Senators misled by likely fake bin Laden photos
May 4th, 2011
07:25 PM ET
12 years ago

Senators misled by likely fake bin Laden photos

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."

Filed under: Kelly Ayotte • Osama bin Laden • Saxby Chambliss • Scott Brown
soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. Sgt Schultz

    Let it go. Stop the blood-lust. The photos are too graphic and disturbing in nature because he got a headshot in the eye. Not really fit for release to the public. Quit trying to spin everything for Partisan gain and stop playing games.

    May 4, 2011 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  2. OneMoreTime

    I truly am insulted and appalled at Senators Chambliss, Graham, et al, who want pictures of a dead bin laden released.
    By virture of their demands, they are calling President Obama, Navy Seals, Cabinet members involved, and military
    dignitaries involved LIARS. If they are not willing to understand that the release of these pictures could, and
    probably would incite bin laden supporters, if they are not willing to accept the word of those people that we Americans
    depend upon to protect our Country, then they can rest assured many will not trust their words. Senator Graham, should understand this first and foremost, considering he loves to tout his military experience. America is better than those who
    cut off heads, then blast the pictures all over the internet. It is called compassion, integrity, and a sense of
    dignity. These Senators are just too desperate to be important, and their words sink them every time. Grow up and do
    your jobs!

    May 4, 2011 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  3. nintex

    Let it go, people. He's dead. This is ridiculous; if it were a hoax, don't you think bin Laden would be all over the internet, showing us that he's alive? And those who want to look at the gruesome pictures; well, they're just sick. Yuck!

    May 4, 2011 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  4. rhumba

    Goes to show you how little these senators know about the real world. The fake Obama photo has been on Google Images since Sunday, before there was even an official announcement. Didn't any of them even bother to Google? What a bunch of incompetents.

    May 4, 2011 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  5. Gallup Poll

    Ayotte, Brown, and Chambliss - 3 GOP senators who never learned the ABCs of public speaking. Instead of checking their facts first, they went public with their "thoughts" and their "recommendations." Not one of them knew what they were basing their recommendations on, nor did any of them have one iota of discipline to stop themselves before uttering unfounded recommendations. Thank goodness none of them will ever be President.

    May 4, 2011 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  6. sheWillSpeak

    Sounds like nobody outside of the Obama administration and top intelligence(CIA) officials have seen the photos. Given the responses on this site, maybe it should be left like that for a while longer.

    May 4, 2011 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  7. SL

    You know, I'm sure there are photos from President Kennedy's autopsy being held onto, too. Some things are better left to the historians, not Entertainment Tonight.

    May 4, 2011 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  8. agathokles

    You gotta be kidding! Didn't they think that any real photos they might see would have been provided in hard-copy form only, and only viewable by being invited to see them at the White House or CIA or someplace like that? These Senators really think that something that sensitive would be on a colleague's or staffer's Blackberry?? What idiots!

    May 4, 2011 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  9. Bill

    Duh, senators, those photos you saw were NOT Osama bin Laden. Did you really think you were being shown the real thing? Nope, you're not enough of a VIP.

    May 4, 2011 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  10. Ron

    Wait a minute! The highest ranking republican member of the Intelligence Committee sees and picture, runs his trap about it, then admits he has no idea where it came from??!! What the hell?! Didn't we send in our own SEAL team? Didn't they take pictures and then take the body? Why would the senator open his sewer unless he knew for certain the photos came from the SEALs we sent in? Crazy. Just plain crazy.

    May 4, 2011 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  11. LIB

    these people aren't authentic either. Thought they were real Americans but turns out they are real Americans at all.

    May 4, 2011 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  12. Bill R in Oakland

    Why would these ELECTED government officials be forming opinions on whether or not to release the ACTUAL photos based on photos they THINK are authentic? I mean, if they didn't get an official communication from the White House or CIA that these were the AUTHENTIC photos, how could they possibly think something shown to them on a BlackBerry absent an OFFICIAL communication is the real deal? Curiously, all the individuals cited are Republicans.

    For the record, I don't support releasing any photos. It's not going to satisfy any conspiracy theorists anyway. Let's just accept that Osama Bin Laden is dead and move figure out what the heck we're going to do in Afghanistan now.

    May 4, 2011 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  13. jack beeler

    what a joke ...even the people in the government don't know the truth and they lie to each other

    May 4, 2011 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  14. Wise1Speak


    How can this happen? How is it possible for three U.S. Senators to be so easily bamboozled into giving their opinion to strangers about an unauthenticated photo with such high profile significance? Really? Really?

    May 4, 2011 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  15. fred030

    LOL – it's the GOP (greedy old perverts) now questioning. If Bin Laden is alive...let him prove it.

    May 4, 2011 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  16. clarke

    These people we voted for are not very bright. If the WH was going to share this photo, I am sure it would been handled differently than sending it via your iphone. What is the matter with them.

    May 4, 2011 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  17. Fiery Buddha

    great – politicians who can't even identify obvious photo-shopped fakes.

    May 4, 2011 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  18. greg

    Senators fooled, I don't believe it.

    May 4, 2011 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  19. Geoffrey

    Republicans have brain rot. The picture that circulated had bin laden with a fluffy and clean beard. Also the muscles of facial expression were not slack or in rictus as they would be after he was shot. The lower part of the race looked alive. Hardly what you expect after being shot in the head. Finally, if they read MSNBC, they would know what picture of binladen in life was used and how it was modified in photo shop. Finally, if they were shown the real thing, I'm sure they would be told as the real one is classified. Dumb as a sack of hair, and these guys make up laws? Nah ... they just count the money from big business like Koch brothers and do what they are told.

    May 4, 2011 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  20. Jon

    Seriously what?

    The senators should know by who showed them the pictures, if they were real.

    If they went on Google and found them, they weren't. If a top military official showed it to them, they were. What is up with this world?

    May 4, 2011 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  21. Brian

    You'd think Congressmen and Senators would have enough intelligence to know whether or not the photo came from an official White House/CIA source rather than 'durrr, I saw it on the internets.'

    May 4, 2011 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  22. Concerned Citizen

    I think our senators should know how to tell the difference between what is posted on Facebook and what is Reality. It take about 10 seconds to photoshop a picture of a dead Osama... The worse part is simply that that picture going around is not even a good fake. As far as the video that supposed to be out there, we all should be smart enough to know that video footage of the Navy Seals is not just thrown up on the internet. Think about it people... Our Senators should not be getting tricked by internet spammers. IF they are than we should question their information sources.

    May 4, 2011 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  23. Stoneoak

    That must be the same photo I saw at a nail salon yesterday. Looked photo shopped to everyone there who saw it. Can't believe it fooled the our best and brightest in DC

    May 4, 2011 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  24. shannon g

    Well it's there on foolish fault. If they didn't get the photos from the WH, or viewed them at the WH, why would they rely on the internet. Osama is dead, face it, stop looking for ways to start controversy

    May 4, 2011 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |