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CIA says release of Osama bin Laden death photo likely

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WH debates release of bin Laden photo

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • 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 said 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.

Osama bin Laden's dead, now what?Video

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.

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.

Widely distributed photo is a fake

Tuesday, Sen. Diane 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 and Ted Barrett contributed to this report.

Part of complete coverage on

A deathblow to al Qaeda?

The killing of Osama bin Laden is "an enormously significant moment in the fight against al Qaeda terrorism," a CNN terrorism analyst says.

Timeline: Osama over the years

Osama bin Muhammad bin Awad bin Laden was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in 1957. He was the 17th of 52 children fathered by one man.

Who is bin Laden's successor?

"There's no one who can replace him," says CNN security expert Peter Bergen. "When you join al Qaeda you pledge a personal oath of allegiance (to him.)"

Jubilation in the U.S.

Americans broke into celebration in a show of patriotism against the man who committed his life to attacking U.S. citizens.

U.S. politicians react

Reaction from U.S. political leaders to Osama bin Laden's death was strong and swift. George W. Bush called it "a victory for America."

Transcript: Obama's speech

The words of U.S. President Barack Obama as he announced the death of the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.

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