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More Details Emerge Describing the Incredible, Covert OBL Operation

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“The assault team went ahead and raided the compound, even though they didn’t know if they would have a ride home.”

National Journal:

The compound was massive and tightly guarded with only two points of access.

"The physical security measures of the compound are extraordinary," a senior administration official said. "It has 12- to 18-foot walls topped with barbed wire.... Internal walls sectioned off different portions of the compound to provide extra privacy.... The residents of the compound burn their trash, unlike their neighbors, who put the trash out for collection."

Intelligence analysts studied the compound, which was built in 2005, carefully. While convinced that a high-value target was staying there, they assessed whether it could be someone other than bin Laden.

"We conducted red-team exercises and other forms of alternative analysis to check our work," the senior administration official said. "No other candidate fit the bill as well as bin Laden did."

The president finally gave the order on Friday morning for the operation to pursue bin Laden—just before he departed for Alabama to visit areas ravaged by last week’s tornadoes, a senior administration official said.

By 1 p.m. in Washington on Sunday, top advisers had gathered at the White House. Around 2 p.m., Obama huddled with them to review final preparations for the operation. He returned to the Situation Room at 3:32 p.m. for another update, and by 3:50 p.m. he was given word that bin Laden was “tentatively identified” as among those killed in the operation. At 7 p.m., Obama was told it was a “high probability” that it was, indeed, bin Laden.

The entire operation took just 40 minutes and involved a small U.S. team of commandos, a senior administration official said.

The detachment of Navy SEALs earmarked for the mission spent most of April practicing the assault at a secret base inside neighboring Afghanistan, according to a senior military official with direct knowledge of their preparations. The SEALs constructed a full-scale mock-up of the compound to practice the most effective ways of breaching its perimeter and assaulting various numbers of defenders, the official said.

Politico:

The helicopter carrying Navy SEALs malfunctioned as it approached Osama bin Laden’s compound at about 3:30 p.m. ET Sunday, stalling as it hovered. The pilot set it down gently inside the walls, then couldn’t get it going again.

It was a heart-stopping moment for President Barack Obama, who had been monitoring the raid in the White House Situation Room since 1 p.m., surrounded by members of his war cabinet.

“Obviously, everyone was thinking about Black Hawk Down and Desert One,” a senior administration official recalled.

The SEALs disembarked.

“The assault team went ahead and raided the compound, even though they didn’t know if they would have a ride home,” an official said.

The special forces put bombs on the crippled chopper and blew it up, then lifted off in a reinforcement craft just before 4:15 p.m., capping an astounding 40 minutes that gave the United States a tectonic victory in the 10-year war on terror touched off by 9/11.

The sick chopper turned out to be a tiny wrinkle in an astounding military and intelligence triumph. Bin Laden was shot in the face by the SEALs during a firefight after resisting capture.

[...]

The SEALs held rehearsals of the raid on April 7 and April 13, with officials monitoring the action from Washington.

As the real thing approached, daily meetings were held of the national security principals, chaired by National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, and their deputies, chaired by John Brennan, the president’s counterterrorism adviser.

Over the past seven weeks, Obama had chaired numerous National Security Council meetings on the topic, including ones on March 14, March 29, April 12, April 19 and April 28.

The Cable:

Last week Obama finally had enough intelligence last to take action. The final decision to go forward with the operation was made at 8:20 AM on Friday, April 29 in the White House's Diplomatic Room. In the room at the time were Donilon, his deputy Denis McDonough, and counterterrorism advisor John Brennan. Donilon prepared the formal orders.

On Sunday, Obama went to play golf in the morning at Andrews Air Force Base. He played 9 holes in chilly, rainy weather and spent a little time on the driving range, as well. Meanwhile, the principals were assembling in the situation room at the White House. They were there from 1:00 PM and stayed put for the rest of the day.

At 2:00, Obama met with the principals back at the White House. At 3:32 he went to the situation room for another briefing. At 3:50 he was told that bin Laden was "tentatively identified." At 7:01 Obama was told there was a "high probability" the high value target at the compound was bin Laden. At 8:30 Obama got the final briefing.

Before speaking to the nation, Obama called former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

[...]

The compound was 8 times larger than the other homes around it. It was built in 2005 in an area that was secluded at that time. There were extraordinary security measures at the compound, including 12 to 18 foot walls topped with barbed wire.

There were other suspicious indicators at the compound. Internal sections were walled off from the rest of the compound. There were two security gates. The residents burned their trash. The main building had few windows.

The compound, despite being worth over $1 million, had no telephone or internet service. There's no way the courier and his brother could have afforded it, the official said.

"Intelligence officials concluded that this compound was custom built to hide someone of significance," the official said, adding that the size and makeup of one of the families living there matched the suspected makeup of bin Laden's entourage.

The intelligence community had high confidence that the compound had a high value target, and the analysts concluded there was high probability that target was bin Laden, one official said.

When the small team of U.S. operatives raided the compound in the early morning hours Sunday Pakistan time, they encountered resistance and killed three men besides bin Laden and one woman. The three men were the two couriers and one of bin Laden's sons. The woman was being used as a human shield, one official said. Two other women were injured.

One U.S. helicopter was downed due to unspecified "maintenance" issues, one official said. The U.S. personnel blew up the helicopter before leaving the area. The team was on the ground for only 40 minutes.

A senior defense official told CNN that US Navy SEALs were involved in the mission.

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