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Osama bin Laden image shown to senators was not likely authentic

U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss

U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The only people who had seen photos of a dead Osama Bin Laden appeared to be U.S. Senators. But late Wednesday night several admitted the images they had seen were likely not authentic.

Ranking member of Senate Intel committee Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) told media Wednesday morning the photos are, "what you would expect. Somebody's been shot in the head. It's not pretty."

When asked if the pictures should be held or released, he said, "one of these days they're going to be released. It's a question of whether to do it now on our terms or [let] somebody else do it."

But by evening, Chambliss admitted, "I was shown a photo by an individual that was represented to be a photo of Bin Laden after he'd been shot. It appeared to be an accurate photo. It was not an official photo. I have not seen an official photograph. I have no idea where it came from."

Chambliss was asked if he believed he was being shown an authentic photo. He responded, "Well it looked like it was a picture of Bin Laden."

Chambliss was not the only one. Sen. Scott Brown (D-Mass.) touted seeing the photographs in interviews with Boston TV affiliates. Brown made the case for not releasing the pictures, saying they might incite revenge, and assured viewers that Bin Laden was definitely dead.

Brown later told CNN he was shown a picture by a colleague on a blackberry, and now could not be sure it was authentic.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) also admitted she had only seen the picture on an electronic device. Earlier in the morning she told reporters another senator on her committee showed it to her.

The head area, obviously, he had been wounded. I can't describe it - give any better description than that," she said

The confusion capped off what was a contentious several days of debate in dining rooms and watercoolers around the country: should the photos of the dead terrorist leader be released? Would they help quell conspiracy theories? Would they incite further violence.

Ultimately President Obama decided Wednesday not to release the pictures.