Obama refuses to release bin Laden photos



WASHINGTON, Stephen Collinson- President Barack Obama Wednesday decided not to release photos of Osama bin Laden's corpse, citing national security risks and saying the United States should not brandish "trophies" of its victory.
Obama's war cabinet had been debating whether to publish gruesome post-mortem photos of the Al-Qaeda terror chief, who was gunned down by US special forces in a covert raid inside Pakistan on Sunday.



Obama refuses to release bin Laden photos
"It is important for us to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence, as a propaganda tool," Obama told the CBS show 60 Minutes.
"That's not who we are. You know, we don't trot out this stuff as trophies," Obama said, arguing that DNA and facial recognition testing had established beyond doubt that the mastermind of the 9/11 September 11, 2001 attacks was dead.
"There's no doubt among Al-Qaeda members that he is dead. The fact of the matter is, you will not see bin Laden walking on this earth again."
A Pakistani intelligence official said one of bin Laden's children, now in custody with a Yemeni wife of the Saudi-born Al-Qaeda leader, saw her father shot dead.
His daughter, reported to be 12 years old, "was the one who confirmed to us that Osama was dead and shot and taken away," said the Pakistani official.
Obama's top security aides had debated whether to publish a photo of bin Laden to prove he had been killed, but feared a backlash in the Muslim world, possibly targeting US troops or interests.
Some senior lawmakers on Capitol Hill said they had seen the pictures, and described them as graphic, but later reports suggested the images circulating on Capitol Hill were not authentic.
Three days after a team of elite US Navy SEALS avenged the 2001 attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people, national security experts combed a haul of evidence from the luxury Pakistani mansion that served as bin Laden's lair.
The trove, including about five computers, 10 hard drives and 100 storage devices, represents a dramatic intelligence breakthrough for the United States in its fight against Al-Qaeda, said the experts.
"I'll be very surprised if this isn't a gold mine for us," said John McLaughlin, a former CIA deputy director.
"I think we're probably going to find reports of potential plotting.
"We'll probably find something about funding. We may learn something about whatever relationship he did or didn't have with Pakistan. We'll learn about key aides," he told CNN.
The top US law enforcement official defended the legality of the special forces swoop, after it emerged on Tuesday that bin Laden had been unarmed at the time he was shot.
The operation "was lawful and consistent with our values," Attorney General Eric Holder told Senate lawmakers.
Senator Lindsey Graham asked whether a Navy SEAL "had to believe" the world's most wanted man "was a walking IED" or bomb.
"Exactly," Holder agreed.
US authorities insist US commandos were not on a kill only mission but have come under pressure to explain the apparent contradiction that bin Laden "resisted" capture but was unarmed.
"If he had surrendered, I think -- attempted to surrender -- I think we should, obviously, have accepted that," Holder said. "But there was no indication that he wanted to do that. And, therefore, his killing was appropriate."
The White House released more details of the president's Thursday trip to the Ground Zero site of the World Trade Center towers which were turned into an inferno and toppled by airliners hijacked by Al-Qaeda operatives in 2001.
Obama will lay a wreath in memory of the victims and meet relatives of those who perished, but will not make a speech, in an apparent sign he is wary of his visit being seen as an overtly political affair.
New opinion poll data Wednesday showed Obama is enjoying a boost in popularity after hunting down America's public enemy number one.
His approval rating surged 11 points to 57 percent in a CBS/New York Times poll and that 72 percent approved of the way he is handling terrorism.
Pakistan, meanwhile, sought to deflect some of the embarrassment of bin Laden being found on its soil -- and of its failure to heed US calls to find him in a purpose-built garrison.
Officials said the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency had no idea bin Laden was holed up in the compound in Abbottabad, home to Pakistan's equivalent of the West Point and Sandhurst military academies.
But Salman Bashir, the top civil servant in Pakistan's foreign ministry, told the BBC Wednesday the ISI had alerted the United States to its suspicions about the imposing compound "as far back as 2009".
But it was not known at the time that bin Laden was there and there were "millions" of other suspect locations, Bashir said.
Pakistani intelligence officials said agents raided the bin Laden compound in 2003 when it was still being built, looking for then Al-Qaeda number three Abu Faraj al-Libbi, who escaped and was eventually captured two years later.
In Pakistan itself, conspiracy theories have proliferated after bin Laden's body was buried at sea off a US warship to forestall the prospect of a grave on land becoming an extremist shrine.
Police on Wednesday sealed off the Bilal suburb of Abbottabad, after crowds gathered outside the bin Laden compound, with hundreds of officers stationed around the area.
Dozens of Pakistani youths had demonstrated outside the house on Tuesday, mocking America and shouting "Osama is alive!"
With Pakistan's main Taliban faction and jihadist websites vowing vengeance for bin Laden, French Interior Minister Claude Gueant said the threat of reprisal attacks was real.
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Thursday, May 5th 2011
Stephen Collinson
           


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