The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] on Monday filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit calling for the release of photographs taken shortly after Osama bin Laden's death. Nonprofit organization Justice Watch [advocacy website] filed a complaint [text, PDF] against the Obama administration in May, claiming that the government violated the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text] by refusing to release photographs of bin Laden's body. Obama announced in May that the US government would not release the photographs and now defends the decision, arguing in its motion that publicizing the graphic images would encourage violence against Americans [AP report] and would jeopardize classified military information. Other scholars agree that the photographs should remain undisclosed [JURIST op-ed]. Judicial Watch urged the administration to comply with the FOIA and promote transparency.
As founder and leader of al Qaeda [JURIST news archive], Bin Laden represents the highest profile terror target captured or killed by the US. Bin Laden was killed [JURIST report] in early May by American military forces in Pakistan. Critics have questioned the legality of the targeted killing, arguing that such an action violates international law [JURIST op-ed]. Bin Laden had topped the US list of Most Wanted Terrorists [FBI backgrounder] and is believed to have approved or helped plan many notorious terror attacks including those against New York and Washington DC on September 11, 2001, the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole [JURIST news archives], attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania [PBS backgrounder] in 1998 and the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.