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Members of Congress see bin Laden photos

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Senator views bin Laden death photo
  • President Obama decided photos of al Qaeda leader's body won't be released to public
  • Select members of Congress are seeing them this week
  • Images are "gruesome," Sen. Inhofe says
  • Some members of Congress disagree with decision

Washington (CNN) -- More members of Congress are seeing something cleared for only a select group of Americans: Photos of Osama bin Laden's corpse.

Republican Sen. James Inhofe told CNN's Eliot Spitzer on Wednesday he saw about 15 photos of bin Laden's body, most taken at the al Qaeda leader's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Three were taken on a naval vessel from which bin Laden was buried at sea after the May 2 U.S. commando raid.

"Pretty gruesome" is how Inhofe described photos of brains hanging out of bin Laden's eye socket. The wound either entered or exited an ear, the Oklahoma senator said.

Many people have demanded proof that bin Laden was killed.

"That was him," said Inhofe, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "He is gone. He's history."

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, told CNN national correspondent Susan Candiotti he will see the images Thursday morning at the CIA's headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

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Members of Senate and House committees that deal with intelligence and military matters have been invited to see the photos in the coming days, but they won't be allowed to take any copies of the photos.

Nelson is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Inhofe said at least some of the photos should be released, but not all his congressional colleagues, including Nelson, agree.

Rep. Steny Hoyer, the House minority whip, last week said he supported President Barack Obama's decision to keep them under wraps.

"In my opinion, there's no end served by releasing a picture of someone who's been killed, and I think there is absolute proof that Osama bin Laden was in fact the person ... killed," said Hoyer, D-Maryland.

"It is not in our national security interest ... to allow these images to become icons to rally opinion against the United States," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters at the time. "We have no need to publish those photographs to establish that Osama bin Laden was killed."

Official: Bin Laden death offers 'new narrative' for Obama speech

U.S. Navy SEALs killed the al Qaeda leader last week in an attack on his compound. Bin Laden died of wounds to the head and chest.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said, "I actually haven't thought much about it, but I likely will" view the photos.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republican member of the Armed Services Committee, called Obama's decision on the photos a "mistake."

"The whole purpose of sending our soldiers into the compound, rather than an aerial bombardment, was to obtain indisputable proof of bin Laden's death. I know bin Laden is dead," the South Carolina lawmaker said last week. "But the best way to protect and defend our interests overseas is to prove that fact to the rest of the world. I'm afraid the decision made today by President Obama will unnecessarily prolong this debate."

Bin Laden relatives want probe and proof of death

Relatives of bin Laden want proof that the terrorist leader is dead and are calling for an investigation into how he was killed, according to Jean Sasson, an author who helped one of bin Laden's sons write a memoir.

CNN's Susan Candiotti contributed to this report.

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