The FBI recently released a “digitally-altered” image showing what Osama Bin Laden possibly looks like now that he’s older (see middle image). ”These new images are powerful examples of how advances in technology and science can be used to help find and bring to justice wanted persons,” said Louis E. Grever, Executive Assistant Director for the FBI’s Science and Technology Branch, “The FBI has and will continue to apply cutting-edge forensic, biometric, and technical capabilities to our most challenging cases.”
Apparently, the FBI’s cutting-edge process for creating the photo entailed using Photoshop to alter a photo they found on the web. Unfortunately for them, the photo they used turned out to be of Gaspar Llamazares (photo on the right), the former leader of the United Left coalition in Spain’s congress.
The FBI admitted the error, saying that the artist found the photo on the web and didn’t know it was of a Spanish politician:
“When producing age-progressed photographs, forensic artists typically select features from a database of stock reference photographs to create the new image . . . 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.”
Does the FBI think that if the picture had been of someone who wasn’t relatively famous, it would have been perfectly fine? I hope that I don’t unintentionally and inadvertently look like a mass-murderer and terrorist—I’d hate to get tackled in the line at the post office because my photo was “digitally altered” and put on a Most Wanted Poster. (It’s bad enough that my friends claim I look like Russian President Vladimir Putin. Other than wanting to invade Georgia, Putin and I have nothing in common.)
As Llamazares said, “It’s almost like out of a comedy if it didn’t deal with matters as serious as Bin Laden and citizens’ security.” Just another reminder that our national security is in the very best of hands.