Osama Bin Laden Killing 'Good Day For America,' Obama Says
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Declaring the killing of Osama bin Laden "a good day for America," President Barack Obama said Monday the world was safer without the al-Qaida terrorist and mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. His administration used DNA testing to help confirm that American forces in Pakistan had in fact killed bin Laden, as U.S. officials sought to erase all doubt about the stunning news.
A U.S. official says Osama bin Laden went down firing at the Navy SEALs who stormed his compound.
"Today we are reminded that as a nation there is nothing we can't do," Obama said of the news bound to lift his political standing and help define his presidency. He hailed the pride of those who broke out in overnight celebrations as word spread around the globe.
An elite crew of American forces killed bin Laden during a daring raid on Monday, capping the world's most intense manhunt, a search that spanned nearly a decade.
Bin Laden was shot in the head during a firefight and then quickly buried at sea. White House officials were mulling the merits and appropriateness of releasing a photo.
As spontaneous celebrations and expressions of relief gave way to questions about precisely what happened and what comes next, U.S. officials warned that the campaign against terrorism is not nearly over - and that the threat of deadly retaliation against the United States and its allies was real.
Senior administration officials said the DNA testing alone offered near 100 percent certainty that bin Laden was among those shot dead. Photo analysis by the CIA, confirmation by a woman believed to be bin Laden's wife on site, and matching physical features like bin Laden's height all helped confirmed the identification.
"We can all agree this is a good day for America," a subdued Obama said during a Medal of Honor ceremony in the glimmering White House East Room.
Still, it was unclear if the world would ever get visual proof.
Senior U.S. officials said bin Laden was killed toward the end of the firefight, which took place in a building at a compound north of Islamabad, the Pakistani capital. His body was put aboard the USS Carl Vinson and placed into the North Arabian Sea.
An official familiar with the operation said bin Laden fired on U.S. forces and was hit by a barrage of carefully aimed return fire.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because aspects of the operation remain classified.
The official says two dozen SEALs in night-vision goggles dropped into the high-walled compound in Pakistan by sliding down ropes from Chinook helicopters in the overnight raid.
The SEALs retrieved bin Laden's body and turned the remaining detainees over to Pakistani authorities.
Traditional Islamic procedures for handling the remains were followed, the officials said, including washing the corpse, placing it in a white sheet.
Across the government, Obama's security team used the occasion to warn that the campaign against terrorists was hardly over.
"The fight continues and we will never waver," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday. Her comments had echoes of former President George W. Bush's declaration nearly a decade ago, when al-Qaida attacks against America led to war in Afghanistan and changed the way Americans viewed their own safety.
Turning to deliver a direct message to bin Laden's followers, she vowed: "You cannot wait us out."
U.S. Capitol Police put on a conspicuous show of force Monday morning with 10 vehicles amassed near Constitution Avenue with their lights flashing and doors and trunks open. Officers armed with automatic weapons kept watch on every vehicle that passed.
Obama himself had delivered the news of bin Laden's killing in a dramatic White House statement late Sunday. "Justice has been done," he declared.
Officials say CIA interrogators in secret overseas prisons developed the first strands of information that ultimately led to the killing of bin Laden.
The military operation that ended his life took mere minutes, and there were no U.S. casualties.
U.S. Blackhawk helicopters ferried about two dozen troops from Navy SEAL Team Six, a top military counter-terrorism unit, into the compound identified by the CIA as bin Laden's hideout - and back out again in less than 40 minutes. Bin Laden was shot after he and his bodyguards resisted the assault, officials said.
Three adult males were also killed in the raid, including one of bin Laden's sons, whom officials did not name. One of bin Laden's sons, Hamza, is a senior member of al-Qaida. U.S. officials also said one woman was killed when she was used as a shield by a male combatant, and two other women were injured.
The compound is about a half-mile from a Pakistani military academy, in a city that is home to three army regiments and thousands of military personnel. Abbottabad is surrounded by hills and with mountains in the distance.
Critics have long accused elements of Pakistan's security establishment of protecting bin Laden, though Islamabad has always denied it, and in a statement the foreign ministry said his death showed the country's resolve in the battle against terrorism.
Bin Laden's death came 15 years after he declared war on the United States. Al-Qaida was also blamed for the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa that killed 224 people and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole that killed 17 American sailors in Yemen, as well as countless other plots, some successful and some foiled.
"We have rid the world of the most infamous terrorist of our time," CIA director Leon Panetta declared to employees of the agency in a memo Monday morning. He warned that "terrorists almost certainly will attempt to avenge" the killing of a man deemed uncatchable. "Bin Laden is dead. Al-Qaida is not," Panetta said.
Retaliatory attacks against the U.S. and Western targets could come from members of al-Qaida's core branch in the tribal areas of Pakistan, al-Qaida franchises in other countries, and radicalized individuals in the U.S. with al-Qaida sympathies, according to a Homeland Security Department intelligence alert issued Sunday and obtained by The Associated Press.
While the intelligence community does not have insight into current al-Qaida plotting, the department believes symbolic, economic and transportation targets could be at risk, and small arms attacks against other targets can't be ruled out.
In all, nearly 3,000 were killed in the Sept. 11 attacks.
As news of bin Laden's death spread, hundreds of people cheered and waved American flags at ground zero in New York, the site where al-Qaida hijacked jets toppled the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Thousands celebrated all night outside the White House gates.
Many people said they were surprised that bin Laden had finally been found and killed. John Gocio, a doctor from Arkansas who was gathering what details he could from TV screens at O'Hare Airport in Chicago, marveled: "After such a long time, you kind of give up and say, `Well, that's never going to happen.' "
A couple of people posed for photographs in front of the White House while holding up front pages of Monday's newspapers announcing bin Laden's death.
The development seems certain to give Obama a political lift. Even fierce critics such as former Vice President Dick Cheney praised him.
But its ultimate impact on al-Qaida is less clear.
The greatest terrorist threat to the U.S. is now considered to be the al-Qaida franchise in Yemen, far from al-Qaida's core in Pakistan. The Yemen branch almost took down a U.S.-bound airliner on Christmas 2009 and nearly detonated explosives aboard two U.S. cargo planes last fall. Those operations were carried out without any direct involvement from bin Laden.
The few fiery minutes in Abbottabad followed years in which U.S. officials struggled to piece together clues that ultimately led to bin Laden, according to an account provided by senior administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the operation.
Based on statements given by U.S. detainees since the 9/11 attacks, they said, intelligence officials have long known that bin Laden trusted one al-Qaida courier in particular, and they believed he might be living with him in hiding.
Four years ago, the United States learned the man's identity, which officials did not disclose, and then about two years later, they identified areas of Pakistan where he operated. Last August, the man's residence was found, officials said.
"Intelligence analysis concluded that this compound was custom built in 2005 to hide someone of significance," with walls as high as 18 feet and topped by barbed wire, according to one official. Despite the compound's estimated $1 million cost and two security gates, it had no phone or Internet running into the house.
By mid-February, intelligence from multiple sources was clear enough that Obama wanted to "pursue an aggressive course of action," a senior administration official said. Over the next two and a half months, the president led five meetings of the National Security Council focused solely on whether bin Laden was in that compound and, if so, how to get him, the official said.
Obama made a decision to launch the operation on Friday, shortly before flying to Alabama to inspect tornado damage, and aides set to work on the details.
Administration aides said the operation was so secretive that no foreign officials were informed in advance, and only a small circle inside the U.S. government was aware of what was unfolding half a world away.
Associated Press writers Ben Feller, Matt Apuzzo, Erica Werner, Pauline Jelinek, Robert Burns, Matthew Lee, Eileen Sullivan and Laurie Kellman contributed to this story.
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.”