FBI confuses Bin Laden with Spanish Leftist

From The Reader in Spain:

Spanish politician’s photo used by FBI to identify Bin Laden

Gaspar Llamazares, a Spanish MP for the Izquierda Unida

United Left

party, has said that a party political photo of him has been used by the FBI to create a photo of how terrorist Bin Laden might look like in 2010.

Photo released by the US Government

'Bin Laden' and Llamazares photos

Several versions of the photo were released this week by the US government and the F.B.I. The photo is purported to a digitally aged photo of wanted terrorist Osama Bin Laden.

However, Dr Llamazares says that it is obvious that his hair and facial features have been used to create the photofit. Analysis of the two photos shows that the hair and forehead are the same.

Whilst the main version of the photo shows Bin Laden as he would look like with a turban, another version of the photo, published on http://www.fbi.gov, shows Bin Laden without a turban. This photo was later removed after El Mundo newspaper contacted the US Embassy.

The two photos are shown here. “Osama Bin Laden” is to the left, the IU party political photo of Dr Llamazares to the right.

Complaints registered

Dr Llamazares and the IU party have made an official complaint to the Spanish Ministry of the Exterior asking for an explanation from the US government.

Dr Llamazares has also said he is investigating taking legal action over the matter.

They have also lodged a protest with the US embassy in Madrid.

“While my complaint may seem petty, this is a very serious question that affects personal liberty and the right to control one’s own image” Dr Llamazares told reporters at midday today. “I hope this is simply an error by the US government which shows their low level of competance, rather than something more sinister. ”

Dr Llamazares, who is spokesperson for the Spanish Congress on Exterior Affairs, also said that until the matter is cleared up “I will not travel to the United States. The photo does not endanger Bin Laden, but it could endanger me”.

The Ministry of the Exterior has refused to comment on the matter. A spokesperson for the Spanish United Police Syndicate, contacted by the media, said it was “an absurd error that would not be committed by the Spanish police. It looks as if some technician simply surfed the web for a random photo.”

Well, United States authorities also do not seem to know the difference between an eight year old boy and a terrorist. Or between the late Senator Edward Kennedy and a terrorist. Or between Egyptian archaeologist Hawass and a terrorist. Or between many other people and terrorists.

Sad for Spanish-US relations that the spokesperson for the Spanish Congress on Exterior Affairs now cannot travel to the USA because some overzealous bone-headed gunman there might kill him, thinking he was killing Bin Laden.

6 thoughts on “FBI confuses Bin Laden with Spanish Leftist

  1. Spanish lawmaker’s photo used for bin Laden poster


    This digitally enhanced image taken from the U.S. Department of State’s web site AP – This digitally enhanced image taken from the U.S. Department of State’s web site rewardsforjustice.net, …

    By HAROLD HECKLE, Associated Press Writer Harold Heckle, Associated Press Writer – 2 hrs 31 mins ago

    MADRID – A Spanish lawmaker was horrified to find out the FBI used his photograph as part of a digitally enhanced image showing what Osama bin Laden might look like today, he said Saturday, calling into question the crime-fighting agency’s credibility in battling terrorism.

    Gaspar Llamazares of the United Left party said he would no longer feel safe traveling to the United States after his hair and facial wrinkles were taken from the Internet and appeared on a wanted poster updating the U.S. government’s 1998 photo of the al-Qaida leader.

    “I was surprised and angered because it’s the most shameless use of a real person to make up the image of a terrorist,” Llamazares said at a news conference Saturday. “It’s almost like out of a comedy if it didn’t deal with matters as serious as bin Laden and citizens’ security.”

    The FBI said in a statement Saturday that it was aware of the similarities between their age-progressed image “and that of an existing photograph of a Spanish public official.”

    “The forensic artist was unable to find suitable features among the reference photographs and obtained those features, in part, from a photograph he found on the Internet,” the statement sent to The Associated Press said.

    The photo appeared on a U.S. State Department Web site rewardsforjustice.net, where a reward of up to $25 million is offered for bin Laden, wanted in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya. The FBI said the photo of bin Laden will be removed from the Web site.

    Llamazares said he planned to ask the U.S. government for an explanation and reserved the right to take legal action.

    The State Department told a reporter to call back Tuesday after the U.S. federal Martin Luther King Day holiday on Monday.

    Llamazares said he couldn’t believe it when he was first told about the similarity, but he quickly realized the seriousness of the situation.

    The 52-year-old politician said he would not feel safe traveling in the U.S. now, because many airports use biometrics technology that compares the physical characteristics of travelers to passport or other photographs.

    “I have no similarity, physically or ideologically, to the terrorist bin Laden,” he said.

    They do share one characteristic — both are 52.

    Jose Morales, spokesman for Llamazares’ party, told the Associated Press that no one in Spain had any idea that important security computer images such as the retouched bin Laden photo were built up from photographs of real people. Llamazares, the former leader of his party, was elected to Spain’s parliament in 2000.

    “A technician has cut and paste in Photoshop a photograph he found out there on the Internet, and you don’t have to be in Quantico — the agency’s Virginia training facility — to do that,” Morales told the AP.

    Llamazares said it was worrying to see elite security services like the FBI resorting to such sloppy techniques, especially in the light of recent security alerts like the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a Detroit-bound airplane.

    “It might provoke mirth, but it demonstrates that what we’re seeing from security services isn’t exactly recommendable,” he said.

    Bin Laden is believed to be hiding in the lawless Pakistan frontier bordering Afghanistan. His exact whereabouts have been unknown since late 2001, when he and some bodyguards slipped out of the Tora Bora mountains, evading air strikes, U.S. special forces and Afghan militias.

    The U.S. State Department Web site shows the photos and bounty on bin Laden and 41 others wanted for terrorism.

    Morales said Llamazares had received calls from Spain’s Prime, Foreign and Interior ministers, all expressing their concern and assuring him the government would ask the U.S. for explanations.


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