Should the U.S. Release a Photo of Osama bin Laden’s Body?

The Obama administration is weighing whether or not to release gruesome photos of Osama bin Laden.


Americans breathed a collective sigh of relief and celebration Sunday night as the news hit: The man behind the 9/11 attacks is dead—finally. But just hours after the announcement that Osama bin Laden was killed, the Web was abuzz with doubts. A Facebook page called “Osama Bin Laden dead? Buried at sea, and we never saw the body? Hmm” sprouted up Monday morning, and within five hours, the page had more than 1,200 users who “liked” it. By Tuesday morning, that number had more than doubled.

The Pakistani foreign ministry acknowledged the military action, and a Twitter user in Abbottobad, Pakistan, unwittingly live tweeted the event when he heard late-night commotion nearby the high-walled compound. U.S. officials have said they matched the body’s DNA with that of bin Laden’s sister, and also conducted a face and body biometric analysis to be sure. But some people are not willing to take the government's word for it. [See photos of reactions to Osama bin Laden's death.]

Is this just birtherism deja vu, or should the government release more tangible proof, like a photo?

A photo of bin Laden with a massive head wound from the fatal bullet does reportedly exist, but officials are weighing whether it is too gruesome to show. Obama’s counterterrorism adviser said the administration will work hard to make sure no one can deny the news of bin Laden’s death, but they have not yet decided the most appropriate way to do so without compromising future missions. An additional concern is whether such a photo could add fuel to the narrative in the Muslim world that bin Laden was a martyr. [See a slide show of six potential terrorist targets.]

Some network television producers are saying the photos may be too graphic to put on air anyway. 

But calls for the photo are surfacing in the blogosphere and also in Congress. Sens. Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins have called on Obama to release photos publicly. Both have said they believe the administration’s announcement, but, as Collins has said, “I recognize that there will be those that try to generate this myth that he's alive and that we missed him somehow.”

What do you think? Should the U.S. release a photo of Osama bin Laden’s body? Take the poll and post your thoughts below.

--Mallie Jane Kim

This poll is now closed, but the debate continues in the comments section.

Previously: Will Obama’s long-form birth certificate end the birther movement?