May 5 2011

It Isn't the Decision, But the Indecision About the Photo Release That's the Problem

Carrie L. Lukas

I appreciate Charlotte's perspective on the question of whether to release pictures of bin Laden to confirm his death.

I can definitely see both sides of the issue. It would good to be able to give the world hard evidence that he was actually slain. It wouldn't convince the most hardened conspiracy theorists, but would assure the vast majority of sane doubters. However, the picture would undoubtedly offend many, increasingly the likelihood of retaliation.

I understand the Administration's decision that the potential cons of releasing outweigh the pros (and now they just better make sure it doesn't get out anyway...). The biggest problem with the administration's decision, in my opinion, is that they took a couple days to make it. This should have been decided before the announcement of bin Laden's death went public. The hemming and hawing and differing explanations for why they are choosing not to release photos makes them look disorganized and a little political. Not good on such important matters of national security.

The President's latest explanation that he doesn't want to "spike the football" seems particularly off-putting, since he is taking every other chance to make the rounds to celebrate bin Laden's death, and giving the sense that he seems it as a personal, not just national, triumph.

More importantly, I cannot understand why the Administration has been trumpeting the treasure trove of intelligence information found in bin Laden's compound. Surely everyone in bin Laden's Rolodex is throwing away their cell phones and abandoning anything else that might link them to information on that compound, making the intelligence info far less useful.

Why mention this issue of other intelligence data at all? Why not say something like "the compound was destroyed in the firefight so nothing else of value was found." Maybe bin Laden's associates would have played it safe anyway, but maybe not. It seems like this was a football spiked, and with a very high potential penalty.

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