CIA, Pentagon fight to keep Osama bin Laden death photos secret

Photos and videos of Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden after he was killed in May in a U.S. military/Central Intelligence Agency raid in Pakistan should not be released publicly because they would reveal military and intelligence secrets and could lead to violence against U.S. personnel, the Obama administration argued in papers filed in federal court in Washington late Monday night.

The new filings from the Justice Department provide scant details about the imagery, but CIA National Clandestine Service Director John Bennett wrote that the CIA has "52 unique....photographs and/or videorecordings" depicting bin Laden during or after the May operation. Bennett did not break down the tally further, but said all the imagery is classified "TOP SECRET," meaning that disclosure of the material could lead to "exceptionally grave damage" to U.S. national security.

"All of the responsive records are the product of a highly sensitive, overseas operation that was conducted under the direction of the CIA," Bennett wrote, arguing that disclosure of the information would reveal "intelligence activities and/or methods." He called the photos "gruesome," and said they depict the gunshot wound to bin Laden's head. It is unclear whether his descriptions referred to all the images and videos, or just some of them.

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