Saturday, January 16, 2010

FBI = Forging Borrowed Images

Last week, the FBI announced that its whiz-bang scientific staff had applied cutting edge technology to produce new age-advanced images of 18 terrorist suspects for the State Department's Rewards for Justice website. [By the way, one of those suspects, Jamal Saeed Abdul Rahim, won't get any older thanks to Predator drones.] One of the images - the one on the right, above - was purported to be of Public Enemy Number 1, Osama bin Laden. The photos were circulated around the world, and the FBI took a bow for its scientific crime-fighting expertise: "These new images are powerful examples of how advances in technology and science can be used to help find and bring to justice wanted persons," according to the head of the FBI's Science and Technology Branch.

Today, it turns out that Osama's altered image was not entirely the product of new advances in technology and science, but was actually taken from a photo of a shifty-looking character - on the left, above - that an FBI technician found on the internet. Even better, the unwitting stand-in for Osama is a Spanish Communist Party leader. He is not amused, and threatens to sue. See today's WaPo story here.

There is more detail in the UK Telegraph's story (FBI admits Spanish politican was model for 'high-tech' Osama bin Laden photo-fit). A few quotes:

The digitally altered image of an older and greying Bin Laden was meant to show how the world's most wanted terrorist might now look without his trademark turban and long beard. It was released in a renewed effort to locate him, more than eight years after the September 11 attack which he ordered and directed.

But it created an unexpected stir in Madrid when a Spanish MP recognised strong elements of himself in the image and complained to the US.

-- snip --

The FBI claimed to have used "cutting edge" technology to reproduce new images of 18 of the most wanted terrorist suspects for the State Department's Rewards for Justice website.

But yesterday Ken Hoffman, a spokesman the FBI, admitted that a technician "was not satisfied" with the hair features offered by the FBI's software programme and instead used part of a photo of Mr Llamazares, found on the internet. "The technician had no idea whose image he had found and no dark motive for using it," he said.

I don't know whether or not Llamazares is really a dead ringer for bin Laden, but doesn't he resemble a famous dead terrorist by the name of Achmed?

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