The FBI incorporated the photograph of a Spanish politician in its age-progressed image of Osama bin Laden.
Apparently, an FBI forensic artist plucked the photo of Gaspar Llamazares off the Internet; the Bureau had touted the new bin Laden image, showing how he might look at age 52, as the product of cutting-edge technology. The FBI adapted the image, and another depicting bin Laden with a beard, from a 1998 photo of the al-Qaeda leader.
Llamazares, the former leader of the United Left coalition in parliament, called the FBI’s use of his photo “shameless,” and said he feared he wouldn’t be able to travel to the U.S. anymore.
“I was surprised and angered because it’s the most shameless use of a real person to make up the image of a terrorist,” he said 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.”
Will Ostick, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Madrid, told CNN he had called Llamazares to “express regret” on behalf of the embassy.
“That was not normal procedure. It was completely unintentional and the FBI is looking into it to prevent it from happening again,” Ostick said.
Spain’s Interior Minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba is scheduled to meet the new American ambassador to Madrid, Alan Solomont, on Monday, according to CNN.
The photos were published on the State Department’s Rewards for Justice Web site on Friday.
An FBI spokesman explained the image-altering process in a statement to the BBC:
When producing age-progressed photographs, forensic artists typically select features from a database of stock reference photographs to create the new image.
After a preliminary review, it appears that in this instance 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 forensic artist was not aware of the identity of the individual depicted in the photograph. The similarities between the photos were unintentional and inadvertent.