President Obama decides NOT to release dead Bin Laden pictures
Graphic images believed to show Bin Laden's son and courier dead emerge
Taliban demands to see proof of Al Qaeda leader's death
Decision divides Obama's senior advisers
Conspiracy theorists thrive on lack of photos
Barack Obama was forced to insist last night that he is ‘absolutely certain’ Osama Bin Laden is dead. His extraordinary intervention – a full three days after a U.S. commando shot the Al Qaeda leader in the head – came amid persistent claims of a cover-up as he refused to release photographic proof of the bloodied corpse. Mr Obama cited ‘national security’ as the reason for his decision.
No Photographs: Barack Obama meets with Prince Charles in the Oval Office today after an interview where he confirmed no photographs of Bin Laden's body would be released
It follows fierce debate among the President's senior advisers, many of whom had pushed for him to release the gruesome final shots of the al-Qaeda leader. It was hoped that releasing the images would also put an end to any wild conspiracy theories that Bin Laden was still alive.
But within minutes of the White house announcement, graphic photographs - thought to show Bin Laden's son, trusted courier and another aide killed in Monday's raid - were made public today. The photographs, released by Reuters news agency, show the graphic aftermath of the raid on Bin Laden's Abbottabad compound. They were taken about an hour after the U.S. assault and show three dead men, believed to be trusted courier Arshad Khan, another trusted aide and Bin Laden's son Khalid,lying in pools of blood without weapons. The refusal by the White House to release the photos will anger members of Obama's senior advisory team who had pushed for them to be made public.
Categorical: White House Press Secretary Jay Carney tells reporters that President Barack Obama will not release photos of Osama bin Laden's body
The President announced the Americans were ‘95 per cent sure’ it was Bin Laden before they shot him – and ‘absolutely certain’ afterwards, following DNA tests. During an interview with CBS television's 60 Minutes, the President confirmed the pictures would remain secret however.
‘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 or as a propaganda tool.
‘That’s not who we are. We don’t trot this stuff out as trophies. ‘The fact of the matter is, this was somebody who was deserving of the justice that he received. And I think Americans and people around the world are glad that he has gone.
'The bottom line is that we got Bin Laden and I think we have to reveal [that] to the rest of the world'
'I think that given the graphic nature of these photos it would create some national security risk.’ He claimed there was no doubt among Al Qaeda members their leader was dead, adding: ‘So we don’t think that a photograph in and of itself is going to make any difference’.
The debate about whether to release the Bin Laden photograph came amid reports from those who have seen it that it is horrific – supposedly featuring an empty eye socket and visible brain matter through a bullet wound to the skull.
There are apparently other, less gory images of Bin Laden’s hurried burial at sea, but they are not so clearly identifiable as the world’s most wanted man.
As a result there had been ongoing argument inside the White House about whether to provide pictorial evidence that may shock millions, and still fail to silence conspiracy theorists who could continue to claim any photographs were faked. Last night CIA director Leon Panetta said that ‘ultimately’ a photograph of Bin Laden’s corpse will be released - although the President has contradicted him today. He said: 'I don't think there was any question that ultimately a photograph would be presented to the public.'
Carnage: The two images show the aftermath of the raid on Osama Bin Laden's compound. The man on the right is thought to be Bin Laden's trusted courier. MailOnline has pixellated their faces.
Dead: A third man, believed to be Khalid Bin Laden, is seen lying in a pool of blood after a U.S. raid on Osama Bin Laden's compound
‘Obviously I’ve seen those photographs. We’ve analysed them and there’s no question that it’s Bin Laden. ‘I think there’s no question that there were concerns that had to be debated about the impact these photos would have. ‘But the bottom line is that we got Bin Laden and I think we have to reveal to the rest of the world the fact that we were able to get him and kill him.’ Reacting to the President's decision not to release the images, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said Obama's decision was a mistake. She said: 'The whole purpose of sending our soldiers into the compound, rather than an aerial bombardment, was to obtain indisputable proof of bin Laden's death. 'I know bin Laden is dead. But the best way to protect and defend our interests overseas is to prove that fact to the rest of the world.' The photos, taken by a Pakistani security official who entered the compound after the early morning raid on Monday, show two men dressed in traditional Pakistani garb and one in a t-shirt, with blood streaming from their ears, noses and mouths. Based on the time-stamps on the pictures, the earliest one was dated May 2, 2:30 am, approximately an hour after the completion of the raid in which Bin Laden was killed. Other photos, taken hours later at between 5:21 am and 6:43 am show the outside of the trash-strewn compound and the wreckage of the helicopter the United States abandoned. MailOnline has chosen to pixellate the images. One photo shows a computer cable and what looks like a child's plastic green and orange water pistol lying under the right shoulder of one of the dead men. A large pool of blood has formed under his head.
'WE DON'T TROT THIS STUFF OUT AS TROPHIES': OBAMA REFUSES TO RELEASE PHOTOGRAPHS OF OSAMA BIN LADEN
In a pre recorded interview with CBS's 60 Minutes, President Obama answered questions on why he had chosen not to release graphic images of Osama Bin Laden.
STEVE KROFT: Did you see the pictures?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Yes.
KROFT: What was your reaction when you saw them?
OBAMA: It was him.
KROFT: Why haven't you released them?
OBAMA: You know, we discussed this internally. Keep in mind that we are absolutely certain this was him. We've done DNA sampling and testing. And so there is no doubt that we killed Osama Bin Laden. 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. You know, that's not who we are.
You know, we don't trot out this stuff as trophies. You know, the fact of the matter is this was somebody who was deserving of the justice that he received. And I think-- Americans and people around the world are glad that he's gone. But we don't need to spike the football. And I think that given the graphic nature of these photos, it would create some national security risk. And I've discussed this with Bob Gates and Hillary Clinton and my intelligence teams and they all agree.
KROFT: There are people in Pakistan, for example, who say, "Look, this is all a lie. Obama, this is another American trick. Osama's not dead."
OBAMA: You know, the truth is that and we - we're monitoring worldwide reaction. There's no doubt that Bin Laden is dead. Certainly there's no doubt among Al Qaeda members that he is dead. And so we don't think that a photograph in and of itself is going to make any difference. There are going be some folks who deny it. The fact of the matter is, you will not see bin Laden walking on this Earth again.
A second, thought to be Arshad Khan, shows the man with a streak of blood running from his nose across his right cheek and a large band of blood across his chest. A third man, believed to be 20-something Khalid Bin Laden, is seen in a T-shirt lying on his back in a large pool of blood which appears to be from a head wound. Speaking about the photographs of Osama Bin Laden, White House sportsman Jay Carney said today: 'These are graphic pictures of someone who was shot in the head and it's not in our national security interests to allow these images, as in the past has been the case, to become icons to rally opinion against the U.S. 'He (Obama) held this opinion very firmly. The President never gets to make a decision that is 100 per cent obvious as those decisions never get to his desk.'
Gone but not forgotten: Muslim clerics are predicting revenge attacks against American targets because of the way the government decided to dispose of Bin Laden's body
The U.S. went to 'extraordinary measures' to show respect to Bin Laden in his burial, Mr Carney said.
He added: 'There is no doubt question at all that Osama Bin Laden is dead. Americans feel a great sense of closure because of that.' 'This decision (not to release the photo) applies to all visual evidence.' Mr Carney also added that U.S. forces had gone to 'considerable' efforts to give the al-Qaeda leader an appropriate Islamic burial. 'The respect that was shown to him and his body were far greater than the respect Osama Bin Laden showed to any of the victims of 9/11.' Sources say Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defence Secretary Robert Gates were advising Obama that its release could invigorate an Islamic backlash, particularly in the run-up to Friday prayers. Photographs were taken of the corpse, it is understood, at the scene, at a U.S. army base in Afghanistan, and on the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier before the burial at sea.
One official shown a series of photographs of the body told reporters they looked like images from ‘a bad crime scene’, adding ‘It’s what you’d expect from somebody shot in the head with a high-calibre bullet’.
America has published ‘proof of kill’ photographs before – but provoked outrage across the Islamic world by doing so.
The pictures concerned were of Saddam Hussein’s sons Uday and Qusay, killed by U.S. soldiers in Iraq in July 2003. In the absence of a picture to show that Bin Laden is dead, some have claimed that the raid on a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, was fiction - and the world's most wanted man had not been killed. The disclosure of images would have provided further closure to Americans nearly a decade after the September 11, 2001, attacks that he masterminded. It could also disprove those who doubt the death of Bin Laden, who was shot in the head and chest at a fortified compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
Raided: Pakistani security officials grant access to journalists to cover the compound where Osama Bin Laden was killed
But critics had said such photos are distasteful and if the Obama administration releases them, they could offend Muslims and be exploited by extremists. 'What we don't want to do is to release anything that might be either misunderstood or that would cause other problems,' said President Barack Obama's top counter-terrorism adviser, John Brennan, speaking on National Public Radio. On Monday an obviously faked picture of his corpse spread round the world, giving conspiracy theorists new material to fuel their speculation.