After debating the release of photos of Osama bin Laden's corpse, the White House has decided against publicizing the images. "We don't trot out this stuff as trophies," Obama said in an interview with Steve Kroft on this Sunday's 60 Minutes, some of which will be aired on CBS tonight.
"It is important to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence or as a propaganda tool," the president said in the interview. In a press conference, spokesman Jay Carney relayed that Obama will be visiting Ground Zero on Thursday to lay a wreath and meet in private with families who lost loved ones on September 11th, 2001, but will not speak at the site.
The news that the images won't become public appears to contradict what CIA Director Leon Panetta indicated yesterday when he stated that there isn't "any question that ultimately a photograph would be presented to the public." But the photo evidence of bin Laden's death appears to be outweighed by concerns of the harm the images may do.
Republican leader John Boehner stated earlier today that he has no opinion about the photos release. "They have to decide what to do. I'm convinced. I have no doubts," he told National Journal. His sentiment was echoed by Republican House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, who has seen one of the photos and appraised the situation this way to CBS News: "Osama bin Laden is not a trophy - he is dead and let's now focus on continuing the fight until Al Qaida has been eliminated."
National Journal's Marc Ambinder reports on how the conclusion was reached and boils down the White House decision to this reason:
Nothing compelling came forth. The arguments against were clear: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton consulted with allies in the Middle East and reported back that none thought the release of the photos would be in their interests.She and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates also worried that the images would provoke anti-American violence at embassies, consulates, and military bases overseas.
The president, however, might not have a choice about the photos eventual release. Gawker's John Cook has spoken with the Daniel Metcalfe, the former chief of the Department of Justice's Office of Information and Privacy, who figured that the government would probably lose a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit asking for the photos.
"If someone brought a FOIA complaint seeking the photo, and the government had improperly classified it, I think the government would lose," Metcalfe, who supervised the defense of more than 500 FOIA and Privacy Act lawsuits for the U.S., told Gawker.