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White House Weighs Release of ‘Gruesome’ Bin Laden Photo

May 3, 2011 at 6:34 PM EST
The Obama administration on Tuesday filled in new details about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, but White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said no decision has been made on whether posthumous photos of bin Laden will be released. Jeffrey Brown reports.
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JIM LEHRER: U.S. officials today filled in more of the picture on how Osama bin Laden met his end. New facts and images emerged 48 hours after he died at the hands of U.S. commandos.

Jeffrey Brown begins our coverage.

JEFFREY BROWN: Curious crowds gathered outside Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan today to see where the terror leader had lived and died. There and elsewhere this day, some of the curiosity focused on the hard evidence of his death.

In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney said no decision had been made on whether to release photos of bin Laden’s burial or of the al-Qaida leader’s remains.

WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY JAY CARNEY: It’s fair to say that it’s a gruesome photograph.

JEFFREY BROWN: Carney alluded indirectly to reports that bin Laden was shot above the left eye, and part of his skull was blown off.

JAY CARNEY: There are sensitivities here in terms of the appropriateness of releasing photographs of — of Osama bin Laden and in the — the aftermath of this firefight. And we’re making an evaluation about the need to do that because of the sensitivities involved.

JEFFREY BROWN: In turn, a spokesman for the Afghan Taliban insisted the U.S. had not released — quote — “convincing evidence” that bin Laden really was dead.

Meanwhile, there was more information on the Sunday night raid by Navy SEALs. Officials said they swept the heavily fortified compound in Abbottabad, hunting the target, code name Geronimo. They said bin Laden wasn’t armed, but did — quote — “resist capture.”

There were also photos of the charred wreckage of a U.S. Black Hawk helicopter that had landed hard in the bin Laden compound after suffering mechanical failure. The SEALs destroyed it as they left the mansion with bin Laden’s body.

In addition, the commandos took away what some officials described as a mother lode of intelligence, thought to include computer hard drives, DVDs and documents, all now being combed for clues to future al-Qaida strikes.

At a U.S. House oversight hearing, Attorney General Eric Holder cautioned that al-Qaida was still a threat to be countered.

ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: Although we can all be proud of Sunday’s successful operation, and we can all be encouraged by the way that thousands of Americans have joined together at this defining moment in our fight against terrorism, we cannot become complacent. The fight is far from over.

JEFFREY BROWN: Holder also said the operation, authorized Friday morning by President Obama, met all legal requirements.

ERIC HOLDER: I think that the acts that we took were both lawful, legitimate, and appropriate in every way.

JEFFREY BROWN: Reaction also continued around the world, from this man on a Tehran street:

MAN (through translator): I don’t think that killing bin Laden will have a serious positive effect in the region. They have enough men to replace him. I can’t believe they had just one guy. They will find other talents and use new people.

JEFFREY BROWN: And from Iraq, where a lawmaker expressed hopes that al-Qaida’s days were numbered:

ROZE MAHDI (through translator): In the recent years, we, the Iraqi people, were the victim of this terrorist organization. The death of bin Laden has certainly influenced the morale of this group and its members. We hope that this will be the beginning of the end of this terror organization.

JEFFREY BROWN: Outside Atocha station in central Madrid, which was bombed in 2004, travelers worried about what would come next.

ADELAIDA HERRADOR (through translator): I think that they are going to do something. They are not going to leave it like this.

RICARDO POLO (through translator): Now there is more possibility of attacks. And because there is a possibility, security does need to be tightened. There needs to be more vigilance.

JEFFREY BROWN: To the north, in Brussels, an airport official said more was being done.

GERARD BOREL, Airport Council International: For the moment, I think that we will certainly have national security additional measures, not at — I don’t think at (INAUDIBLE) level. It’s very difficult to be more safe at (INAUDIBLE) level. We will — we will look at — at local level what could be the special threats.

JEFFREY BROWN: And in the U.S., visible security measures were in place at many airport and train stations and other possible targets.