The Case of the Mysterious Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in Guantanamo Bay Photos

A purported photo of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed while being held in the internment facility at Guantanamo Bay. The photo was released last month on a Jihadist forum.

Public Intelligence

Last month, nearly a dozen photos purporting to show alleged al-Qaeda mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed posing serenely inside the internment facility at Guantanamo Bay were posted on a popular Jihadist forum.  The photos depict what appears to be Mohammed sitting in a variety of poses in clothing similar to what is worn by detainees at the internment facility in Guantanamo Bay.  Two of the photos also depict other detainees being held at Guantanamo.

On May 24 the U.S. military told NBC news that they were investigating the photos to determine whether or not they had been digitally manipulated.  The next day an article from AFP quoted Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Todd Breasseale as saying the “recent photos of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, et al, that have surfaced on the Internet represent a very poor effort at digital manipulation . . . clearly using the official work of the ICRC — approved for release by the US government — in order to deceive and rally those inclined toward radicalism.”

Some of the photos do appear to be manipulated.  However, several photos appear to be genuine depictions of Mohammed and other detainees.  Confusing the issue further, many media outlets do not seem to understand that there were several photos released and have instead focused upon a single photo from the collection that appears to be manipulated.

In order to further analysis of the photos, Public Intelligence has reproduced all of the photos and made them available for download in a high-resolution format.  Let us know what your opinions are on the authenticity of the photos in the comment section below, via email or by using our encrypted contact form.

Here’s a quick look at some of the photos from the collection:

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4 comments for “The Case of the Mysterious Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in Guantanamo Bay Photos

  1. a U.S. Libertarian
    June 8, 2012 at 5:49 pm

    I am using GIMP, Irfanview, Notepad++ to take a look at the first picture in the pack, 133777858781.jpg.

    Things I am checking for to determine if this is fake are particularly any sort of blur job around edges of items I would not expect a gitmo detainee to have, such as the black and white hat on the man’s head.

    I am also checking for any sort of EXIF data that would indicate a manipulation, and any sort of shadows that appear to have been created artificially.

    To this effect I have analyzed this picture with unsharp mask, despeckling, AA tool, and the magnifier, as well as enhancing colors with Irfanview and changing gamma brightness and saturation.

    This particular picture, while it looks awkward, I cannot personally find any evidence of tampering.

    On areas I would expect to find tampering with blurs and shadows, I did not see any evidence of such. Enhancement with unsharp mask, despeckling and the other filters did not show any tampering either. I zoomed in with the magnifier, and was not able to make out any sort of fakery.

    There was no undo history or EXIF data on the image that seemed to indicate trickery.

    My (amateur) conclusion is that this particular photo is genuine, as with my limited resources I was not able to discern any sort of manipulation.

    Will look at the others as well.

  2. a U.S. Libertarian
    June 8, 2012 at 6:01 pm

    I did not even have to do much to the second picture in the pack, 1337777384641.jpg, to make my pronouncement on this one.

    Right away as I opened this picture in GIMP, I zoomed in on what looked like a blur job to the left part of the hat, and what looks like a shadow job on the right part. The left ear of the man appears to have been blurred to fit the hat, and may have had a burn tool applied to it to make the color seam there match.

    To attempt to remove some of what appears to be an obvious blur job, I ran several despeckle filters to max out the black. What I see now to the left part of the hat is a rough area, where it appears someone had played around with a sharpen tool, and done a rather bad job.

    The top of the top right corner of the hat appears to sport both a burn job and a blur job, and the shadows do not match here. Upon zooming in after all this, the right ear now seems to show signs of a bad blur job. At this time I decide to run an unsharp mask. This does not reveal any additional evidence of tampering, but upon completion the area where the shadow does not match still appear distorted as does the area on the left, which still appears to sport a bad job with a sharpener. At this time I decide to check for EXIF data, so I close GIMP back out and run a check. I don’t see any, what a shock, the person who edited this photo must have cleared it out. Ok. This does not change the verdict I have for this particular photo,


  3. a U.S. Libertarian
    June 8, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    I am now taking a look at the third image in the pack, 1337778389111.jpg.

    After running unsharp masks, despeckles, color enhancements and playing with the gamma, saturation, and brightness, I can only see one thing which will make this picture suspect: the beard up underneath the hat looks funny in the top right corner.

    Other than that, the image appears to be genuine and I did not find any EXIF data that would indicate tampering, but I did not expect to.

    I am going to have to say I am undecided on the authenticity of this particular picture. it looks awkward, but…

  4. a U.S. Libertarian
    June 8, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    After these somewhat unrevealing analyses, I decide to check the rest of the pack to find the picture that looks the most suspect, and I decide that this is 133779727911.jpg.

    This is the most suspect to me for a number of reasons,
    1. It shows a bejeweled outfit that I would not ever epect to be permitted in Guantanamo
    2. There appear to be obvious shadowjobs underneath the rim of the hat to make it fit his head
    3. The beard appears like it could have been copied and pasted or the robe could have been copied and pasted

    I have to say that this one is fake as well.

    With one I have decided is genuine, and two I have decided are fake, odds seem to say that this pack is neither fake nor genuine, but a mixed bunch of both.

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