WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama ordered grisly
photographs of Osama bin Laden in death sealed from public view on
Wednesday, declaring, "We don't need to spike the football" in
triumph after this week's daring middle-of-the-night raid. The
terrorist leader was killed by American commandos who burst into
his room and feared he was reaching for a nearby weapon, U.S.
Several weapons were found in the room where the terror chief
died, including AK-47 assault rifles and side arms, the officials
said. They spoke on condition of anonymity as they offered the most
recent in a series of increasingly detailed and sometimes-shifting
accounts of bin Laden's final minutes after a decade on the run.
Obama said releasing the photographs taken by the Navy SEAL
raiders was "not who we are" as a country. Though some may deny
his death, "the fact of the matter is you will not see bin Laden
walking this earth again," the president said in an interview
taped for CBS' "60 Minutes."
He said any release of the photos could become a propaganda tool
for bin Laden's adherents eager to incite violence.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said the president's
decision applied to photographs of bin Laden, said to show a
portion of his skull blown away from a gunshot wound to the area of
his left eye, as well as to a video recording of his burial several
hours later in the North Arabian Sea.
The president made no public remarks during the day about the
raid, apart from the taped interview. But he arranged a visit for
Thursday to ground zero in Manhattan where the World Trade Center
twin towers once stood.
After two days of shifting accounts of the dramatic raid, Carney
said he would no longer provide details of the 40-minute operation
by the team of elite Navy SEALs. That left unresolved numerous
mysteries, prominent among them an exact accounting of bin Laden's
demise. Officials have said he was unarmed but resisted when an
unknown number of commandos burst into his room inside the
The officials who gave the latest details said a U.S. commando
grabbed a woman who charged toward the SEALs inside the room. They
said the raiders were concerned that she might be wearing a suicide
After two days of speculation about releasing the photographs,
there was no detectable public debate in the U.S. about the merits
of the raid itself against the man behind the terror attacks that
killed nearly 3,000 Americans on Sept. 11, 2001.
Attorney General Eric Holder told Congress the operation was
"entirely lawful and consistent with our values" and justified as
"an action of national self-defense." Noting that bin Laden had
admitted his involvement in the events of nearly a decade ago, he
said, "It's lawful to target an enemy commander in the field."
Holder also said the team that carried out the raid had been
trained to take bin Laden alive if he was willing to surrender.
"It was a kill-or-capture mission," he said. "He made no attempt
Bin Laden had evaded capture for nearly a decade, and officials
said he had currency as well as two telephone numbers sewn into his
clothing when he was killed, suggesting he was prepared to leave
his surroundings on a moment's notice if he sensed danger.
Administration officials said the two dozen SEALs involved in
the operation were back at their home base outside Virginia Beach,
Va., and the extensive debriefing they underwent was complete.
Saluted as heroes nationwide, they remained publicly unidentified
because of security concerns.
In addition to bin Laden's body, the SEALs helicoptered out of
the compound with computer files, flash drives, DVDs and documents
that intelligence officials have begun analyzing in hopes the
information will help them degrade or destroy the network bin Laden
In New York on Thursday, Carney said, Obama will lay a wreath at
the World Trade Center site and hold a private meeting with
relatives of some of the victims of the attacks, in which jetliners
hijacked by terrorists were flown into the side of first one tower,
then the other.
The buildings collapsed within minutes, dooming office workers
as well as rescuers who had run in hoping to save them.
A few days later, then-President George W. Bush stood amid the
rubble and spoke through a bullhorn. When one worker yelled, "I
can't hear you," the president responded, "I can hear you! The
rest of the world hears you! And the people - and the people who
knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!"
A decade - and long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan later - Obama
said he had no intention of gloating.
His decision not to release the photographs of bin Laden was
unlikely to be the final word, though.
The Associated Press on Monday requested through the Freedom of
Information Act photos of bin Laden's body as well as other
materials, including video taken by military personnel during the
raid and on the USS Carl Vinson, the ship that conducted bin
Laden's burial at sea. The government has 20 days to respond.
Some family members of those who died in the 9/11 terror attacks
have pressed to have the photographs released to document bin
Laden's death, as have some skeptics in the Arab world. But many
lawmakers and others expressed concern that the photographic images
could be seen as a "trophy" that would inflame U.S. critics and
make it harder for members of the American military deployed
overseas to do their jobs.
Obama said he had discussed his decision with Secretary of State
Hillary Rodham Clinton and defense Secretary Robert Gates "and my
intelligence teams, and they all agree."
Despite fears of revenge attacks, officials have yet to raise
the national threat level.
The disclosure that bin Laden was living in relative comfort
inside Pakistan in Abbottabad has provoked some administration
officials and lawmakers to question the Pakistani government's
commitment to the decade-long search for the terrorist leader.
Publicly, Pakistan issued a statement on Monday taking the U.S.
to task for an "unauthorized unilateral action" that "cannot be
taken as a rule."
But privately, according to one official, Pakistani Army chief
Ashfaq Kayani offered congratulations when Adm. Mike Mullen called
to inform him after the operation, and urged a public release of
the news. The official spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the
sensitivity of the conversation.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)