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D3: WH Will Not Release Photo

May 4, 2011

Washington (CNN) — President Barack Obama has decided not to release a photo of Osama bin Laden’s body as evidence of his death, the White House said Wednesday.

The president said “there is no doubt” that bin Laden is dead and that a photo won’t “make any difference” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

“There’s a long history of images like that being used to rally opinion against people, to turn people into heroes,” Carney said.

Carney read quotes from Obama in an interview with CBS recorded Wednesday. While some people will insist on denying bin Laden is dead, “the fact of the matter” is that bin Laden will not be seen “walking on this Earth again,” Carney quoted Obama as saying.

Obama was concerned that releasing a photo could serve as an “incitement to additional violence” against the United States, Carney said.

He added that Obama said, “That’s not who we are,” and that the United States does not “trot out this stuff as trophies.”

A senior Democratic official close to the White House told CNN that Obama was “never in favor” of releasing a photo. The president noted that few credible people have questioned the death and that conspiracy theorists would not be satisfied with a photo, the official said.

The president’s inner circle was not happy with CIA Director Leon Panetta’s remarks on the matter Tuesday, the Democratic official said.

Panetta said Tuesday that he believed a photo would be released at some point. “I just think it’s important — they know we have it, to release it,” Panetta said.

House Speaker John Boehner, the top Republican in the House of Representatives, “supports the president’s decision,” spokesman Michael Steel told CNN Wednesday.

But Rep. Duncan Hunter, a Republican former Marine who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, disagreed with the decision. “As Americans we deserve to see them,” he said.

The development came amid new details on the operation and what Pakistan knew or should have known about bin Laden.

One of bin Laden’s daughters has told Pakistani interrogators that she saw her father be shot and killed by U.S. forces, a senior Pakistani intelligence source said Wednesday.

The daughter, believed to be 12 or 13 years old, was among those left behind at the compound after Monday’s U.S. raid, the source said.

Pakistani officials are interrogating a number of people left behind, the source said.

Among them were two or three women, including one believed to be bin Laden’s wife — a 29-year-old Yemeni citizen, the source said.

U.S. officials have said bin Laden’s wife was in the room with him and rushed at U.S. special forces, who then shot her in the leg. U.S. officials have not publicly identified the wife nor anyone else at the compound aside from bin Laden.

Eight or nine children were also left behind, the Pakistani intelligence source said.

The Pakistani intelligence source told CNN Wednesday that four men at the compound were killed in addition to bin Laden: bin Laden’s son, two men who were brothers, and an unknown man. That conflicts with information provided by the White House, which said Tuesday that three men and one woman were killed in the operation, in addition to bin Laden.

Bin Laden had 500 euros (about $745) in cash and two telephone numbers sewn into his clothing when he was killed, a congressional source present at a classified briefing on the operation Tuesday told CNN Wednesday. Another congressional source also said bin Laden had money sewn into his clothes.

Questions are mounting about why Pakistan failed to locate or bring bin Laden to justice.

According to two sources at a briefing Tuesday, Panetta told lawmakers that Pakistani officials either “were involved or incompetent. Neither place is a good place to be.”

The senior Pakistani intelligence official said there is now “total mistrust” between the United States and Pakistan, and that if Panetta made such a statement, it is “totally regrettable. (Panetta) of all people knows how much we have been doing.”

In an interview with TIME magazine, Panetta said “it was decided that any effort to work with the Pakistanis could jeopardize the mission. They might alert the targets.”

Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he thinks many Pakistanis might have known where bin Laden was, including people in the government.

“This is one reason we did not inform the Pakistanis of our actions,” he said Tuesday, noting “there were probably many who were very uncomfortable about the presence likewise.”

Sardar Latif Khosa, governor of Pakistan’s populous Punjab province, said Wednesday that bin Laden was not only responsible for deaths in the United States, but also for the deaths of thousands of Pakistanis.

“Osama’s hands were colored with the blood of innocent people. How could we give shelter to him?” he said.

Still, some people around the world mourned bin Laden’s death. In Indonesia, the hardline Islamic Defenders Front planned a prayer service for bin Laden Wednesday, two days after the world’s most wanted terrorist was killed in attack at his compound in Pakistan.

In a text message to the media, the Islamic Defenders Front announced its service will take place in Jakarta. The radical Indonesian Muslim group is known for attacking Jakarta nightclubs and threatening Westerners, according to Jane’s Terrorism & Security Monitor.

U.S. officials have said DNA testing shows it was bin Laden who was killed.

But the Taliban questioned the assertion.

“(U.S. President Barack) Obama has not got any strong evidence that can prove his claim over killing of the Sheikh Osama bin Laden,” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mojahed said Tuesday. “And secondly, the closest sources for Sheikh Osama bin Laden have not confirmed” the death.

Investigators are poring over a lode of materials gathered from bin Laden’s compound, Homeland Security adviser John Brennan said.

The haul includes 10 hard drives, five computers and more than 100 storage devices, such as disks, DVDs and thumb drives, a senior U.S. official told CNN. The materials might provide clues on al Qaeda members and potential plots for future attacks.

Obama planned a visit Thursday to New York City’s “ground zero,” where the twin towers of the World Trade Center once stood. The towers fell in September 11, 2001, when al Qaeda hijackers flew commercial planes into them.

Obama will take part in a ceremony and will meet with families of victims, but will not make remarks, White House spokesman Carney said. He characterized the event as “bittersweet.”

Former President George W. Bush was invited to attend, but declined to join Obama.

“President Bush will not be in attendance on Thursday,” Bush spokesman David Sherzer said. “He appreciated the invite, but has chosen in his post-presidency to remain largely out of the spotlight. He continues to celebrate with all Americans this important victory in the war on terror.”

CNN’s Nick Paton Walsh, Nic Robertson, Dana Bash, Ted Barrett, Elise Labott, Tom Cohen, Jeanne Meserve, Pam Benson, Barbara Starr, Suzanne Kelly, Jessica Yellin, John King, Ed Hornick, Shawna Shepherd and Dan Gilgoff contributed to this report.


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