Updated 1:30 p.m.
More than 50 images of Osama bin Laden taken after his death in Pakistan in 2011 can remain secret, exempt from public disclosure under public records laws, a federal appeals court in Washington said today.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said 52 post-mortem images were properly classified as Top Secret. The panel upheld a trial judge's ruling that blocked the release of images. The appellate court ruling is here.
The U.S. Justice Department argued in the trial and appellate courts that the disclosure of graphic images of bin Laden—including a gunshot wound to his head—could expose the United States to retaliation. The plaintiff, Judicial Watch, rejected the notion that less gruesome images—for instance, bin Laden's burial at sea—would incite violence.
"As the district court rightly concluded, however, the CIA’s declarations give reason to believe that releasing images of American military personnel burying the founder and leader of al Qaeda could cause exceptionally grave harm," the D.C. Circuit panel said in its per curiam decision.