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.”