Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
May 02, 2011
Press Briefing by Senior Administration
Officials on the Killing of Osama bin Laden
Via Conference Call
12:03 A.M. EDT
MR. VIETOR: Thank you, everyone,
for joining us, especially so late. We wanted to get you on
the line quickly with some senior administration officials to talk
about the operation today regarding Osama bin Laden. And with
that I'll turn it over to our first senior administration official.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:
Thanks for joining us, everybody, at this late hour. It's much
appreciated. From the outset of the administration, the
President has placed the highest priority in protecting the nation
from the threat of terrorism. In line with this, we have
pursued an intensified, targeted, and global effort to degrade and
defeat al Qaeda. Included in this effort has been a relentless
set of steps that we've taken to locate and bring Osama bin Laden to
justice. Indeed, in the earliest days of the administration,
the President formally instructed the intelligence community and his
counterterrorism advisors to make the pursuit of Osama bin Laden, as
the leader of al Qaeda, as a top priority.
In the beginning of September of last
year, the CIA began to work with the President on a set of
assessments that led it to believe that in fact it was possible that
Osama bin Laden may be located at a compound in Pakistan. By
mid-February, through a series of intensive meetings at the White
House and with the President, we had determined there was a sound
intelligence basis for pursuing this in an aggressive way and
developing courses of action to pursue Osama bin Laden at this
In the middle of March, the President
began a series of National Security Council meetings that he chaired
to pursue again the intelligence basis and to develop courses of
action to bring justice to Osama bin Laden. Indeed, by my
count, the President chaired no fewer than five National Security
Council meetings on the topic from the middle of March -- March
14th, March 29th, April 12th, April 19th, and April 28th. And
the President gave the final order to pursue the operation that he
announced to the nation tonight on the morning -- Friday morning of
The President mentioned tonight that the
pursuit of Osama bin Laden and the defeat of al Qaeda has been a
bipartisan exercise in this nation since September 11, 2001, and
indeed, this evening before he spoke to the nation, President Obama
did speak to President Bush 43 and President Clinton this evening to
review with them the events of today and to preview his statement to
the nation tonight.
And with that, I'll turn it over to my
colleague to go through some of the details. Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: As
you heard, the President ordered a raid earlier today against an al
Qaeda compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Based on intelligence
collection analysis, a small U.S. team found Osama bin Laden living
in a large home on a secured compound in an affluent suburb of
Islamabad. The raid occurred in the early morning hours in
Pakistan and accomplished its objective. Osama bin Laden is
now no longer a threat to America.
This remarkable achievement could not
have happened without persistent effort and careful planning over
many years. Our national security professionals did a superb
job. They deserve tremendous credit for serving justice to
Osama bin Laden.
Bin Laden was a sworn enemy of the
United States and a danger to all humanity; a man who called for the
murder of any American anywhere on Earth. His death is central
to the President's goal of disrupting, dismantling, and ultimately
defeating al Qaeda and its violent allies. He was responsible
for killing thousands of innocent men and women not only on 9/11,
but in the 1998 East Africa embassy bombing, the attack of the USS
Cole, and many other acts of brutality.
He was the leader of a violent extremist
movement with affiliates across the globe that had taken up arms
against the United States and its allies. Bin Laden's most
influential role has been to designate the United States as al
Qaeda's primary target and to maintain organizational focus on that
objective. This strategic objective, which was first made in a
1996 declaration of jihad against Americans, was the cornerstone of
bin Laden's message.
Since 9/11, multiple agencies within our
intelligence community have worked tirelessly to track down bin
Laden, knowing that his removal from al Qaeda would strike a
crippling blow to the organization and its militant allies.
And last September the President was made aware of a compound in
Abbottabad, where a key al Qaeda facilitator appeared to be
harboring a high-value target. He received regular
intelligence updates, as was just mentioned, on the compound in
September, and he directed that action be taken as soon as he
concluded that the intelligence case was sufficiently strong.
A range of options for achieving the mission were developed, and on
Friday he authorized the operation.
Now I'll turn it to my colleagues to go
through the intelligence.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:
Thank you. First I want to point out that today's success was
a team effort. It was a model of really seamless collaboration
across our government. Since 9/11, this is what the American
people have expected of us, and today, in this critical operation,
we were able to finally deliver.
The operation itself was the culmination
of years of careful and highly advanced intelligence work.
Officers from the CIA, the NGA, the NSA all worked very hard as a
team to analyze and pinpoint this compound. Together they
applied their very unique expertise and capabilities to America's
most vexing intelligence problem, where to find bin Laden.
When the case had been made that this
was a critical target, we began to prepare this mission in
conjunction with the U.S. military. In the end, it was the
matchless skill and courage of these Americans that secured this
triumph for our country and the world. I'm very proud of the
entire team that worked on this operation, and am very thankful to
the President for the courage that he displayed in making the
decision to proceed with this operation.
With that, let me turn to my colleague
to give you details on the intelligence background.
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
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.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you. Earlier
this afternoon, a small U.S. team conducted a helicopter raid on the
compound. Considerable planning helped prepare our operators
for this very complex mission. Senior officials have been
involved in the decision-making and planning for this operation for
months, and briefed the President regularly. My colleague has
already mentioned the unusual characteristics of this compound.
Each of these, including the high walls, security features, suburban
location, and proximity to Islamabad made this an especially
The men who executed this mission accepted this risk, practiced
to minimize those risks, and understood the importance of the target
to the national security of the United States.
I know you understand that I can't and won't get into many
details of this mission, but I'll share what I can. This
operation was a surgical raid by a small team designed to minimize
collateral damage and to pose as little risk as possible to
non-combatants on the compound or to Pakistani civilians in the
Our team was on the compound for under 40 minutes and did not
encounter any local authorities while performing the raid. In
addition to Osama bin Laden, three adult males were killed in the
raid. We believe two were the couriers and the third was bin
Laden's adult son.
There were several women and children at the compound. One
woman was killed when she was used as a shield by a male combatant.
Two other women were injured.
During the raid, we lost one helicopter due to mechanical
failure. The aircraft was destroyed by the crew and the
assault force and crew members boarded the remaining aircraft to
exit the compound. All non-combatants were moved safely away
from the compound before the detonation.
That's all I have at this time. I'll turn it back to my
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We shared our intelligence
on this bin Laden compound with no other country, including
Pakistan. That was for one reason and one reason alone:
We believed it was essential to the security of the operation and
our personnel. In fact, only a very small group of people
inside our own government knew of this operation in advance.
Shortly after the raid, U.S. officials contacted senior Pakistani
leaders to brief them on the intent and the results of the raid.
We have also contacted a number of our close allies and partners
throughout the world.
Sine 9/11, the United States has made it clear to Pakistan that
we would pursue bin Laden wherever he might be. Pakistan has
long understood that we are at war with al Qaeda. The United
States had a legal and moral obligation to act on the information it
And let me emphasize that great care was taken to ensure
operational success, minimize the possibility of non-combatant
casualties, and to adhere to American and international law in
carrying out the mission.
I should note that in the wake of this operation, there may be a
heightened threat to the homeland and to U.S. citizens and
facilities abroad. Al Qaeda operatives and sympathizers may
try to respond violently to avenge bin Laden's death, and other
terrorist leaders may try to accelerate their efforts to strike the
United States. But the United States is taking every possible
precaution to protect Americans here at home and overseas. The
State Department has sent guidance to embassies worldwide and a
travel advisory has been issued for Pakistan.
And without a doubt, the United States will continue to face
terrorist threats. The United States will continue to fight
those threats. We have always understood that this fight would
be a marathon and not a sprint.
There's also no doubt that the death of Osama bin Laden marks the
single greatest victory in the U.S.-led campaign to disrupt,
dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda. It is a major and essential
step in bringing about al Qaeda's eventual destruction.
Bin Laden was al Qaeda's only (inaudible) commander in its
22-year history, and was largely responsible for the organization's
mystique, its attraction among violent jihadists, and its focus on
America as a terrorist target. As the only al Qaeda leader
whose authority was universally respected, he also maintained his
cohesion, and his likely successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is far less
charismatic and not as well respected within the organization,
according to comments from several captured al Qaeda leaders.
He probably will have difficulty maintaining the loyalty of bin
Laden's largely Gulf Arab followers.
Although al Qaeda may not fragment immediately, the loss of bin
Laden puts the group on a path of decline that will be difficult to
And finally, it's important to note that
it is most fitting that bin Laden's death comes at a time of great
movement towards freedom and democracy that is sweeping the Arab
world. He stood in direct opposition to what the greatest men
and women throughout the Middle East and North Africa are risking
their lives for: individual rights and human dignity.
MR. VIETOR: With that we're ready
to take a couple questions.
Q One question.
You said "a small U.S. team." Were these military
personnel, can you say, or non-military?
ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Can't go into further details at this
time; just a small U.S. team.
Q Good morning. Can you tell us
specifically what contact there was with bin Laden at the compound?
You referred to someone using a woman as a shield that was not bin
Laden. But how was he killed? Where? What occurred
at the compound?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: As the President said this
evening, bin Laden was killed in a firefight as our operators came
onto the compound.
Q Thank you. Just to go back to what you
were talking about with the attacks in response to this operation,
are you hearing any specific threats against specific targets?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No. But any type of
event like this, it is very prudent for us to take measures so that
we can ensure that the security measures that we need to institute
here and throughout the world are in place. This is just
something that we normally would do. We don't have any
specific threats at this time related to this. But we are
ensuring that every possible precaution is taken in advance.
Q Yes, hey, how are you doing? My
question would be, what was the type of the helicopter that failed?
And what was the nature of that mechanical failure?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Can't go into details at
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We didn't say it was
Q Was bin Laden involved in firing himself or
defending himself? And then any chronology of the raid itself?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He did resist the assault
force. And he was killed in a firefight.
Q Thank you. Thank you for taking this
call. Can you give me a comment on the very fact that Osama
bin Laden was just in Islamabad -- and has long been (inaudible)
Afghanistan (inaudible) also from India, that Osama bin Laden is
hiding somewhere near Islamabad? What does it signify, that?
Does it signify any cooperation or any kind of link that he had with
establishments in Pakistan?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: As the President said,
Pakistani cooperation had assisted in this lead, as we pursued it.
So we're continuing to work this issue right now. We are very
concerned about -- that he was inside of Pakistan, but this is
something that we're going to continue to work with the Pakistani
Q But the very fact you didn't inform the
Pakistani authorities -- did you have any suspicion that if you
informed them, the information might lead somewhere?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: An operation like this that
is conducted has the utmost operational security attached to it.
I said that we had shared this information with no other country,
and that a very, very small group of individuals within the United
States government was aware of this. That is for operational
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I would also just add to
that that President Obama, over a period of several years now, has
repeatedly made it clear that if we had actionable intelligence
about Osama bin Laden's whereabouts, we would act. So
President Obama has been very clear in delivering that message
publicly over a period of years. And that's what led President
Obama to order this operation. When he determined that the
intelligence was actionable and the intelligence case was
sufficient, he gave us high confidence that bin Laden indeed was at
Q Thank you. What is going to happen
next? And what is the U.S. going to do with bin Laden's body?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We are ensuring that it is
handled in accordance with Islamic practice and tradition.
This is something that we take very seriously. And so
therefore this is being handled in an appropriate manner.
MR. VIETOR: Great, thanks. Just to remind everyone,
this call is on background, as senior administration officials.
We have time for one more question, and we're going to go to bed.
Q Do you have a sense of the vintage of the
compound and how long bin Laden had been there?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The compound has been in
existence for roughly five years, but we don't know how long bin
Laden lived there. We assess that the compound was built for
the purpose of harboring him. But again, don't know how long
he's been there.
MR. VIETOR: Great, thank you all. We'll talk more
12:24 A.M. EDT
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
May 02, 2011
Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney and
Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and
Counterterrorism John Brennan, 5/2/2011
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
2:00 P.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Good afternoon,
ladies and gentlemen. I just wanted to make one point before
we get started. I have with me today John Brennan, Assistant
to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism.
And he will take questions from you about the events of last night
and yesterday afternoon and what preceded those events.
And then if you have any questions
on other subjects I'll do about 10 minutes after Mr. Brennan is
finished to take those questions.
I just want to make a point before
John comes up that as many of you know, the President, even before
he was President, when he was a candidate, had a very clear idea
about the approach he would take as President towards Osama bin
Laden. In August of 2007, he said, "If we have actionable
intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President
Musharraf won't act, we will." In July of 2008, he said,
"We must make it clear that if Pakistan cannot or will not act,
we will take out high-level terrorist targets like bin Laden if we
have them in our sights."
he repeated statements like that. Again, I just want to be
clear that this is an approach that he always felt that he would
take when he was President and then, as John will elaborate, once he
took office he made sure that we would revitalize our focus on Osama
bin Laden and the hunt for him.
So, with that, I'd like to invite
John up to take your questions. And I will be standing here,
if you have questions on other topics. Thank you.
Q Thank you,
sir. I wanted to ask about the specific goal of the raid.
Was there a consideration to try to take bin Laden alive, or was the
mission to kill him on sight?
MR. BRENNAN: Absolutely it
was to prepare for all contingencies. If we had the
opportunity to take bin Laden alive, if he didn't present any
threat, the individuals involved were able and prepared to do that.
We had discussed that extensively in a number of meetings in the
White House and with the President. The concern was that bin
Laden would oppose any type of capture operation. Indeed, he
did. It was a firefight. He, therefore, was killed in that
firefight and that's when the remains were removed.
But we certainly were planning for
the possibility, which we thought was going to be remote, given that
he would likely resist arrest, but that we would be able to capture
Q So you went
into the operation believing that the most likely outcome was that
he would be killed on sight?
MR. BRENNAN: We were trying
to make sure that we were able to accomplish the mission safely and
securely for the people who were involved. We were not going
to put our people at risk. The President put a premium on
making sure that our personnel were protected and we were not going
to give bin Laden or any of his cohorts the opportunity to carry out
lethal fire on our forces. He was engaged and he was killed in
the process. But if we had the opportunity to take him alive,
we would have done that.
Q And if I could
just ask, have you been able to determine how bin Laden was able to
hide in this relatively prominent location, and do you believe the
Pakistanis when they say that they had no idea that he was there?
MR. BRENNAN: People have
been referring to this as hiding in plain sight. Clearly this
was something that was considered as a possibility. Pakistan
is a large country. We are looking right now at how he was
able to hold out there for so long, and whether or not there was any
type of support system within Pakistan that allowed him to stay
We know that the people at the
compound there were working on his behalf, and that's how we
ultimately found our way to that compound. But we are right
now less than 24 hours after this operation, so we are talking with
the Pakistanis on a regular basis now, and we're going to pursue all
leads to find out exactly what type of support system and
benefactors that bin Laden might have had.
Q But you don't
necessarily take them at their word that they didn't know?
MR. BRENNAN: We are pursuing
all leads in this issue.
Q Just to follow
on that, is it really credible that Pakistani authorities had no
idea that this compound was being built and that it existed -- such
an elaborate compound?
MR. BRENNAN: I think it's
inconceivable that bin Laden did not have a support system in the
country that allowed him to remain there for an extended period of
time. I am not going to speculate about what type of support
he might have had on an official basis inside of Pakistan. We
are closely talking to the Pakistanis right now, and again, we are
leaving open opportunities to continue to pursue whatever leads
might be out there.
Q And also one
of the things that a lot of people think about when they hear this
news is what does this mean for the war in Afghanistan? Does
it make it easier to wind things down there?
MR. BRENNAN: I think the
accomplishment that very brave personnel from the United States
government were able to realize yesterday is a defining moment in
the war against al Qaeda, the war on terrorism, by decapitating the
head of the snake known as al Qaeda. It is going to have, I
think, very important reverberations throughout the area, on the al
Qaeda network in that area.
This is something that we've been
after for 15 years, goes back before 9/11. So I think what
we're doing now is going to try to take advantage of this
opportunity that we have to demonstrate to the Pakistani people, to
the people in the area that al Qaeda is something in the past.
And we're hoping to bury the rest of al Qaeda along with bin Laden.
Q In the
Situation Room yesterday, could you describe how you were monitoring
the goings-on? It's been described as a very tense --
understandably, a very tense scene. Were you watching the
operation? Were you -- were you listening to it? How
were you getting your information?
MR. BRENNAN: The principals
convened yesterday around midday. There were others who -- we
were here early yesterday morning. The President joined us
then early afternoon before the operation got underway. When
the operation did get underway, then the President rejoined the
group, and we were able to monitor in a real-time basis the progress
of the operation from its commencement to its time on target to the
extraction of the remains and to then the egress off of the target.
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. The minutes passed like
days. And the President was very concerned about the security
of our personnel. That was what was on his mind throughout.
And we wanted to make sure that we were able to get through this and
accomplish the mission.
But it was clearly very tense, a
lot of people holding their breath. And there was a fair
degree of silence as it progressed, as we would get the updates.
And when we finally were informed that those individuals who were
able to go in that compound and found the individual that they
believe was bin Laden, there was a tremendous sigh of relief that
what we believed and who we believed was in that compound actually
was in that compound and was found. And the President was
relieved once we had our people and those remains off target.
Q Was it -- was
there a visual, or was it just radio reports or phone reports you
MR. BRENNAN: We were able to
monitor the situation in real time and were able to have regular
updates and to ensure that we had real-time visibility into the
progress of the operation. I'm not going to go into details
about what type of visuals we had or what type of feeds that were
there, but it was -- it gave us the ability to actually track it on
an ongoing basis.
Q And I
understand that there was a moment of real tension, one with the
helicopter, but then also when the Navy SEALs were leaving and the
Pakistani government started scrambling their jets, and there was a
concern that they were coming to where the U.S. troops were, where
the Navy SEALs were. Was there an actual concern that the Pakistanis
-- since they were not apparently informed about this military
operation, was there an actual concern that they might actually take
military action against the Navy SEALs?
MR. BRENNAN: We didn't
contact the Pakistanis until after all of our people, all of our
aircraft were out of Pakistani airspace. At the time, the
Pakistanis were reacting to an incident that they knew was taking
place in Abbottabad. Therefore, they were scrambling some of
Clearly, we were concerned that if
the Pakistanis decided to scramble jets or whatever else, they
didn't know who were on those jets. They had no idea about who
might have been on there, whether it be U.S. or somebody else.
So we were watching and making sure that our people and our aircraft
were able to get out of Pakistani airspace. And thankfully,
there was no engagement with Pakistani forces. This operation
was designed to minimize the prospects, the chances of engagement
with Pakistani forces. It was done very well, and thankfully
no Pakistani forces were engaged and there was no other individuals
who were killed aside from those on the compound.
Q Thank you,
Q Thank you.
Can you talk to us about what documentation you may have found
there? Was it a bank vault worth of information, and are you
able to potentially get some additional leads out of the information
that was found?
MR. BRENNAN: The people who
were on the compound took advantage of their time there to make sure
that we were able to acquire whatever material we thought was
appropriate and what was needed. And we are in the process
right now of looking at whatever might have been picked up.
But I'm not going to go into details of what might have been
acquired. We feel as though this is a very important time to
continue to prosecute this effort against al Qaeda, take advantage
of the success of yesterday and to continue to work to break the
back of al Qaeda.
Q But was it a
lot of information? How would you describe it in terms of the
MR. BRENNAN: We are trying
to determine exactly the worth of whatever information we might have
been able to pick up. And it's not necessarily quantity;
frequently it's quality.
Q Now that you
have Osama bin Laden, can you tell us how close the U.S. has gotten
to him in the past, beyond Tora Bora? Any other close calls
that we have not been informed about?
MR. BRENNAN: Over the years
-- Tora Bora was certainly the last time that we had actionable and
we thought was very credible information about where he was
located. A number of leads have been pursued over the years.
I think what this operation demonstrates is that there are some
very, very good people who have been following bin Laden for many,
many years. They have been very persistent. They have
pulled on every thread. And as a result of that diligence and
their analytic capabilities, they were able to track this and
continue to build a body of evidence that suggested,
circumstantially, that bin Laden was at that compound. That's
what they did. It was much greater confidence that we had in
this body of intelligence, in this body of information, than we've
had since Tora Bora.
Still, though, there was nothing
that confirmed that bin Laden was at that compound, and therefore,
when President Obama was faced with the opportunity to act upon
this, the President had to evaluate the strength of that information
and then made, what I believe was one of the most gustiest calls of
any President in recent memory.
Q And in the
lead-up to that final mission, can you talk to us about how -- the
anxiety of not being able to track, or even get the name initially
of the gentleman who led you to the compound?
MR. BRENNAN: In
counterterrorism work and doing what's called targeting analysis, it
is exceptionally tedious and painstaking as far as taking a little
bit of data and piecing it together and trying to correlate it with
something else. And as a result of the information that we had
in a very generic way about these couriers and individuals who were
cohorts with bin Laden, over time we were able to piece together
additional information, get the name he was known by, his nom de
guerre, associate that then eventually with his real name, associate
that then with other things that that real name was associated with,
and track it until we got to the compound in Abbottabad.
And then over the past six months,
with trying to ensure that we had the best visibility in terms of
understanding what was happening at the compound, that body of
evidence accumulating to the point when the President said, I want
to have operations against this compound, I want to know what the
pros and cons are of them, I want to have options, and I want to
make sure that we've taken into account the safety and security of
the American people -- or of the Americans that would be conducting
this operation, that we look at it from the standpoint of limiting
collateral damage, and making sure that we're able to maximize the
chances of mission success.
And ultimately we got to that
point; we could bring those together. The President made the
decision. And the results I think speak for themselves.
MR. CARNEY: Chip.
Q You said that
Osama bin Laden was actually involved in the firefight, and we had
-- it has been reported that he reached for a weapon. Did he
get his hand on a gun and did he fire himself?
MR. BRENNAN: He was engaged
in a firefight with those that entered the area of the house he was
in. And whether or not he got off any rounds, I quite frankly
Thinking about that from a visual
perspective, here is bin Laden, who has been calling for these
attacks, living in this million dollar-plus compound, living in an
area that is far removed from the front, hiding behind women who
were put in front of him as a shield. I think it really just
speaks to just how false his narrative has been over the years.
And so, again, looking at what bin Laden was doing hiding there
while he's putting other people out there to carry out attacks again
just speaks to I think the nature of the individual he was.
Q In these
anxiety-filled minutes that you said lasted like days, what was the
most anxiety-filled moment? Was it when the helicopter
appeared to be inoperable, or was it when you heard shots fired?
And when you monitored in real time, could you actually hear the
MR. BRENNAN: You know, when
you plan these things out, you have already -- you know in your mind
exactly what's the first step, second step, and everything going
along. If there's any deviation from that, it causes anxiety.
But the individuals who carried out this assault planned for all the
So when that helicopter was seen
to be unable to move, all of a sudden you had to go into Plan B.
And they did it flawlessly. They were able to conduct the
operation as they were preparing to do. But seeing that
helicopter in a place and in a condition that it wasn't supposed to
be, I think that was one -- at least for me, and I know for the
other people in the room -- was the concern we had that now we're
having to go to the contingency plan. And thankfully, they
were as able to carry out that contingency plan as they were the
Q Could you hear
MR. BRENNAN: We were able to
monitor the situation in real-time. (Laughter.)
Q When he
actually -- can you describe any reaction by the President
specifically when it became clear that this was Osama bin Laden and
that he had been killed? Do you remember the President's words
or a reaction from --
MR. BRENNAN: Well, you say
"when it became clear," and that's one of the things that
we had to do throughout the course of this operation. When we
heard that the individuals who carried out this assault felt as
though they had an individual who appeared to be bin Laden, that is
one data point. Then there were other types of things:
facial recognition, height, the preliminary DNA analysis, so there
was an incremental buildup.
And the confidence was building.
But yet at what point do you feel confident that you have the person
you're after? So it was more of a growing sense of confidence
and a growing sense of accomplishment. There wasn't one
"ah-hah," when people say, okay, the DNA results came in.
No, this is something that was building over time, and we made a
decision then last night, because we felt as though we were
confident enough to go out to the American people and out to the
world to say, we got him.
Q -- the
President's reaction at any time?
MR. BRENNAN: We got him.
Q All right,
circle back to a point you just made. Bin Laden used women as
human shields when American personnel went in?
MR. BRENNAN: There was
family at that compound, and there was a female who was in fact in
the line of fire that reportedly was used as a shield to shield bin
Laden from the incoming fire.
Q I'm wondering
where you are at this point on the idea of releasing photos of bin
Laden to show the world that he is dead.
MR. BRENNAN: We are less
than 24 hours from the arrival on target of those individuals.
We have released a tremendous amount of information to date.
We are going to continue to look at the information that we have and
make sure that we are able to share what we can, because we want to
make sure that not only the American people but the world understand
exactly what happened, and the confidence that we have that it was
conducted in accordance with the mission design.
At the same time, we don't want to
do anything that's going to compromise our ability to be as
successful the next time we get one of these guys and take them off
Q Is there some
thought, though, that releasing a photo or two might avoid
conspiracy theories throughout the Muslim world?
MR. BRENNAN: We are going to
do everything we can to make sure that nobody has any basis to try
to deny that we got Osama bin Laden. And so, therefore, the
releasing of information, and whether that includes photographs,
this is something to be determined.
Q John, is the
debate about whether to release something, or what to release, when
it comes to visual evidence?
MR. BRENNAN: I think it's
both. I think, first of all, what falls into the category of
things that you can potentially release to the public, whether it be
those DNA results, whether it be comments about the conduct of the
operation, what happened, the intelligence case. And then you
have to take a look at it from the standpoint of what are the
upsides and downsides. And sometimes when you conduct an
operation that is based on intelligence and is based on the very
sensitive and very capable forces that we have available to us in
the U.S. government, you want to make sure that you're not doing
anything to expose something that will limit your ability to use
those same intelligence sources and capabilities in the future.
Q Who has -- has
anybody secured this compound? Has the Pakistani government
now gone in, or the Pakistani army gone in to secure this compound
since we --
MR. BRENNAN: I was just
looking at al Jazeera a little while ago, I saw that I think the ISI
or the Pakistani military police have that compound now under
control. And clearly it is the site of a major incident
yesterday, and so, therefore, it would be my presumption that the
Pakistani authorities would be in control of that compound.
Q Who owned the
MR. BRENNAN: Whether it be
the land or the compound, but it was two of the individuals who were
killed -- the al Qaeda facilitators, as they're called -- the
individual who was identified as the gatekeeper courier, the
residence was, at least in my understanding, in his name.
Q And it's my
understanding that -- you called it just now that the President made
one of the gutsiest decisions that he made. That implies that
there was some disagreement around the table about whether this was
not -- this was not a unanimous recommendation --
MR. BRENNAN: Absolutely.
Absolutely. And that's been the --
Q -- this is the
way to go.
MR. BRENNAN: -- way he
goes. He goes around the room and he wants to hear people's
views. And so you have a circumstantial intelligence case.
And so people will see that either there is insufficient
circumstantial evidence to go forward with something like this,
which involves a unilateral operation in another country to go after
somebody you believe is Osama bin Laden -- and there were
differences of views that were discussed. That's what the
President wanted to know.
As well as a different -- what's
called COAs, courses of action, which are the types of things that
you can do that involve an assault on a compound, as well as from a
standoff position -- what are the benefits of doing that from a
remote location, like we've done in the past in certain areas, as
well as what are the risks associated with security forces actually
going into the compound.
So this was debated across the
board and the President wanted to make sure at the end that he had
the views of all the principals.
Q Was it a close
call, in your opinion?
MR. BRENNAN: For the
President to go forward with this?
MR. BRENNAN: I have been
following bin Laden for 15 years, been after this guy, and I have
the utmost confidence in the people, particularly at CIA, who have
been tracking him. They were confident and their confidence
was growing: This is different. This intelligence case
is different. What we see in this compound is different than
anything we've ever seen before.
was confident that we had the basis to take action. I also,
though, had the confidence that the U.S. team that went in there has
exceptional skill to do this very capably. So I was a
supporter and I know a number of other people were supportive to do
But the President had to look at
all the different scenarios, all the different contingencies that
are out there -- what would have been the downsides if, in fact, it
wasn't bin Laden? What would have happened if a helicopter
went down? So he decided that this is so important to the
security of the American people that he was going to go forward with
Q Can you tell
us more about the role that the U.S. -- more of the role of how the
U.S. is interacting with Pakistan and are we actively investigating
what they knew and didn't know about Osama bin Laden being there or
MR. BRENNAN: Well, a couple
things. One, the President mentioned yesterday that he spoke
to President Zardari, and a number of senior U.S. officials are in
regular contact now with their Pakistani counterparts. We are
continuing to engage with them -- we're engaging with them today --
as we learn more about the compound and whatever type of support
system bin Laden had.
I would point out that we've had
differences of view with the Pakistani government on
counterterrorism cooperation, on areas of cooperation, and what we
think they should and shouldn't be doing. At the same time,
I'll say that Pakistan has been responsible for capturing and
killing more terrorists inside of Pakistan than any country, and
it's by a wide margin. And there have been many, many brave
Pakistani soldiers, security officials, as well as citizens, who
have given their lives because of the terrorism scourge in that
country. So although there are some differences of view with
Pakistan, we believe that that partnership is critically important
to breaking the back of al Qaeda and eventually prevailing over al
Qaeda as well as associated terrorist groups.
Q John, can you
tell us about the burial at sea? Where did it happen?
When did it happen?
MR. BRENNAN: The disposal of
-- the burial of bin Laden's remains was done in strict conformance
with Islamist precepts and practices. It was prepared in
accordance with the Islamic requirements. We early on made
provisions for that type of burial, and we wanted to make sure that
it was going to be done, again, in strict conformance.
So it was taken care of in the
appropriate way. I'm not going to go into details about sort
of the where, but that burial has taken place. It took place
earlier today our time.
Q And why?
Q When was that
MR. BRENNAN: I'm sorry?
Q When was that
decision made that he would be buried at sea if killed?
Q Can you
explain why --
MR. CARNEY: One at a time.
Q Was it thought
through years ago? Was this part of the plan all along?
MR. BRENNAN: The COAs -- the
course of action and the subsequent decisions that would have to be
made have been developed over the course of the last several
months. Senior officials, and there was a working group that
was working this on a regular basis, if not a daily basis, over the
last several weeks, looking at every decision and based on what type
of scenario would unfold, what actions and decisions would be made.
It was looked at from the standpoint of if we captured him, what
will we do with him? Where would he go? If he was
killed, what will we do with him, and where would he go? And
it was determined that it was in the best interests of all involved
that this burial take place, again, according to Islamic
requirements, at sea.
Q Why at sea?
Q Can you just
tell us why that was a good idea?
MR. BRENNAN: It was
determined that that -- there is the requirement in Islamic law that
an individual be buried within 24 hours. Went inside of
Pakistan, carried out the operation, he was killed, he was removed
from Pakistan. There were certain steps that had to be taken
because of the nature of the operation, and we wanted to make sure
we were able to do that in the time period allotted for it.
Going to another country, making those arrangements, requirements,
would have exceeded that time period, in our view. And so,
therefore, we thought that the best way to ensure that his body was
given an appropriate Islamic burial was to take those actions that
would allow us to do that burial at sea.
Q John, did you
consult a Muslim expert on that?
MR. BRENNAN: We consulted
the appropriate specialists and experts, and there was unanimity
that this would be the best way to handle that.
Q And last
question. Do you know if detainees at Gitmo have been informed
of what has happened to --
MR. BRENNAN: I do not know.
Q There are
reports that he was wrapped in a weighted white sheet. How
secure is that? Are you confident the body is not going to --
MR. BRENNAN: Burials at sea
take place on a regular basis. The U.S. military has the ability to
ensure that that burial is done in a manner that is, again,
consistent with Islamic law, as well as consistent with what the
requirements are for a burial at sea. And so that burial was
Q And so today
lawmakers are urging -- possibly reconsidering or reevaluating aid
to Pakistan, maybe attaching strings to military aid there.
Was the White House --
MR. BRENNAN: I think people
are raising a number of questions, and understandably so.
Again, we're in just the first day after the operation, and he was
found in Abbottabad outside of Islamabad. I'm sure a number of
people have questions about whether or not there was some type of
support that was provided by the Pakistani government. So I
think people are raising these questions and how we're going to have
to deal with them.
Q Is there a
visual recording of this burial?
MR. CARNEY: We've got to get
other people a chance here. Mara.
Q Just a quick
question about the burial and then something else. Was there
an imam there? Was there a religious --
MR. BRENNAN: It was done
appropriately with the appropriate people there.
And a question -- I don't know if this is for you or for Jay.
The President is going to speak to the bipartisan leadership tonight
at this dinner. What is he going to say about this that's
different than what he said before and that's particularly geared to
them? Can you just give us a preview?
MR. BRENNAN: Well, you're
going to have another 20 hours of information that has been acquired
since what he said to the nation last night. I think what he's
going to try to do is to give the congressional visitors here an
update on that. Last night, we didn't have some of the
analysis that was done. Now, we can say with 99.9 percent
confidence that this was bin Laden. So it's those types of things,
as well as to explain to the Congress, in many respects, some of the
unique features of this mission, which were the extreme
compartmentation of it; how it was kept so closely held within our
government; why it was done in a unilateral fashion -- and so things
along those lines.
Q There's been
some reporting that the burial -- that the U.S. offered the body to
the Saudis for a burial, but they declined. Is that true?
MR. BRENNAN: We, after we
had confidence that it was bin Laden and that he was dead, we took
the steps that we had agreed to in the interagency that were
necessary to ensure that that burial entity was the most appropriate
thing to do. And so we touched base with the right people.
I'm not going to go into any details about who we might have
consulted with in the aftermath of his death and before his burial.
Q Mr. Brennan,
can you give us any details on whether there were previous
operations that were held off at the last minute because of fears
and risks, or perhaps the inability to identify bin Laden's body
positively had it been done differently?
MR. BRENNAN: You mean
against this target?
Q Against this
MR. BRENNAN: As I said,
there were different courses of action about the options that were
available to the President as far as whether there was going to be
an assault on the ground or whether there was going to be some type
of standoff option. Discussed all the pros and cons of them,
and through that process of discussion, the options were narrowed
down until the President decided that this was the best option
because it gave us the ability to minimize collateral damage, ensure
that we knew who it was that was on that compound, as opposed to
taking some time of strike there, and also as a way to do what we
could to respect the sovereignty of Pakistan and also to allow us to
engage with them immediately after the fact, as opposed to some type
of ordinance that might be dropping on it.
Q Can I ask one
follow? You mentioned that questions are going to be raised
about Pakistan, understandably, and the role of Pakistan. For
you and your counterterrorism job, given now the history of the
Raymond Davis episode and the fact that this was done without
consultation, are you concerned that in just in your line of work it
will be very difficult to reestablish a good working relationship
with the ISI or the intelligence authorities there?
MR. BRENNAN: There's
dialogue going on with our counterterrorism counterparts in the
aftermath of this. They're expressing understanding about the
reasons why we did this. They are appreciative that it was
done without having Pakistani casualties outside of that compound.
The U.S.-Pakistani relationship, which is a strategic relationship,
goes on a number of different areas and levels; counterterrorism is
one of them. It can be a complicated matter. As I say, we
don't always agree on some of the things that we want to do.
But through that continued dialogue and communication, I think we
get where we need to be.
This is one more incident that
we're going to have to deal with, and we look forward to continue to
work with our Pakistani colleagues, because they are as much, if not
more, on the front lines of the battle against terrorism.
Q How certain
are you that there will be some kind of movement to avenge this
death, some kind of retaliation? Is there -- if you still had
the color-coded alerts, would this be a time when you would raise
MR. BRENNAN: Janet
Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Secretary, had announced that
there was a change in the color-code system to the National Threat
Advisory System. And I think she has put out a statement
saying that we don't have the specific and credible threat reporting
that would require some type, in their mind, of an elevation of that
threat status. Like any incident like this, what we do is take
the prudent steps afterward to make sure that we have our vigilance
up, that we are taking the appropriate measures so that our security
posture is strong, both overseas and here.
But I think there is always the
potential for terrorist groups to try to strike out and avenge an
operation like this, but also I think some of them are asking
themselves, bin Laden is dead; the al Qaeda narrative is becoming
increasingly bankrupt; there is a new wave sweeping through the
Middle East right now that puts a premium on individual rights and
freedom and dignity; and so al Qaeda, bin Laden -- old news.
Now is the time to move forward.
And we're hoping that this is
going to send a message to those individuals who are out there that
terrorism and militancy is not the wave of the future, it's the wave
of the past.
Q Is al Qaeda
weaker and never able to return to --
MR. BRENNAN: This is a
strategic blow to al Qaeda. It is a necessary but not
necessarily sufficient blow to lead to its demise. But we are
determined to destroy it. I think we have a lot better
opportunity now that al Qaeda -- that bin Laden is out of there to
destroy that organization, create fractures within it.
The number two, Zawahiri is not
charismatic. He has not been -- was not involved in the fight
earlier on in Afghanistan, so -- and I think he has a lot of
detractors within the organization. And I think you're going
to see them start eating themselves from within more and more.
MR. CARNEY: Christi.
Q Mr. Brennan,
thank you. There are reports that there was a replica of the
compound. Can you tell us anything about where and how that
was put together?
MR. BRENNAN: You can imagine
that for something as important as this, and something as risky as
this, every effort would be made to do the practice runs, understand
the complexities and the layout of the compound. There were
multiple opportunities to do that in terms of going through the
exercises to prepare for it, so that once they hit the compound they
had already simulated that a number of times. So this was done
-- and again, I'm not going to go into details about where or when.
But needless to say, when they hit that compound, they had already
trained against it numerous times.
Q Can I just ask
you, as a follow-up, if you -- the compound was so big. How
did the SEALs know where to find bin Laden? And was it -- can
you say anything about was it a bedroom or a dining area or an open
area or something like that?
MR. BRENNAN: The outer
features of the compound were studied intensively and there were
certain assessments made about where individuals were living and
where bin Laden and his family were. And they operated
according to that. And they didn't know when they got there
exactly what some of the internal features of it would be, but they
had planned, based on certain, again, observable features of the
compound, how to carry it out. And whoever it was that
actually did the assault on that -- you named a certain group --
Q Was the bin
Laden family part of the compound? It sounds like that's what
MR. BRENNAN: Absolutely.
MR. CARNEY: Carrie.
Q This might be
a question more for Jay, but given the sort of unity that you've
seen from messaging from both sides, both parties in the last 24
hours, is the President going to make any appeal to leaders tonight
that this sense of unity can carry through to the other issues that
they need to --
MR. CARNEY: I'll address
that because that goes to Mara's question, but I want to give John
just a few more because he's got other things he needs to do.
Let me go to April -- maybe two or
three more for -- I'm sorry --
Q Were there any
civilian -- I mean, how many civilian casualties were there?
MR. BRENNAN: Bin Laden died;
the two al Qaeda facilitators -- the brothers, who were -- the
courier and his brother in the compound; bin Laden's son Hamza; and
the woman, presumed to be his wife, who was shielding bin Laden.
Q Did he use her
as a -- did he actually take her as a shield or did someone put her
in front of him?
MR. BRENNAN: I wasn't there
so I hesitate to say --
Q But she was in
front of him --
MR. BRENNAN: -- but it was
an effort to try to shield bin Laden from the --
Q Bin Laden's
wife or his son's wife?
MR. BRENNAN: Bin Laden's
Q All right, I
want to go back to a couple questions, one on security.
The mindset of intelligence folks in this administration and the
administration prior was that an attack -- it's not about if it
would happen; when it will happen. So are we now -- because
you're saying this was a strategic blow, the head of the snake was
lopped off, are we now changing that mindset, or has it changed
because of this blow?
MR. BRENNAN: I haven't had
the mindset that it's not if, it's when. I mean, that's
basically saying something is going to happen there. I think
every day counterterrorism professionals, whether it be
intelligence, military, Homeland Security, law enforcement, are
trying to stop whatever attack might be out there, trying to uncover
a plot that might be out there. And so they go into each day
believing that they can, in fact, have another day without a
terrorist attack against U.S. interests either abroad or here.
So this does not mean that we are
putting down our guard, as far as al Qaeda is concerned. It
may be a mortally wounded tiger that still has some life in it, and
it's dangerous and we need to keep up the pressure. We cannot
relent, because there are individuals in that organization that are
determined to try to carry out attacks and murder innocent men,
women and children.
Q Since the
death of bin Laden, what is the thought of this administration -- do
you believe that the Pakistani government was transparent and being
honest and forthcoming, given the information that they have now on
Osama bin Laden -- what they knew, or going in to finding out more
about this situation?
MR. BRENNAN: There are a lot
of people within the Pakistani government, and I'm not going to
speculate about who or if any of them had prior knowledge about bin
Laden being in Abbottabad. But certainly his location there
outside of the capital raises questions. We are talking to the
Pakistanis about this. But they, at least in our discussions
with them, seem as surprised as we were initially that bin Laden was
holding out in that area.
Q You spoke
earlier about using this as kind of a pivot point to demonstrate to
the people of Pakistan that al Qaeda has passed, that there's a
different future. Is the President still firmly committed to
visiting Pakistan this year to make that message in person?
MR. BRENNAN: I'm not going
to address the President's schedule. I think there's a
commitment that the President has made that he is intending to visit
Pakistan. A lot depends on availability, scheduling,
whatever. The President feels very strongly that the people of
Pakistan need to be able to realize their potential to have a life
that is full of security as well as prosperity. And because of
the al Qaeda menace as well as other militant organizations in that
country, too many Pakistanis have suffered and have died because of
that. And what the President is wanting to do and what we're
doing with the Pakistani government is to see what we can do to help
the Pakistani government provide that type of lifestyle for their
populace in the future.
MR. CARNEY: All right, let's
do Stephen and then Sam. And then we'll let John go.
Q Does the fact
that bin Laden was found in such apparently comfortable conditions
in Pakistan, and there are obviously big threats to the U.S.
interests in places like Yemen in terms of terrorism, undercut the
strategic rationale for the need to still have 100,000 troops in
MR. BRENNAN: The basis for
the ISAF presence in Afghanistan is to bring that country the
security that it can have, and to not allow al Qaeda to ever again
use Afghanistan as a launching point. This is something that
we're in ongoing discussions with the Afghan government, obviously
the Pakistani government. We need to make sure that that part
of the world, which has given rise to a number of groups -- al
Qaeda, others -- that they cannot use that area with impunity to
carry out attacks.
So we are as determined as we ever
have been to bring the security that these countries and these
people need and deserve because of what we can, in fact, help them
Q Jay, may I?
MR. CARNEY: Sam.
Q Yes, I'm just
curious -- I know that we didn't let any other countries know before
the strikes, but in the time that's unfolded since, has the
President had any contact with the leaders of NATO countries?
MR. BRENNAN: The President
has had a number of conversations with foreign leaders about this
issue. I'm not going to go into the individual discussions
he's had, but clearly this is something of international
significance, and that he has -- and will continue to have in the
coming days those discussions.
Q But you can't
say if he's talked to, say, Chancellor Merkel or President Sarkozy?
MR. BRENNAN: Yes, I could,
but I'm not going to.
MR. CARNEY: I know that's a
follow, so --
Q Mr. Brennan,
in light of the size of this -- the unique features and the
size of this compound, is it likely that the neighbors had known
anything about this, who lived there?
MR. BRENNAN: When you look
at the features of this compound, these very high walls -- 12-, 16-,
18-foot walls, barbed wire on the top, this was a family, this was a
compound that had very limited interaction, to the best of our
knowledge and observation, with the surrounding houses. But it
clearly was different than any other house out there. It had
the appearance of sort of a fortress, so it does raise questions
Q Did they help
them -- basically?
MR. BRENNAN: Well, I think
there was -- we have had some indications that the family that was
there tried to remain anonymous and tried not to have that
interaction. But again, it does raise questions about a
compound of that size in this area not raising suspicions
Q Thank you,
MR. CARNEY: Jake had a
Q I'm sorry.
I just want to clear something up because I think a few of us are
confused. The woman that was killed was bin Laden's wife?
MR. BRENNAN: That's my
understanding. It was one of them.
Q And he was
using her as a shield?
MR. BRENNAN: She served as a
shield. Again, this is my understanding -- and we're still
getting the reports of exactly what happened at particular moments
-- that when -- she fought back; when there was the opportunity to
get to bin Laden, she was positioned in a way that indicated that
she was being used as a shield -- whether or not bin Laden or the
son, or whatever, put her there, or she put herself there, but, yes,
that's again, my understanding that she met her demise, and my
understanding is that she was one of bin Laden's wives.
Q How many other
people were in that compound?
Q Thank you,
sir. Thank you very much.
MR. CARNEY: I'm sure we'll
have more, I'm sure, as --
Q Was there a
reason you said 99.9 percent certain it's been bin Laden? Why
not say 100?
MR. CARNEY: I believe that's
based on DNA.
I mean, if I could just -- I just
want to start by addressing a question that Carrie and Mara had,
which is tonight the President will obviously, as John said, make
some remarks related to the successful mission against Osama bin
Laden. I think one of the themes you'll likely hear him sound
will echo what he said last night, which is that this is a good day
-- or good days for America and for Americans. The fact that
we were able to accomplish this says a lot about our country and our
I think you can fairly say that
the victims in this country on 9/11, the Americans who were victims,
were not Republicans or Democrats -- they were Americans.
Those who launched the -- who have been working on this diligently
for nine and a half years -- not Republicans or Democrats; they're
Americans. Those who carried out the mission yesterday, the
same could be said about them.
So I think that one theme you'd
likely hear from the President on tonight is about the capacity for
Americans to come together and achieve very difficult goals when we
Q Will we get
MR. CARNEY: We can follow up
with you on logistics. I don't believe that we're -- there's
some logistical issues here. We will get it to you right afterwards
if not live.
But let me just do 10 minutes or
so, so that we can all file and other things. I'll move
around. I'll take the Associated Press and then I'll move
around a little bit. Yes.
Q Thank you.
This is sort of in line with some of what we were talking about, but
obviously if the President gave this order, final order, on Friday
morning and then went on this long trip on Friday, had the
correspondents dinner on Saturday, he was golfing Sunday, can you
talk a little bit about his mood as he was trying to keep this poker
face going through these other events, meanwhile knowing the actions
that were going to be taken in Pakistan?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think
one thing that's important to note is that -- is, as John mentioned,
the compartmentalization here. I mean, there was obviously a
success here at a different level, which was the ability to keep the
mission secret. And having spent a great deal of time with him
on Friday, I can say that he was focused on the devastation in
Tuscaloosa. He was focused on and talked a lot about it in the
wake of that visit.
And the experience that I think
was unique about that is you discover that when folks get an
opportunity to meet the President, there are different ways that
they do that, in town hall meetings, or rope lines, or things like
that. But there is something unique about even a President
being able to meet individuals who have suffered such terrible
things as those residents of Tuscaloosa did in their moment of
despair that's very powerful. And I think he felt that.
So he was focused on that, and
then obviously Cape Canaveral and then on to the commencement
address at Miami Dade College. Having said that, he was
obviously taking calls and being updated regularly, and the same
goes with Saturday and Sunday, which Sunday he spent a great deal of
his day in the West Wing and in the Situation Room.
Q Back to the
meeting tonight, other than bin Laden, what is his objective as far
as budget and the debt limit and so on?
MR. CARNEY: I think as we've
said, this is a continuation of his effort to bring leaders of
Congress here in a social setting with spouses to improve
communication in general. And there is no agenda, there's no
goal in terms of budget or any other issue, except to have that kind
of conversation, which I think he finds to be a useful thing to do
in terms of, in some ways, creating a better environment for the
kind of work that the White House and the Congress need to do
together. So nothing beyond that, George.
Q Thank you.
Thank you, Jay. Two things. Briefly, who is in charge of
the compound now?
MR. CARNEY: That was asked.
I mean, our understanding on the visuals that we've seen is that the
Pakistani authorities are in charge of the compound.
Q And secondly,
more importantly, what was the legal basis for the operation?
MR. CARNEY: I would just
refer you to what the President has said. Since taking office
and prior to it, that given the attack that Osama bin Laden launched
the United States, the lives that he took not just on 9/11 but on
other occasions, that he was a high-value target and a legitimate
target, and that this President believed since long before he became
President that given actionable intelligence to capture or kill
Osama bin Laden, he would move very quickly and surely to take that
action. And the opportunity presented itself.
Q So this would
have applied not only to Pakistan but to other countries if he was
found somewhere else?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I would
simply say that there was a great deal of confidence, as has been
discussed by experts for a long time now, that he was in that border
region or in Pakistan. So I don't think the hypothetical
really makes a lot of sense.
Let's see. Cheryl.
Q Has the
President picked a new Commerce Secretary, and when can we see that
MR. CARNEY: I don't have any
personnel announcements for you, or timing of personnel
announcements for you.
Let me just do -- Bill.
Q Jay, almost
lost in this news is the NATO strike against Qaddafi's compound on
Saturday, where his son was killed and three of his grandchildren.
Is it -- does the White House believe that that mission was in
keeping with carrying out the U.N. resolution?
MR. CARNEY: Yes. And I
think there have been ample -- there's been ample commentary about
that from NATO. So we do believe that, and obviously continue
to focus on that mission as we do on other missions.
Q Is there a
message there to Qaddafi in this?
MR. CARNEY: You could say
that. (Laughter.) Thank you.
2:49 P.M. EDT