The White House just released several photos of President Obama overseeing the operation to kill Osama bin Laden. The most intense image shows the national security team receiving an update about the operation on May 1 in the Situation Room—and it has been digitally altered for security reasons, as explained below.

Before releasing this photograph, which has already drawn over one million views online, the White House took the precaution of blurring out an apparently sensitive image on the laptop in front of Secretary Clinton. The image may have been satellite photography used in connection with the operation:

Exactly one year before the bin Laden operation, the White House removed a picture from its Flickr feed, where it regularly posts official photographs, after discovering that a small part of a CIA document was visible in a picture. (A spokesman said it was merely a CIA fax cover sheet.)

In other shots from this set, Obama’s national security team watches his address to the nation about bin Laden’s killing:

Below, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, shakes the president’s hand after the adress, as Director Panetta and Secretary Clinton watch:

It can be surprising which backstage pictures are most popular among the public, President Obama once told PBS, noting that a shot of his handwritten speech notes was a big hit. That photo went viral after reporters posted and tweeted it to illustrate Obama’s hands-on approach to speechwriting.

The images from the bin Laden operation are on track to be the most viewed pictures ever released by the White House, and they reinforce the administration’s narrative of President Obama’s hands-on approach to security.

Photos from the other end of the mission, documenting the corpse of bin Laden, would surely draw even more attention if released. The White House recently stated that it has not made a decision on whether to release those images.

For The Nation’s complete coverage of Osama bin Laden’s death, click here.

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