Why keep bin Laden images secret? Have you seen the situation room pictures…

May 12, 2011

Defense Secretary Robert Gates says friends have sent him humorous versions of the iconic photo of  President Barack  Obama in the situation room with his national security team watching the raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Versions with everyone wearing elaborate royal-wedding-style hats.

Versions with extra politicians added in.

Versions with football players.

“This is all harmless and humorous stuff,” he said.

But it is also a lesson in how easily photos can be altered.

Gates says he agrees with Obama’s decision not to publicly release death photos of bin Laden.

Gates told U.S. Marines at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina he hoped the images would never be made public, and he and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had recommended as much to the president.

“We were … worried about the potential for manipulation of those photos and doing things with those photos that would be pretty outrageous in terms of provoking a reaction that might in fact put our troops at greater risk in both Iraq and Afghanistan,” Gates said.

“I think the president made the decision he did … not only to protect our troops but also to protect other Americans who are living abroad: Our civilians, our diplomats and others,” he said. “If these photos were misused then the danger of them inflaming reaction we considered to be very real.”

Gates said he was looking at measures to pump up security around the U.S. military personnel involved in the raid.

The defense secretary said the U.S. officials in the White House situation room on the day of the raid had “all agreed that we would not release any operational details.”

“That all fell apart on Monday, the next day,” he added.

One thing that has remained consistent, he said, was the “effort to protect the identity of those who participated in the raid, and I think that has to continue.”

Photo credit: Reuters/White House handout (Obama and national security team in Situation Room), Reuters/Chip Somodevilla (Gates during a visit to Iraq in April)


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There’s simply no good reason to display photos that only gen up more hatred against the U.S. in the Muslim world. We know he’s dead, even Al Qaeda acknowledges that. Time to move on.

Posted by actnow | Report as abusive

Al Qaeda just had a suicide bombing recently. Their hatred is pretty much a constant. You’d think the photos would be more demoralizing than anything to them.

As for the photos being altered, someone could just as easily release fake photoshopped pictures claiming to be real, per Wikileaks, if they had incentive to alter photos to create hatred. This altering claim is weak.

Posted by Jzyehoshua | Report as abusive

Come to think of it, if they keep being so secretive, I’d bet it’s just a matter of time until someone creates some fake photos pretending to be the real ones. Then Obama would be forced to release the real ones – if they even exist.

It’s not much more difficult to create fake photos claiming to be real than to alter the real ones. Anyone who wanted to engender violence between Al Qaeda and the U.S. wouldn’t have to work hard, for one thing, and given the White House’s secrecy, it means someone could release photos claiming to show torture that would REALLY get Al Qaeda mad.

You know what they say – honesty is the best policy. Barack Obama is the last person I’d expect to recognize that, though.

Posted by Jzyehoshua | Report as abusive

What I think is the birth certificate was released recently to boost Obama’s sagging approval ratings just as we’re marking the beginning of 2012 presidential campaigning with events such as the dinner where Obama mocked Trump. Releasing it just before the dinner was an obvious campaign tactic intended to destroy his political opponents and raise his popularity.

What I don’t understand is why no reporters are questioning the coincidence of releasing the birth certificate just before a claim of Bin Laden’s death that is unevidenced. Such an order of events means that Obama can avoid criticism of a more questionable, less-evidenced claim, by suggesting those skeptical of Bin Laden’s death were also skeptical of his birth origins. And adding the killing of Bin Laden on top of the birth certificate release would be a coup de grace to boost his popularity – which went up as high as 57%, yet is now sagging down to 50%, likely due to his secrecy of the Bin Laden raid.

That those two events would follow on each other’s heels is highly coincidental, and has the effect of silencing skepticism of why we went into Afghanistan, despite all the skepticism of WMDs concerning our mission in Iraq.

Posted by Jzyehoshua | Report as abusive

Has anyone noticed that none of the high-ranking Whitehouse and Intelligence officials have stated publicly, on-the-record that they have personally seen the UBL death photos?
I find it highly suspect, especially because they now have elected representatives out there to try to vouch for them, in the name of “public interest”. I don’t care if they all say they have seen the photos, I refuse to believe they are real until I hear Gates, Panetta, Clinton and the POTUS say on record that they have seen it.

Posted by Dianne93101 | Report as abusive

Yes, everything is a big conspiracy. What I want to know is where these people were when the Bush administration was raising terror alerts every time Bush’s poll numbers declined or another Republican was being indicted. Where were the deficit turkeys when Bush was spending millions of dollars renting the USS Abraham Lincoln for his “Mission Accomplished” propaganda stunt?

Obama’s poll numbers are climbing for one reason. People are waking up to the fact that Obama does what he thinks is best for the country, while the GOP only does what’s best for the GOP. The people who voted in the last batch of Republicans have the world’s biggest case of buyer’s remorse. Some of them aren’t even waiting for next November to recall them.

So keep throwing the conspiracy theories out there. It only helps the good guys.

Posted by JCastillo | Report as abusive

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