When the FBI released its “aged progressed” pictures of Osama bin Laden last week, the top official in the bureau’s Science and Technology Branch hailed the images as “powerful examples of how advances in technology and science can be used to help find and bring to justice wanted persons.”
The official, Louis Grever, also referred in a joint FBI-State Department press release to “cutting-edge forensic, biometric, and technical capabilities.”
But it turns out the “cutting-edge” techniques here involved something like a Google image search, followed by a cut-paste job using the facial features of the left-wing Spanish politician Gaspar Llamazares.
An FBI spokesman explained to the BBC: “When producing age-progressed photographs, forensic artists typically select features from a database of stock reference photographs to create the new image.”
After seeing himself in the new bin Laden image, Llamazares told the AP, “It’s almost like out of a comedy if it didn’t deal with matters as serious as bin Laden and citizens’ security.” He now says he is afraid to travel in the United States.
The Llamazares-based rendering of bin Laden is still on the State Department Rewards for Justice Web site, now updated to be wearing a turban.