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Palin picture ‘pussy-footing’ salvo

Washington, May 5: In death, Osama bin Laden has pushed America into an unlikely spectacle: Sarah Palin giving a transparency sermon to an administration that had pledged to be the most open in US history.

Republican rabble-rouser Palin has asked Barack Obama to stop “pussy-footing around” Osama’s death photos after the President declared he won’t trot them out as “trophies”.

“Show photo as warning to others seeking America’s destruction. No pussy-footing around, no politicking, no drama; it’s part of the mission,” the 47-year-old former Alaska governor and defeated 2008 vice-presidential candidate tweeted.

Palin compared Obama’s decision on the photos to his recent sarcasm at those clamouring to see his birth certificate, which he recently released to answer Republican critics who claimed he did not meet the constitutional requirement that a President must be born in America.

“Don’t do kind of that birth certificate whole mocking of Americans for asking for it,” Palin was quoted by the New York Daily News as saying.

Obama had yesterday defended his decision not to release Osama’s death photos to avoid inciting “additional violence” or to have them used as a “propaganda tool”. He had said: “We don’t trot out this stuff as trophies.”

But Palin tweeted: “No games. Just release the photos and get it over with.”

The former beauty queen added that the President was providing fodder to conspiracy theorists, “especially in some Arab nations”, who are contesting the US version of Osama’s death.

“We are anxious for the photos, the proof, to be revealed so that we can show those terrorists and say, ‘We contained (bin Laden), we contained that hatred and that evil, and we have the pictures to prove it’,” she said.

However, Palin praised Obama for getting Osama. “I think the President made the right call and knew that we needed to get in there and strike hard,” she said.

Obama’s decision on the photos, however, received support from John Kerry, the defeated 2004 Democratic presidential candidate who is now Senate foreign relations committee chairperson.

“I believe it is absolutely the right decision,” Kerry said. “There is no clamour that I can discern requiring proof of death and I think it would create a kind of ghoulish exploitation that is not appropriate.... Could encourage repercussions in parts of the world.”

US officials have said the gruesome photos would not silence the doubters and, instead, could endanger US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. An official has said that bits of brain are visible in photos of the corpse.

Obama told CBS News yesterday that Osama’s death was well established.

“It would be of no benefit to gloat,” he said. “There are going to be some folks who deny it. The fact of the matter is you won’t see bin Laden walking on this earth again.”

“It is important for us to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence. I think that, given the graphic nature of these photos, it would create some national security risk.”

Prospects for ever seeing the photos are uncertain, said Scott Hodes, a former Freedom of Information and Privacy Act (FOIA) attorney at the Justice Department.

The White House is exempt from the FOIA, so the law wouldn’t apply if the images are controlled there. The CIA, which had operational control of the mission, and the defence department can use a series of exemptions from the act to block release of the images.

The Associated Press on Monday requested through the FOIA photos of Osama’s body and burial. The government has 20 days to respond to a FOIA request.

The Obama administration has pledged to comply much more closely with the FOIA than the Bush administration did. Ultimately, the issue could wind up in federal court.

“I think that it’s going to be a hard road,” Hodes said. “It’s not inconceivable that a court is going to say to release them. But I think the government will fight because it has made its decision.”

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