The Massachusetts Democratic Party issued a statement today saying Senator Scott Brown "owes" Massachusetts residents an explanation after the Republican asserted and then retracted that he had seen postmortem photos of Osama bin Laden.
“As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Brown owes the people of Massachusetts more details as to what led him to believe that he was shown an authentic photo, and then what led him to feel comfortable enough to speak out publicly about the photo," party Chairman John Walsh said in a statement.
"He needs right away, today to provide answers to the following questions: who showed him the fake photo; who told him it was genuine when it wasn’t; and what are the procedures he uses to make sure he has reliable information before he gives voters that information?" Walsh added.
The chairman said the senator needs to “understand that his words matter, and his assertions are taken at face value because of his position."
Brown spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom replied: "With the Sal DiMasi corruption trial going on, I'm surprised that John Walsh has the time to criticize Republicans."
Government officials say the photos depict bin Laden with a fatal wound over his left eye after being shot by US forces early Monday during a raid on the terrorist's compound in Pakistan.
Despite a fervent debate in the country about whether the photos should be released to prove bin Laden's death, President Obama announced yesterday he would not authorize their release because he did not want to "spike the football" after the successful raid or do anything perceived as further agitating the country's opponents.
Judicial Watch, a conservative government transparency group that became a national force with lawsuits it filed against former President Clinton, has filed Freedom of Information Act requests with the Department of Defense and the CIA seeking “all photographs and/or video recordings of Osama bin Laden taken during and/or after the U.S. military operation in Pakistan on or about May 1, 2011.”
Brown said earlier yesterday during an interview with NECN he believed the photos should not be released to ‘‘sell newspapers.’’
‘‘Let me assure you that he is dead, that bin Laden is dead,’’ Brown said in the interview. ‘‘I have seen the photos and, in fact, we’ve received the briefings and we’ll continue to get the briefings.’’
Brown echoed the sentiment in a separate interview with WFXT-TV (Channel 25).
The freshman senator later acknowledged that he had fallen victim to a hoax, apparently the same doctored images that were making the rounds on the Internet.
‘‘The photo that I saw and that a lot of other people saw is not authentic,’’ the senator said in a one-sentence statement issued hours after the interviews aired.
Brown’s aides declined to explain who showed him the fake photos, why he believed the photos were real, and why he had suggested he had seen them as part of an official briefing.
At least two other members of the Armed Services Committee, Kelly Ayotte, a New Hampshire Republican, and Saxby Chambliss, a Georgia Republican, also claimed to have seen photos of the body.
Senators, however, were not shown the photos during a closed-door hearing this week held for members of the Armed Services Committee and the Select Committee on Intelligence, according to an official briefed on the meeting who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the meeting was private.
Brown is up for re-election in 2012 and Massachusetts Democrats have been gearing up to oppose him.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.