“Minutes passed like days” for U.S. officials watching bin Laden op

May 2, 2011

It took almost a decade for the United States to find al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. But when it came to the final act, time went into slow motionĀ  for U.S. officials holding their breath and hoping the raid in Pakistan would go off without a hitch.

White House counterterrorism official John Brennan, a former CIA officer who has been after bin Laden for 15 years, described the scene in the White House Situation Room where President Barack Obama and other national security officials gathered to monitor the U.S. operation in real-time.

“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,” Brennan told reporters at the White House.

“The minutes passed like days, and the president was very concerned about the security of our personnel,” he said.

“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,” Brennan said. When asked for details, Brennan demurred and wouldn’t specify how they monitored the operation whether through video, audio or some other secret feed.

“It 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.”

One moment of heightened anxiety came when a helicopter did not function properly and the strike force had to switch to “Plan B.”

And what were President Obama’s words when the deed was done? “We got him.”

Photo credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (Brennan at White House press briefing)




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