tv News Nation MSNBC May 2, 2011 2:00pm-3:00pm EDT
>> 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 to 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 ten 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 that the president, even before he was president, when he was a candidate, has 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 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 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 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. >> how do you want to do this?
>> i'll start with -- >> how about a free for all? >> the associated press. >> 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? >> absolutely it was to prepare for all contingencies. if we had the opportunity to take him 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 were planning for the possibility that we thought was
going to be remote given that he was likely to resist arrest, that we would be able to capture him. >> you went into this operation plefg the most likely outcome would be he would be killed on sight. >> we wanted to make sure we were able to accomplish the mission safely and securely for the people 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. >> and if i can just ask, have you been able to determine how bin laden was able to hide in this location and do you believe the pakistanis when they say they have no idea he was there. >> people have been referring to this as hiding in plain sight. it 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. 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. >> but you don't necessarily take them at their word that they didn't know. >> we are pursuing all leads in this issue. >> is it really credible that pakistani authorities had no idea that this compound was being built and that it existed, such an elaborate compound? >> 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. >> 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? >> 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 have been after for 15 years. it 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. >> in the situation room yesterday, could you describe how you were monitoring the goings on. it's been described as very tense, understandably a very tense scene. were you watching the operation? were you just listening to it. how were you getting your information? >> the principals convened yesterday around midday. there were others who were here early yesterday morning. the president joined us early afternoon before the operation got under way. then the president rejoined the group and we were able to monitor in a realtime basis the progress of the operation frf its commencement to its time line 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 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 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 an individual 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. >> was it -- was there a visual or was it just a radio report or phone reports? >> we were able to monitor the situation in realtime and were able to have regular updates and to ensure that we were -- had realtime visibility into the progress of that operation. not going to go into the details about what type of visuals we had or what type of feeds were there, but it was -- it gave us the ability to actually track it on an ongoing basis. >> and i understand that there was a moment of real tension, one with the helicopter, but also when the navy s.e.a.l.s 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 s.e.a.l.s 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 navy s.e.a.l.s? >> we didn't contact the pa pakistanis until all our people were out of the pakistani air space. they were scrambling some of their assets. clearly we were concerned if the pakistanis decided to scramble jets or whatever else, they didn't know who was on those jets. they had no idea about who might have been on there, whether be u.s. or somebody else. so we were watching and making sure that the -- our people and our aircraft were able to get out of the pakistani air space and thankfully there was no engagement of pakistani forces. this operation was designed to minimize the chances of engagement with pakistani forces. it was done very well and thankfully no pakistani forces were engaged and there were no other, you know, individuals who were killed aside from those on
the compound. >> thank you, sir. >> 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? >> the people who are 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, you know, looking at whatever might have been picked up, but i'm not going to go into details about what might have been acquired. we feel as though this is a very important time to continue to prosecute this evident against al qaeda, take advantage of the success of yesterday, and to continue to work to break the back of al qaeda. >> was it a lot of information? how would you describe it in terms of the volume? >> we are trying to determine exactly the worth of whatever information we might have been able to pick up. it's not necessarily quantity. frequently it's quality. >> now that you have osama bin laden, can you tell us how close the u.s. has gotten to him in
the past? any other close calls we have not been informed about? >> over the years, tora bora was certainly the last time we had actionable and what 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 peristant. they have pulled on every thread and as a result of that diligen diligence, they were able to track this and build a body of evidence that suggested he was at that compound. it was much greater confidence we had in this body of information than we've had since tora bora. still though, it 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 the information and then made
what i believe was one of the most gutsiest calls of any president in recent memory. >> and in the leadup 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? >> 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, over time we're able to piece together additional information, get his -- the name he was known by, his nom nom de guerre and track it until we got to the compound in abbottabad and over the past six months with trying
to ensure that we had the best visibility in terms of understanding what was happening at that compound, that body of evidence kept 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 we take into account the safety and security of the american people, of the americans that would be countnducting this information and making sure we're able to maximize the chance of mission success. the president made the decision and the results speak for themselves. >> you said that osama bin laden was actually involved in the firefight. it has been reported that he reached for a weapon. did he get his hand on a gun and did he fire himself? >> he was engaged in a firefight with those that entered the area of the house and whether or not he got off any rounds, i quite frankly, don't know.
>> and -- >> from a visual perspective, here is bin laden who has been calling for attacks, living in this million dollar plus compound, living in an area that's 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. >> in these anxiety filled minutes, 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 realtime, could you actually hear the shots fired? >> 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 going along. if that he is any deviation, it
causes anxiety, but the individuals who carried out this assault planned for all the various contingencies. so when that helicopter was seen to be unable to move, all of a sudden you had to go to plan "b," and they did it flawlessly. they conducted 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 of 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 initial plan. >> did you hear shots fired? >> we were able to monitor the situation in realtime. [ laughter ] >> 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 reaction from him? >> you say when it became clear. that's one of the things we had to do throughout the course of the 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 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-ha when people say, you know, the dna results came in, no. this was something that was building over time and we made a decision last night because we felt as though we were confident enough to go out to the american people and to the world to say we got him. >> the president's reaction at any time? >> we got him. >> circle back to a point you just made. bin laden used women as human
shields when american personnel went in? >> 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. >> 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. >> 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're able to share what we can because we want to make sure that not only the american people but the world understands 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 the battlefield. >> is there some thought though that releasing a photo or two might avoid conspiracy theories throughout the muslim world? >> 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. >> the debate about whether to release something or what to release when it comes to visual evidence? >> i think it's both. i think, first of all, what falls into the category of things 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 base.
and then you have to take a look at it from the standpoint of what are the upsides and down sides. sometimes when you conduct an operation based on intelligence and 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 you're not doing anything to expose something that will limit your ability to use those same intelligence sources and capabilities in the future. >> has anybody secured this compound? has the pakistani army gone in and secured in compound? >> 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. >> who owned the land? >> whether it be the land or the compound, but it was two of the individuals who were killed, the
al qaeda facilitators, the individual who was identified as the gatekeeper courier. the residence was at least my understanding in his name. >> and it's my understanding that you called it just now that the president one of the gutsiest decisions that he made. that implies there was some disagreement around the table -- this was not a unanimous recommendation. >> absolutely. and that's what the president does. he goes around the room and wants to hear people's views. you have a circumstantial intelligence case, and so people will see that either there's 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 are differences of views. that's what the president wanted to know. as well as the different what's called coas, courses of action. the different things you can go that involve an assault on the
compound as well as a standoff position. what are the benefits of doing that from a remote location like we have done in the past 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. >> was it a close call in your opinion? >> for the president to go forward with this? >> yes. >> 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 have ever seen before. i was confident that we had the basis to take action. i also though have 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 a supporter to do this, but the president had to look at all the different scenarios all the contingencies out there. what would have happened if a helicopter went down? so he decided this is so important to the security of the american people that he was going to go forward with this. >> can you tell us more about the role that the u.s. -- more of the role of the u.s. interacting with pakistan and they're actively investigating what they knew and didn't know about osama bin laden being there or not? >> well, a couple things. one, the president mentioned yesterday he spoke to the president and a number of senior u.s. officials are in regular contact with their pakistani counterparts. we are continuing to engage with them, engaging with them today as we learn more about the compound and whatever type of support system bin laden had. i will point out that we've had differences of view with the pakistani government on counterterrorism cooperation, 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. >> john, can you tell us about the burial at sea? where did it happen? when did it happen? >> the disposal of the burial of bin laden's remains was done in strict conformance with islamic reseptembe 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 it was going to be done in strict
conformance. so it was taken care of in the appropriate way. i'm not going to go into details about the where, but that burial has taken time. >> and why? >> i'm sorry? >> when was that decision made, that he would be buried at sea if killed? >> can you explain why? >> one at a time. >> was it months or years ago? was this part of the plans all along? >>.coas, the corporatiokortion action have been developed over the course of the last several months. senior officials aged 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 would we do with him? if he was killed, what would we do with him and where would he
go? it was determined it was in the best interests of all involved that this burial take place again according to islamic requirements at sea. >> why at sea? why at sea? >> why? >> why was that a good idea? >> it was determined -- there is the requirement in islamic law that an individual be buried within 24 hours. when inside of pakistan, carried out the operation, he was killed, he was removed from pakistan. there were certain steps that had to be taken. 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 appropriate -- an appropriate islamic burial was to take those actions that would allow us to do that burial at sea.
>> john, did you consult a muslim expert -- >> we consulted the appropriate specialists and experts, and there was unanimity that this would be the best way to handle this. >> last question, do you know if detainees at gitmo have been informed of what has happened? >> i do not know. >> he was wrapped in a weighted white sheet. how secure is that? are you confident the body is not going -- >> 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 done appropriately. >> so today lawmakers are urging possibly reconsidering or re-evaluating aid to pakistan, what --
>> 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 provided by the pakistani government. so i think people are raising these questions. we're going to have to deal with them. >> is there a visual recording of this burial? >> we have to give other people a chance here. >> a quick question about the burial. was there an imam there? >> it was done appropriately with appropriate people there. >> okay. and a question, i don't know if this was for you or for jay, the president is going to speak to the bipartisan leadership tonight. 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? >> you're going to have another 20 hours of information that's been acquired since what he said to the national last night. i think what he's going to try to do is give the congressional visitors here an update on that. last night we didn't have some
of the analysis that was gone. now we can say with 99.9% confidence that this was bin laden. so it's those types of things as well as to explain to the congress in the many respects some of the unique features of this mission which was the extreme compartmenttation of it, how it was septembkept so close. >> there's some reporting that the burial -- that the u.s. offered the body to the saudis, they declined. is that true? >> after we had confidence 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 at sea was the most appropriate thing to do, and so we touched base with the right people, but i'm not going to go into details of who we might have consulted with before his burial. >> mr. brennan, can you give us
any details on whether there were previous operations that were called off at the last minute because of fears of risks or perhaps the inability to identify bin laden's body positively? >> you mean against this target? >> against this target. >> there were different courses of action about the options available to the president as far as whether it was going to be an assault on the ground or a standoff option. discussed all the pros and cons of them. 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 type 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 ordnance that might be dropped. >> 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 davis episode and the fact this was done without consultation, are you concerned that just in your line of work it will be very difficult to re-establish a good working relationship with the isi or the intelligence authorities there? >> 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 said, we don't always agree
on some things 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 continuing to work with our pakistani colleagues because they are as much, if not more, on the front lines of the battle against terrorism. >> how certain are you that there will be some kind of movement to avenge this death, some kind of retaliation? if you still had the color coded alerts, would this be a time when you would raise that alert? >> janet napolitano, secretary of homeland security, had announced there was a change in the color coded system to the national threat advisory system and i think she has put out a statement saying 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. in any incident like this, what we do is take the prudent steps afterward to make sure we have our vigilance up, that we are
taking the appropriate measures so 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, you know, 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 this will send a message to those individuals who are out there that, you know, terrorism and militancy is not the wave of the future, it's the wave of the past. >> is al qaeda weaker and ever able to -- >> this is a strategic blow to al qaeda. it is a necessary but not necessarily a sufficient blow to lead to its demise but we are determined to destroy it. i think we have a lot better opportunity now that bin laden is out of there to destroy that
organization, create fractures within it. the number two al zawahiri is not charismatic. he 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. 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? >> 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, 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. >> can i ask you as a follow-up, if the compound was so big how did the s.e.a.l.s know where to find bin laden and can you say whether it was a bedroom or a dining area or an open area or something like that? >> 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, and whoever it was that actually did the assault on that, you named a certain group -- >> was the bin laden family part of the compound? >> absolutely. >> this might be a question more for jay, but given the sort of unity you have seen from messaging from both sides, both parts in the last 24 hours, is the president going to make any
appeal to leaders tonight this this sense of unity go with other issues -- >> i'll address that because it goes to mara's questions but i want to give john a few more because he's got other things he needs to do. let me go to april. maybe two or three more. i'm sorry. >> were there any civilian -- how many civilians casualties were there? >> the two al qaeda facilitators, brothers who were the courier and his brother. bin laden's son and the woman presumed to be his wife who was shielding bin laden. >> did he actually take her as a shield or did someone put her in front of him? >> i wasn't there so -- it was an effort to try to shield bin laden. >>. [ inaudible question ] >> i want to go to a couple questions. one on security.
one focus of the administration was an attack is 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? >> i have never had the mindset it's not if, it's when. that's basically saying something is going to happen. i think every day counterterrorism professionals 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 they can have another day without a terrorist attack again u.s. interests abroad or here. this does not mean 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. >> since the death of bin laden, what is thought of this
administration? do you believe that the pakistani government is transparent and being honest and forthcoming giving you the information they have now on osama bin laden, what they knew or are going into finding out more about this situation? >> there are a lot of people within the pakistani government and i'm not going to speculate about who or if any of this had foreknowledge about bin laden being in abbottabad, but certainly his location there outside of the capital raises question. we are talking to the pakistanis about this, but they at least in our discussions about them seem as surprised as we were initially that bin laden was holding out in that area. >> you spoke earlier about using this as kind of a pivot point to demonstrate to the people of pakistan that al qaeda is past, there's a different future. is the president still firmly committed to visiting pakistan this year to make that message. >> i will not address the president's schedule. i think there's a commitment that the president has made that he is intending to visit pakistan 37 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 the type of lifestyle for their populace in the future. >> does the fact that bin laden was found in such comfortable conditions in pakistan and there are obviously big threats to the u.s. interest in places like yemen in terms of a threat,
undercut -- [ inaudible ]. >> the point is to bring the country the security it can have and to not allow al qaeda to use afghanistan as a launching point. this is something we're in ongoing discussions about the afghan government, the pakistani government. we have to make sure that part of the world which was given rise to groups like al qaeda and others, that they cannot use the area with impunity. 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 with. >> i'm curious, i know that we didn't let any other countries know before the strikes, but in the time it's unfolded since, has the president had contact with leaders of nato countries? >> the president has had a number of discussions. i'm not going to go into the individual discussions but this is something of international
significance and that he has and will continue to have in the coming days those discussions. >> but you can say he's talked to say cheancellor merkel or -- >> i could but i'm not going to. [ inaudible question ] >> is it likely the neighbors had known anything about this that lived there? >> when you look at the features of the compound, these very high walls, 12, 16, 18 high walls, barb wire on the top. 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, you know, sort of a fortress -- >> [ inaudible question ] >> well, 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 previously. >> thank you, sir. >> i just want to clear something up because i think a few of us who were confused. the woman who was killed was bin laden's wife? >> that's my understanding. >> and he was using her as a shield. >> she served as a shield. this is my understanding and we're still getting the reports of exactly what happened at the particular moments, that when that -- she fought back when there was the opportunity to get to bin laden, she was positioned in a way that indicated 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 she was one of bin laden's wives. >> thank you, sir. >> thank you very much. >> i'm sure we'll have more i'm sure -- >> was there a reason you said
99.9% certain it's bin laden? why not say 100%? >> i believe that's based on dna. if i could just -- i just want to start by addressing a question that was posed. 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 will likely hear him sound is -- will echo what he said last night is this is a good day or a good days for america and for americans. the fact that we were able to accomplish this says a lot about our country and our perseverance. you know, 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 -- who have
been working on this diligently for 9 1/2 years are 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 work together. i don't believe -- there's some logistical issues here. we will get it to you right afterwards if not live. let me do ten minutes or so so we can all file and other things. i'll move around, i'll take the associate the press and then move around a little bit. >> this is sort of in line with some of the stuff we were talking about. obviously, if the president gave this order friday morning then went on this long trip on friday, had the correspondents' dinner on saturday, 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 knowing the actions that were going to be taken in pakistan? >> well, i would -- i think one thing that's important to note is as john mentioned, the compartmentalization here. there was 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. the experience that i think was unique about that is you discover that, you know, when folks get an opportunity to meet the president, there are different ways that they do that, town hall meetings or propose lines or things like that, but there's something
unique about even a president being able to meet individuals who have suffered such terrible things as those residents of tuscaloosa did and in their moment of despair that's very powerful and i think he felt that. so he was focused on that and obviously the cape canaveral and onto 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. let me -- george. >> back to the meeting tonight, other than bin laden, what is the objective as far as budget and debt limit? >> i think as we 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's 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 needs to do together. so nothing beyond that, george. hold on one second. andre. >> thank you, thank you, jay. two things. briefly, who is in charge of the compound now? >> that was asked. our understanding on the visuals we've seen is that the pakistani authorities are in charge of the compound. >> and secondly, more importantly, what was the legal basis for the operation? >> 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 against 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. >> so this would have applied not only to pakistan but to other countries if he was found somewhere else? >> well, i would simply say that there was a great deal of confidence as has been discussed by experts for a long time that he was in that border region or in pakistan. so i don't think the hypothetical really makes a lot
of sense. cheryl. >> has the president picked a newcomers secretary? when can we see that announcement. >> i don't have any personnel announcements for you or timing of personnel announcements for you. >> jay, almost lost in this news is the nato strike against gadhafi's compound saturday where his son was killed and three of his grandchildren. does the white house believe that mission was in keeping with carrying out the u.n. resolution. >> we are obviously listening to the daily briefing from the white house. a historic day to say the least. let me bring in chris matthews in these last few minutes of "news nation" to talk about what we heard. john brennan says it was an anxiety filled period as the president and his team watched in realtime what was happening in pakistan. he said that the time passed like days, the minutes passed like days.
and many questions about the relationship between the united states and pakistan and what brennan called the gutsiest move by a president in recent memory. >> well, all that obviously is true, but i think that one thing that he said at the end, did you catch it when he said the fact that that mansion, that sort of mcmansion was right there in the middle of that community with, you know, barbed wire all around the top, nobody going in or out basically, no cell phone connections, et cetera, et cetera, he said that raises questions about the situation, about why the isi, if that's such a great intelligence operation over there, and it's supposedly celebrated as an new jersey operation in pakistan, why didn't they pick up on the fact that somewhere in the suburbs bin laden was sitting there rather nicely living well? and i think that's a question all americans tonight are asking. why did not pakistan detect the presence of the word's most wanted criminal and terrorist in their own midst, in their own suburbs? >> brennan also was very strong
in his tone when he talked about pakistan being critical in breaking up al qaeda but we know that the isi and pakistani officials were not told what was happening. it was unilateral with the navy s.e.a.l.s because -- you finished the sentence. >> because i think we're all suspicion they didn't tell them because they didn't want them to give the heads up and basically rat out our operation. why tell the people you suspect you're going in to catch the guy it looks like they were hiding. i don't know for sure but the fact we didn't tell them means we didn't want them to know and why wouldn't we want them to know? >> let's talk about the reaction to the president again what brennan calls one of the gutsyist moves in recent history. rush limbaugh opened his show praising the president, even thanking god for the moves that made this decision by president obama. this morning so many people woke up to congressman peter king giving praise to the president
for his kour ageous move, also praising that elite force of navy s.e.a.l.s who went in and made this happen. >> well, i guess they recognize reality. i think they don't like terrorism any more than you or i like it and they dislike it perhaps in a different way prally than a lot of people do, but they're on the far right and they have a vehement hatred of terrorism as we all do. they squlus approajust approach different way. i think -- i hope this is handled so well that it won't cause any more trouble between east and west. the goal of ending the terrorism era we live in right now is not like ending world war ii where you crash into berlin or crash into tokyo or you bomb the hell out of tokyo or berlin. it's ending the war and you don't end this war the same way. these kids are growing up 10 years old right now, five or ten years from now they'll be terrorists unless this stops.
if we can do this without instilling more hatred, more recruitment, we're better off. i think the way the military handled it with the very careful burial at sea of bin laden didn't make the matter any worse and i think this is a very different kind of war. we have to win it with guts and smarts. >> all right. thank you very much, chris, for sticking around. be sure to watch "hardball with chris matthews" tonight, more insight and reaction to the killing of osama bin laden. let me fwlibring in general bar mccaffrey. incredible details we have been getting about now the s.e.a.l.s were able to find this compound. it started with aggressive interrogations and it led to a pseudoname of a cuourier who le this special force to the door. osama bin laden albeit a mcmansion in a suburb in pakistan. >> yeah. well, of course, cia would have been coordinating the intelligence collection effort.
this has gone on for years and years trying to track this guy. a presumption from the start was he was somewhere in pakistan in an uncontrolled area. that probably assisted in the deception in that we would have searched most closely up in the tribal area or along the afghan frontier, but it's certainly a remarkable bit of clue following to gather radio intercept, aerial observation of these curricur couriers to finally zero in on where osama bin laden was there, and then to carry out this spectacular, professional raid by the navy s.e.a.l.s. >> in hindsight, i keep going back to this line from john brennan saying this was one of the gutsiest moves by a president in recent history. this could have have gone very wrong even when you listen to
the play by play of the helicopter, not know wing what s there. we know there was a run through with a replica compound in april just to put every part in place but you cannot account for what is unknown. >> well, sure. and they went into this operation again earlier one of the commentators said, well, disaster when the helicopter failed. they would have started with the assumption that one or more of these helicopters would either be shot down or certainly disabled by ground fire. so again, this was carefully planned, rehearsed. these navy s.e.a.l.s and the army 160th aviation regiment i assume carried them into this raid. they have done this, tamron, for years. they have carried out hundreds of raids. normally with minimal to no u.s. casualties and devastating results on the target. they're sheer magic. >> and we're almost out of time quickly, but a part of the series of questions to brennan
today was concerning the release or the possible release of a photo of a dead osama bin laden. brennan says that's something that's being discussed. do you believe that's necessity point? >> sure. i do. i certainly hope that's the case. i listened to peggy noonan on morning joe say she hopes it's transparent. i think it's the best way to move. we have to disguise the identities of the raiders, the navy s.e.a.l.s and the army aviators who took them into battle, but beyond that we ought to lay it all out. >> it's another incredible day. i'm sure to many people are at work or at home and still trying to absorb the reality of this incredible raid and what it has resulted in, which is the death of osama bin laden. thank you so much, general, for sticking around with me. this does it for this monday edition of "news nation." catch "news nation" week days at 2:00 p.m. on msnbc. martin bashir is up next.
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good afternoon. it's monday, may 2nd, and here is what's happening. geronimo. kia, osama bin laden taken out by a team of u.s. navy s.e.a.l.s. >> this is a good day for america. the world is safer, it is a better place because of the death of osama bin laden. >> a decade-long manhunt ends in a daring raid and a bloody firefight. and all across america, relief, prize, and celebration. >> usa! usa! usa! >> we have full coverage just ahead. and a good afternoon to all of you, an afternoon almost every american has looked forward to since that terrible september morning ten years ago.