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. SeasiderWR

    The President made the right decision. There is NO useful purpose to be served by pandering to the ghouls who want to look at gory photos of a dead man................no matter who he was! Those who 'dont believe 'bin Laden is dead will cite 'photoshop'.......and continue their chosen fanatasy, even if pictures were shown.

    HIs followers in the world will cry that their hero/martyr is being dishonored and disgraced in death, and use this as a clarion call to recruit more Al Qaeda members, and to renew their nefarious plans to do harm to the U.S. and to Americans , wherever they can find them.

    May 4, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Brown

    The right decision was made, no photos necessary, do we want to be on par with Al Qaeda, lest we forget the pictures and video of Daniel Pearl's execution?

    May 4, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. BT

    Gotta say Frank, while I agree that if we get attacked there will be reprisals... no. It won't be a nuclear strike unless a nuclear strike is used upon us. That level of escalation would destroy the world, the US included. Don't be as stupid as this clown is. Hell, it's distinctly possible he's just some stupid kid trying to 'troll' and incite frustration and anger in people on the internet because he knows they can't do anything about it.

    May 4, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. BT

    Not to mention the fact that Islam as a whole is not responsible for these attacks, it is a few radicalized individuals, many of whom have no actual education in their own religion and therefore latch onto whatever a few charismatic individuals say (example being OBL). So no, Mecca and Tehran wouldn't be touched. Especially not by nukes. It's not the religion we are fighting against, its just a group of radical extremists.

    May 4, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Laura Godi

    I have just viewed the death shots of our beloved President John F. Kennedy and our Senator Robert Kennedy. The pictures are very graphic. They were released to the American people and the world. My question is simple and I hope someone can enlighten me... What is the Islamic religious belief on photo taking and the release of such photos? Is Mr. President not releasing the photos of Bin Laden for American's sake or for Islam

    May 4, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. chris

    It's funny to me that our government will release the pictures of 9/11 to fuel a victory propaganda for the terrorist. they say they want tomake sure the photos of bin laden don't enrage the oppistion and fuel terrorism, but killing him has already cause several counter attacks. by killing bin laden, we have already opened ourselves up for retaliation. we are at war. people have the right to see someone who has terrorized america pay for his crimes. we pay more respect to bin laden than we do for JFK( mutiple pics of him dead, with massive head wound). if tou dont want to see the pictures, don't look. Do not censore what the people want to see.

    May 4, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. DaveCH

    I can't see why they won't release the pictures to the public? After all our tax dollars has paid for them !!! If they are shown it may send a message to the other terrorist that this will happen to you.... If you want the american people to believe he is dead and gone, release the proof !!! Its up to the people of America if they want to view them or not. Let us decide whats best for us. I'm tired of our goverment making all the decisions for us. The last time I checked it was suspose to be "For the people and by the people". Obama was suspose to be different then the rest of the presidents before him, but he is no better......

    May 4, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. workerbee

    Absolutely not, We should not show these pics to anyone and after they have authenticated the blood work and all else is verified then those pics should be destroyed. There is no need to have these pics wind up in any wrong hands that would use this to show that america is the agressor or that you can be the next target. We know he was a bad man and to know he no longer exist is good enough. Why put US in harms way? We live we work, we love and we help others to help themselves. We know there have always been secret service stuff going on in all parts of the world but this should not be one of them. Alas in the olden days it was a good thing to show you got your man as was the cowboy way by taking a pic with the bodies in the caskets but not today. We live in a world where pictures paint a thousand words and its these pics that prove to be the downfall of many countries and people. Does not the paparazzi show this to be the case? We live in a world where we are guided by visions and photos instead of feelings. Let us learn to put this behind us and keep the US of A in the heart of many americans where we can live in peace and work with others to achieve peace for all humanity. This is our goal!

    May 4, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Gene Venable

    Of course the media wants photos - gotta increase your audience, right? And of course the GOP wants photos - gotta have something to criticize Obama about, right? Where were they when it came to getting Bin Laden? Now you want his photo?

    I think that not harping or gloating too much on this win is something we Americans and the media may have forgotten about. It's something called "good taste".

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

    You Americans are amazing!! You really find it necessary to look at the remains of this person with what could be a potentially large part of his face or head missing. Me thinks your all suffering from too much so called reality tv and Saw (movie) exposure. How macabre. You guys are devolving quickly, yikes! If you can't save yourselves, how you going to save the rest of the world from China?

    May 4, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. guster.

    I feel that we need to get on with out lives. Osama bin Laden has been nearly forgotten. We need to get back to other problems at hand, such as gas prices and dealing with OPEC

    May 4, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Denise

    Photos are not necessary. Nay-sayers aren't going to believe photos because they don't want to believe it's true, and they are the ones who want to see the photos most.
    Another good decision by our nation's leader. He's dead and gone, and we're all better off.
    Now if only we can get all the tv and news agencies to stop showing his photograph and videotapes constantly, we'd be in ever better shape.
    Moving on.......

    May 4, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. guster.

    sean, you suck

    May 4, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Big Game James

    Now we are google-diving for assassination photos? Do you read what you are typing? You are trying to prove a point by finding more gory photos? Obama, don't show them sh!t.

    May 4, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  15. BT

    Exactly

    May 4, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • BT

      Whoops, that was a response to denise. Misclicked I guess.

      May 4, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
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