Osama Bin Laden Death Pictures Hit First Freedom of Information Act Bump


With President Obama deciding that the United States is not the type of country to release photographs of a dead Osama Bin Laden, shot in the head, there are two ways the public will ever see them: 1) a government leak when this all dies down, or 2) an enterprising journalist whose Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request miraculously goes through. We discussed the FOIA path last week, noting in the words of an expert, that “it’s going to be a hard road,” and “the government will fight because it’s made its decision.” Legally the government has 20 days to respond to a FOIA request, but one journalist who filed such a request is already hitting bureaucratic hurdles. In Press Clips, our daily media column, we have the story. Plus, Meredith Viera’s move and The Baffler, back again.

Hoop Jumping: Along with the Associated Press (and presumably countless other reporters), Politico’s Kenneth Vogel filed the necessary paperwork to chase down the dead Bin Laden media and this morning, via Twitter, he updated his readers: “Want to know who has bin Laden death pix?” he wrote. “FOIAs to Navy & DoD referred to Naval Spcl Warfare in San Diego & Army Intel & Security, Ft Meade.”

In a follow-up, he linked to the letter he received and wrote, “DoD punts my FOIA for Osama bin Laden death photos to Army Intelligence and Security Command in Fort Meade, Md.”

You can see the paperwork he got here (.pdf), but basically it says that the agency he requested the photos from doesn’t have them. According to the letter, the office “serves as the referral point and oversight office for the Department of the Army Freedom of Information and Privacy Act entities and is not a repository for documents maintained by the Department of the Army.” He’s been passed along to the office “most likely to have records for processing,” but it appears as if Vogel has simply been moved laterally, and the photos remain secret for now.

That said, a new NBC News poll found that 52 percent of American “strongly believe” the U.S. should not release the photos, with an extra 12 percent support Obama’s decision, but with less fervor.

Takeoffs and Launches: The New York Observer has a new political vertical, Politicker NY, which has the same sleek design as their last spin-off, the tech site Betabeat, and also gets its own URL.

Meanwhile, Condé Nast has started offering iPad subscriptions for The New Yorker ($5.99 per month or $59.99 for the year) becoming the first publisher to sell through the Apple App store.

And lastly, culture journal The Baffler, long-floundering business-wise, though not in quality, however infrequent, claims to be rising from the dead yet again, which is something to look forward to.

Good Buys: Meredith Vieria will officially skip out on the Today show in June, with Ann Curry taking her seat. Viera will switch over to “a new role” with NBC News, while moms will seek comfort in the strong arms of Mr. Matt Lauer.