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The death photos of bin Laden

May 4, 2011 1:31:19 PM PDT
To release or not to release? That was the oh-so-complicated and controversial question that faced the Obama Administration about the photos and video of the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound, his assassination, and his burial at sea.

The argument in favor of releasing all of it is that it would prove to those conspiracy freaks who somehow, someway doubt that bin Laden is actually dead.

Donald Trump led the charge for President Obama to release his birth certificate. Maybe it's not a huge leap for Mr. Trump to become the sideshow barker pumping for the release of bin Laden's death certificate. (The joke going around today was that Trump is now calling for the President to release his R&B records.)

There are plenty of arguments against releasing the pictures and video - not the least of which is the threat of inflaming even more anger toward the U.S. for killing a man that some Muslims hail as a hero. It's a minority of Muslims, to be sure, but it's still hundreds of millions around the world. And the pictures are graphic and gruesome - how could they not be, with a man shot in the head?

The issue of whether to release or not, like the proverbial buck, stops with the President. And tonight Pres. Obama - making the decision to keep the pictures and video classified, and not release them publicly.

In the end, however, these things usually become public - and there's certainly lots of historical precedence for doing it. Truth seems to be the most important reason to release it, because the truth will out, as they say. And this afternoon some news organizations have already released pictures of the other victims - gruesome to be sure, and I now I wish I hadn't seen it.

Anyway, I suspect the controversy isn't over. We'll see.

By the way, Secretary of State Clinton and Secretary of Defense Gates both argued against the release, while CIA Director Panetta argued for it. In fact, Panetta yesterday said he thought the pictures/video would be released. Perhaps he ought-notta-shudda said that.

I'm just sayin'.

We did some polling today about the picture controversy, and found that nearly three-quarters of folks in the tri-state believe the pictures should be released.

40 percent say certain photos should be released. And 35 percent said they want all of them released. 23 percent say they don't want any photographs released.

Interestingly, 68 percent said they'd look at the photos - which is less than the total number (75 percent) that said they want at least some of them public.

We'll have the latest on the photo controversy, tonight at 11.

Also at 11, our Jim Dolan is in Pakistan, looking at the compound where bin Laden hid in plain sight for, apparently, about five years, and taking a closer look at whether the Pakistani government knew about it. How could it have NOT known about it? That's certainly a question many are now asking.

And the tension levels between the U.S. and Pakistan seem to be increasing tonight. American officials are now asking to interview the youngest of bin Laden's wives, who was the only spouse of his to be living at the compound, and who was wounded in the raid. Pakistani officials have basically said, no way.

Another important question is how harsh interrogation tactics and even torture, like water boarding, led those U.S. Navy Seals to bin Laden. The issue is being kept front-and-center by former Bush Administration officials who insist the killing of the Al Qaeda leader (although how operationally involved he was seems cloudy - after all, he had no phones or Internet) vindicates their controversial practices against terrorist detainees in places like Guantanamo Bay. We're exploring that tonight at 11 as well.

There's no question that the killing of Osama bin Laden has helped the ratings of Pres. Obama. The latest New York Times/CBS News poll shows Mr. Obama with a 57 percent job approval rating - that's up 11 points since last month.

It's not uncommon for Presidents to see a poll number boost when there's a big and successful event. When invading U.S. troops found Iraq's Saddam Hussein in 2003, Pres. Bush's ratings went up 8 points right off the bat. The bump didn't last the month, however.

Also at 11, we're taking a closer look at something I talk to my kids about all the time: The Internet is forever. And that means those social networking sites are forever as well. Is there anything on, say, your Facebook page that you wouldn't want, say, a future employer, to see?

And if you say, no, of course not, then you might be just fooling yourself. Tonight, our Phil Lipof, a father himself, takes a look at the growing worry of many parents - what's out there on the Internet, forever, and what you can do to protect yourself from, er, ah, youthful miscalculations.

We'll also have any other breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Rob Powers with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

One more note: I'll be at Ground Zero tomorrow, anchoring our coverage of Pres. Obama's visit. We'll preview tonight at 11 some of the logistical problems peeps who work down there might encounter.


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