Questions Abound Over How Fake Bin Laden Photos Duped Lawmakers

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A day after the White House said it will not release the official photo of Usama bin Laden’s body, many are wondering how a handful of lawmakers were duped into believing they saw it.

The Obama administration said Wednesday it will not make public the images of the dead Al Qaeda chief, arguing the pictures could incite violence and be used as propaganda by terrorist leaders. White House officials also say DNA evidence confirming the body as Bin Laden’s provides sufficient proof of his death.

The announcement came after at least three U.S. lawmakers claimed to have seen what they believed was an authentic photograph of Bin Laden, shot in the face and chest during a CIA-led Navy SEALs operation Sunday at a secret compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

But those photos appear to have been doctored images sent by an undisclosed source or sources to members of Congress, including Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., who admitted Wednesday he’d been fooled into thinking the picture was real.

After telling reporters he had seen an image that confirmed Usama is "definitely dead," Brown later said "the photo that I saw and that a lot of other people saw is not authentic."

A Brown staff member claims the senator received the picture from someone he believed to be "a reliable source," the Boston Herald reported.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., were also among those lawmakers to have viewed a fabricated picture.

"The photo I saw was shown to me by somebody who represented it to me as bin Laden after he was shot,” Chambliss told reporters Wednesday, adding that the digital image was sent to him by someone who was not a government official.

"I have no idea where it came from," he said.

Ayotte’s office said in a statement that "another senator" showed her the picture and that she did not know if it was authentic.

In an interview Thursday with, Senate Sergeant at Arms Terry Gainer said he, too, had viewed a phony bin Laden picture. Gainer said a person with no background in law enforcement could have easily mistaken the picture as real.

"I actually had one of the pictures sent to me by someone in Chicago within hours of this thing and I just deleted it. It didn’t surprise me that pretty quick someone could send around a picture I presumed was bogus," said Gainer, a seasoned law enforcement official who worked as a police officer for 47 years.

But, Gainer said, “If one was not normally in the business, I think you could have been taken in by this.”

He said he had no plans to investigate the fictitious photos unless a member of Congress requested it.

Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., chairman of the intelligence committee, still claims to have viewed the official photos.

Rogers spokeswoman Susan Phalen told that Rogers was shown the images by members of the CIA.

"He happened to be at the CIA on Monday and he saw the photos there,” Phalen said in an interview. “It was not something that was emailed. He saw the photos that were in the custody of the CIA.”