A US official tells ABC News that, concerned about a potential backlash that results in attacks against Americans, President Obama has decided to block the release of any photographs of Osama bin Laden’s corpse.
Both Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton advised the president not to release the photograph, which is graphic and gruesome, according to officials who have seen it. Both secretaries expressed fears that the photo’s release would incite a backlash and violent demonstrations against the U.S., in what has been a period of relative calm following the US military operation that resulted in bin Laden’s death.
Gates and Clinton both suggested that the photo’s release could result in attacks on US troops, government personnel and American citizens.
CIA director Leon Panetta has been lobbying publicly for the photo’s release, telling NBC that “the bottom line is that, you know, 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.”
The president, according to sources, is not convinced that there is sufficient worldwide skepticism about bin Laden’s death that the release of any of the pictures would not do more harm than good. Bin Laden’s wife identified her husband corpse to Navy SEALs and to Pakistani authorities. Officials also say that anyone who doubts that bin Laden was killed would likely not be convinced by a photograph in this era of Photoshop and forgery.
The picture is said to be so gruesome networks such as ABC News would likely not carry it, though it might end up used as an inflammatory iconic image in other parts of the world already hostile to the U.S.
In May 2009, President Obama reversed his position and decided against releasing photographs of detainee abuse, saying it would only put American troops in harm’s way and create a backlash against Americans.
"The most direct consequence of releasing them, I believe, would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger," the president said then.