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President Obama Announcement
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you. The bottom line of our collection and our analysis was that we had high confidence that the compound harbored a high-value terrorist target. The experts who worked this issue for years assessed that there was a strong probability that the terrorist that was hiding there was Osama bin Laden.
What I’d like to do is walk you through the key points in that intelligence trail that led us to that conclusion. From the time that we first recognized bin Laden as a threat, the CIA gathered leads on individuals in bin Laden’s inner circle, including his personal couriers. Detainees in the post-9/11 period flagged for us individuals who may have been providing direct support to bin Laden and his deputy, Zawahiri, after their escape from Afghanistan.
One courier in particular had our constant attention. Detainees gave us his nom de guerre or his nickname and identified him as both a protégé of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of September 11th, and a trusted assistant of Abu Faraj al-Libbi, the former number three of al Qaeda who was captured in 2005.
Detainees also identified this man as one of the few al Qaeda couriers trusted by bin Laden. 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, and for operational reasons, I can’t go into details about his name or how we identified him, but about two years ago, after months of persistent effort, we identified areas in 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.
Then in August 2010, we found their residence, a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, a town about 35 miles north of Islamabad. The area is relatively affluent, with lots of retired military. It’s also insolated from the natural disasters and terrorist attacks that have afflicted other parts of Pakistan. When we saw the compound where the brothers lived, we were shocked by what we saw — an extraordinarily unique compound. The compound sits on a large plot of land in an area that was relatively secluded when it was built. It is roughly eight times larger than the other homes in the area.
When the compound was built in 2005, it was on the outskirts of the town center, at the end of a narrow dirt road. In the last six years, some residential homes have been built nearby. The physical security measures of the compound are extraordinary. It has 12- to 18-foot walls topped with barbed wire. Internal wall sections — internal walls sectioned off different portions of the compound to provide extra privacy. Access to the compound is restricted by two security gates, and the residents of the compound burn their trash, unlike their neighbors, who put the trash out for collection.
The main structure, a three-story building, has few windows facing the outside of the compound. A terrace on the third floor has a seven-foot wall privacy — has a seven-foot privacy wall.
It’s also noteworthy that the property is valued at approximately $1 million but has no telephone or Internet service connected to it. The brothers had no explainable source of wealth.
Intelligence analysts concluded that this compound was custom built to hide someone of significance. We soon learned that more people were living at the compound than the two brothers and their families. A third family lived there — one whose size and whose makeup matched the bin Laden family members that we believed most likely to be with Osama bin Laden. Our best assessment, based on a large body of reporting from multiple sources, was that bin Laden was living there with several family members, including his youngest wife.
Everything we saw — the extremely elaborate operational security, the brothers’ background and their behavior, and the location and the design of the compound itself was perfectly consistent with what our experts expected bin Laden’s hideout to look like. Keep in mind that two of bin Laden’s gatekeepers, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Faraj al-Libbi, were arrested in the settled areas of Pakistan.
Our analysts looked at this from every angle, considering carefully who other than bin Laden could be at the compound. We conducted red team exercises and other forms of alternative analysis to check our work. No other candidate fit the bill as well as bin Laden did.
So the final conclusion, from an intelligence standpoint, was twofold. We had high confidence that a high-value target was being harbored by the brothers on the compound, and we assessed that there was a strong probability that that person was Osama bin Laden.
Now let me turn it over to my colleague.
(Reuters) – President Barack Obama warned Americans on Sunday night to remain vigilant even after the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and while there are no known credible threats, the risk of attacks remains.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the FBI have not issued any warning of a credible or imminent threat in the wake of news that bin Laden was killed in Pakistan, but security will likely be ramped up to guard against possible retaliation.
“There is no doubt that al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must and we will remain vigilant at home and abroad,” Obama said in a late-night televised statement announcing that U.S. forces had killed bin Laden.
DHS and FBI officials had no immediate comment about the risk of attacks or any new threats.
Hundreds of joyful New Yorkers gathered at Ground Zero in downtown Manhattan early Monday morning to celebrate the news that Osama Bin Laden had been killed.
The crowd was made up of mostly young adults and college-aged kids, giving the gathering something of a frat-party like air. Beers were cracked, pot was smoked, and vuvuzelas were blown.
People were chanting everything from “USA” to “Obama killed Osama” to “Build It Bigger.” At other times they sang “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “God Bless America,” “Hey, Hey Goodbye,” and “We Are The Champions.”
Here’s video of the crowd singing the national anthem:
In the midnight darkness, the crowds gathered, chanting and cheering, waving American flags, outside the front gates of the White House. In Times Square, tourists poured out of nearby hotels and into the streets early Monday morning to celebrate with strangers. And in the shadow of the World Trade Center site, as the news of Osama bin Laden’s killing by American special forces spread, a police car drove north on Church Street blaring the sound of bagpipes from open windows. Officers raised clenched fists in the air.
“I don’t know if it will make us safer, but it definitely sends a message to terrorists worldwide,” said Stacey Betsalel, standing in Times Square with her husband, exchanging high fives. “They will be caught and they will have to pay for their actions. You can’t mess with the United States for very long and get away with it.”
The markets also reacted positively to the news Sunday night. Oil futures fell and U.S. stock futures rose. For World Trade Center survivors and the families of the dead, it was a powerful moment.
In Westchester, Harry Waizer, a survivor, paused nearly a minute before he began to speak when reached by phone.
“If this means there is one less death in the future, then I’m glad for that,” said Mr. Waizer, who was in an elevator riding to work in the north tower when the plane struck the building. He made it down the stairs, but suffered third-degree burns.
“But I just can’t find it in me to be glad one more person is dead, even if it is Osama bin Laden.”
Asked whether he felt any closure, Mr. Waizer said, “I’ve said for years I didn’t think there would be, but I’ll probably need to think about that more, now that it actually happened.”
“You know, the dead are still dead,” he added. “So in that sense, there is no such thing as closure.”
Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed in a 40-minute raid that followed months of planning and years of investigation, US officials said on Sunday.
Bin Laden went into hiding shortly after the September 11 attacks, so his communications with the outside world were handled by trusted couriers. US spies have been monitoring many of those couriers for years, the CIA said on Sunday.
“One courier in particular had our constant attention,” a senior administration official said. “We identified him as both a protege of [September 11 plotter] Khaled Sheikh Mohammed and [alleged al-Qaeda member] Abu Faraj al-Libi.”
The US spy agency learned his name four years ago; two years later, it tracked the courier and his brother to a compound in Abbottabad in Pakistan.
“We were shocked by what we saw, an extraordinarily unique compound,” a CIA official said. “It has 12-to-18-foot walls, topped with barbed wire; internal walls sectioned off different areas of the compound; access was restricted by two security gates.”
The five-year-old compound even burned its own trash, to prevent anyone from snooping through the garbage, and had no phone or internet connections to the outside.
And the brothers who lived there “had no visible source of wealth,” leading the CIA to believe that other people lived in the compound.
US officials eventually came to believe that those “other people” were bin Laden and his family, and presented their assessment to US president Barack Obama in September.
Several months of investigation followed, and then Obama chaired a series of five national security council meetings to decide on a course of action.
The council decided on an operation to capture bin Laden. Administration officials will not say whether the operation involved military personnel, CIA officers, or both; whoever conducted the raid, they rehearsed it several times beforehand.
“The president made the decision to undertake the operation at 8:20am on April 29th,” the White House said.
The operation itself was launched two days later, on May 1. Obama met with senior officials around 2pm to review final preparations; US personnel then launched a helicopter raid on the compound, which took less than 40 minutes, according to a senior administration official.
The goal of the raid was to capture bin Laden – but the al-Qaeda leader “did resist the assault force,” officials said.
Shortly before 4pm, Obama learned that bin Laden had been “tentatively identified.” Three hours later, the president was told there was a “high probability” that bin Laden was killed; his identity was later confirmed with DNA from his late sister.
Three other people were killed in the raid, including bin Laden’s son and a woman who allegedly acted as a human shield, and at least two more wounded. One US helicopter crashed during the assault.
Bin Laden’s body “will be handled in accordance with Islamic practice and tradition,” an administration official said, though he refused to say where the body would be taken for burial.
“We could be turning to a new phase,” Richart Engel is saying on TV. With democracy and the push for democracy taking root across the Middle East, bin Laden had become “despicable” in the region, he says. And now the U.S. seems to have gotten the man sought by two presidents, in Pakistan, where he’d taken shelter. This so happens to be the eighth anniversary of President George W. Bush donning that flight suit and proclaiming “mission accomplished.”
President Bush led the nation into war in Afghanistan to get bin Laden and to break up the Afghan government that had given him a base for the 9-11 attacks. Mr. Bush then led the nation into war in Iraq under several discredited rationales. American troops continue to sacrifice their lives in both countries. After failing to catch bin Laden in Afghanistan, the U.S. expanded into what amounts to a third, undeclared war in Pakistan, run by the CIA. NBC reports that bin Laden was not killed by a drone strike, but rather a Special Ops action that had been months in the making. NBC reports that bin Laden was shot in the head during a firefight at a specially built compound. The ground fighting lasted less than 40 minutes. Details remain scant — one helicopter was reportedly lost and a woman used as a human shield was killed.
It was the best kept and most closely guarded secret for the last eight months: a select handful of U.S. national security and administration officials tracked a high-value courier for Osama bin Laden to a dusty dirt road leading to a compound 35 miles north of Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital.
After months of intelligence gathering and meetings at the highest levels of the U.S. government, U.S. forces Sunday raided the compound, engaged in a firefight and ultimately killed bin Laden, the notorious leader of al Qaeda who had evaded capture and death since masterminding the 9/11 attacks that killed almost 3,000 people.
The CIA first informed President Obama about the intelligence in September of last year. And as evidence mounted in mid-February that bin Laden and his family were living in the compound, the President and the National Security Council began holding a series of “intensive” meetings about bin Laden’s probable location at the compound, according to administration officials.
The NSC meetings, chaired by Obama, would continue through March and April, taking place on March 14, March 29, April 12, with the last occurring April 29, when Obama ordered a raid on the compound with the goal of killing or capturing the man who had been the United States’ most sought after enemy for well over a decade.
In the months and weeks before the raid, Obama and the administration and national security officials who knew about it told no one — not even the Pakistani or any other country’s government.
“This was a team effort — a model of seamless cooperation,” an administration official told reporters late Sunday night on a conference call. “Since 9/11, this is what the American people expected of us … and today, we were finally able to deliver.”
Neither Obama, nor other administration officials, would characterize exactly which U.S. forces conducted the raid, saying only that it was a culmination of years of effort on the part of the CIA and National Security Agency. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, in a statement applauded the CIA for providing the intelligence and the military for carrying out the covert, targeted mission.
The details about bin Laden’s death were still sketchy as of late Sunday night, and U.S. officials were reluctant to fill in the gaps. An administration official said only that Osama bin Laden was killed in a firefight in which he resisted. One woman was also killed because one of the targeted men had tried to use her as a human shield during the raid, the official said.
Osama bin Laden’s death was the result of “matchless skill and courage of these Americans who secured this triumph for the U.S. and the world,” an administration official told reporters Sunday night. “I am very thankful for the President and the courage he displayed for making the decision” to authorize the raid.
In the period after 9/11, military detainees first flagged a series of individuals who had been providing support to bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zawahiri, long considered bin Laden’s chief lieutenant. The courier who eventually led U.S. intelligence authorities to the Pakistani compound was among those individuals, a trusted protege of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-declared chief plotter of the 9/11 attacks on the twin towers, according to administration officials.
Four years ago, U.S. intelligence officials uncovered the courier’s identity and tracked his and his brother’s movements within Pakistan, including to the compound where bin Laden was killed Friday.
The compound, 35 miles north Islamabad, is at the end of a narrow dirt road, surrounded by 12 to 18-foot walls topped by barbed wire with extra interior walls. Residents of the compound burned their trash, unlike other residents of the area who put their trash out for regular pick-up.
The property was valued at nearly $1 million, yet was not connected to the outside world by telephone or the Internet, a sign U.S. officials said helped confirm their suspicions.
U.S. intelligence officials determined that both the courier and his brother lived there, as well as a third family that included bin Laden’s youngest wife.
Obama gave the greenlight for the raid on Friday and it was executed Sunday afternoon, U.S. time, when a “small U.S. team” breached the walls of the compound. The operation took roughly 40 minutes. In that time, bin Laden was killed, along with three other males and the woman, who administration officials said was thrust into the firefight as a human shield.
“Bin Laden was killed in the firefight as our operators came onto the compound,” said an administration official, declining to further elaborate. “He did resist the assault force…and was killed in the firefight.”
Congressional intelligence leaders were informed of the authorized raid over the weekend, according to one GOP source, and other leaders were told about bin Laden’s death about 9:30 PM Sunday evening, shortly before news broke, House and Senate aides said.
Sunday evening, before announcing the news to the public at large, Obama called former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to tell them about bin Laden’s death first-hand.
Pakistan’s foreign ministry says the death of bin Laden shows the resolve of his country and the world to battle terrorism. Pakistan’s first official statement about the operation to kill bin Laden said Monday’s raid was a US operation.
Bin Laden was killed an a luxury house in the town of Abbottabad not far from a Pakistani military academy, raising questions over whether Pakistani may have known of his whereabouts. The statement did not address those questions.
Britain has told its embassies to review their security for fear of reprisals following the killing of bin Laden, Foreign Secretary William Hague said. Hague told BBC Radio 4:
There may be parts of al-Qaeda that will try to show that they are still in business in the coming weeks as indeed some of them are.
I have already this morning asked our embassies to review their security, to make sure that vigilance is heightened and I think that will have to be our posture for some time to come.
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood said that US soldiers should be withdrawn from Afghanistan and Iraq after the killing of Osama bin Laden. Essam al-Erian, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s governing body, told Reuters:
With Bin Laden’s death, one of the reasons for which violence has been practised in the world has been removed. It is time for Obama to pull out of Afghanistan and Iraq and end the occupation of U.S. and Western forces around the world that have for so long harmed Muslim countries.
The Western-backed Palestinian Authority said that the killing of Osama bin Laden by US forces was “good for the cause of peace”. PA spokesman Ghassan Khatib said:
Getting rid of Bin Laden is good for the cause of peace worldwide but what counts is to overcome the discourse and the methods — the violent methods — that were created and encouraged by Bin Laden and others in the world.
Kenya’s prime minister, Raila Odinga, thanks America and Pakistan for bin Laden’s killing, saying that it was positive for Kenya.
A leading US Muslim organisation welcomed the killing of bin Laden, saying he was a threat to America and the world. The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said in a statement:
We join our fellow citizens in welcoming the announcement that Osama bin Laden has been eliminated as a threat to our nation and the world through the actions of American military personnel.
As we have stated repeatedly since the 9/11 terror attacks, bin Laden never represented Muslims or Islam. In fact, in addition to the killing of thousands of Americans, he and Al-Qaeda caused the deaths of countless Muslims worldwide.
India said the killing of Osama Bin Laden was a “victorious milestone” in the war against terrorism but urged the world to continue battling militancy, a statement from the foreign ministry said.
The world must not let down its united effort to overcome terrorism and eliminate the safe havens and sanctuaries that have been provided to terrorists in our own neighbourhood. The struggle must continue unabated.
Thousands have flocked to Ground Zero to celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden, alleged mastermind of the devastating September 11 attacks on New York nearly 10 years ago.
New York’s police chief Raymond Kelly called the death of bin Laden a “welcome milestone” for the families of the 3,000 victims of the 2001 strikes by Al-Qaeda.
This background on the operation to kill bin Laden was given to Al Jazeera by a senior US offiicial:
On June 2, 2009 the President signs a memo to Director Panetta stating “in order to ensure that we have expanded every effort, I direct you to provide me within 30 days a detailed operation plan for locating and bringing to justice Usama Bin Ladin…”
In the lead up to this operation, the President convened at least 9 meetings with his national security Principals. Principals met formally an additional five times themselves; and their Deputies met 7 times. This was in addition to countless briefings on the subject during the President’s intelligence briefings; and frequent consultations between the NSC, CIA, DoD and Joint Staff. The President was actively involved in reviewing all facets of the operation.
The President made the decision to undertake the operation at 8:20am on April 29th in the Diplomatic Room before he left for Alabama. In the Dip Room were Donilon, Daley, Brennan and McDonough. Donilon then prepared the formal orders and convened the Principals at 3pm to complete the planning.
May 1 — staff worked pretty much all day today on the operation. Principals have been in the Situation Room since 1pm.
2:00pm the President met with the Principals to review final preparations.
3:32pm the President returned to the Sit Room for an additional briefing.
3:50pm the President first learns that UBL was tentatively identified.
7:01pm the President learns that there’s a “high probability” the HVT was UBL.
8:30pm the President receives further briefings.
Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event).
12 hours ago
Osama bin Laden’s compound from Google:
Screen shot of Fox announcement
This is from the Fox DC station: fox5 freudian slip of the day: anchor ruins epic moment by saying, “President Obama is dead” WATCH:
Within moments of President Obama completing his statement late Sunday night announcing the death of Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, reaction from across the globe began to pour in:
Former President George W. Bush: “Earlier this evening, President Obama called to inform me that American forces killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of the al Qaeda network that attacked America on September 11, 2001. 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. This momentous achievement marks a victory for America, for people who seek peace around the world, and for all those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001. The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done.”
Gordon Felt, President of the Families of Flight 93: “This is important news for us, and for the world. It cannot ease our pain, or bring back our loved ones. It does bring a measure of comfort that the mastermind of the September 11th tragedy and the face of global terror can no longer spread his evil.”
Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee: “Today is a tremendous day for our nation and the world, but most importantly those who lost loved ones on that horrific day. Justice was delivered to a ruthless terrorist courtesy of men and women of the United States military. For nearly a decade, literally thousands of American service members, intelligence officers and civilians have made it their mission to capture or kill the mastermind of September 11th. Tonight we honor their work and congratulate them on a job well done.
Mitt Romney, former Republican governor of Massachusetts: “This is a great victory for lovers of freedom and justice everywhere. Congratulations to our intelligence community, our military and the president. My thoughts are with the families of Osama bin Laden’s many thousands of victims, and the brave servicemen and women who have laid down their lives in pursuit of this murderous terrorist.”
Former President Bill Clinton: “This is 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. I congratulate the President, the National Security team and the members of our armed forces on bringing Osama bin Laden to justice after more than a decade of murderous al-Qaida attacks.”
Tim Pawlenty, former Republican governor of Minnesota: “This is terrific news for freedom and justice. In the hours after the 9/11 attacks, President Bush promised that America would bring Osama bin Laden to justice — and we did. I want to congratulate America’s armed forces and President Obama for a job well done. Let history show that the perseverance of the US military and the American people never wavered. America will never shrink from the fight and ultimately those who seek to harm us face only defeat. Today, justice is done, but the fight against radical Islamic terrorism is not yet over.”
Senator Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada and the majority leader: “Osama bin Laden is dead, killed in a targeted U.S. operation authorized by President Obama. This is the most significant victory in our fight against al Qaeda and terrorism, but that fight is not over. We will continue to support our troops and the American civilians who are fighting every day to protect our homeland. Nine-and-a-half years ago, Osama bin Laden masterminded the horrific attacks against the United States that killed nearly 3,000 people. As we remember those who were killed on that dark day in September and their families, we also reaffirm our resolve to defeat the terrorist forces that killed them and thousands of others across the globe. Because of courageous Americans in our military and intelligence community, their leader is now gone.”
Representative Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California and the House minority leader: “The death of Osama bin Laden marks the most significant development in our fight against al-Qaeda. I salute President Obama, his national security team, Director Panetta, our men and women in the intelligence community and military, and other nations who supported this effort for their leadership in achieving this major accomplishment. It is a testament to the professionalism of our dedicated national security professionals that no American lives were lost in this operation. As we approach the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I hope that today’s action provides some comfort to the 9/11 families who lost loved ones in the devastating attacks on our shores. Though the death of Osama bin Laden is historic, it does not diminish our relentless pursuit of terrorists who threaten our country.”
Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee: ““Tonight’s news, that Osama Bin Laden was killed by U.S. special forces in Pakistan, brings to justice a heinous individual who masterminded the murders of thousands of innocent people through many terrorist attacks around the world and thousands of Americans nearly ten years ago on September 11, 2001. This terrible chapter in American history will never be forgotten, but tonight we can go to sleep knowing that no other innocent life will be taken by this terrorist. I cannot thank enough the men and women of our armed forces and intelligence agencies, who bravely fought, and continue to fight, to protect all Americans from terrorism. The fight has been long, but tonight, because of you, America rid the world of a mass murderer. President Obama’s leadership in making the targeting of Osama Bin Laden our highest military and intelligence priority, warrants our gratitude. He deserves credit for refocusing U.S. efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan to root out terrorism which no doubt helped lead to this historic announcement.”
Congressional leaders from both parties cheered Osama bin Laden’s death Sunday, although most cautioned that the nation must not let up on its commitment to defeating terrorist forces.
“This is great news for the security of the American people and a victory in our continued fight against al Qaeda and radical extremism around the world,” Speaker John Boehner said in a statement.
But the Ohio Republican added, “We continue to face a complex and evolving terrorist threat, and it is important that we remain vigilant in our efforts to confront and defeat the terrorist enemy and protect the American people.”
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer also called for continued vigilance against terrorism as he hailed President Barack Obama for stopping the founder and leader of al-Qaida, the terrorist organization responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon.
“President Obama made bin Laden’s death or capture a top priority, and it was that focus that helped bring about our biggest victory against al Qaeda,” the Maryland Democrat said in a statement.
“I commend President Obama who has followed the vigilance of President Bush in bringing Bin Laden to justice.”
According to Brian Williams, the “NBC Nightly News” anchor, some journalists received a three-word e-mail that simply read, “Get to work.”
The nation’s television anchors and newspaper editors did not know, at first, that President Obama would be announcing the death of Osama bin Laden, an extraordinary development in the nearly 10-year-long war against terrorism waged by the United States and its allies. But reporters in Washington suspected almost immediately that the announcement could be about bin Laden.
That speculation was not aired out on television immediately, but it did erupt on Twitter and other social networking sites. Wishful thinking about bin Laden’s death ricocheted across the Web — and then, at 10:25 p.m., while Mr. Obama was writing his speech, one particular tweet seemed to confirm it. Keith Urbahn, the chief of staff for the former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, wrote at that time, “So I’m told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin Laden. Hot damn.”
Mr. Urbahn quickly added, “Don’t know if it’s true, but let’s pray it is.” He was credited by many on the Web with breaking the news, though he did not have first-hand confirmation.
Within minutes, anonymous sources at the Pentagon and the White House started to tell reporters the same information. ABC, CBS and NBC interrupted programming across the country at almost the same minute, 10:45 p.m., with the news. “We’re hearing absolute jubilation throughout government,” the ABC News correspondent Martha Raddatz reported.
Brian Williams, an NBC News anchor, told viewers, “This story started to leak out in the public domain largely when some Congressional staffers started to make phone calls.”
By NICHOLAS KRISTOF
This is revenge, but it’s also deterrence and also means that bin Laden won’t kill any more Americans. This is the single most important success the United States has had in its war against Al Qaeda.
So what does this mean? First, it is good for the United States reputation, power and influence that we finally got bin Laden. Bin Laden’s ability to escape from the U.S., and his apparent impunity, fed an image in some Islamist quarters of America as a paper tiger — and that encouraged extremists. Bin Laden himself once said that people bet on the strong horse, the horse that will win, and the killing underscores that it’s the United States that is the horse to bet on. Moreover, this sends a message that you mess with America at your peril, and that there will be consequences for a terror attack on the United States.
That said, killing bin Laden does not end Al Qaeda. Ayman al-Zawahri, the Egyptian No. 2, has long played a crucial role as Al Qaeda’s COO. And Al Qaeda is more of a loose network than a tightly structured organization, and that has become even more true in recent years. AQIM, the version of Al Qaeda in North Africa, is a real threat in countries like Mali and Mauritania, and killing bin Laden will probably have negligible consequences there. The AQIM terrorists may admire Osama and be inspired by him, but they also are believed to be largely independent of him. And Anwar al-Awlaki, the Qaeda-linked terrorist in Yemen, likewise won’t be deterred by bin Laden’s killing — Awlaki’s ability to engage in terrorism will be affected more by the upheavals now taking place in Yemen and whether that country has a strong and legitimate government that takes counter-terrorism seriously.
It’s also true that bin Laden’s killing might have mattered more in 2002 or 2003. At that time in countries like Pakistan, many ordinary people had a very high regard for bin Laden and doubted that he was centrally involved in the 9/11 attacks. Over time that view has changed: popular opinion has moved more against him, and you no longer see Osama t-shirts for sale in the markets. Some people still feel a bit of respect for his ability to outwit the United States, or they are so anti-American that they embrace anybody we don’t like, but bin Laden has been marginalized over time.
It will be fascinating to see what the Pakistani reaction is to a U.S. military operation on their soil. It seemed to me that President Obama was going out of his way to sound deferential to Pakistan — and to emphasize that Osama was an enemy of Pakistan as well as of America — precisely because he was concerned that Pakistanis might react with outrage at an American military operation.