WASHINGTON — Though a select group of lawmakers are getting a chance to view the graphic photos of Osama bin Laden's body this week, several Georgia lawmakers, many of whom sit on intelligence committees, have thus far passed on the opportunity.
"I currently haven't seen the photos," said Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Newnan, who sits on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. "I take my job on the Intelligence Committee very seriously and I am confident we have finally killed Osama Bin Laden. I would like to personally thank our military and intelligence personnel for all they have done for us."
Sen. Saxby Chambliss, vice chairman of and ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, also has not yet seen the photos at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va. His staff said it was unclear whether the senator would do so. Last week there was a brouahaha over how some lawmakers, including Chambliss, came to believe they'd seen a photo of bin Laden's dead body.
"The photo I saw was shown to me by somebody who represented it to me as bin Laden after he was shot," Chambliss told reporters from Fox News and other media outlets last week. "I have no idea where it came from."
In the meantime, lawmakers who have seen the photos describe the images as gruesome.
The photos show a large wound that spread over most of bin Laden's head, severe bruising, swelling and brain matter, said Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Ky., who also sits on the House intelligence panel. The level of specific detail depicted in the photos, coupled with DNA evidence provided, should serve as proof of bin Laden's death, he said.
Members of Congress who've seen the photos have differed over whether they should be made public.
"The truth is there are going to be some people who either believe in conspiracy theories or push propagandas for their own purposes," Chandler said. "History suggests it is a good idea to show the body or pictures to put at ease as many people as you can."
However, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., also on the intelligence committee, saw some photos and came away convinced they must remain under lock and key.
Another lawmaker who saw the photos, Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, insisted that at least some of the photos should be released. Inhofe said he spent about an hour examining more than a dozen photos, some showing gruesome wounds.
Inhofe was among the first in what is expected to be a caravan of lawmakers making the trek to CIA headquarters in Northern Virginia to view the photos.
Others have opted out.
"I don't want to see it," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said, calling the photos "morbid."
President Barack Obama, saying he does not want to "spike the football," declared the photos would not be released publicly.
The public at large would have a chance to see the photos if AP and other news organizations succeed in Freedom of Information Act requests filed to gain access. The CIA, though, is likely to cite national security or other concerns in rejecting the FOIA requests.
At least some of the photos show bin Laden's face, or what remained of it after he was shot twice by a Navy SEAL. Administration officials say 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.
(Michael Doyle of the Washington Bureau contributed.)
McClatchy Newspapers 2011