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  1. Headline
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 5/13/2011 7:38:12 PM ET 2011-05-13T23:38:12

A government watchdog group Friday sued the federal government to release Osama bin Laden death photos and videos.

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Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said Friday at a news conference that the release of the images from the Navy SEALs' raid on bin Laden's Abbottabad, Pakistan, compound are in the public interest.

The group filed the lawsuit in Washington, D.C., federal court under the Freedom of Information Act against the Department of Defense. Judicial Watch is a conservative Washington-based public interest nonprofit.

The suit follows a May 3 FOIA request for the images from the Pentagon and CIA.

Other groups to submit FOIA requests for the photos include NPR, Politico, The Associated Press and conservative advocacy group Citizens United, according to TheAtlanticWire.com

The government had 20 days to respond to Judicial Watch's request, but the group said the Pentagon told it, "At this time, we are unable to make a release determination on your request within the 20-day statutory time period."

The CIA has not responded, Fitton said Friday.

He called images from the May 2 raid "basic information about one of the most important military operations in a generation."

SEALs killed bin Laden, who was hours later buried at sea from the USS Carl Vinson.

President Barack Obama said he had decided not to release post-mortem photos of bin Laden because doing so could incite violence and be used as an al-Qaida propaganda tool.

"The president's statements suggesting that these documents not be released because he doesn't want America to be seen as spiking the football or gloating are not lawful reasons for withholding the government information of this nature," Fitton said Friday.

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on Wednesday the CIA showed him raid photos, some of which he called "gruesome."

Inhofe said he saw 15 photographs, nine taken at the scene of the May 2 raid on a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan; three from the USS Carl Vinson; and three older photographs to compare for positive identification.

Reuters and NBC News contributed to this story.

Video: Onslaught of info paints clear portrait of bin Laden

  1. Closed captioning of: Onslaught of info paints clear portrait of bin Laden

    >>> now we turn overseas. the latest news resulting from the death of osama bin ladin . we seem to be learning more about him in the 11 days since his death at the hands of u.s. navy s.e.a.l.s than we've been able to learn in the past ten years. thanks to all that stuff the s.e.a.l.s were able to grab from his house on their way out, including a handwritten notebook. nbc 's peter alexander in islamabad again for us tonight. peter, good evening.

    >> reporter: brian, good evening to you. nbc news has learned in that handwritten notebook, osama bin ladin was focused on what one u.s. official calls spectacular attacks. he specifically mentioned four major u.s. cities as potential al qaeda targets. new york, washington, chicago and los angeles . senior u.s. military and intelligence officials tell nbc news from inside his hideout, bin ladin was fully engaged to carry out other 9/11 style attacks. describing him as a micro manager and meticulous note taker. he used his compound as a command and control center for al qaeda . compiling his thoughts and plans for new attacks in multiple documents including a handwritten 10-page notebook.

    >> he mentions the big cities , he mentions certain important dates, for example, the ten-year anniversary of 9/11 which is coming up. he mentions transportation, aviation and rail.

    >> reporter: this wave of intelligence is emerging through a government campaign of briefings and orchestrated leaks. he was preoccupied with attacking the united states over all other targets. a fixation that led to friction with followers. nbc news has learned the president and top u.s. military officials were listed as potential targets. but the vice president was said to be less of a target. why the information onslaught?

    >> they're sending a message to members of al qaeda that the americans may have information about you, they may have information about your whereabouts, about your plans, about your intentions, and it causes them to question what they're going to do.

    >> reporter: also seized in the raid, personal correspondence between bin ladin and senior al qaeda leaders. he spoke of where to attack, what times to attack, and which of his officers would be right for specific jobs. the navy s.e.a.l.s focused primarily on bin ladin 's office and left behind detailed logs of his and al qaeda 's activities and movements. logs now in the possession of pakistani authorities who have not yet agreed to share them. and tonight the associated press is reporting that bin ladin was actually a prolific e-mail writer, even though his compound had no internet access . through a complex system of thumb drives and couriers he was able to get his message out for years, while avoiding detection.

    >> peter alexander on the case in islamabad again tonight. peter, thanks.

Photos: The compound

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  1. Pakistani boys while demolition takes place on the compound where Osama bin Laden was slain in 2011 in the northwestern town of Abbottabad on Feb. 26, 2012.

    More photos from Abbottabad one year after Osama bin Laden (Aamir Qureshi / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. An aerial view shows the residential area of Abbottabad, Pakistan, where Osama bin Laden was found and killed by U.S. commandos. (Asif Hassan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. A general view of the town of Abbottabad, May 6. Bin Laden was living in a large house close to a military academy in this garrison town, a two-and-a-half hour-drive from the capital, Islamabad. (Khaqan Khawer / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Supporters of Pakistani religious party Jamaat-e-Islami rally to condemn the killing of bin Laden, in Abbottabad on May 6. (Aqeel Ahmed / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. A Pakistani woman photographs her daughter on May , at a gate of the compound where bin Laden was caught and killed. (Aqeel Ahmed / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. School girls pass by armed Pakistani policemen guarding the sealed entrance to the compound in Abbottabad, May 5, in which bin Laden had been living. (MD Nadeem / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Part of a damaged helicopter rests in the compound after U.S. Navy SEAL commandos killed bin Laden, May 2, in a photo made available on May 4. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Boys herd sheep past the compound where U.S. Navy SEAL commandos killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad May 5. (Akhtar Soomro / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Pakistani security officials arrive at the Osama bin Laden compound in Abbottabad on Wednesday, May 4. (Aamir Qureshi / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Local residents gather outside a burned section of bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad. (Aamir Qureshi / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A Pakistani police officer gestures at a checkpoint along a road leading to a house where bin Laden was captured and killed in Abbottabad. Area residents were still confused and suspicious about bin Laden's death, which took place before dawn on Monday. (Anjum Naveed / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Pakistani children look out from a high vantage point at bin Laden's compound on Tuesday, May 3. (Aqeel Ahmed / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Pakistan army troops remove canvas screens from outside the compound's house. (Anjum Naveed / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Neighbors and news media gather around the compound, right, after authorities ease security around the property. (Aqeel Ahmed / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. A satellite image, taken June 15, 2005, shows the Abbottabad compound, center, where bin Laden was killed in on Monday. (DigitalGlobe via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A Pakistani soldier secures the compound. (T. Mughal / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. The compound is seen in flames after it was attacked early May 2 in this still image taken from cellphone video footage. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Part of a damaged U.S. MH-60 helicopter lies the compound. The helicopter was destroyed by U.S. forces after a mechanical failure left it unable to take off. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. A still image from video obtained by ABC News shows blood stains in the interior of the house where bin Laden was killed. (ABC News via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Aerial views released by the Department of Defense show the area in Abbottabad in 2004, left, before the house was built, and in 2011, right. (Department of Defense via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. A graphic released by the Department of Defense shows the compound where bin Laden was killed. (Department of Defense via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Pakistani soldiers and police officers patrol near the house, background, where bin Laden had lived. (Anjum Naveed / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. The hideout of bin Laden is seen the day after his death. (Farooq Naeem / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Students look toward the compound from a nearby religious school in Abbottabad. (Faisal Mahmood / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Pakistani security officials survey the walls of the compound where bin Laden was killed. The outer walls were between 10 and 18 feet high. (MD Nadeem / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Pakistani soldiers stand guard near the compound May 2. (Anjum Naveed / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Boys collect pieces of metal from a wheat field outside bin Laden's house, seen in the background, on May 3. People showed off small parts of what appeared to be a U.S. helicopter that the U.S. says malfunctioned and was blown up by the American team as it retreated. (Anjum Naveed / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Pakistani security officials stand guard at the main entrance to the compound on May 3. (MD Nadeem / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. An image from video seized from the walled compound of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, and released by the U.S. Department of Defense, shows Osama bin Laden watching TV. He is said to have spent his last weeks in a house divided, amid wives riven by suspicions. On the top floor, sharing his bedroom, was his youngest wife and favorite. The trouble came when his eldest wife showed up and moved into the bedroom on the floor below. (Department of Defense via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image:
    Aamir Qureshi / AFP - Getty Images
    Above: Slideshow (29) After the raid: Inside bin Laden's compound - The compound
  2. Image:
    Timothy A. Clary / AFP - Getty Images
    Slideshow (81) After the raid: Inside bin Laden's compound - World reaction
  3. Image:
    Timothy A. Clary / AFP - Getty Images
    Slideshow (81) World reacts to death of Osama bin Laden - World reaction
  4. Image:
    Aamir Qureshi / AFP - Getty Images
    Slideshow (29) World reacts to death of Osama bin Laden - The compound

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