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Pro-con on decision not to release bin Laden photos

President Obama made the right decision in not releasing photos of Osama bin Laden taken after he was killed. Nothing will be gained by publishing gruesome pictures of the dead man. Conspiracy theorists, no matter the evidence, will continue to argue that bin Laden is still alive and that the photos, taken by U.S. sources, are fake. The reaction on the Arab street to word of bin Laden's death among Hamas and other radicals shows that they believe he’s gone. Who are we trying to convince with the release of the grisly photos? As for those who accept the accounts of bin Laden's death, but who, either out of curiosity or hatred, want to see what the founder of al-Qaida looks like with a bullet hole above his eye and his brains hanging out, I say satisfy your lust in your own way and on your own time. The U.S. government is under no obligation to do it for you. I accept the word of eyewitnesses, DNA evidence and officials who have seen the photographs that Osama bin Laden is dead and gone. Tis enough, 'twill serve, as least for me. — Colbert I. King, Washington Post blog

With all due respect to President Obama, he is making a serious mistake by not releasing a photo showing that Osama bin Laden was killed. Obama is expecting the world to trust his word, America's word, that bin Laden is gone — but there are many doubts about American credibility in the world today. Furthermore, bin Laden has been a "phantom" lurking out there, somewhere, perhaps in Afghanistan, perhaps in Pakistan, perhaps in Somalia — but lurking and virtually no trace of him. Many American intelligence officials began to think some years ago that he was dead already. A senior FBI agent once asked me, "You don't really believe he is still alive, do you?" If that is what high-level Americans in the terror-tracking business thought, what does Obama think that those through the Arab world will think? Not releasing a photo of some sort furthers a bad trend of governments — that the public doesn't have a right to know, that governments are better stewards of the truth and of basic information than the public. It is undemocratic and stiflingly paternalistic. WikiLeaks was a market reaction to the massive expansion of official secrecy, not just in the U.S. but elsewhere in the world. Obama's decision to hold back the bin Laden photos only aggravates this trend. — Steve Clemons, Washington Note