Update: Inhofe Describes the Bin Laden Photos

He's the first member of Congress to visit the CIA to view photographs

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Update: In an interview with The Atlantic Wire after he returned from the CIA headquarters, Inhofe described the photos he saw. He said he was shown 15 photos. A dozen of those were taken at the Abbottabad compound and appear to be "taken right after the instant he was shot." They sound gruesome. They show a massive head wound in the ear and eye. "The brains were coming out of his socket," Inhofe said. But he said three other photos were taken on board the ship before bin Laden's sea burial. In these, the body has been cleaned up and Inhofe, who has advocated releasing the photos, said, "It's much more reasonable to show the public these photos."

U.S. Senator James Inhofe will be the first member of Congress to take up the CIA's offer to view the postmortem photographs of Osama bin Laden at a Northern Virginia facility. Inhofe's visit is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. today. In the past week, the Oklahoma Republican has argued that the Obama administration should release the photos to the public to combat conspiracy theories regarding the death of bin Laden.

Inhofe's spokesman Jared Young told The Atlantic Wire, "Senator Inhofe views it as part of his responsibility as a member of the Armed Services Committee to be able to validate the photo and hopefully dispel conspiracy theorists who don't believe bin Laden is dead." Young added, "He may change his mind after he views them but he thinks the administration should make the photos public."

He also said that Inhofe was involved in orchestrating the arrangement with the CIA to invite members of the Senate and House Intelligence and Armed Services Committees. At a May 4 classified meeting, Young said, members of the Senate committees were briefed on the raid on bin Laden's compound and Inhofe pleaded with CIA director Leon Panetta to release the photos to select members of Congress.

A CIA spokesperson would not confirm Inhofe's role in arranging the meeting.

“Because the Bin Laden raid was the product of excellent cooperation between the intelligence community and the US military, access to the photos is being granted to members of the House and Senate Armed Services and Intelligence Committees," said the spokesperson. "The CIA strongly values the importance of Congressional oversight.”

Here is the full release from Inhofe's office:


WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), today became the first Member of Congress to view the death photos of Osama bin Laden recently made available by the CIA to members of the SASC and Intel Committee. During a secure briefing for members of the SASC and Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, May 4, 2011, Inhofe suggested to CIA Director Leon Panetta that the agency make the photos available to members of that briefing.  The CIA decided to comply with that suggestion, and Inhofe became the first member to view the photos.

“It is an important responsibility as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee to view these photos and be able to validate his death to the people of the nation,” said Inhofe prior to viewing the photos.  “By viewing these photos, I can help dispel conspiracy theorists who doubt that Bin Laden is in fact dead.  That is why I recommended that they make them available to members of the committee, and I appreciate Director Panetta following up on my suggestion.”

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.