Obama added that bin Laden “was deserving of the justice that he received” when U.S. commandos killed him and four other people in a raid on his fortress-like compound in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad early Monday local time.
“I think that Americans and people around the world are glad that he is gone,” Obama added. “But we don’t need to spike the football. And I think that given the graphic nature of these photos, it would create some national security risk.”
He said he discussed releasing the photos with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and his “intelligence teams,” and that all agreed with him that they should be withheld.
Excerpts of the interview with “60 Minutes” reporter Steve Kroft were read at a White House news briefing by press secretary Jay Carney. The full interview is scheduled to air Sunday.
Obama’s decision came a day after the White House backed away from initial accounts of the raid, acknowledging that bin Laden was neither armed nor using his wife as a human shield when he was shot and killed. Carney said that, according to a Defense Department account, bin Laden “resisted” when the commandos burst into his room, but neither the White House nor the Pentagon would elaborate.
In the wake of the raid, U.S. officials are pressing Pakistan to explain how bin Laden could have lived incognito for as many as six years in a bustling Pakistani city surrounded by military installations.
Bin Laden was shot in the head and chest in the raid by U.S. Navy SEALs who landed in helicopters at the compound north of the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. The al-Qaeda leader’s body was then flown out by helicopter and subsequently buried at sea following Islamic rites aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, according to U.S. officials.
Officials have said photos were taken of the corpse showing a gaping wound in bin Laden’s head.
A debate over whether to release the photos publicly — in part to convince skeptics that bin Laden was really killed — ensued within the Obama administration.
Asked by Kroft about doubts among some Pakistanis that bin Laden was really dead, Obama said he did not think that photos would “make any difference” in convincing conspiracy theorists determined to believe that the United States was lying about the operation.
“Certainly there’s no doubt among al-Qaeda members that he is dead,” Obama said. “There are going to be some folks who deny it. The fact of the matter is, you will not see bin Laden walking on this earth again.”