The digitally altered image of an older and greying Bin Laden (left in the photo) was meant to show how the world’s most wanted terrorist might now look without his trademark turban and long beard.
But it created an unexpected stir in Madrid when Gaspar Llamazares, the former leader of Spain’s United Left communist party and the caucus’s current spokesperson in the parliament, recognised strong elements of himself in the image and complained to the US.
The FBI claimed to have used "cutting edge" technology to reproduce new images of 18 of the most wanted terrorist suspects for the State Department’s Rewards for Justice website. It admitted, however, that a technician "was not satisfied" with the hair features offered by the FBI’s software programme and instead used part of a photo of Mr Llamazares, found on the internet. "The technican had no idea whose image he had found and no dark motive for using it," he said.
The US State Department was forced to withdraw the mocked up photo-image, circulated around the world last week. Meanwhile, the US Embassy in Madrid conveyed to Gaspar Llamazares its formal apologies. But it was obliged to do so twice, since it was discovered that his features were used by the FBI for another mocked-up photofit image, this time portraying alleged Libyan terrorist Atiyah Abd al-Rahman.
Gaspar Llamazares was not amused and warned the agency of legal action unless justification is provided, which he is still waiting for.
"In the last few days I have seen the security services involved in some very strange things, some major failures, but I would never have believed they could have affected me so directly," he commented.
The 52-year-old politician rebuked the FBI for undermining his security with the "low level" of US intelligence services.
"Bin Laden’s safety is not threatened by this but mine certainly is," he noted.
Will the real Osama Bin Laden please stand up?