Osama Ages, Looks More Spanish

osama-fbi-digital-agedOn Friday, the FBI released some “digitally enhanced” photographs to help people visualize what Osama bin Laden might look like today. They both aged his “standard” photo and showed another image of what he might look like if he’s adopted a more Western look to blend in.

I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the story but, like Josh Marshall, “I kind of figured they’d churned it out of some super-expensive, high-tech photo-age-o-matic device we’ve been spending homeland security dollars on.”

Not so much.  According to the Sunday Times:

A MOCKED-UP image of how Osama Bin Laden may look today has been withdrawn by the US State Department after the FBI admitted it was partly based on a photograph of a Spanish MP taken from the internet.

The Photofit image of an older, greying Al-Qaeda leader bore a striking resemblance to the left-wing politician Gaspar Llamazares, a member of Spain’s Communist party and a critic of the US “war on terror”. It turned out Llamazares’s grey hair, jaw line and forehead had been simply cut and pasted from an old campaign photograph by an FBI technician.

Apparently, Spanish Communists don’t have a sense of humor:

Llamazares, former leader of the United Left party, was elected to Spain’s parliament in 2000. He said he would no longer feel safe travelling to the United States. “I was surprised and angered because it’s the most shameless use of a real person to make up the image of a terrorist,” he said. “It’s almost like out of a comedy, if it didn’t deal with matters as serious as Bin Laden and citizens’ security.”

He’s got a point.  On the flip side, though, bin Laden has to be thrilled.  Not only does he get to, once again, make America’s counterterrorism operations look foolish but he got a really nice head of hair out of the deal.   Presuming he’s actually still alive, I’d be willing to bet a lot of money that he’s not sporting a $200 haircut.

FILED UNDER: General, , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. You have to admit, he does look good for someone who has been dead for eight years.

  2. legion says:

    Umm… doesn’t bin Laden still churn out video taunts once in a while? Why wouldn’t a still from one of those serve as a good idea of what he looks like these days? Why was this whole deal even necessary?

  3. James Joyner says:

    Has he had any real videos in recent years? I thought they were essentially audio recordings with a still pic?

  4. PD Shaw says:

    Of course, he killed himself in the bunker at Tora Bora, but through the use of bribes his followers were able to conceal the body and smuggle samples of his genetic material to a lab in Paraguay. There, combined with DNA from boys kidnapped from Brazil, a clone army awaits the signal.

  5. Franklin says:

    This is so hilariously sad.