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Digital Literacy in the U.S. Senate: "Well It Looked Like It Was a Picture of Bin Laden"

BY Nancy Scola | Thursday, May 5 2011

A real photo of the actual Sen. Saxby Chambliss; photo credit: Bruce Tuten.

The American people have the digital savvy to discern fake Osama bin Laden death photos from real ones, right? Right? Right? Our sample pool of United States senators suggests otherwise. CNN's Dana Bash and Ted Barrett report:

Several senators said Wednesday they had seen a photograph of Osama bin Laden after he was shot, describing it to reporters and using it to help form their opinion on whether or not  President Obama should release pictures of the dead terrorist.

Now, on a day when fake photographs of a dead bin Laden are flying around the internet, those senators say they cannot be sure whether what they saw and talked to reporters about was real.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Republican of Georgia, was one such senator. Chambliss argued earlier yesterday that photo evidence of bin Laden's death should be released. And then:

Late Wednesday afternoon, Chambliss admitted to reporters a photo he had described earlier in the day was not an "official photo," but rather a picture he was shown on an electronic device, and he does not know if it was authentic.

"Let me make this clear, the photo I saw was shown to me by somebody who represented it as being a picture of him after he was shot. I have no idea where it came from," Chambliss said.

Chambliss was asked if he believed he was being shown an authentic photo. He responded, "Well it looked like it was a picture of bin Laden."

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, Republican of New Hampshire, and Sen. Scott Brown, Republican of Massachusetts, were also fooled by the fake photo being passed around by Blackberry. (Here's one faked bin Laden death photo that has been floating around the Internet.)

President Obama has, of course, declined to release a (real) photo of bin Laden's body.