Washington (CNN) – Several senators said Wednesday they had seen a photograph of Osama bin Laden after he was shot, describing it to reporters and using it to help form their opinion on whether or not President Obama should release pictures of the dead terrorist.
Now, on a day when fake photographs of a dead bin Laden are flying around the internet, those senators say they cannot be sure whether what they saw and talked to reporters about was real.
Senator Saxby Chambliss, R-Georgia, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told CNN and other news organizations Wednesday morning he had seen photos. He described them as "what you would expect from somebody who's been shot in the head. It's not pretty."
He went on to argue that the photos should be released.
"One of these days they're going to be released; it's a question of whether it be now on our terms or (let) somebody else do it," said Chambliss.
Late Wednesday afternoon, Chambliss admitted to reporters a photo he had described earlier in the day was not an "official photo," but rather a picture he was shown on an electronic device, and he does not know if it was authentic.
"Let me make this clear, the photo I saw was shown to me by somebody who represented it as being a picture of him after he was shot. I have no idea where it came from," Chambliss said.
Chambliss was asked if he believed he was being shown an authentic photo. He responded, "Well it looked like it was a picture of bin Laden."
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-New Hampshire, a freshman Republican on the Armed Services Committee also told reporters Wednesday morning she saw a photo of bin Laden, shown to her by another senator on her committee.
It "was just a facial shot….I saw a photo of him deceased," said Ayotte.
"The head area, obviously, he had been wounded. I can't describe it – give any better description than that."
She also said based on what she saw, she did not believe the pictures would inflame passions, and thought the photos should be released.
When pressed later in the morning, she said she was shown the picture on an electronic device, and that she could not verify it was real.
On Wednesday afternoon, after it was reported in her local paper that she had seen a photograph, Ayotte made a point to clarify with reporters she didn't really know if it was authentic.
"It appeared, obviously, to look like Osama bin Laden but again, I can't verify if it was authentic," said Ayotte.
Sen. Scott Brown, R-Massachusetts, also told local reporters in interviews he had seen a photograph, and used it to make the case for not releasing them.
Later he told CNN he too was shown a picture by a colleague on a blackberry, and now wasn't sure it was authentic.
"I don't know if it's real or not," said Brown.
He was more definitive later, saying in a statement that "the photo that I saw and that a lot of other people saw is not authentic."