- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 3, 2011

CIA Director Leon E. Panetta signaled Tuesday evening that the Obama administration will release a photo confirming Osama bin Laden’s death as the White House revised its earlier description of his killing, including the fact that he was not armed when he was shot by U.S. special operations forces.

White House press secretary Jay Carney also said one of the al Qaeda founder’s wives, who was in the room with him Sunday night, was injured but not killed in the daring 40-minute raid on a compound in northeastern Pakistan, and said bin Laden resisted but did not actually reach for a weapon — details that President Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser gave reporters a day earlier.

Mr. Carney warned that the image of bin Laden, who was shot in the head, is “gruesome,” and said it “could be inflammatory” if released. But Mr. Panetta told NBC News a photo would come out.

“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,” Mr. Panetta said.

The White House said it doesn’t want anyone to have reason to question the fact that bin Laden died Sunday at the hands of an elite U.S. assault team, and some lawmakers have said the administration should release the potentially jarring proof to discredit potential conspiracy theories that the terrorist leader is alive.

“I think for purposes of 100 percent identification, there’s value in doing so. And that would be the only reason,” Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, told reporters Tuesday, adding that DNA tests have nevertheless “been dispositive.”

The White House on Monday received three sets of photos related to the incident, according to a CNN report citing a senior U.S. official. They include photos of bin Laden’s body at a hangar in Afghanistan, providing the clearest — but reportedly most gruesome — picture of his face, as well as photos from his burial at sea aboard an aircraft carrier and from the raid itself.

Photos from the raid include the corpses of bin Laden’s son and two couriers, CNN reported.

Mr. Carney wouldn’t go into details about who in the administration has reviewed the photographic proof and where it is, though he said Mr. Obama has been “intimately involved” in the discussions.

Mr. Obama is scheduled to visit ground zero in New York on Thursday, where the White House said he’ll meet with families of some of the victims of the World Trade Center attack and first responders.

The administration continued to refine the narrative about the decade-long search for bin Laden and the final raid that ended his life.

Mr. Panetta confirmed to NBC that at least some of the information that led to bin Laden was gleaned from suspected terrorist detainees during the use of enhanced interrogation techniques, which some critics have said amounts to torture.

A U.S. official told The Washington Times that information came during the use of waterboarding.

But the White House retracted several pieces of information John Brennan, Mr. Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, told reporters Monday at the White House. In addition to implying that bin Laden was reaching for a weapon when he was shot and killed by U.S. forces, Mr. Brennan suggested the terrorist leader used his wife as a human shield to protect himself.

Bin Laden was “not armed,” Mr. Carney said Tuesday, and his wife was not killed but shot in the leg when she rushed a member of the assault team that stormed the fortified compound via helicopter and went room-by-room clearing it out.

Two other families in addition to the bin Laden family lived on the property, with one residing in the same building as bin Laden and the other occupying a neighboring building. Mr. Carney said one team cleared the bin Laden building, beginning the operation on the first floor and working their way to the third floor.

Bin Laden and his family were found on the second and third floor of the building,” Mr. Carney said. “There was concern that bin Laden would oppose the capture operation, and indeed he did resist.”

Asked how bin Laden could resist capture if he were unarmed, Mr. Carney said he was unable to elaborate.

“Resistance does not require a firearm,” he said.

Mr. Carney said U.S. forces ran the operation from the ground and made the final call to kill bin Laden.

The press secretary said contradictory accounts of the raid arose through the “fog of combat” and noted that officials are working to declassify information about the raid at “record speed” for public consumption.

“There was a lot of information coming in,” he said, adding that it’s not clear if a woman killed in the crossfire on first floor of the compound was used as a human shield.

The new narrative included additional details about bin Laden’s burial at sea, which was conducted “in conformance with Islamic precepts and practices” aboard the USS Carl Vinson in the north Arabian Sea, Mr. Carney said.

“A military officer read prepared religious remarks which were translated into Arabic by a native speaker. After the words were complete, the body was placed on a prepared flat board, tipped up, and the deceased body eased into the sea,” he said.

News of bin Laden’s death sparked celebration across the U.S., particularly in Washington and New York City, the targets of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that he helped orchestrate. It also gave the president a popularity boost in the polls.

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