On Thursday federal appeals judges refused to take steps to order release to the public of Osama bin Laden death images. The conservative group Judicial Watch is seeking to obtain any photo and video evidence of the dead former Al Qaeda front man through a Freedom of Information Act request and lawsuit.
Shortly after the 2011 U.S. raid on a residence in Pakistan that was reported to have killed bin Laden, President Obama said that images of the corpse or its maritime burial would not be released due to concerns over inciting violence from Islamic extremists.
Since that time, the courts have upheld the government’s position that any image of a dead bin Laden will never be released. In April, U.S. District Judge James Broasburg gave the initial denial of Judicial Watch’s request.
“In this case, verbal descriptions of the death and burial of Osama bin Laden will have to suffice, for this court will not order the release of anything more,” Broasburg said in his statement.
According to reports from the Associated Press, the CIA found 52 images relevant to the FOIA request from Judicial Watch, but withheld all of them based on laws pertaining to classified national security information and other exempting statues.
Thursday the majority of judges from a three-member appeals panel voiced opinions affirming the logic of the Obama administration on the matter and agreed with the earlier decision to deny Judicial Watch’s request.
During Thursday’s hearing on the matter, U.S. Circuit Judge Merrick Garland asked, “Why should we not defer to the executive branch officials? They are telling us there is a risk – not a certainty – that Americans will die if we release these documents.”
Judge Judith Rogers also agreed with the argument of Obama and intelligence officials that the release of any image or video of bin Laden’s corpse would cause increased anti-American sentiment and violence.
“This is the founder [of Al Qaeda],” Rogers said. “These images could be used for propaganda.”
It has not been reported if any of the judges on the appeals panel have seen the actual images of a dead bin Laden.