Congressman: Bin Laden Photos Could Put Soldiers at Risk
As the Associated Press pushes for the release of reportedly graphic photographs of Osama bin Laden’s corpse, North Coast Congressman Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, said releasing them is a bad idea.
”I think it would be very harmful,” said Thompson, who recently viewed the photographs at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., as a member of the House Intelligence Committee. “I don’t think we should be doing anything that puts the men and women serving our country at any greater risk than they’re already at.”
Navy SEALS took the photographs after bin Laden — who led the terrorist network al-Qaeda behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks — was shot and killed in a May raid in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad. The Navy SEALS’ photographs were paired with facial-recognition technology to confirm the corpse was, in fact, bin Laden.
The Obama administration invited members of the Senate and House intelligence and armed services committees to view the photographs, and Thompson viewed them as a part of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
Together, the four committees have 123 members, leaving Thompson in an exclusive group of lawmakers — less than a quarter of Congress — who have seen the photographs.
While Thompson declined to discuss the photos in any detail, other members of Congress who have seen them have said they show the Al-Qaeda leader covered in blood and brain matter, his body lying on the floor of a bedroom in the compound where he was killed, clad in what appeared to be in a light-fitting tunic and pants known as “shalwar kameez.”
President Barack Obama has ordered that the photographs not be made public, later telling CBS’ Steve Kroft he feared their release could incite violence or serve as a propaganda tool.
The AP has filled a request under the Freedom of Information Act — the federal act signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1966 governing the disclosure of unreleased government documents — seeking the release of the photographs.
The government has until May 27 to respond to the request. If denied, the AP can take the matter to court and have it decided by a federal judge.
If it opts to deny the FOIA request, the Obama administration could attempt to cite the CIA Information Act of 1984 which exempts operational files from disclosure.
More likely, experts say, is that the administration would cite exemptions covering material that could compromise national security or a provision covering material relating to law enforcement operations whose disclosure could endanger lives.
For his part, Thompson said he thinks the photographs should remain classified, noting he fears their disclosure could aid Al-Qaeda.
”They could become an incredibly important recruiting tool for Al-Qaeda, and I don’t know why anybody would want to do that,” Thompson said.
The congressman declined to describe the photographs in any detail but said there is no doubt bin Laden is dead.
”I’m certain that Osama bin Laden is dead and I’m certain that the world is a better place without him here,” Thompson said. “The man was a terrorist — a mass murderer. He killed tens of thousands of women and children, and he was brought to justice.”
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