In a political world of transparency and high-velocity information, the question surrounding the release of Osama bin Laden's death photos is not if, but when.
Officials in the White House, and on Capitol Hill, understand that a gruesome, bloody picture of al Qaeda's iconic leader will inflame passions with Islamic extremists. But they also understand that the contemporary culture of information is marked by exceptional levels of distrust that can be reduced, if not erased, only by evidence.
After deciding not to release photos last night, President Obama's team continues to weigh the issue. Aides said no decision has been made.
But the issue appears likely to come to a head today as administration officials including CIA director Leon Panetta brief lawmakers. There are separate classified briefings for House members and senators this afternoon.
"Yes, I am confident they will" display photos at today's briefing, one well-placed Senate source said this morning. If so, since the near-unbroken rule of political Washington is that information can't be suppressed once disseminated, public release would almost certainly follow in short order.