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BLOOMINGTON -- Central Illinois residents don't doubt Osama bin Laden's death, but worry about retaliation, gore or other problems if photographs were released by the U.S. government.

Still, some suggested showing the images would eliminate doubts in others.

President Obama said Wednesday that no such material will be released.

"With modern media the way it is, doctored or Photoshopped (unofficial) photos could get out," said Rich Baldwin, a government teacher at Bloomington High School, explaining it would be better if the government's photographs were released. He spoke before Obama's decision was announced.

The 10-year hunt for bin Laden made it natural for people to want proof, Baldwin said, and releasing truthful, accurate material is especially important in a country with freedom of the press.

McLean County Sheriff Mike Emery does not doubt bin Laden is dead. But "the way it went down, there's room for conspiracy," he said, and releasing the photographs would debunk any skepticism.

"The transparency is good, of course ... but the government also has a responsibility to deal with other nations and (releasing the photo) could potential inflame populations in other countries - so it may not be the best idea," said Joe Blaney, a professor of communications at Illinois State University.

If he were president, Blaney would assemble bipartisan representatives of the intelligence committees and let them see the photos. They then could confirm they had seen the photos, they were not altered and that they indeed confirm bin Laden is dead.

Bloomington chiropractor Robert Hermann, speaking shortly before the White House announcement, said, "The only way I would say ‘Don't release it' is if it's really gory. Release it to eliminate doubt. I don't have any doubt, but I think a few extremists do."

Julie Glawe of Farmer City was more worried about bin Laden supporters. "No, I don't think that I need to see the pictures ... to verify that he is dead," she said. "I am more concerned with the people that he has trained under him that will retaliate."

Concerns that the photographs' release could put American troops and citizens abroad in danger may have been overstated, said Mark Messman, McLean County's chief felony prosecutor.

"It seems to me that Americans in some areas are already in danger," he said. "I can't imagine this putting them in more danger. Worldwide people have seen pictures of people dancing in the streets" since the news of bin Laden's death.

Several addressed the photographs' graphic content.

"America is not ready to see photos of anybody, even bin Laden, with his head blown off," said Craig Wack of Farmer City.

But, said Brandon Roberts, a construction worker from Bloomington, "we saw all the gruesome details of what he did on Sept. 11. If the photos are bad, that's even better closure."

That sense of "getting even" was echoed in comments from Donna Weaver of Clinton. "Yes, they should show the American people the pictures of a very bad person who terrorized us and many more," she said. "We had to deal with the many losses due to terrorism on our home soil."

Reported by Edith Brady-Lunny, Phyllis Coulter, Ryan Denham, Mary Ann Ford, M.K. Guetersloh, Steve Hoffman and Paul Swiech.


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