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. Tom

    Obama must also stop all pictures and videos of 911 and after. These are much harder to watch than seeing the man responsible, after his death.

    May 4, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tyler

      I'm sure the pictures they have are AFTER they "cleaned" him up anyway. I doubt they'll waste time taking pictures of him lying on the ground after a heavy fire fight in enemy territory with blood running out of his head. If they did, it's no worse than prime time TV. All these people who don't want to see his pictures, i'm sure everyone of them have seen at least ONE of the SAW movies, and at least one of the die hard movies and to me those are the ones that are pretty mild compared to texas chainsaw massacre, can't be any worse than BONES, or CSA, grey's anatomy and everyone watches those shows...

      May 4, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  2. somebody

    Is it just me, or there's something fishy about this whole Bin Laden thing?

    May 4, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scottie

      The only thing fishy is the water he's buried in

      May 4, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • 7sense forcaster

      wait for sometime the photo are been digitally generated..

      May 4, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • bob johnson

      show nuff.

      May 4, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Brad in Indiana

    You people make me laugh. Everybody is always up in arms about what the president is hiding, or what he's doing. And it doesn't matter if it's a republican or democrat in the White House, these theories about 9/11 and now Osama being dead have been around for YEARS. There are a few things I think the government keeps secret. This however, I'm not sure is one of them. I think there is something to Area 51, and I think GW Bush only went into Iraq so he could drill for oil, not WMD's. AND I belive OBL is DEAD. I don't need a pic.

    Also love how Bush went after Hussein instead of bin Laden initially. We may have been done with this YEARS ago if Bush had done HIS job. Now Obama gets it done, and everybody wants proof? Why? It was good enough for Bush to not have to prove WMD's existed. but Obama has to prove that OBL is dead? It can take Bush 8 years to put us up to our necks in a recession, but Obama has to get us out in 2? I know he's good, but he's not Jesus Christ. He can't work miracles. You are the geniuses that voted Bush into office, not once, but twice. He shouldn't even have been allowed to use a fork unsupervised, let alone run the country. Please....conservatives get with the gameplan here.

    May 4, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Barbara Escher


      May 4, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tyler

      LOL, omg you're totally screwed up. Obama wanted to STOP this war. That's his primary thing that got him in office. Now it's more convienient for him to say the war is good because HE killed the top dog of the terrorists. Bush got the top dog of the communist / elected-president-who-kills-anyone-who-runs-against-him leader of iraq. He got his victory there, and Bush also got rid of the terrorists in afgan and IMO, killed osama way back then. HIs leads died out for osama and so he went for the next top dog terrorist he could get his hands on and found his chicken-butt huddled up in a bunker hiding from our soldiers and took him into custody and was tried and convicted by his own people and publically hung. Where's our justice for osama? If he had him let us see some proof. We all saw hussain's trial and his execution. There's no doubt he's dead. If he doesn't prove OBL is dead then all he's proving is that he's a typical politian that will only do something that's in his best interest. Right now the war is in his best intrest. How quickly we forget he wanted to stop paying those men that STILL went in there and killed OBL despite that lack of pay. How quickly we forget he said that this war was a waste of our money and resources because we had bigger problems here in america to solve...how quickly we forget...I think not. I don't forget.

      May 4, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Scottie

    It amazes me how poeple nedd to see a photo to believe something. Why not just use common sense. Does anybody really think the U.S. would fabricate a story of killing OBL, then if he's really not dead have the possibility of OBL popping his head up 3 months from now. How many people believe in God and how many have seen a photo of HIM?

    May 4, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • 7sense forcaster

      you need to ask your mother and father how you were born.. to get the answer you need to die are you will to do that..

      May 4, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
  5. mary

    Just to clarify~this is the real MARY~i never did say to post the pictures, I did say that we posted Saddams sons pics and I did not understand why not Osamas! The names of people who post are getting mixed up! I apologize if I offended "Lucy" when I guess it was "bomb your ass" that I should have been addressing! I don't understand why they can't get names right! Anyway, don't let this ruin your day folks~the pics will come out eventually~someone will get there hands on them and post on UTube! So those that need to see the photos will get their chance! Either way I'm good, show them or not~i believe he's dead and that's all that matters to me. Some of you just post the most stupid things, this is not the cartoon network! LOL EVERYTHING WILL WORK OUT OK! IT ALWAYS DOES~ YOU'LL SEE!

    May 4, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  6. jo

    Why is it that
    photos wont be displayed of osama bin laden when the world witnessed the hanging of sadam hussein?It makes some believe that this is all a lie and that he may in fact be alive, where is the proof?

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

    Although I am on the fence about the showing of the Bin Laden photos, I really think that (at the very least), the photos should be able to be viewed by the families of the victims. When we execute criminals in the United States, the victim(s), and families of the victim(s) are given the option of witnessing the execution, for the purpose of personal closure. At the very least, give them this option and let them decide for themselves whether or not they want to see them. The rest of us have no business viewing them, other than out of pure curiosity.

    May 4, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Barbara Escher

    It is ridiculous to think that releasing the photos would stop the conspiracy nuts. They would just claim that the pictures were Photoshopped. People who are stupid enough to spend years fussing about the president's birth certificate won't be impressed by pictures either.

    May 4, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tyler

      We won't know if they're photoshopped until they're released so it doesn't matter anyway...

      May 4, 2011 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  9. servet

    i don't believe that america killed him now,he is dead for years..that is one thing for sure, one shot in the eye can not be a horrific picture,simly they don't killed him,there are more graphic pictures coming from iraq and over the hole world, first he had shoot back now he was unarmed,tomorrow is something else, you cannot lie in the face of the world america come with better things..

    May 4, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  10. 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 his DNA, it's not that hard to understand, even a child could understand it...

    May 4, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tyler

      lol, yeah we believe that the DNA that was provided was a reliable source as well. I have that diamond from a previous post still if you want it. I'll even discount it for you to $500...no i don't have pictures. Just wire me the money...

      May 4, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Patty

    Lets move on, there is so much more in our government/nation that needs attention

    May 4, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Linda Clayton

    Why does CNN continue to flash pictures of Bin Laden on their screen?! Do we really need to continue to look at his face? I don't think so. I'm tuned in to the reports and watch regularly for the updates, but take away those pictures and videos – the sooner the better!!!

    May 4, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
  13. DB

    So much for being transparent!

    May 4, 2011 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
  14. chris

    Sean the way our government is set up is what i call "having you cake, and eating it too." we have people who are opposed to war, violence and interfering with with other nations problems (lybia), these people make america look good by showing the world that not all america is war hungry and are humane. then we have the up in arms people who don't like others messing with the U.S. the humane need the up in arms to defend them and the up in arms need the humane to gain others trust. do you learn that watching CSI? no. america has always been conflicted with eachother since the American Revolution. many wanted to stay loyal to british rule. do not tell me about my history. I love America with all my heart and understand it very well. at the end of the day, you mess with America and we all unite and make whoever responible pay with our millitary and humane politics. so if your not from America, don't Talk About America based on our great medias.

    May 4, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  15. KS

    I certainly believe Usama is "sleeping with the fishes". The idea that the Obama administration would
    "fake" this for political gain is ludicrous – even all republicans believe he is dead. However, in order to
    placate all the worldwide disbelievers, I would suggest that the adminstration show all video and images
    of the deceased bin laden to an independent panel of leaders from various countries (including the muslim
    nations). Let them give a report to the world to verify his death and put the issue to rest. This way the images
    are not released and a reasonable verification can be presented.

    May 4, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • conoclast

      I hope somebody in the administration reads your post: good thinking! Obama is handling this situation extremely well; "statesmanlike" comes to mind.

      May 4, 2011 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
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