Photos show White House watched bin Laden raid live

Brennan on seeing raid: "One of the most anxiety-filled periods of time"; CNN reports bin Laden lived in home where killed for last 3 years.

May 3, 2011 06:38
2 minute read.
Situation Room watches update on bin Laden raid.

situation room watching bin laden raid_311 reuters. (photo credit: REUTERS/Ho New)


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The White House on Monday released several images of US President Barack Obama and other officials in the Situation Room watching the military raid that resulted in Osama bin Laden's death.

In the photos, Obama and other top-ranking security officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, are seen watching and listening in real time to the raid that killed the al Qaida leader.

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Convened in the White House Situation Room, members of the group held their breath and remained silent as they waited to see whether the extremely risky operation would succeed, White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan said.

"It was probably one of the most anxiety-filled periods of time, I think, in the lives of the people who were assembled here yesterday," said Brennan. "The minutes passed like days, and the president was very concerned about the security of our personnel."

In the press conference Monday, Brennan said that bin Laden was involved in a firefight with US forces when he was killed on Sunday in Pakistan.

Brennan said that minimizing the risk to American operatives and the surrounding civilian population informed the decision about which of several different approaches to take against the compound believed to hold bin Laden.

He said that a small-team helicopter raid was chosen also because it would give the US the best chance at being able to verify that they had taken bin Laden and to minimize friction with the Pakistani government, which was not informed of the raid before it occurred.

Brennan said that while the US had a high degree of confidence that bin Laden was inside the compound – a million-dollar, high-walled, one-of-its-kind estate lacking Internet and phone connectivity in the affluent town of Abbottabad, some 35 miles north of Islamabad – there was no confirmation before the early morning operation that bin Laden was inside.

However, according to a CNN report Monday, US security officials said that bin Laden was living at the estate in which he was killed for the last three years, if not longer.

Brennan said US President Barack Obama’s decision to go ahead with the raid, despite lacking unanimity among his advisors, was one of the “gutsiest calls of any president in recent memory.”

He said that the US is now “99.9 percent” certain that the US commandos had killed bin Laden, given DNA, appearance and other telling information, but demurred on whether the government would release photos as many have demanded.

The order was given to take bin Laden alive if possible, but if encountering likely resistance, he could be killed on sight, according to Brennan. He said bin Laden was killed in the firefight, along with his son, two couriers at the house and another woman previously reported to be his wife. However, conflicting reports say the woman was not bin Laden's wife and he did not use her as a human shield.

Bin Laden’s body was thrown into the ocean so it will not become a shrine for terrorists, Brennan said.

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