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Sunday, January 17, 2010
FBI admits Spanish politican was model for 'high-tech' Osama bin Laden photo-fit
The FBI has admitted using a photograph of a bearded Spanish politician as the basis for a mocked-up photofit image showing how Osama Bin Laden might look now.
By Fiona Govan in Madrid
Published: 3:24PM GMT 16 Jan 2010
The US state department was forced to withdraw the mocked up photo-image, circulated around the world last week, after the discovery that it was not quite as technically sophisticated as the FBI had originally claimed.
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.
Gaspar Llamazares, 52, a member of Spain's communist party and the former leader of the United Left coalition in parliament, said his forehead, hair and jaw-line had been "cut and pasted" from an old campaign photograph.
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 technican had no idea whose image he had found and no dark motive for using it," he said.
Mr Llamazares said the mistake showed the "low level" of US intelligence services. It could cause problems for any individual mistakenly seen to resemble the wanted terrorist, he said. "Bin Laden's safety is not threatened by this but mine certainly is."