World briefs – May 15

A sizeable stash of pornography was among the items seized when U.S. Navy SEALs raided the Pakistani hideout of Osama bin Laden, almost two weeks ago, U.S. officials say.

SEALs seized stash of porn from Osama bin Laden compound

WASHINGTON — A sizeable stash of pornography was among the items seized when U.S. Navy SEALs raided the Pakistani hideout of Osama bin Laden, almost two weeks ago, U.S. officials say.

The officials said it was unclear who the material belonged to, and there was no way to know whether bin Laden had viewed it. Bin Laden’s son and two other adult male couriers lived at the compound, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss matters of intelligence.

The pornography was among the computer materials confiscated in the raid after the SEALs killed bin Laden, ending an almost 10-year manhunt for the terrorist behind the 9/11 terror attacks.

The disclosure that U.S. investigators found pornography — which provoked ridicule among bloggers Friday — fuels the U.S. narrative that bin Laden was not the respectable or noble figure that his supporters embraced. The U.S. government previously asserted that bin Laden hid behind a woman in the compound as a “human shield” on the night of the raid but later revised its account of the deadly shooting inside the compound and said she rushed at one of the Navy SEALs and was shot in the calf.

After they killed him, they confiscated what U.S. officials call a “treasure trove” of information from bin Laden’s second-floor office. The items included a handwritten journal, five computers, 10 hard drives and 110 thumb drives seized at the site.

All the media taken from the site is now being analyzed by a CIA-led team.


British woman beheaded in Spain supermarket

MADRID, Spain — A charity has identified the British woman who was beheaded in a random attack in a supermarket on the Spanish resort island of Tenerife in the Canary Islands.

The Lucie Blackman Trust & Missing Abroad charity says she was Jennifer Mills-Westley, of Norfolk, in eastern England. Her age wasn’t given, but media reports say she was 60.

Her family said she was retired and travelled between Tenerife and France. Calls to Spanish authorities went unanswered Saturday. The suspect in Mills-Westley’s murder is a homeless Bulgarian man with a police record identified as 28-year-old Deyan Valentinov. He was captured by security guards after he allegedly ran out of the supermarket holding the head and later arrested by police officers.


U.S. refusing to release Osama photos

WASHINGTON — The Defence Department is refusing to do a speedy review of a request for graphic photos of Osama bin Laden’s corpse, setting the stage for a protracted battle over access to the images.

In a letter to The Associated Press, the department said the AP did not demonstrate an urgent or compelling need for the photos or show that the information has a particular value that would be lost if not provided in an expedited manner. As a result, it is not clear when or if the photos will be provided.

The AP received the letter Friday, 11 days after it requested the photos and other material stemming from the May 2 raid by a team of Navy SEALs on bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan. Whether the photos should be made public has been a constant source of debate since the stunning announcement of bin Laden’s death. Obama decided last week not to release the death photos of bin Laden to avoid possibly inflaming anti-American sentiment overseas. U.S. government officials have described the photos as gruesome. Bin Laden was killed by two bullets, with the fatal shot through his head.

The AP often asks for accelerated review of FOIA requests related to unfolding stories of high interest and said there is a compelling need for prompt release of the bin Laden photos because they could add to the public’s understanding about what took place during the raid.

President Barack Obama has promised to make his administration the most transparent in American history. The push by the AP and other news organizations to make the bin Laden photos public could put that commitment to a key test.

In 2010, the Defence Department granted expedited processing of FOIA requests nearly 40 per cent of time, a far better rate than agencies such as the departments of State and Homeland Security.

Dan Metcalfe, executive director of the Collaboration on Government Secrecy at American University’s Washington College of Law, said it would be difficult for the government to label death photos of bin Laden as classified unless there were a person or a piece of equipment in the photo that needed to be kept secret.

“It’s hard to see how such a photo in and of itself could properly be classified, and with that decision ultimately sustained in court, on the basis of national security harm,” said Metcalfe, former head of the Justice Department’s Office of Information and Privacy.

Members of the House of Representatives and Senate Intelligence and Armed Services committees have been allowed to see the death photos in a secure room at CIA headquarters in Virginia. Lawmakers are not permitted to take copies of the photos with them.

Republican Sen. James Inhofe, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee member, viewed the photos Wednesday and said one of them showed brain matter coming out of bin Laden’s eye socket. Others, however, were taken as the body was being prepared for burial at sea and are less jarring, said Inhofe, who favours releasing at least a few photos to dispel any claims bin Laden wasn’t killed.

The disclosure that the photos were at CIA headquarters could mean the spy agency and not the Pentagon controls the records. The AP has also filed a Freedom of Information request with the CIA that seeks expedited processing. The CIA has not said how it will handle that request.

The Defence Department’s decision not to expedite the AP’s request for the photos isn’t a rejection but puts the request on a much slower track. Under the open records law, federal agencies have 20 days to respond to FOIA requests, a deadline that is rarely met.

In a related development, Judicial Watch, a public interest group, filed a lawsuit against the Defence Department on Friday after the department said it would not meet the 20-day deadline for meeting the group’s own request for the photos.

“The American people have a right to know, by law, basic information about the killing of Osama bin Laden. Incredibly, the Obama administration told us that it has no plans to comply with the Freedom of Information law, so we must now go to court,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said.

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