Psst, want to see photos of bin Laden's body?

FBI warns about e-mail message that promise pictures or video from raid

This article has been updated from its original version to include word from the White House about releasing photos.

President Barack Obama says he won't release photos of Osama bin Laden's body, and the FBI is warning people not to be fooled by e-mail messages that promise the images.

The bureau’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) said links in e-mail messages that claim to show photos or videos of the May 1 raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where bin Laden was killed, likely contain malware that could compromise users’ computers, embedding itself into contact lists and eventually infecting the systems of others.

Related stories:

Hackers feed on bin Laden news, as experts warn of cyber retaliation

Video of Serena Williams' outburst could go viral—literally

IC3 advised people not to open unsolicited e-mail messages, and to be cautious even of messages that seem to come from someone you know.

The center also warned users to increase the privacy settings on social media sites they use.

Since bin Laden’s death at the hands of a team of Navy SEALs, administration officials had debated whether to release photos taken at the scene. The White House has described the photos as “gruesome” and expressed concern about the reaction they might incite among bin Laden’s supporters. On the other hand, the photos could confirm to the public that bin Laden was killed.

CIA Director Leon Panetta had said it’s likely the photos will be released eventually, although he pointed out that the decision is up to the White House, according to a report in the Washington Post.

He added that “I don’t think you have to convince the world because of the DNA and all of the other proof that we have.”

But since then, Obama told "60 Minutes" that he would not release a photo, according to an Associated Press article.

Despite the evidence, speculation that bin Laden is still alive has run rampant among conspiracy theorists since the news of bin Laden’s death broke, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Meanwhile, the IC3 is advising computer users to:

  • Adjust the privacy settings on social networking sites to make it more difficult for people you know, or do not know, to post content to your page. Even a “friend” can unknowingly pass on multimedia that’s actually malicious software.
  • Do not agree to download software to view videos. These applications can infect your computer.
  • Read messages you receive carefully. Fraudulent messages often feature misspellings, poor grammar, and nonstandard English.
  • Report messages you receive that purport to be from the FBI. Criminals often use the FBI’s name and seal to add legitimacy to their fraudulent schemes. In fact, the FBI does not send unsolicited e-mail messages to the public. Should you receive unsolicited messages that feature the FBI’s name, seal, or that reference a division or unit in the FBI or an individual employee, report it to the IC3's Complaint Center at

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.


  • 2020 Government Innovation Awards
    Government Innovation Awards -

    21 Public Sector Innovation award winners

    These projects at the federal, state and local levels show just how transformative government IT can be.

  • Federal 100 Awards
    cheering federal workers

    Nominations for the 2021 Fed 100 are now being accepted

    The deadline for submissions is Dec. 31.

Stay Connected