Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Marines at Camp Lejeune today that both he and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “strongly recommended” to President Obama that he not release the photographs of Osama bin Laden’s corpse “to protect our troops, but also to protect other Americans who are living abroad -- our civilians, our diplomats and others -- because if these photos were misused, then the danger of them inflaming reaction we considered to be very real.”
Gates called the president’s ruling on the issue “the right decision. I realize the desire for closure on the part of a lot of folks who suffered losses on 9/11, and since then at the hands of this guy, and before.”
The secretary said he and Clinton were concerned not only about the pictures “themselves inflaming people who were bin Laden's adherents and radical extremists, but we were also worried about the potential for manipulation of those photos and doing things with those photos that would be pretty outrageous in terms of provoking a reaction that might in fact put our troops at greater risk in both Iraq and Afghanistan.”
After all, Gates noted that he’d been sent from “friends all over the country copies of the picture that was this iconic picture taken in the Situation Room while we were watching the operation. And they have been photoshopped in every way you can imagine.” One of them had “all of us in one of these big, wide-brimmed hats from the wedding. Another had various football players seated at the table that had been photoshopped in. Others had other politicians photoshopped in. So this is all pretty harmless and humorous stuff.”
But photoshopping the bin Laden corpse photo – not so harmless and humorous, he suggested.
-Jake Tapper ( @jaketapper )