Florida Senator views bin Laden pictures, is satisfied

McClatchy NewspapersMay 12, 2011 

WASHINGTON – Florida Sen. Bill Nelson on Thursday reviewed the still-classified photographs of Osama bin Laden’s corpse and said he’s convinced the U.S. got its long-sought target.

“There is no doubt in my mind – nor should there be in anyone else’s – that we got the terrorist who orchestrated the insane and murderous acts that took place on Sept. 11, 2001,” Nelson said after examining the photographs at Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in northern Virginia.

The Florida Democrat didn’t say much about what he saw, but other members of Congress offered gory details of a gaping head wound, blood and brain matter. President Obama has declined to release the photos, saying they could inflame anti-American sentiment – without satisfying skeptics that bin Laden is dead. The White House did offer lawmakers on certain committees an opportunity to view the pictures at the CIA. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, like Nelson, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was invited but said he’s certain bin Laden is dead and hasn’t made an appointment to view the photographs.

Lawmakers who saw the pictures said they had no doubt.

“They’re pretty graphic. He’s definitely dead,” Florida Republican Rep. Tom Rooney, told the Palm Beach Post. “You can definitely see his brain. It’s pretty gory.”

Rep. Ben Chandler, a Kentucky Democrat and member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence called the photos “gruesome, quite gruesome.

“The striking thing was the size of the wound on his head."

Chandler described a large wound that spread over most of bin Laden's head, severe bruising, swelling and brain matter. The level of specific detail depicted in the photos, coupled with DNA evidence, should serve as proof of bin Laden's death, Chandler said.

Administration officials have said one bullet hit bin Laden, 54, above the left eye and the other entered his chest.

The type of weapon, caliber of bullet, distance at which bin Laden was shot and full extent of structural damage done have not been formally divulged.

Nelson had supported the president’s decision to not release the photographs publicly, but has suggested they be released at a later date when the commander in chief determines there is no risk of attack.

“Satisfying skeptics and conspiracy theorists isn’t worth inflaming radicals or putting our troops in even more danger,” Nelson said after looking at the pictures. “Still, I personally believe the free flow of information is tantamount to our democracy. Thus, these pictures should eventually be made part of the public record.”

He has written to President Obama asking that the pictures be released “as early as it can be determined that doing so won’t expose Americans to harm.

“For now, you can know this: Osama bin Laden is dead,” Nelson said. “But, our job is not yet done. We need to continue moving forward with purpose and vigilance here at home and abroad.”

(Halimah Abdullah and Michael Doyle of the McClatchy Washington Bureau contributed to this report.)

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