Public disclosure of graphic photos and video taken of Osama bin Laden after he was killed in May by U.S. commandos would damage national security and lead to attacks on American property and personnel, the Obama administration contends in a court documents.
In a response late Monday to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch, a politically conservative watchdog group seeking the imagery, Justice Department attorneys say the CIA has located 52 photographs and video recordings.
The department argues that the images of the deceased bin Laden are classified and are being withheld from the public to avoid inciting violence against Americans overseas and compromising techniques used by the CIA and the military.
The Justice Department is asking the court to dismiss Judicial Watch's lawsuit because the records the group wants are "wholly exempt from disclosure," according to the filing.
Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, accused the Obama administration of making a "political decision" to keep the bin Laden imagery secret.
"We shouldn't throw out our transparency laws because complying with them might offend terrorists," Fitton said in a statement. "The historical record of Osama bin Laden's death should be released to the American people as the law requires."
The Associated Press has filed Freedom of Information Act requests to review materials from the mission. The Obama administration refused the AP's request. The AP appealed the decision.
In a declaration included in the documents, John Bennett, director of the CIA's National Clandestine Service, says many of the photos and video recordings are "quite graphic, as they depict the fatal bullet wound to (bin Laden) and other similarly gruesome images."
Images were taken of bin Laden's body at his compound and during his burial at sea, Bennett said.
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