FAIRBANKS — Sen. Mark Begich plans to view the controversial post-mortem photos of Osama bin Laden taken immediately after a Navy special forces team killed the terrorist leader last week.
As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Begich is among the members of Congress who has access to the photos.
An aide to the Alaska Democrat said he plans to schedule a viewing to see the images at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va.
The availability of the photos has become a source of debate in Washington. The Obama administration declined to release the pictures to the public, fearing that the gruesome images could incite violence or be used as a propaganda tool.
They are being made available to a select group of lawmakers, including members of Congress whose committees oversee spy missions and military operations.
Begich spokeswoman Julie Hasquet said the senator doesn’t doubt bin Laden is dead but feels obligated to view the pictures as an Armed Services committee member.
“He feels like it’s part of his duty,” she said. “They’re being made available, and he feels like he should see them.”
The CIA is allowing invited officials to see the bin Laden photos in a secure room at the agency’s headquarters.
Legislators cannot take copies of the photos with them and are asked to hand over cell phones capable of taking photos before entering.
Hasquet said Begich hasn’t scheduled a time to travel to CIA headquarters, but that it will likely happen next week.
The other members of Alaska’s delegation, Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Don Young, aren’t among those who will have access to the photos.
The pictures are said to show bin Laden soon after he was shot in the head during a raid of his compound in Pakistan on May 2. Nine photos were taken by Navy SEALs at the scene. Several more images were taken as bin Laden’s body was being prepared aboard the USS Carl Vinson before being buried at sea.
Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., spent an hour examining the photos on Wednesday and said in an interview with ABC News they were both convincing and gory. He said they showed a bullet had passed through bin Laden’s head between his right ear and left eye socket.
Inhofe called the initial photos “really bad, graphic stuff,” although he said he supported the release of the less shocking pre-burial photos to the public.
Inhofe said the photos left “absolutely no doubt Osama bin Laden is dead.”
Contact staff writer Jeff Richardson at 459-7518.