Bin Laden photos should be released to American people

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Photos of Osama bin Laden won’t be released to the public and press, President Obama has decided—but it’s hard to imagine that the images won’t some day make their way into the public realm.

I think Obama erred on this difficult call. It seems only right that American citizens get additional evidence of an action taken in their name.


Obama reportedly told CBS’ “60 Minutes” that he did not want photos of the dead terrorist leader to become a rallying point for his Al Qaeda followers.

“There is no doubt that we killed Osama bin Laden,” Obama said in the interview, portions of which will air Wednesday night. “We don’t need to spike the football.”

According to White House press secretary Jay Carney, Obama also told CBS that gloating by releasing the photos “is not who we are.’

Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers had expressed opposition to the release of the photos. Fox News quoted sources as saying the pictures are extremely graphic—showing Bin Laden with an open gunshot wound to the forehead, his brain exposed and one eye “completely gone.”

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the intelligence committee, told Fox that he would oppose release of the photos if he thought they would make America’s war in Afghanistan more difficult for U.S. troops.

It’s hard to imagine that public demand to see the photos—both by friends and enemies of America—will abate. And the American clamor to see the pictures seems like a righteous one.


The Navy SEALs team that killed Bin Laden late Sunday, U.S. time, took its action on order of the president but to mete out justice on behalf of the American people. Recognizing this reality, the administration has already shown some members of Congress the Bin Laden pictures.

U.S. citizens should be able to examine at least some minimal evidence of the results of the daring raid.

We shouldn’t abandon our imperative to document and understand our government’s actions in wartime, simply because the most fanatic segments of a potential worldwide audience will not be pleased.

And extremists looking for a reason to inflame passions against America will find it, with or without the Bin Laden pictures.

I find myself in the unlikely company of Alan Dershowitz and Sarah Palin on this one. A public dissemination of the photos would not satisfy the fringe elements, but it will help the press and regular Americans understand the momentous event that has just occurred.

--James Rainey

Twitter: latimesrainey