UPDATED at 2:40 p.m.: CBS has ended the supsense. Here are the quotes from Obama's interview with 60 Minutes:
"It is important 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 or as a propaganda tool," Obama said.
"We don't trot out this stuff as trophies," he added. "The fact of the matter is, this is somebody who was deserving of the justice that he received."
UPDATED at 1:58 p.m.: President Obama told CBS News that he won't release the post-mortem images. But it looks like CBS is (at least for now) holding on to the footage and exact quote until Wednesday evening's newscast.
UPDATED at 1:35 p.m.: President Obama has decided not to release any of the photographs of Osama Bin Laden's body, a senior White House official told NBC News.
Original story published at 8:39 a.m.: The White House may not release a photograph of Osama Bin Laden’s corpse after all.
Senior U.S. officials had suggested as recently as Tuesday that it was more a question of when, and not if, the government would release at least one of the reportedly gruesome photos it has in its possession. But ABC News reported Wednesday morning that President Obama is beginning to lean toward keeping the potentially inflammatory pictures under wraps.
ABC’s Jake Tapper, citing unidentified sources, reports that Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are among those advising Obama about concerns at the Pentagon and State Department of the potential for the release to ignite a backlash in the Muslim world.
Tapper: “The internal debate at the White House is then informed by this question: why are we releasing this photograph if no one seems to really doubt his death and releasing it could cause more harm than good?”
[It should be noted that Tapper was reporting on Tuesday that the president was considering releasing the photo that day.]
Still, a decision appears far from final, given that several senior officials have already said publicly that they expect at least one photograph to be released eventually.
“The government, obviously, has been talking about how best to do this, but I don’t think there was any question that ultimately a photograph would be presented to the public,” CIA director Leon Panetta said in an interview on NBC News Tuesday.
John Brennan, a top counterterrorism adviser to President Obama, told reporters Monday afternoon, that it would likely take some time for the White House to release a photo but that, ultimately, their goal was to make sure “nobody has any basis to try to deny that we got Osama Bin Laden.”
Obama may be waiting to let the dust settle to see exactly how much skepticism about Bin Laden’s death is out there. Given reports that one of Bin Laden’s daughters witnessed the shooting, it is possible that any backlash from the Muslim world will be focused on whether Bin Laden resisted capture before being shot and not whether he was killed. (Although, skeptics will, of course, remain regardless of whether a photo is ultimately released.)
If the White House does release one of the graphic photos, it would force some difficult decisions in newsrooms across the country and the world.
The Washington Post checked in with a handful of top editors to see if they plan to splash the photo across their front pages if it is released. The general takeaway: It will depend on exactly how gruesome the “gruesome” photos are.
(Although, given the wonders of the Web, even if most media outlets avoid publishing the photo, that won’t stop anyone with access to a computer from viewing the image.)