RSS
Obama withholds bin Laden photos: A 'serious mistake'?
Citing national security concerns, the president decides not to release "graphic" images of Osama bin Laden's corpse. Cue the conspiracy theorists?
President Obama will not release a photo of Osama bin Laden's corpse, citing security concerns, but some say he can be legally forced to produce the image.
President Obama will not release a photo of Osama bin Laden's corpse, citing security concerns, but some say he can be legally forced to produce the image.
Getty
P

resident Obama will not release photos of a dead Osama bin Laden, for fear that the "very graphic" images could lead to violence or might be used as a propaganda tool. "We don't need to spike the football... given the graphic nature of the photo it would create a national security risk," the president says in an interview with 60 Minutes set to air on Sunday. Obama conceded that conspiracy theorists will continue to deny the truth, but "the fact of the matter is, you will not see bin Laden walking on this Earth again." Is withholding photographic proof unwise?

Releasing the photo would have accomplished nothing: Disseminating a photo of a bullet-riddled bin Laden could "rally terrorist forces around the world, buttressing any movement to turn bin Laden into a martyr," says Susan Milligan at U.S. News & World Report. Don't forget the "destructive effect" of the Koran-burning video. As for conspiracy theorists, doubters would likely have just used the picture to hatch "a new wave of conspiracy theories about doctored photos." Obama haters "will believe what they want to believe."
"Not releasing bin Laden death photo is smart"

Obama's choice is politically savvy: The White House won't say it, but this decision also "helps Obama own this event even more," say Marc Ambinder and Matthew Cooper at National Journal. This way, the lasting images from this story "are those of Obama making the announcement and Obama and team waiting in the Situation Room."
"Why Obama nixed the photo release"

This secrecy is a "serious mistake": Obama expects the world to trust him that bin Laden is dead, but America's credibility is not particularly strong these days, says Steve Clemons at The Washington Note, and the trend toward the "expansion of official secrecy" is worrying. Obama's decision suggests "that the public doesn't have a right to know," and that those in power "are better stewards of the truth."
"Bin Laden photo: Obama makes mistake holding back photo"

A lawsuit could force Obama's hand: A Freedom of Information Act lawsuit demanding the photograph's release would likely succeed, says Daniel Metcalfe, the former chief of the Justice Department's Office of Information and Privacy, as quoted by Gawker's John Cook. Though the White House itself can't be compelled to turn over the photos, other government agencies can be. Keeping the photos out of a lawsuit's reach would require the coordinated and "possibly illegal" destruction of every trace of the images at the DoD and CIA. This story isn't over yet.
"Ex-Justice Department official: Obama could be forced to release the Osama death photos"

EDITORS' PICKS

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week