There are now at least seven pictures of Osama bin Laden’s corpse that had not been officially acknowledged until last week, according to a letter the U.S. Department of Justice sent on Friday to Judicial Watch, a D.C.-based political watchdog group.
Michael Bekesha, a Judicial Watch Staff Attorney, had made a Freedom of Information Act request for photos of bin Laden’s corpse, and now he’s suing to have those photos released to the public.
The photos have never been made public despite repeated FOIA attempts by several journalists to have them released. The lack of photos, and the burial of bin Laden’s body at sea immediately after his death, have fueled conspiracy theories that bin Laden is either not dead or had been dead for several years prior to the official date on which he was killed.
On Friday, the Department of Justice responded to Bekesha’s and Judicial Watch’s FOIA request, telling them that the CIA only “recently located seven additional images” of Bin Laden’s body, but it won’t not release them. The justice department said the CIA found the photos too late to respond to Bekesha’s FOIA request.
The letter says, “Had they been located previously, these records would have been responsive to your FOIA request.”
The letter goes on to explain that “these images of Bin Laden’s corpse are of the same nature as the materials the CIA previously identified and discussed,” and, “given the similar nature of these additional images, the fact that they would have been withheld in full for the same reasons as other records, and the fact that Judicial Watch did not challenge the CIA's search, we [the DoJ] do not believe the discovery of these additional images is relevant to the appeal currently pending before the D.C. Circuit.”
The letter also says that John Bennett, Director of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service, has “personally reviewed these seven additional images” and concluded they still need to be classified.
Judicial Watch describes itself as “a conservative, non-partisan American educational foundation that promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics, and the law.” They receive much of their funding from conservative billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, who runs the Sarah Scaife Foundation and the Carthage Foundation, both of which give grants to public policy groups.
Maya covers the U.N., Europe, and the Middle East for IBTimes. She joined the company in July 2012 after having previously worked with DNAinfo.com and Gawker.