U.S. Tells Court bin Laden Photos Must Stay Secret

By: Richard Lardner, Associated Press
By: Richard Lardner, Associated Press

Washington, D.C. (AP) - Public disclosure of graphic photos and video taken of Osama bin Laden after he was killed in May by U.S. commandos would damage national security and lead to attacks on American property and personnel, the Obama administration contends in a court documents.

In a response late Monday to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group seeking the imagery, Justice Department attorneys said the CIA has located 52 photographs and video recordings. But they argued the images of the deceased bin Laden are classified and are being withheld from the public to avoid inciting violence against Americans overseas and compromising secret systems and techniques used by the CIA and the military.

The Justice Department has asked the court to dismiss Judicial Watch's lawsuit because the records the group wants are "wholly exempt from disclosure," according to the filing.

Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, accused the Obama administration of making a "political decision" to keep the bin Laden imagery secret. "We shouldn't throw out our transparency laws because complying with them might offend terrorists," Fitton said in a statement. "The historical record of Osama bin Laden's death should be released to the American people as the law requires."

The Associated Press has filed Freedom of Information Act requests to review a range of materials, such as contingency plans for bin Laden's capture, reports on the performance of equipment during the May 1 assault on his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and copies of DNA tests confirming the al-Qaida leader's identity. The AP also has asked for video and photographs taken from the mission, including photos made of bin Laden after he was killed.

The Obama administration refused AP's request to quickly consider its request for the records. AP appealed the decision, arguing that unnecessary bureaucratic delays harm the public interest and allow anonymous U.S. officials to selectively leak details of the mission. Without expedited processing, requests for sensitive materials can be delayed for months and even years. The AP submitted its request to the Pentagon less than one day after bin Laden's death.

In a declaration included in the documents, John Bennett, director of the CIA's National Clandestine Service, said many of the photos and video recordings are "quite graphic, as they depict the fatal bullet wound to (bin Laden) and other similarly gruesome images of his corpse." Images were taken of bin Laden's body at the Abbottabad compound, where he was killed by a Navy SEAL team, and during his burial at sea from the USS Carl Vinson, Bennett said.

"The public release of the responsive records would provide terrorist groups and other entities hostile to the United States with information to create propaganda which, in turn, could be used to recruit, raise funds, inflame tensions, or rally support for causes and actions that reasonably could be expected to result in exceptionally grave damage to both the national defense and foreign relations of the United States," Bennett wrote.

Navy Adm. William McRaven, the top officer at U.S. Special Operations Command, said in a separate declaration that releasing the imagery could put the special operations team that carried out the assault on bin Laden's compound at risk by making them "more readily identifiable in the future." Before his current assignment, McRaven led the Joint Special Operations Command, the organization in charge of the military specialized counterterrorism units.


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  • by ken Location: Tallahassee on Sep 28, 2011 at 11:38 AM
    The only truth in this is that they now admit that their asset is dead! Don't be a sucker!
  • by lee harvey oswald Location: ga on Sep 28, 2011 at 07:06 AM
    Bin Laden has been dead for more than 5 yrs., have friend that served in the military that was on the ground and saw the body !!!!!!.........this whole thing is nothing but political campaining by obamacare sheep being lead to the slaughter blindly without question.
  • by Gerry Location: Tallahassee on Sep 28, 2011 at 05:13 AM
    Bush tortured in the name of the US and Obama said that was cool and everybody gets off scot free. Obama has been too weak to close Guantanamo and has expanded the torture facility at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan. The US military's 2 tier justice system convicted only the inbreds Charles Graner and Lynndie England. The US's vaunted military has been unable to defeat Al Qaeda in 10 years. The US's vaunted government has been unable to raise taxes to pay for the endless war on terror, also for 10 years. Nobody except the US supports Israel. Tail wags dog: Israel builds settlements and so the the US's GWOT continues.
    • reply
      by Sgt. Ralson on Sep 28, 2011 at 05:58 AM in reply to Gerry
      This comment has been deleted.
      • reply
        by Gerry on Sep 28, 2011 at 06:08 AM in reply to Sgt. Ralson
        That's the party line, anyway.
      • reply
        by Steve Not in Marietta on Sep 28, 2011 at 09:07 AM in reply to Sgt. Ralson
        Some conspiracy theorists just can't bring anything to the table, except Dick Cheney! That dude saw all; the foto's same as everyone on the Earth. The pix were taken in cells and passageways, but they figure those passages lead to a secret door at some point, and behind that door is George W. Bush in Dick Cheney's Bagram AF base secret office. Thankyou for your service to this nation!
  • by me Location: here on Sep 28, 2011 at 04:16 AM
    I don't believe he's dead.
    • reply
      by Steve Not in Marietta on Sep 28, 2011 at 09:10 AM in reply to me
      I hope he's on the sea floor feeding new bacteria, so they can come to Florida, and graze on the crude at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. Hoodrats!
  • by i know this for a fact. Location: crawford on Sep 28, 2011 at 12:10 AM
    he is not dead. he is liveing on aranch in texas.
  • by no one Location: tall on Sep 27, 2011 at 07:23 PM
    The american people do not need to know what we have to do to keep them safe and free! All these people that want this information have no other purpose but to try to make money off of it;why dont you quit worrying about what you do not need to know because thats what it is.Need to know information and you don't need to know!!!
    • reply
      by Gerry on Sep 27, 2011 at 09:52 PM in reply to no one
      I guess you are the Daddy and you can tell the sheeple what they need to know because you are the Daddy and they are sheeple. To make money? From free government information? So, you're posting in an anonymous Internet forum that you are one of those who keeps us safe? Not believable. There's lots of money to be made convincing the sheeple they're in danger. No other country tries terrorists in military tribunals. Theoretically, America is the home of the brave. And land of the free.
    • reply
      by Gerry on Sep 27, 2011 at 09:57 PM in reply to no one
      When Obama was a Democrat and running for election and needed people's votes this is the kind of policy he would decry. State secrets is reason enough not to support another term for Obama. Secret is usually used to hide something stupid or criminal being done. I need to know who tortures and murders in the name of the US. Bill Nelson sits on the Senate Armed Forces and the Senate Intelligence Committees. This would be reason enough not to support another term for Nelson, either.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Sep 27, 2011 at 11:41 PM in reply to no one
      well first off, its not 'need to know' info as you speak of. If it was 'need to know', they wouldn't have even told us about the death. How would they make money off of it? really? What are they going to do, sell it to the National Inquirer? REALEASE THE PICTURES!!!
  • by Gerry Location: Tallahassee on Sep 27, 2011 at 05:46 PM
    The American people have a right to know and see what the government does in their name, including torture and murder. Once again, the government cries "Wolf!!" The meek and compliant judiciary will probably go along. "Secret" means the government shouldn't be and can't be held accountable. Government is your Daddy and knows what is best for you. Julian Assange and Bradley Manning are terrorists. The US is in a state of permanent, unpaid for war, now for more than 10 straight years. In how much more danger could US soldiers possibly be? As George Orwell said "We have always been at war with Eastasia."
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Sep 27, 2011 at 11:39 PM in reply to Gerry
      I wholehartedly believe that there are some things that just simply need to be left out of the public limelight. Especially stuff in and around military operations. I do, however, believe that the pictures should be released.
  • by bountyhunter Location: thomasville on Sep 27, 2011 at 05:03 PM
    the only reason the government wants to keep the photo's secret is because they know bin laden is still ALIVE. they only killed 1 of about 30 look-a-likes and their ashamed of the truth.
    • reply
      by churchill on Sep 27, 2011 at 07:02 PM in reply to bountyhunter
      You got that right - all that burial at sea is a bunch of bunk.
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