It has been over a week since the Navy SEALs conducted the successful raid that killed Osama bin Laden. One would think the Obama Administration would have had a banner week since the successful operation against the man who killed nearly 3,000 people almost ten years ago. Unfortunately, like everything else the Obama Administration is a part of, they have mucked up what should have been the pinnacle of President Obama’s first term. It started out with the Obama Administration eagerly getting out the details of the operation before the Navy SEALs were debriefed on their successful mission. The first report was that bin Laden fired on the SEALs and used a woman, possibly his wife, as a human shield. Both statements had to be walked back by the much maligned White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Tuesday, when he talked from a script giving the “official” account. Which takes us to the death photo of Osama bin Laden and its possible release. CIA Director Leon Panetta said in an interview with NBC News last Tuesday, “The government obviously has been talking about how best to do this, but I don’t think there was any question that ultimately a photograph would be presented to the public.” Nearly 1,500 people voted in our Facebook poll asking whether the Obama Administration should release the photo, and an overwhelming majority said YES. Unfortunately, it fell on deaf ears. Last Wednesday, one day removed from the Panetta pronouncement, Jay Carney went back to the podium and said that President Obama decided against releasing the death photo of Osama bin Laden. At that point, I had seen enough. Citizens United submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the relevant agencies for the death photos of Osama bin Laden and the corresponding video of his burial at sea. As we say in our FOIA request, we do not believe the materials to be covered by any of the nine traditional FOIA exceptions. Only one could even plausibly be asserted – that the image is exempted because it is a classified matter of national defense. To assert that the image is classified would stand in opposition to the facts and the current state of the law. The United States government has publicly acknowledged its role in the Abbottabad raid and the capture and death of Osama bin Laden. To provide visual confirmation of the death of Osama bin Laden could hardly be said to “cause identifiable or describable damage to the national security.” The Obama Administration would be ill advised to improperly declare an image classified. Such a politically motivated move would further tarnish the Administration. The American people have the right to see this dead terrorist, and the Obama Administration should backup its boasts about transparency. The families of the September 11th victims need closure and for the Administration to first say that the photo would be released only to then take it back is just toying with their emotions. The argument that releasing the photo will anger the Muslim world is no argument at all. As Debra Burlingame, who lost her brother Charles F. “Chic” Burlingame III, pilot of American Airlines flight that crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11, said, “Al-Qaida doesn’t need an excuse to kill Americans. Everything is an excuse to kill Americans.” We have witnessed misstep after misstep with this President. The Obama Administration is like the gang who couldn’t shoot straight. Thankfully, the Navy SEALs can.
David N. Bossie has served as president of Citizens United and Citizens United Foundation since 2001. Citizens United was founded in 1988, and is one of the leading conservative advocacy groups in the country with over 500,000 members and supporters. For more information please visit citizensunited.com.
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