A purge on pictures of Osama bin Laden’s corpse was ordered by the U.S. military’s top special operations officer, a newly-released email showed Tuesday.
In a message sent 11 days after the al Qaeda founder’s death, Adm. William McRaven told unidentified staff that all photographs, particularly those of Bin Laden’s remains should have been turned over to the CIA.
“If you still have them, destroy them immediately,” he wrote on May 13, 2011.
Bin Laden was killed by a special operations team in Pakistan on May 2.
The email was obtained under a freedom of information request by the conservative legal group Judicial Watch and released Monday.
Previously, the Associated Press had requested access to photos and other documents "sent from and to the U.S. government account or accounts" of McRaven referencing bin Laden who was then vice admiral.
Government agencies are required to preserve material sought under the Freedom of Information Act, even if they later refuse to release the documents.
Special Operations Command's Freedom of Information Office told the AP it could not find any McRaven emails "responsive to your request."
However, the redacted email surfaced when Judicial Watch requested all records relating to McRaven's "directive to purge" images of the terror leader.The Pentagon's office of general counsel said the email was the only document it had been able to locate.
Judicial Watch’s president Tom Fitton said Monday that the email "is a smoking gun, revealing both contempt for the rule of law and the American people's right to know."
This Associated Press contributed to this report.