Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 April 2016

FBI sparks row over Bin Laden image

Published 17/01/2010

Spanish politician Gaspar Llamazares was shocked to discover his image likened to Osama bin Laden (AP)
Spanish politician Gaspar Llamazares was shocked to discover his image likened to Osama bin Laden (AP)

A Spanish politician was horrified to learn the FBI used an online photograph of him to create an image showing what Osama bin Laden might look like today.

The image using Gaspar Llamazares' picture appeared on a wanted poster updating the US government's 1998 photo of the al Qaida leader.

FBI spokesman Ken Hoffman acknowledged to the Spanish newspaper El Mundo that the agency used a picture of Mr Llamazares taken from Google Images.

In a statement, the agency said only that it was aware of 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 FBI said in a statement.

The wanted poster appeared on the State Department website rewardsforjustice.net, listing a reward of up to 25 million US dollars (£15.3m). The FBI said the offending image would be removed from the website.

Mr Llamazares, former leader of the United Left party, was elected to Spain's parliament in 2000. The photograph of him used to make the wanted poster originally appeared on posters for his 2004 general-election campaign. He said he would no longer feel safe travelling to the United States after his hair and facial wrinkles appeared on the bin Laden image.

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

Mr Llamazares planned to ask the US government for an explanation and said he reserved the right to take legal action. He said he was concerned to see the government resorting to what he called sloppy techniques, especially in the light of recent terrorism alerts such as 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.Mr Llamazares said he has "no similarity, physically or ideologically" to bin Laden. But they do share one trait - both are 52.

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