x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Spanish MP's photo used for Osama bin Laden likeness

A Spanish politician is shocked by the FBI's decision to use his photograph to compose its latest image of al Qa'eda leader Osama bin Laden.

Gaspar Llamazares looks at his picture published in a newspaper next to a picture of how Osama bin Laden could look like now.
Gaspar Llamazares looks at his picture published in a newspaper next to a picture of how Osama bin Laden could look like now.

MADRID // A Spanish politician said yesterday that he was "stupefied" by the FBI's decision to use his photograph to compose its latest image of al Qa'eda leader Osama bin Laden and is considering taking legal action. Gaspar Llamazares 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.

"Firstly I will ask the FBI for an explanation, which they haven't given me yet, and then I will reserve the right to take legal action," Mr Llamazares told CNN+. "In the last few days I have seen the security services involved in some very strange things, some major failures, but I would never have believed they could have affected me so directly," he said. Mr LLamazares is a former leader of Spain's communist party Izquierda Unida and is currently its parliamentary spokesman. Jose Morales, a spokesman for Mr Llamazares' party, was surprised that computer images such as the retouched bin Laden photo were made using photos of real people.

An FBI agent said the organisation was aware of similarities between the image ? an "age-progressed photograph" intended to give an updated idea of bin Laden's appearance - and that of "an existing photograph of a Spanish public official". Special agent Jason Pack said a forensic artist had been unable to find suitable features from the FBI's database of photographs and used a picture from the internet instead.

"The forensic artist was not aware of the identity of the individual depicted in the photograph," Mr Pack said, adding that the image would be taken off the FBI website. "I am stupefied the FBI has used my photo - but it could have been anyone's - to compose a picture of a terrorist. It affects my honour, my own image and also the security of all us," Mr LLamazares said. "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. They do share one trait - both are 52.

A spokesman for the Spanish prime minister's office said a Spanish official had suggested to the US embassy in Madrid that it contact Mr Llamazares to explain the matter. The embassy's councillor for public affairs William Ostic said that he telephoned Mr LLamazares on Saturday to apologise for the error. * With agencies