Official: Bin Laden’s Death
is ‘Defining Moment’
By Jim Garamone,
Washington D.C. -- May 2, 2011 -- (AFPS) – A senior
national security official today provided insight into the decision process
leading to the raid by U.S. special operations forces that killed al-Qaida
leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan yesterday.
John Brennan, assistant to the president for homeland
security, called the attack a defining moment in the war against the terror
group that killed 3,000 Americans on Sept. 11, 2001. Americans from the Defense
Department and the CIA worked together to cut off “the head of the snake known
as al-Qaida,” he said during a White House news conference today.
“It is going to have, I think, very important reverberations
throughout the area, on the al-Qaida network in that area,” he said. “This is
something that we’ve been after for 15 years. It goes back before 9/11.”
Soon after taking office, President Barack Obama ordered the
CIA and DOD to find and kill or capture bin Laden. Last year, intelligence
indicated the terrorist was holed up in a million dollar compound in Abbottabad,
Pakistan, –- a well-off suburb of the capital city of Islamabad.
Months of relentless examination strengthened that
conclusion. The president polled all members of his national security team on
whether they felt the intelligence on bin Laden was valid, Brennan said.
“That’s what he does,” Brennan said of Obama’s decision-making
process. “He goes around the room, and he wants to hear people’s views.”
Intelligence seldom is a sure thing, Brennan said. Often, he
explained, evidence is circumstantial and analysts build a case for one action
or another. In this case -- a unilateral attack well inside a friendly nation --
a risk of making the wrong decision exists.
“That’s what the president wanted to know -– as well as the
different … courses of action,” Brennan said. “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.”
On April 29, the president made the decision to go after the
al-Qaida leader. The CIA analysts were confident bin Laden was in the compound,
Brennan said, and there were many supporters of launching the raid.
“But the president had to look at all the different
scenarios, all the different contingencies that are out there,” he said. “What
would have been the downside 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 this.”
Brennan said questions remain about how bin Laden could have
stayed at the compound as long as he did.
“People have been referring to this as ‘hiding in plain sight,’”
he said. “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 there.”
U.S. officials are talking with the Pakistanis and will
pursue all leads on what type of support system and benefactors that bin Laden
might have had in the nation.
“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,” Brennan said. “I am not going to speculate about what type of
support he might have had on an official basis inside of Pakistan.”