; no opportunity to encite followers. Next..

    May 4, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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