MADRID – A Spanish lawmaker was horrified to learn that the FBI used an online photograph of him to create an image showing what Osama bin Laden might look like today.
The image using Gaspar Llamazares’ photo appeared on a wanted poster updating the U.S. government’s 1998 photo of the al-Qaida leader.
FBI spokesman Ken Hoffman acknowledged to the Spanish newspaper El Mundo that the agency used a picture of Llamazares taken from Google Images.
In a statement Saturday, the agency would say only that it was aware of similarities between their age-progressed image “and that of an existing photograph of a Spanish public official.”
“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 FBI said in a statement to the Associated Press.
The wanted poster appeared on the State Department Web site rewardsforjustice.net, listing a reward of up to $25 million. The FBI said the photo of bin Laden would be removed from the Web site.
Llamazares, former leader of the United Left party, was elected to Spain’s parliament in 2000. The photograph of him used to make the wanted poster originally appeared on posters for his 2004 general-election campaign.
He said he would no longer feel safe traveling to the United States after his hair and facial wrinkles appeared on the bin Laden image.
“I was surprised and angered because it’s the most shameless use of a real person to make up the image of a terrorist,” Llamazares said Saturday at 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.”
Llamazares planned to ask the U.S. government for an explanation and said he reserved the right to take legal action.
Llamazares said he has “no similarity, physically or ideologically” to bin Laden. They do share one trait – both are 52.
Jose Morales, spokesman for Llamazares’ party, was surprised that computer images such as the retouched bin Laden photo were made using photos of real people.
Bin Laden, who is wanted in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya, is believed to be hiding in the lawless Pakistan frontier bordering Afghanistan. His exact whereabouts have been unknown since late 2001.