Fact Check

Real Photo of Osama Bin Laden Meeting with George W. or George H.W. Bush?

“Oh dear!!! Who's on the left?” a post on X exclaimed about the alleged photo of a clandestine Pentagon meeting with the 9/11 mastermind.

Published Jan 28, 2024

 (Screenshot via X)
Image Via Screenshot via X
Claim:
An authentic photograph shows Osama bin Laden seated with former U.S. President George W. Bush or his father, the late President George H.W. Bush, in a Pentagon meeting that included other U.S. officials.
Context

This is a manipulated photograph. Bin Laden’s face was edited onto the face of another individual. Former President George W. Bush was in the original, unaltered photo; George H.W. Bush was not.

Since roughly 2022, viral posts have claimed to reveal an authentic photograph of 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden seated next to former U.S. President George W. Bush (in office from 2001 to 2009), or his father, U.S. President George H. W. Bush (in office from 1989 to 1993). The former al-Qaida leader was killed in 2011.

The example below is captioned (originally in French): “Oh dear!!! Who's on the left? Wouldn't that be Bin Laden? And who is next to it? Wouldn’t that be Papa Bush? The father of the one who told us that bin Laden is a terrorist?”


(Screenshot via X)

Here is a Facebook variant from 2022:

Is this bin Laden with G.W. Bush? (Pilots for 9/11 Truth/Facebook)

This image was manipulated to make it appear that bin Laden was among a group of U.S. officials seated around the table, the implication being, apparently, that bin Laden committed the 2001 attacks in collusion with the U.S. government — a staple belief among "9/11 Truthers," i.e., conspiracy theorists who believe the 9/11 attacks were a "false flag" operation.

The actual, unedited photograph was taken on Sept. 12, 2001, and shows then-President George W. Bush at the head of the table, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, and then-National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice, among others, meeting at the Pentagon in the aftermath of 9/11.


(Mai/Getty Images)

In the low-resolution, altered version of the image, bin Laden’s likeness was pasted over that of Wolfowitz. (A photograph from the same meeting taken from another angle clearly shows Wolfowitz next to Rumsfeld.) Just as notably, George H. W. Bush, who was no longer in office at the time, was not in the room.

The Pentagon was one of the buildings targeted on 9/11, resulting in the deaths of around 184 people. President Bush visited the Pentagon the next day in order to thank the people who “assisted in containing the fires and rescuing victims,” according to the Department of Defense.

Sources

“George W. Bush.” The White House, https://www.whitehouse.gov/about-the-white-house/presidents/george-w-bush/. Accessed 23 Jan. 2024.

“How SEAL Team Six Took Out Osama Bin Laden.” HISTORY, 3 Aug. 2023, https://www.history.com/news/osama-bin-laden-death-seal-team-six. Accessed 23 Jan. 2024.

"President Bush Meets with Secretary Rumsfeld and His Staff." Department of Defense. https://www.defense.gov/Multimedia/Photos/igphoto/2002019373/. Accessed 23 Jan. 2024.

"Secretary Rumsfeld Introduces Staff Members to President Bush at Their Pentagon Meeting." Department of Defense. https://dod.defense.gov/OIR/gallery/igphoto/2001240202/. Accessed 23 Jan. 2024.

“Watch 9/11 Inside the Pentagon on PBS Wisconsin.” PBS Wisconsin, https://pbswisconsin.org/watch/911-inside-pentagon/911-inside-pentagon/. Accessed 23 Jan. 2024.
 

Nur Nasreen Ibrahim is a reporter with experience working in television, international news coverage, fact checking, and creative writing.