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Administration Ponders Whether to Release Photo Evidence of Bin Laden’s Corpse

There was a picture floating around yesterday, allegedly from Pakistani television, of the corpse of bin Laden, but that has been debunked. But there are pictures of bin Laden out there; they were in fact used to determine his identity, using facial recognition technology. And now the White House is considering releasing the photographs.

The Obama administration has photographs of Osama bin Laden’s dead body and officials are debating what to do with them and whether they should be released to the public, officials tell ABC News.

“There’s no doubt it’s him,” says a US official who has seen the pictures and also reminds us that OBL was 6’4”.

The argument for releasing them: to ensure that the public knows and can appreciate that he’s dead. There is of course skepticism throughout the world that the US government claim that it killed bin Laden is true.

The argument against releasing the pictures: they’re gruesome. He has a massive head wound above his left eye where he took bullet, with brains and blood visible.

I think you pretty much have to release the pictures at this point, which puts me in agreement with Joe Lieberman, an uncomfortable scenario to say the least. The hasty burial at sea and the general presence of conspiracy theorists around any high-profile event necessitates a clear showing of the results of the raid. There doesn’t need to be any doubt about this if the evidence exists.

Still, I appreciate that some thought is going into this, rather than when the Bush Administration released glossy photos of Uday and Qusay Hussein as if to say “And You’re Next.”

More information has dribbled out about the raid. There was no helicopter crash, merely
a soft landing inside the compound after the vehicle stopped working. Reinforcements had to pick up the Navy SEALs after they completed the mission. They blew up the helicopter rather than leave it behind, which was certainly the explosion heard in Abbottabad.

The other revelation is that the SEALs picked up a great deal of intelligence from the bin Laden compound. It’s unclear how fresh that evidence is, but it could be used in the future.

UPDATE: Here are some maps and blueprints of the bin Laden compound.

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David Dayen

David Dayen