A federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday that Osama bin Laden’s death photos can stay a secret. The US government currently has more than 50 images marked classified that were taken of the al Qaeda leader after his death.
The ruling was unanimous by three judges on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The judges ruled that the photographs do not have to be released.
The ruling came in light of a lawsuit by Judicial Watch, which sued for photographs and videos taken during the May 2011 raid where US Special Forces killed bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
The organization’s lawsuit was based on the Freedom of Information Act, which guarantees public access to some government documents. However, the unsigned opinion by the panel stated that the images are so potent that releasing them to the public could cause riots and put Americans abroad at risk.
The assertion has also been made by the Obama administration. The opinion added:
“It is undisputed that the government is withholding the images not to shield wrongdoing or avoid embarrassment, but rather to prevent the killing of Americans and violence against American interests.”
The appeals court added that the CIA properly withheld publication of the images. The ruling goes against the conservative watchdog, who argued it was unlikely that images showing Osama bin Laden after he died would cause any harm to US national security. The photographs show bin Laden’s body being prepared for burial, as well as the burial itself.
During oral arguments in January, the group’s lawyer asserted that graphic photos of the al Qaeda leader’s corpse should be made available to the public, because they will distinguish somber images of bin Laden’s burial at sea. But the panel did not agree.
Do you think the US government should release the photos of Osama bin Laden after he died, or is the court’s ruling in the public’s best interest?