AP Takes Legal Action for the Release of bin Laden Death Photos

President Obama announced last week that photographs of Osama bin Laden’s body would not be released to the public due to concerns that it would incite violence and hatred, but a number of news agencies and advocacy groups are attempting to have them released using a Freedom of Information Act request. The Associated Press is one of the agencies that filed a FOIA request (they’re also requesting that video of the raid be released), and the US government has 20 days to respond.

Photographer Chase Jarvis points out that this is a good example that shows the enduring power of the photograph:

If you’re wondering why, the answer is simple. A photograph–an image–is an incredibly powerful thing. It can be a tool, intentionally or incidentally. It can tell an entire story of a month, year, decade, or a generation, captured in perhaps just 1/1000 of a second. An image change a life, end a war, start a riot, bring someone joy, inspire a revolution, open or close a debate. An image can move the world.

The Guardian also published an interesting article discussing the debate raging over whether the photograph — which they call “the world’s most incendiary image” — should be released.

Photography, for better or worse, possesses this immediate power in a way that words – too reflective – and the moving image – too animated – do not. It is a moment, freeze-framed forever.

Do you think the photographs and videos captured during and after the raid should be made public as part of our historical record?

(via Novinite)

Image credit: Bin Laden Stencil by bixentro

  • Dave Phillipich

    DNA evidence is infinitely more conclusive, so at this point it’s just about getting to see blood and gore. Why allow that photo to be used in a million photoshop memes and sell a million t-shirts? Let it die along with OBL.

  • Santa Galimgereyeva

    yes, it should be released indeed.

  • Ross Ching

    I thought we should release it until I heard Obama’s reasoning last night on 60 Minutes. Conspiracy theorists will still hold doubt no matter what the White House releases, and even though bin Laden didn’t show respect for the people he killed, we’re better than that.

  • Anonymous

    That’s why the US tortures people. So much better than that.

  • Jason

    Photo: absolutely.

    Video: probably not, as it could be used to identify the SEAL team. It will stay classified, just as their identities.

  • Anonymous

    Well, not necessarily the U.S. but a certain president and his cronies.

  • Anonymous

    Well, not necessarily the U.S. but a certain president and his cronies.

  • nb

    The Associated Press is using the “Freedom of Information” argument in a disgusting attempt to make some money. Shame on them.

  • Seth Christie

    This could spin out of control, but I’ll bite. Hypothetically, what if the information we got from torture led to Osama’s undoing? Does the end justify the means in this case? Or should the moral high road always be taken no matter the cost?

  • Anonymous

    I’m Anti-Bush as the next guy, but the blame doesn’t solely rest on him anymore. The new government, Obama and US citizens are all complicit in advocating torture now as well.

  • Anonymous

    Hypothetically, what if we stopped more planes from being flown into buildings by asking millions of passengers to expose themselves daily to x-ray scanners and body searches? Does the end justify the means in this case as well?

    Actually, those stuck in legal limbo in Cuba were part of the process that led to Obama’s downfall. It’s no longer a hypothetical question.

    I’m being serious here. But did anybody watch Star Trek DS9, there was 7 years of that show that dealt with these kinds of morality issues that we discuss everyday for the last 10 years; terrorism, defining the differences between terrorists and freedom fighters, territorial occupation, revenge and eventually war. Never mind, basic right and wrong, ethics, schooling and good parenting, we should be educated enough to realise it’s not the correct solution and its shouldn’t justify the means.

    There are other ways of doing things that don’t make the US look so hypocritical in this day and age. But it takes braver, smarter rational thinking people to do it.

  • Eduardo Mueses

    Like everything, there are always two sides to the equation. Doesn’t anybody remember what happened when they released the hanging of Saddam Hussein? I agree that this is just an attempt to gain other things other than the truth (money, publicity, etc). In this world where everything, and I mean everything is made into a sensation or a meme, I for one do not need to see pictures or videos. What I need is to go on with my life and let the death rest in peace.

  • Jen Andrews

    Bullsh*t the newspapers want it released so they can make money by running the picture in their papers. they could give a damn about anything else

  • Pete

    Don’t publish it. Invite a select few people from around the world to view it (authenticate it) at the White House and then destroy it. Same goes for the video unless as Jason said it could potentially identify any of the parties involved. If so, just destroy it.

    I personally would appreciate it if all media would stop publishing photos of deceased humans. It is unnecessary and accomplishes nothing except dishonouring the deceased. Good person, bad person or unidentified person, let them die with dignity.


  • Graysmith

    While I do think that showing a gruesome, bloody photo of Bin Laden dead might be a bad idea, what I’ve been wondering the past week or so is that there ought to be far less gruesome photos of him dead taken when he was supposedly cleaned, clothed and buried under Muslim customs. If they indeed did that, any such photo can’t possibly be that gruesome. It’d surely still incite anger among certain groups, but probably not as bad as a gruesome, bloody one.

  • Billy

    I’m curious to know what is the other ways? I couldn’t help but to snicker when I read the words “serious” and “Star Trek DS9″. Dude, DS9 is written by a bunch of writers from hollywood ripping ideas from real people.

  • Anonymous

    Other ways? I think it’s pretty obvious, if you have to snicker and then ask, there’s something wrong with you. It involves not illegally invading a country (Iraq), not lying to other governments and voters, not torturing civilians (don’t forget rendition) in secret, not screening citizens and creating a security theatre and creating a climate of fear, not creating a war against an abstract term.

    Instead you win the respect of other countries through honest actions, open intelligent discussion with voters and nations, clever deployment of troops, surgical strike teams; instead of killing millions, kill hundreds, the top men in terrorist organisations. That way you’re not killing innocent civilians and not trying to lie about it later.

    The way they approached Osama’s den, has been the best military decision since the mess started. Imagine that was done 100 times.

    Oh and just because you don’t take Star Trek seriously, doesn’t mean their ideas are less valid. Nice attempt at a Strawman.

  • phill

    If the Navy seals have not done anything wrong then the video should be released, if they have done something wrong and murdered an unarmed man, going in with the intent on doing so then they should all get whats coming. The government went in against the knowledge of the Pakistan government and Obama even said that he sent in extra men (blackhawk helicopters, and had a Navy Seals ship offshore) so if it turned bad they could fight their way out. The video needs to come out!