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Local Experts Weigh Merits Of Releasing Bin Laden Death Photos

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Osama Bin Laden

This undated file picture shows Saudi dissident Osama Bin Ladin speaking in a meeting in Afghanistan. (Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – The push is on for the public release of the graphic pictures of Osama bin Laden’s corpse, but some local experts have their doubts about the idea.

As CBS 2’s Kristyn Hartman reports, the plan is being called one of the gutsiest moves in the nation’s history.

The raid was not a sure thing. After scouring satellite photos, the CIA gave a 60 to 80 percent chance that bin Laden was actually in the Pakistani compound where he was found.

After President Barack Obama made the call to go ahead, CBS News reports his team got play-by-play, until one of the Black Hawk helicopters carrying Special Operations forces ran into trouble. The administration waited for information for 20 minutes, then learned that Navy SEALs had shot their way upstairs to bin Laden’s bedroom.

A woman ran toward one of the SEALs. After he shot her in the leg, he was in front of an unarmed bin Laden, whom he thought was a threat. He shot bin Laden twice, killing the mastermind of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

That narrative is good enough for some Chicagoans.

“No, no,” one man said when asked if he needed to see pictures of bin Laden’s corpse.

But bin Laden’s at-sea burial leaves others wanting proof he is really gone.

“That would help a great deal,” a woman said.

Northwestern University Law and History professor Kristen Stilt says there is precedent for releasing death pictures.

“There are pros and cons – it’s not an easy case at all,” she said.

There is a serious risk to releasing a picture of bin Laden, Stilt said.

That risk is “creating a new round of disturbances; of grievances; of turning him into a martyr,” she said.

Added Chicago Council on American-Islamic Relations executive director Ahmed Rehab, “It is a double-edged sword, and it has to be balanced against the conspiracy theories that are likely to come out if there’s no evidence provided by the government that this was Osama bin Laden.”

But Rehab says while a picture could foment retaliation, he thinks the world is entitled to proof.

Rehab’s suggestion is to have a third-party verify the DNA result proof that the body was bin Laden’s, and release that to the public.

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