By Molly K. Hooper - 05/13/11 10:06 AM EDT
Lawmakers on key committees can view the photos of Osama bin Laden’s body, but only if they travel to CIA headquarters in Langley, Va.
The Obama administration has cleared legislators on the House and Senate Intelligence and Armed Services committees to view the photographs of the deceased terrorist.
The White House announced recently that it would not release the photos taken of bin Laden after he was killed by Navy SEALs earlier this month.
Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.), who sits on the Intelligence Committee, indicated he is open to seeing the photos, but not so anxious to make a trip to Langley.
The CIA and other agencies hold closed intelligence briefings regularly on Capitol Hill, but the photos will not be leaving Langley anytime soon.
Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), the ranking member of the Intelligence panel, who viewed the photos on Thursday, said the CIA has insisted members come to Langley.
Ruppersberger stressed that even at first glance, it is clear that the man in the photos is bin Laden.
He told The Associated Press, “His hair was dark. His beard was dark. Now, there were some photos that I observed on TV that showed that he had a gray beard, but I guess that he had prepared himself in one way or another because the beard that I saw was dark.”
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), who quit his job and joined the Marine Corps the day after 9/11, told The Hill that seeing the pictures of bin Laden “made [my] day.”
“[The photos] showed him dead, after our guys took him out of the house — the photos went all the way from the house to on the ship before he was pushed overboard,” Hunter said.
“It was like a storybook. Put it this way: I am deeply and immensely satisfied at the way this guy exited the world,” Hunter said, adding that the photos should be released for the public to see.
“There are one or two photos that are not gory. His head is misshapen because of the bullet, but it’s not gory,” said Hunter, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The California Republican said he has “seen way worse in Iraq.”
Intelligence Committee Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) released a statement shortly following her viewing in Virginia.
“This morning at the CIA headquarters I saw the photos of a dead Osama bin Laden. I am convinced that this was bin Laden. We got our man,” Bachmann said.
Armed Services Committee member Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), who also viewed the photos of bin Laden, called on the administration to release the “least graphic of the photos because it could bring closure” for 9/11 victims’ families and “for all Americans.”
“Seeing the photos was very sobering, and I do not take this decision to call for their release lightly. Although there are legitimate views on both sides, on balance, I think that more good is done by releasing a photo than by not,” Lamborn said.
Ruppersberger acknowledged that there is “some” clamoring from lawmakers to allow all members of Congress to view the photos. He said he wouldn’t have a problem with that policy, but said that decision is up to the administration.
Bob Cusack contributed.