Watchdog seeks bin Laden photo, says White House 'not above the law'
A Washington-based watchdog group is suing the CIA and Defense Department to release photos of Osama bin Laden.
June 10th, 2011
11:25 AM ET

Watchdog seeks bin Laden photo, says White House 'not above the law'

A conservative legal watchdog group says the deadline is up and is suing the CIA and Defense Department to release photos and videos of the May raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

"The American people by law have a right to know basic information about the killing of Osama bin Laden," Tom Fitton, president of Washington-based Judicial Watch, said in a statement. "President Obama's personal reluctance to release the documents is not a lawful basis for withholding them. The Obama administration will now need to justify its lack of compliance in federal court. This historic lawsuit should remind the administration that it is not above the law."

The al Qaeda mastermind was killed when U.S. Navy SEALs stormed his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 2. He was later buried at sea. Though some members of Congress have been allowed to see photos and CIA Director Leon Panetta initially said it was "important" that the photos be released, President Barack Obama said his administration would not release photos of the slain terrorist leader or his burial.

The photos - which have been described as gruesome and reportedly show brains hanging out of bin Laden's eye socket - could be used as a propaganda tool and could result in additional violence against American interests, Obama told "60 Minutes" last month, comparing the release of the photos to an unnecessary end-zone celebration.

"We don't trot out this stuff as trophies," Obama told the news show. "We don't need to spike the football."

Judicial Watch, which describes itself as a "conservative, non-partisan educational foundation" pursuing transparency and integrity in government, filed Freedom of Information Act requests with the Defense Department and CIA last month.

The CIA acknowledged receiving the request May 4, according to court papers. On May 9, the Defense Department replied that it would not be able to comply with the request within the statutory 20-day period. Nor would a 10-day extension provide sufficient time, the department said.

Both departments had 20 business days to respond: June 2 for the CIA, this past Tuesday for the Defense Department, according to Judicial Watch. The group now says the government is "unlawfully withholding records," causing irreparable harm to the watchdog organization.

The suit, Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Defense and Central Intelligence Agency (No.11-00890) (PDF), seeks access "to all photographs and/or video recordings of Osama (Usama) bin Laden taken during and/or after the U.S. military operation in Pakistan on or about May 1, 2011."

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Filed under: Al Qaeda • Barack Obama • Courts • District of Columbia • Justice • Lawsuit • Military • Osama bin Laden • Pakistan • Politics • Terrorism • U.S. • U.S. Navy • World
soundoff (520 Responses)
  1. Stranger1980

    What in the world? Who cares about the photos... I don't have any interest in it as long as he is dead. Let's focus on the economy people.

    June 10, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • lou50

      yes, but it will bring closure to his loved ones that were denied a funeral. they need to know he was toast and not buried alive, unable to swim with three hundred pounds of lead tied to his feet and not able to hold his breath till muslims invented a way to find him.

      June 10, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  2. hingedlwnb

    Tom Fitton = moron (and I apologize for insulting all morons). Haven't we already compromised enough of the security and safety of the Seal team? Nothing like publishing photos to get even more of this "basic information" into the hands of the terrorists. But hey, political posturing trumps all concerns, right?

    June 10, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Philip

    A well-known and chief suspect in an ongoing investigation was assassinated. Of course we have the right to know. It's called the Freedom of Information Act. No need for US to argue about if it's OK if we know or not. That's already decided.

    June 10, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • ztank

      @ Phillip...does the freedom of information act include releasing graphic pictures of a covert operation?

      Al Quedia itself has declared that OBL is dead. Isn't that enough proof for people like you yet?

      June 10, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • PatSJ

      The right to Know does not mean you have the right to See. Or are you a Doubting Thomas?

      June 10, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • TJG

      How much have you demanded of the Bush administration for their justification for invading Iraq? (Sound of crickets chirping........)

      June 10, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Annie

      I guess you have no problem with these pictures fostering terrorism against American nationals as well as America's Armed Forces ... you know damn well that's what will happen.

      And to be perfectly honest I don't want to have to watch news programs containing footage of terrorists parading around with pictures of ubl's brains oozing out of his eye socket and declaring death to America.

      I'd like to think that America is better than the terrorists in that we don't need to see brutal pictures of our enemy(ies) broadcast in living color.

      June 10, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  4. ztank

    Add this lawsuit to the long list of wastes of OUR money...this supposed conservative group, Im sure, is against government wasting OUR money. So why are they pursuing a frivilous lawsuit that wastes federal money?

    Smells of hyprocisy to me.

    June 10, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • TJG

      No, they are against a Democrat getting credit for doing the job that a Republican couldn't do. They are ESPECIALLY against a black Democrat getting that credit.

      June 10, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cletus

      @TJG – I think you are confused. Clinton was a Democrat.

      June 10, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Enitan

    I am among the millions and millions of Americans and all over the world who does not have the desire to see does pictures been exploited for propaganda, therefore it need to stay right there where its locked up

    Both Republicans senators as well as Democrats have confirmed that he is dead because they have seen the pictures that should be enough for anyone with half of a brain, unless there is hanging out of their ears as well.

    No one has said what the purpose is for releasing the pictures other than for curiosity and we all know as the saying goes curiosity does kill the cat.

    Stand firm Mr President as much as i do not agree with some of his policies i stand firmly with him on these particular issue.

    Keep those gruesome pictures locked up for ever and when you leave the White House whether in two years or six, you have my permission to burn them.

    June 10, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Mark

    This will raise an interesting question: is the law always right? In this case, the President is obviously using both good judgement and good taste in a delicate matter. The President of the United States isn't just any schmuck off the street, even if his enemies like to portray him as such. When a President deliberately breaks a law, the case should be reviewed, in the courts, and if necessary, in an impeachment trial, but sometimes the correct answer is, the President is right, this time, even if it is against the law.

    June 10, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
  7. parkmore

    I agree. No one is above the law.

    Questions about the "monster babies" from Fallujah
    Since the heavy fighting in 2004, cases of birth defects have increased significantly. Studies link the use of uranium in U.S. weapons in Iraq.

    June 10, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • guest

      want to share any facts or evidence to support your conclusions????

      June 10, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  8. The Chikin

    Give me a break... the dude is fish food... end of story. I wish those that insist on seeing it would just get over it already. There is no real benefit to releasing them. It does not serve any real purpose.

    The terrorists plaster photos and videos of those they have executed all over the internet, etc. Why should we do the same? To ultimately prove whatever you can do I can do better? Come on! If anything, it makes us look better that we refuse to sink to their level.

    June 10, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  9. HenryFaley

    ...and if some idiot somewhere kills someone as a result of the photo's release, will this group take responsibility?

    June 10, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cletus

      I am pretty sure that they will continue to focus on western targets regardless of photos.

      June 10, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  10. meee

    don't they have the right to withhold and haven't they withheld countless photos in the past? are they required to turn over every operation photo? we couldn't even get a white house guest sign-in log a few years back, which would seem to have less to do with national security. where was judicial watch then? when were they founded? interesting that they have an 'obama accountability project'. trust me guys, there is MUCH more material poring over the years 2000-2008 than there has been since 2008. why don't you work on that first and go from there...

    June 10, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Cletus

    I am sure that he is dead; however, a part of me hopes this is a cover up and he has been captured and is being tortured for valuable information.

    June 10, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Bribarian

    So much for Mr. Transparency.

    June 10, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  13. jeff

    Yet another mistake by the right in this country. What is the point of releasing these photos? What end will this serve? Do they not realize the danger this will create for all of us, not just the soldiers on the ground? And for what? Just to try and make the President look bad. Unfortunately here, the right is always wrong.

    June 10, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cletus

      You are bang on. The embassy bombings, USS Cole & Twin Towers were very compassionate acts. I would hate to see what would happen if this photo was released.

      June 10, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jeff

    Other than politics, why do we need to see these photos. I know I have no desire.

    June 10, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Michael Rivero


    June 10, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
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