Bin Laden Death Photos To Remain Classified

A federal appeals court has ruled the US government does not have to release images of Osama bin Laden's dead body.

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia unanimously rejected a request for the photos by a conservative-leaning non-profit watchdog group .

Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act request last year for access to the more than 50 images taken of the former al Qaeda leader after his death.

Bin Laden was killed in May 2011 after US Navy Seals raided his hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Photos were taken of the slain terrorist's body in an effort to confirm his identity through facial recognition analysis.

The US government argued to keep the images classified, arguing their release could "be used to inflame tensions" and "inspire retaliatory attacks".

President Barack Obama also made the case for keeping the photographs under wraps.

"It's important for us to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence or as a propaganda tool," he said in an interview with CBS News.

"That's not who we are. We don't trot out this stuff as trophies."

Judicial Watch argued the government did not adequately prove that the release of the photos posed a serious risk to national security.

The three-judge panel disagreed, however, ruling that the photos could reveal classified intelligence methods, and that images of bin Laden's burial at sea could trigger violence against American citizens.

In a statement, Judicial Watch's president Tom Fitton said that courts needed to stop "rubber-stamping this administration's improper secrecy".

He added: "There is no provision of the Freedom of Information Act that allows documents to be kept secret because their release might offend our terrorist enemies."