Osama Bin Laden is dead, President Obama announced Sunday night, in a televised address to the nation. His death was the result of a U.S. operation launched today in Abbottabad, Pakistan, against a compound where bin Laden was believed to be hiding, according to U.S. intelligence. After a firefight, a small team of American forces killed bin Laden and took possession of his body, the president said.
“Tonight I can report to the American people and the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden,” Obama said during brief remarks at the White House.
“Justice has been done,” he said, in comments that marked a formal end of the manhunt for the most visible and emotionally-charged symbol of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The president said U.S. intelligence operatives received a tip in August on bin Laden’s whereabouts, which ultimately led to Sunday’s attack. Obama said he determined last week that the U.S. had enough reliable information to take action; by Sunday morning, he had authorized “a small team of Americans” to conduct an operation targeting bin Laden.
“After a fire fight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body,” the president said. “No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties.”
Obama said the 9/11 attacks that bin Laden and his lieutenants orchestrated nearly 10 years ago remain “the worst attack on the American people in our history” and said the images of the crumbling Twin Towers “are seared into our national memory.”
The president emphasized that Americans “did not choose this fight” against al Qaeda, but rather, “it came to our shores.” He praised U.S. military and intelligence professionals for working “tirelessly to achieve this outcome.” To the families of 9/11 victims, he noted that the U.S. has “never forgotten your loss.”
“Tonight, let us think back to the sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11,” Obama said. “I know that it has, at times, frayed. Yet today’s achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people.”
Both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush had targeted bin Laden during their presidencies, and both had failed to either capture him or kill him. The failure to snare bin Laden weighed most heavily, perhaps, on the Bush Administration, which occupied the White House during the 9/11 attacks, and the al Qaeda leader’s killing falls exactly eight years to the day when Bush famously declared “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq.
Bush said in a statement that Obama called him Sunday night to inform him of “the momentous achievement” of bin Laden’s death.
“I congratulated him and the men and women of our military and intelligence communities who devoted their lives to this mission. They have our everlasting gratitude,” Bush said. “The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done.”
Clinton, who was president when the first World Trade Center bombing occurred in 1993, issued a statement calling bin Laden’s death “a profoundly important moment not just for the families of those who lost their lives on 9/11 and in al-Qaida’s other attacks but for people all over the world who want to build a common future of peace, freedom, and cooperation for our children.”
In a conference call with reporters just after President Obama spoke, senior administration officials provided a detailed sketch of how the intelligence on bin Laden’s whereabouts was gathered.
Intelligence officials had been conducting lengthy reconnaissance work prior to receiving their key tip in August. According to senior administration officials, suspected terrorists in custody since 9/11 -- including the attack’s mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed -- identified a courier who had a close relationship with bin Laden.
“This man was one of the few al Qaeda couriers trusted by bin Laden,” one senior administration official said. “They indicated he might be living with and protecting bin Laden. But for years we were unable to identify his true name or his location. Four years ago we uncovered his identity… About two years ago, after months of persistent effort, we identified areas of Pakistan where the courier and his brother operated. Still, we were unable to pinpoint exactly where they lived due to extensive operational security on their part. The fact that they were being so careful reinforced our belief that we were on the right track.”
When the intelligence community finally pinpointed the courier’s location, they were “shocked by what we saw,” said this official.
The neighborhood in Abbottabad was “relatively affluent with lots of retired military,” this official continued, and was insulated from urban areas or places susceptible to natural disaster and terrorist attacks. The home was “roughly eight times larger than the other homes in the area,” and it was surrounded by 12-to-18-foot-high walls, topped with barbed wire. It had two security gates and a value of roughly $1 million, although it lacked telephone and Internet connections.
An even more telling clue for intelligence operatives: The occupants of the house were burning their trash rather than putting it out for collection.
One senior administration official suggested bin Laden had been staying at the compound for at least six months without moving. Bin Laden was known to have regularly shifted locations to evade capture, so it’s unusual that he chose to stay in on spot for such an extended period.
More recently, the Obama administration had reduced the number of drone strikes in the area -- while ramping up surveillance -- in an effort to give the al Qaeda leader a heightened sense of safety in his home.
Prior to the operation, Obama convened nine meetings with his national security team to review intelligence. According to a White House aide, “Principals met formally an additional five times themselves and their deputies met seven times.”
The president made the decision to undertake the operation at 8:20 a.m. on April 29th in the White House’s Diplomatic Room before he left to survey tornado damage in Alabama. Tom Donilon, his National Security Advisor, prepared the formal orders and convened the principals at 3 p.m. that same day to complete the planning.
The next day, without giving off a hint of the weighty operation being planned, Obama prepared for and delivered his address at the annual White House Correspondent's Association dinner. The next morning he played nine holes of golf.
Final preparations were made on Sunday. At 2 p.m., the president met with top advisers for an hour and half, at which point he returned to the Situation Room for an additional briefing. Twenty minutes after that, he learned that bin Laden had been “tentatively identified.” By 7 p.m. he was told it was highly probable that bin Laden was at the compound. By 8:30 p.m., he received an additional briefing. He signed off on the attack after that.
No other intelligence operatives in other countries were told of the attack before it occurred -- including Pakistani operatives -- according to administration officials. Vice President Joseph Biden informed congressional leadership of the attack shortly before it took place, aides on the Hill told the Huffington Post.
Details about the fight itself are still difficult to come by. According to local reports in Pakistan, a helicopter involved in the attack had a mechanical problem and crashed.
U.S. forces intentionally destroyed the remainder of the wreckage to reduce signs of their presence in the area , according to NBC and other media reports. Two helicopters remained to provide cover for Joint Special Operations Command forces; in addition, there was a predator drone.
The fight lasted only 40 minutes and was described by a senior administration official as a “surgical raid” conducted by a Navy Seals unit. Bin Laden's adult son was killed, as were two of his couriers and a woman being used as a human shield. Bin Laden himself “did resist the assault force,” a senior administration official said. Reports on Sunday night said the terrorist leader was ultimately shot in the head.
Officials warned that in the aftermath of the attack, Americans should be on alert for a reprisal from al Qaeda. However, one official added, there were “no specific threats" as of Sunday night. ABC News reported that authorities plan to bury bin Laden’s body at sea in order to leave no definitive location for his final resting place. It will be done, an official added, “in accordance with Islamic practice and tradition." Hours later, CNN reported that the burial had taken place.
"Americans understand the costs of war," Obama said toward the end of his remarks. "Yet as a country, we will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by when our people have been killed. We will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies."
Watch: Obama: Osama Bin Laden Killed by U.S. Forces
Details are continuing to emerge regarding Osama bin Laden's top-secret Abbottabad compound, but the discovery of some high-strength marijuana plants just yards from the home has set the blogosphere aflame with speculation.
ABC News reports:
A new bulletin issued tonight by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security and obtained by ABC News describes the terror organization's chilling desire to derail a train.
"As of February 2010, al-Qa'ida was allegedly contemplating conducting an operation against trains at an unspecified location in the United States on the 10th anniversary of September 11, 2001," the document reads, using an alternate spelling for bin Laden's terror group. "As one option, al-Qa'ida was looking into trying to tip a train by tampering with the rails so that the train would fall off the track at either a valley or a bridge."
HuffPost Blogger Tom Engelhardt writes:
Back in the 1960s, Senator George Aiken of Vermont offered two American presidents a plan for dealing with the Vietnam War: declare victory and go home. Roundly ignored at the time, it’s a plan worth considering again today for a war in Afghanistan and Pakistan now in its tenth year.
As everybody not blind, deaf, and dumb knows by now, Osama bin Laden has been eliminated. Literally. By Navy Seals. Or as one of a crowd of revelers who appeared in front of the White House Sunday night put it on an impromptu sign riffing on The Wizard of Oz: “Ding, Dong, Bin Laden Is Dead.”
|@ BreakingNews : Info from bin Laden raid shows al-Qaida considered attacking US trains, mass transit hubs - NBC News|
The article cites Jason Reed, a White House photographer for Reuters, recounting in a separate post how this was done.
“As President Obama continued his nine-minute address in front of just one main network camera, the photographers were held outside the room by staff and asked to remain completely silent,” Reed wrote. “Once Obama was off the air, we were escorted in front of that teleprompter and the president then re-enacted the walk-out and first 30 seconds of the statement for us.”
NBC News reports that President Barack Obama plans to privately thank members involved in the operation against Osama bin Laden on Friday.
The official said Obama met at the White House on Wednesday with Vice Adm. William McRaven, the overall commander of the bin Laden mission, NBC News reported.
"The president met with Admiral McRaven at the White House yesterday to thank him personally in the Oval Office and will have the opportunity to privately thank some of the special operators involved in the operation tomorrow at Fort Campbell," the official said without elaborating.
The official said Obama will meet "special operators" involved in the mission but was not specific about whether members of the SEAL team would be among them.
Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said in an interview for ABC's "Subway Series" with Jonathan Karl that he believes senior Pakistani officials knew where Osama Bin Laden was located.
"At high levels, high levels being the intelligence service ... they knew it." Levin went on to say he has "no doubt" they know the location of other top terrorists.
The team that was deployed to take down bin Laden included one dog.
Most likely a Belgian Malinois (though officials say it could also have been a German Shepherd), there was one non-human member of the SEAL team that raided Osama bin Laden's compound, according to The New York Times. The heroic pooch was strapped to a Navy SEAL as they were lowered from a hovering helicopter.
Though the dog began making headlines Wednesday, Pet Adviser actually picked the nugget of information out of an NY Times article on Monday.
Read more here.
In this video clip from President Barack Obama's interview with 60 Minutes, he says about Osama bin Laden's burial, "Frankly we took more care on this than obviously bin Laden took when he killed 3,000 people. He didn't have much regard for how they were treated and desecrated."WATCH:
ABC News offers different, or perhaps additional, information of the interrogation of one of Osama bin Laden's wives:
Pakistani intelligence agents today are interrogating three women -- all wives of Osama bin Laden -- who were captured during the U.S.-led raid on Sunday.
The wives, including the youngest -- 29-year-old Yemeni Amal Ahmed Abdul Fatah -- were all living with bin Laden inside the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
According to one of the women, bin Laden confined himself to two rooms in the house, including the bedroom where he was killed. He never left those rooms, she claims, for the five years he was hiding there.
CNN reports that, according to a Pakistani military spokesman, Osama bin Laden's wife has told interrogators she didn't leave the compound for five years:
The wife, who was wounded in the raid, said she lived in the compound in Abbottabad with eight of bin Laden's children and five others from another family, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas told CNN. All of them have been in Pakistani custody since the pre-dawn U.S. commando raid that killed bin Laden and will be returned to their country of origin, Abbas said.
Abbas said he wasn't sure from her questioning how long bin Laden had lived there himself or whether he had ventured outside.
|@ CBSNews : AP: Obama to meet SEAL team members from bin Laden operation at Fort Campbell on Friday. DEVELOPING|
Global Post reports that Pakistani officials have told the news organization that the Pakistani army knew, and playing a role in, the operation that led to Osama bin Laden's death:
The statements run counter to the public position taken by officials in both Pakistan and the United States who have so far downplayed the role Pakistan’s military and intelligence community had in the attack, saying that it was limited to a small amount of information sharing.
One senior military official, who asked not to be named because he is not permitted to speak to the press, said that Pakistani army troops were in fact providing backup support when the United States began its operations inside the compound where bin Laden had been staying, including sealing off the neighborhood where the compound was located.
This report strongly opposes the TIME piece with CIA Chief Leon Panetta's statement, “It was decided that any effort to work with the Pakistanis could jeopardize the mission."
More from the Global Post article here.
HuffPost's Sam Stein reports:
WASHINGTON -- White House Press Secretary Jay Carney reiterated on Thursday that the killing of Osama bin Laden would not alter the president’s policy with respect to the war in Afghanistan.
Speaking to reporters en route to the president’s Ground Zero visit, Carney said that strategy regarding the Afghan war “remains unchanged.”
James Warren writes in The Atlantic:
There's a rich coincidence to that intimate photo of President Obama and his national security team monitoring the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound -- and a lesson about a conceit of political pundits.
Not only does it recall the 1986 photo of President Reagan and top aides as they viewed a replay of the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion -- and, as with Team Obama, one doesn't know what they're watching at that moment --but it's taken by the same person, my former colleague Pete Souza.
Read the full article here.
In this image provided by The Associated Press, "President Barack Obama pauses after laying a wreath at the National Sept. 11 Memorial at Ground Zero in New York, Thursday, May 5, 2011."(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Tony Karon writes for TIME that while Pakistan may be an unreliable ally to the U.S., their relationship will not be broken:
...U.S. intelligence has long suspected that at least some among its Pakistani counterparts were maintaining ties with Qaeda-linked figures.
The U.S. has known this for years, but that hasn't forced a break in U.S.-Pakistan relations. That's unlikely to change, now, even if it turns out that elements in the Pakistani security hierarchy had been aware of Bin Laden's presence all along.
To understand why, you only have to look as far as Damascus. That's right, Damascus. Syria's President Bashar al-Assad is Iran's only ally among Arab heads of state; he is a key patron of Hizballah and Hamas, and is still formally at war with Israel. His regime is accused by the IAEA of trying to build a secret nuclear program (before the facility was bombed by Israel) and he has sought to suppress an unprecedented protest movement against his authoritarian rule by sending in tanks and ordering his security forces to fire repeatedly on unarmed demonstrators, killing hundreds. Yet, you're unlikely to find a serious foreign policy hand in the corridors of power in Washington -- or, for that matter, even in Jerusalem -- who is willing to advocate for a policy of overthrowing Assad.
View The Huffington Post's live updates on President Barack Obama's Ground Zero visit here.
President Barack Obama is currently meeting and hugging the family members of 9/11 victims. Earlier, he participated in a silent prayer.
In this image provided by The Associated Press, "President Barack Obama meets with firefighters and first responders at Engine 54, Ladder 4, Battalion 9 before visiting the National Sept. 11 Memorial at Ground Zero in New York, Thursday, May 5, 2011."(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
An ABC Live Video shows President Barack Obama thank firefighters in New York, as he says, "You will always have a president who has got your back."
ABC's RIck Klein tweets comments from Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR):
|@ rickklein : Sen. Pryor: "I'm not convinced that we're getting what we need" in help from Pakistan in war on terror. "divided loyalties." #TopLine|
Reuters offers a report on the concern that al Qaeda and its allies may have been able to reach Pakistan's nuclear arsenal:
During his time at a fortified compound, did the world's most wanted man manage to sneak supporters into Pakistan's nuclear sites to gain the ultimate weapon for global holy war?
That's a question that could haunt some policy makers in Western capitals for many years.
The answer among experts is a resounding no, but bin Laden's stay here is fueling concern about Pakistan's overall stability, vital for securing its nuclear weapons.
Anthony Cordesman, a national security analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington, said the fact that bin Laden had managed to evade capture for so long in Pakistan should not raise additional red flags about the security of the country's nuclear arsenal.
The Hill's Mike O'Brien tweets:
|@ MPOTheHill : Boehner on bin Laden photos: "I support the decision of the president that they should not be disclosed."|
|@ BreakingNews : Obama visits New York City firehouse that lost 15 men on 9/11, says 'When we say we never forget, we mean what we say' - NBC|
The Associated Press provides a video of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offering remarks on Pakistan and the photo from the Situation Room. Clinton says on Pakistan, "it is not always an easy relationship, you know that, but on the other hand it is a productive one for both of our countries."WATCH:
|@ RumsfeldOffice : Heading to the Pentagon w/ Joyce this afternoon to honor our colleagues lost on 9/11.|
Reuters reports that although Osama bin Laden is dead, "Pakistan remains a haven for militants with both ambition and means to strike overseas":
Worse, there are signs that groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba (Army of the Pure), nurtured by Pakistan's spy agency to advance strategic interests in India and Afghanistan, are no longer entirely under the agency's control.
Even if the Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI), under intense pressure following the discovery of bin Laden in a Pakistani garrison town, sought to roll up the groups, it may not be able to do so without provoking a major backlash.
In Lashkar's case, according to experts, it is not even certain if it is under the control of its own leadership, with many within pushing for greater global jihad. Several others are spinning off into independent operatives which makes it harder for security agencies to track down.
Tony Dokoupil writes for The Daily Beast about America's newfound interest in the Navy SEALs:
"Navy SEAL training,” followed closely by “Navy SEAL workout,” were the only bin Laden-related search terms in the Top 10 on Wednesday, narrowly beating “Jesse James” (who opened up about his ex, Sandra Bullock) and “Flowers Online” (note: Mother’s Day is Sunday). Surely, this says something unflattering about the national id, or at least American Web-surfing habits. But since inquiring minds want to know…
SEAL training is the most ferocious workout in the free world, according to Navy memoirs and other published reports, a bone-wrenching, spine-rattling affair that takes about two years, and overwhelms most men who attempt it. Those who pass go on to restock the 2,500-man rotation of active-duty SEALs. The best are eventually tapped for the elite Seal Team Six—the squad that got bin Laden. And as perhaps goes without saying, the average Googler wouldn't survive the pre-training requirements: 50 sit-ups and 42 pushups (in under two minutes each), a mile-and-a-half run (at sub seven-minute-mile pace), a 500-yard swim (in less than 13 minutes). There are no women allowed.
Politico reports that the dramatic photo with Secretary of State Hilary Clinton holding a hand over her mouth may not have in fact been a dramatic pose, but rather allergies:
"Those were 38 of the most intense minutes," Clinton said, the AP reports. "I have no idea what any of us were looking at at that particular millisecond when the picture was taken."
Clinton also didn’t give much thought to her hand over her mouth. “I am somewhat sheepishly concerned that it was my preventing one of my early spring allergic coughs,” she said.
She added, “So, it may have no great meaning whatsoever.”