The US Federal Bureau of Investigation is red-faced after being caught using a photo of a member of Spain’s parliament to create images of what the world’s most wanted terrorist might look like after years of seclusion.
Two images of what an FBI forensic artist thinks bin Laden might look like today were featured on the US Web site Rewards for Justice for several hours. However, both images were based on a photo of Spanish MP Gaspar Llamazares, who was decidedly unhappy with the move.
The FBI’s last photo of bin Laden is from 1998, according to media reports.
“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 press conference, according to the BBC. “It’s almost like out of a comedy if it didn’t deal with matters as serious as bin Laden and citizens’ security.”
“LLamazares is a former leader of Spain’s communist party Izquierda Unida and is currently its parliamentary spokesman,” Reuters noted.
The FBI was quick to admit that a photo was taken off the Internet and modified to illustrate their theory of what bin Laden looks like, if he is even still alive.
“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 agency said in a statement to the Associated Press. The statement noted that it was against agency policy for forensic artist to use images from the Web.
“Llamazares said the mistake showed the ‘low level’ of US intelligence services,” according to The Telegraph.
Speculation on bin Laden’s whereabouts has continued unabated since the Bush administration accused the Saudi national of being the driving force behind the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated, claimed that the famed terrorist was murdered by a man named Omar Sheikh, who had high-reaching ties to Pakistani intelligence. In Sept. 2009, US media reported that an audio message from someone claiming to be bin Laden had surfaced on radical Islamist Web sites.