Photos of bin Laden blocked

At a radical Islamic group's headquarters in Jakarta, Indonesia, posters show President Obama and al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Prayers were said there for bin Laden on Wednesday.
At a radical Islamic group's headquarters in Jakarta, Indonesia, posters show President Obama and al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Prayers were said there for bin Laden on Wednesday. (IRWIN FEDRIANSYAH / Associated Press)
Posted: May 05, 2011

WASHINGTON - President Obama ordered grisly photographs of Osama bin Laden in death sealed from public view Wednesday, declaring, "We don't need to spike the football" in triumph after the daring raid in Pakistan. The Navy SEALs who stormed the terrorist leader's compound shot him after they feared he was reaching for a nearby weapon, U.S. officials said.

Several weapons were found in the room where bin Laden died, including AK-47 assault rifles and side arms, the officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity as they offered the most recent in a series of increasingly detailed and sometimes-shifting accounts of bin Laden's final minutes after a decade on the run.

Obama said releasing the photos taken by the SEALs was "not who we are" as a country. Although some may deny his death, "the fact of the matter is you will not see bin Laden walking this Earth again," Obama said in an interview taped for the CBS show 60 Minutes.

He said any release of the photos could become a propaganda tool for adherents of bin Laden - the man behind the Sept. 11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people - eager to incite violence.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Obama's decision applied to photos of bin Laden, said to show a portion of his skull blown away from a gunshot wound to his left-eye area, and to a video of his burial several hours later in the northern Arabian Sea.

According to the Tribune Washington Bureau, the White House ordered an intelligence analysis to gauge whether public disclosure might rally opponents of the United States and produce a backlash. Analysts examined the historical record and found that in previous cases where such photos were made public, "there was harm done over time," a senior White House official said Wednesday, the bureau reported.

Aside from his taped interview, Obama did not speak publicly Wednesday about the raid. He planned a visit Thursday to ground zero in Manhattan, where the World Trade Center towers once stood. Obama will lay a wreath at the site and meet privately with relatives of some Sept. 11 victims. No public remarks by the president are planned.

Carney said Wednesday that he would no longer provide details of the 40-minute operation by the team of elite SEALs. Among the mysteries left unresolved is an exact accounting of bin Laden's demise. Officials have said that he was unarmed but that he resisted when an unknown number of commandos burst into his room in the high-security compound.

The officials who gave the latest details said a commando had grabbed a woman who charged toward the SEALs inside the room; the raiders were concerned she might be wearing a suicide vest.

Administration officials have said bin Laden's body was identified by several means, including a DNA test. Members of Congress who were briefed Wednesday said a sample from the body had been compared with known DNA from bin Laden's mother and three of his sons.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. told Congress that the operation in Abbottabad, which is also home to the Pakistan Military Academy, was "entirely lawful and consistent with our values" and justified as "an action of national self-defense."

Noting that bin Laden had admitted his involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks, Holder said: "It's lawful to target an enemy commander in the field."

He also said the team that carried out the raid had been trained to take bin Laden alive if he was willing to surrender. "It was a kill-or-capture mission," Holder said. "He made no attempt to surrender."

Officials said bin Laden had currency as well as two telephone numbers sewn into his clothing when he was killed, suggesting he was prepared to leave on a moment's notice if he sensed danger.

Administration officials said that the two dozen SEALs involved in the operation were back at their home base outside Virginia Beach, Va., and that the extensive debriefing they underwent was complete. Saluted as heroes nationwide, they remained publicly unidentified because of security concerns.

Intelligence officials have begun analyzing computer files, flash drives, DVDs, and documents that the SEALs helicoptered out of the compound, in hopes the information will help them degrade or destroy the network bin Laden left behind.

Obama's decision not to release any photos of bin Laden's body was unlikely to be the final word. Some in Congress have been shown at least one photo, and others have asked to see them, an indication of the intense interest generated by the raid.

The Associated Press has requested through the Freedom of Information Act photos of bin Laden's body as well as other materials, including video taken by military personnel during the raid and on the USS Carl Vinson, the ship that conducted his burial at sea. The government has 20 days to respond.

Some Sept. 11 family members have pressed to have the photos released to document bin Laden's death, as have some skeptics in the Arab world. But many lawmakers and others expressed concern that the images could be seen as a "trophy" that would inflame U.S. critics and make it harder for members of the American military deployed overseas to do their jobs.

Obama said he discussed his decision with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates "and my intelligence teams, and they all agree."

Photos taken by a Pakistani security official inside bin Laden's compound provide graphic images of the chaos that engulfed the house in the moments before he was shot dead. The photos don't include images of bin Laden, whose body had been carried off by a U.S. helicopter perhaps as much as a half-hour before Pakistani troops arrived. But they do show the bodies of three other men on a blood-soaked floor and hint at the grisly nature of bin Laden's wounds, McClatchy Newspapers reported.

The Pakistani security official sold the photos to Reuters news agency, which distributed them to its clients.

The disclosure that bin Laden was living in relative comfort in Abbottabad led some Obama administration officials and lawmakers to question Pakistan's commitment to the long search for him.

Publicly, Pakistan took the United States to task Monday for an "unauthorized unilateral action" that "cannot be taken as a rule." But privately, according to one official, Pakistani army chief Ashfaq Kayani offered congratulations when Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called to inform Kayani after the operation.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said Wednesday that anyone who claimed his country had hidden bin Laden was "color blind."

Names on 9/11 Memorial Will Be Listed in New Ways

Victor Wald and Harry Ramos did not know each other until Sept. 11, 2001, but they died together trying to flee down a World Trade Center stairwell.

Their names will be next

to each other's on the national memorial at ground zero, one of hundreds of arrangements that emphasize victims' connections, not in alphabetical order.

The National September 11 Memorial & Museum announced the final arrangement Wednesday of the nearly 3,000 names around the waterfall-filled pools formed in the twin towers' footprints.

Michael Arad, architect of the memorial, said that stories of the individuals' lives would inevitably emerge from the names' arrangement and would "communicate very powerfully to generations to come."

The announcement may not satisfy all survivors, especially given the complexity of the names' arrangement. The memorial planners said they mailed letters to more than 3,500 next of kin to tell them the site of victims' names, and announced a Web application to locate them. The memorial is to open

in September on the 10th anniversary of the attacks.

- Associated Press


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