Senators Seemingly Fooled By Fake Bin Laden Photo

May 4, 2011 10:06pm

ABC News' Matthew Jaffe (@jaffematt) reports:

For much of Wednesday, the debate raged in Washington: should the Obama administration release photos of a dead Osama bin Laden?

Ultimately President Obama said no. But that didn't keep a handful of senators from getting duped by what they thought was one of the Bin Laden photos.

It all started Wednesday morning as senators left a closed-door classified meeting with CIA boss Leon Panetta.

The top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., told reporters that he had seen photos of Bin Laden after the world's most wanted man had been shot in the head. Chambliss wasn't the only one.

Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., told Fox-25 TV that he had seen one of the photos too.

“Listen, I've seen the picture," Brown said in an interview. “He’s definitely dead."

A third senator, New Hampshire Republican Kelly Ayotte, emerged from the Panetta briefing to tell reporters that she, too, had seen the image of a dead Bin Laden.

Asked if she had seen any of the Bin Laden photos, Ayotte replied, “I have seen one of them.”

She added that it was “clearly his features.”

At the time the claims seemed a bit odd since a number of top senators were telling reporters at the same time they had not seen any photos. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chair of the Intelligence panel, said she had not seen the photos. Same with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz, the top Republican on the Armed Services panel.

The confusion grew when Ayotte returned to the Capitol an hour later for a vote, saying that she had been shown the photo by an unnamed colleague on the Armed Services Committee.

Since numerous lawmakers said no Bin Laden photos had been shown at the Panetta briefings — and since a slew of fake Bin Laden photos were circulating on the internet — could the senators have been duped?

As it turned out, yes.

Come late afternoon Wednesday, it emerged that the supposed Bin Laden photo seen by Brown and others was not real.

Brown told Fox-25 that the photo he had seen was not authentic. Chambliss indicated that the photo he had seen was merely an electronic image, not from an official briefing. And Ayotte told ABC News in an interview that she was not sure if the one she saw was authentic or not.

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