Should the Obama administration have made public the Osama bin Laden picture showing the world's most wanted terrorist with a bullet wound over his left eye? The question divided the nation following the May 2011 killing of the Sept. 11 mastermind.
Critics of President Barack Obama's decision to withhold the bin Laden picture from public inspection said making the image of bin Laden's corpse public would serve as a warning to those seeking to destroy America, and reassure conspiracy theorists the bin Laden is actually dead.
"The whole purpose of sending our troops into the compound, rather than an aerial bombardment, was to obtain indisputable evidence of Bin Laden's death," U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, was quoted as saying. "The best way to protect and defend our interests overseas is to prove that fact to the rest of the world."
"Show photo as warning to others seeking Americas destruction. No pussy-footing around, no politicking, no drama, it's part of the mission," former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the 2008 vice presidential nominee, said.
Peggy Noonan, a Wall Street Journal columnist and former speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan, praised Obama's handling of bin Laden but opined: "His refusal to release more evidence that Osama is dead is allowing a great story to dissolve into a mystery. He is letting a triumph turn into a conspiracy theory."
Why Obama Withheld bin Laden Picture
In interviews following the U.S. Navy SEAL killing of bin Laden, Obama was determined not to allow the bin Laden picture be leaked to the press and public. In an interview with the CBS news program "60 Minutes," the president said flatly: "It is very important for us to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence - as a propaganda tool."
"That's not who we are," Obama said. "You know, we don't trot out this stuff as trophies. We don't need to spike the football."
Obama added on the program: "Certainly there's no doubt among Al Qaeda members that he is dead. And so we don't think that a photograph in and of itself is going to make any difference. There are going to be some folks who deny it. The fact of the matter is, you will not see Bin Laden walking on this earth again."
What bin Laden Picture Shows
The bin Laden picture that is said to be the most recognizable is also extremely gruesome, White House officials said in the media. Such images, they said, could anger al Qaeda sympathizers and reignite terrorist attempts on U.S. soil.
Officials described the bin Laden picture as showing the terrorist leader as having a gaping head wound over his left eye, They said it also shows brain matter and blood.
Fake bin Laden Picture Posted on Web
An image said to be the bin Laden picture held by the White House following his killing shows a blood-spatter likeness of the terror mastermind. But it was later described as a fake that had been circulating across the Internet for years.
Press Seeks bin Laden Picture
The Associated Press sought the bin Laden picture through a Freedom of Information Act request. "The Obama White House 'pledged to be the most transparent government in U.S. history and to comply much more closely with the Freedom of Information Act than the Bush administration did,'" The AP wrote.
Some lawmaker got to seen the bin Laden picture, but the image was not released to the public. The bin Laden picture was among several taken by Navy SEALS on the raid of his compound.