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CIA says release of Osama bin Laden's photo likely

By the CNN Wire Staff
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WH debates release of bin Laden photo
  • NEW: Officials debate the merits of such a release
  • NEW: A senior U.S. official says the clearest picture of bin Laden is gruesome
  • CIA Director Leon Panetta says it's up to the White House to make the final call
  • "I just think it's important, they know we have it, to release it," he says

Washington (CNN) -- CIA Director Leon Panetta said Tuesday he thinks a photograph of Osama bin Laden's body will be released at some point, but that it is up to the White House to make the final call.

A senior administration official told CNN that no decision has been made yet as to whether to release the photo.

"I just think it's important, they know we have it, to release it," Panetta said.

He did not know when the photograph might be made public.

Two Democratic senators, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Tuesday night they expected a photograph to be released shortly, but they did not have an exact time frame either.

An image of bin Laden's body could help to convince doubters about his death, but it could also inflame passions against the United States. U.S. officials have said they are weighing the appropriateness of such a release.

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According to a senior U.S. official, the White House has received three sets of photographs. The first batch, which clearly show bin Laden's body, was taken at a hangar in Afghanistan, the official said.

The official described one of the images as a clear, but gruesome, picture of his face. Bin Laden is shown with a massive open head wound across both eyes, the official said, adding that the image would not be appropriate for the front pages of newspapers.

The other photos include the raid on the compound and bin Laden's burial at sea, according to the official.

Tuesday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said she saw no need to release an image since there is other evidence to prove bin Laden is dead.

"I just don't see a need to do it," she said. "The DNA has been dispositive."

But Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman said it may be necessary to release an image to erase any doubts.

"I've said unless al Qaeda acknowledged that bin Laden was dead, it was important for the United States to release pictures of his body to confirm he is dead," he said Tuesday.

CNN's Jessica Yellin, Ted Barrett and Ed Hornick contributed to this report.

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