Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 2, 2011

HOW THE OBL MISSION CAME TOGETHER.... Reports that U.S. forces had killed Osama bin Laden broke last night, culminating in President Obama's national address and spontaneous celebrations in New York and D.C. We've since learned more about how the successful mission came together.

After years of dead ends and promising leads gone cold, the big break came last August.

A trusted courier of Osama bin Laden's whom American spies had been hunting for years was finally located in a compound 35 miles north of the Pakistani capital, close to one of the hubs of American counterterrorism operations. The property was so secure, so large, that American officials guessed it was built to hide someone far more important than a mere courier.

What followed was eight months of painstaking intelligence work, culminating in a helicopter assault by American military and intelligence operatives that ended in the death of Bin Laden on Sunday and concluded one of history's most extensive and frustrating manhunts.

Apparently, detainees at Guantanamo Bay provided officials with the courier's pseudonym, and U.S. intelligence agencies learned his real name four years ago. It was not until two years ago that American officials knew the general area to look for him.

And it wasn't until August of last year that agencies tracked the courier to a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, built in 2005. Soon after, the CIA suspected bin Laden was inside.

In mid-March, President Obama held the first of five national security meetings to oversee plans for this operation. As it turns out, the meetings were ongoing during negotiations with congressional Republicans, who were threatening to shut down the government.

Friday, just 72 hours ago, the president assembled his national security team and signed off on the plan to raid the compound. The decision was not shared with Pakistani officials.

Yesterday, carrying out the mission, a firefight broke out. Bin Laden was shot in the head, and four others -- including one woman who'd been used as a human shield by an al Qaeda operative -- were also killed. No Americans were injured.

A series of DNA tests confirmed it was OBL yesterday afternoon at 3:50.

At the White House Correspondents' Dinner on Saturday night, the president joked at the outset, "What a week."

What a week, indeed.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (31)

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And yet I have already read blog comments such as "Obama doesn't deserve credit for this." It never ceases to amaze me how childish those on the right can be. Good for Obama. Good for the Navy Seals and all the armed forces who have sacrificed for 10 years. Good for the intelligence community that work countless hours, usually in anonimity, to keep us all safe. It is a day for unity in the nation. Just one day, that's all I'm expecting...but hoping for more.

Posted by: Vandal on May 2, 2011 at 8:10 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not the type of person who revels in people's deaths, but I'll make an exception in this case.

DING DONG - BIN LADEN'S DEAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And I love the fact that it was Obama who got Osama, and not Little Boots.

Anyone want to be that there'll at least 27% or the people out there who won't believe it. That there's no way Obama could have done it, so he's faking it.

Cue - 3...2...1...

PS: If you want to see some conflicted people, turn to FOX this morning.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on May 2, 2011 at 8:11 AM | PERMALINK

I don't want to diminish the triumph here by wondering about the domestic political ramifications, but it's inevitable. Obama did this. Not Bush. Not Rudy 9/11. Not Country-First McCain. A black cosmopolitan whose church "hates America". Fuck you, right-wingers.

Posted by: walt on May 2, 2011 at 8:14 AM | PERMALINK

Correct me if I am wrong, but when Obama was running for election I think I remember in one of the debates he was asked how he would go after Bin Laden, wasn't this the exact way he answered? His strategy seems to have worked out well.
Amazing that this man gave the order to go in & kill Bin Laden, then left for Alabama, then gave his comedy performance at the correspondents dinner all while his orders were being carried out!
Now the repubs can get back to the important things like whether his long form birth certificate is real!

Posted by: j on May 2, 2011 at 8:18 AM | PERMALINK

gulag sez:"Anyone want to be that there'll at least 27% or the people out there who won't believe it."

In the Alternate Universe that is Late Nite Radio (naming names; "Coast to Coast) the conspiracy theorists are in full bloom: "Osama is not dead. Why was he buried at sea? Obama was adopted, set to run the new World Order" Much talk about "They"- the ones who somehow run everything!

Apparently the internet is already rife with fake pictures. I guess the Photoshoppers got a lot of practice on making Long Forms.

Posted by: DAY on May 2, 2011 at 8:19 AM | PERMALINK

Go easy on the right-wingers. Choking on your own bile is no fun at all.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on May 2, 2011 at 8:19 AM | PERMALINK

I guess this is what happens when you have a president who DOESN'T ignore an August briefing.

Posted by: maurinsky on May 2, 2011 at 8:20 AM | PERMALINK

So, over the past month Obama has been coordinating a successful strike against bin Laden, negotiating with Congressional Republicans to avert a disastrous government shut down, staying on top of a newly invigorated FEMA doing its job down in heavily Red States and he still found time to scan and post the long awaited long form of his birth certificate - and rehearse for the White House Correspondents' Dinner. A real multi-tasking POTUS, what a concept!!!

Posted by: majun on May 2, 2011 at 8:23 AM | PERMALINK

I dare say the justice brought yesterday to bin Laden by the Barack Hussein Obama administration is an opportunity for our nation to move past the fear and craziness that terrorist attack of 9-11 unleashed.

Perhaps those who irrationally point at the black Kenyan/Muslim without a valid birth certificate and all the while claiming he is trying to bring our nation down by imposing socialism can now begin to see that He is Our President.

Maybe with with a wee bit of pride in the Commander In Chief who assembled the leadership team who led the service members who accomplished the mission we can start to work together to get what needs to be done, done.

Yes We Can.

Posted by: MikeBoyScout on May 2, 2011 at 8:25 AM | PERMALINK

How long before the GOP complains that he isn't focused enough on deficit reduction?

Posted by: majun on May 2, 2011 at 8:25 AM | PERMALINK

One thing you can count on from the right, and some of the "centrists", this totally justifies Gitmo and everything we have done there and in black sites in the name of the "War on Terror."

Posted by: martin on May 2, 2011 at 8:29 AM | PERMALINK

Here are the rules as they should be. President Obama pulls the trigger. If the mission fails, as happened with Jimmy Carter during the attempt to rescue the Iran hostages, his presidency is essentially over. As it turns out, one of the helicopters crash landed and that scenario almost repeated.
Had this mission failed, Obama would have owned that. When it succeeded, he got to own that, stoo.
As I said, that's how the rules should work. They rarely do.

Posted by: Art Hackett on May 2, 2011 at 8:33 AM | PERMALINK

For j at 8:18-

You're right. And what Obama said he'd do was a point of contention between him and McCain. Check out this video. The relevant part comes at the very beginning.

Posted by: sjw on May 2, 2011 at 8:34 AM | PERMALINK

The National Enquirer is almost certainly ready to print a photo of Bin Laden in Aruba, sipping on a pina colada, holding a newspaper dated May 10, 2011. Then maybe we can stop talking about birth certificates.

Posted by: Danp on May 2, 2011 at 8:37 AM | PERMALINK

Got the lead on the compound in August, made the raid in April. Minimal collateral damage. Very meticulous work.

And Obama give the order the day before he did the comedy routine for the press corps and tagged Trump and Bachmann. Cool customer.

Posted by: Midland on May 2, 2011 at 8:39 AM | PERMALINK

This gives an entirely new meaning to May Day.....May 1, the date of OBL's death.

Posted by: withay on May 2, 2011 at 8:42 AM | PERMALINK

This morning I don't care a fig about long form birth certificates. Obama is the guy I want at the helm.

Posted by: Ron Byers on May 2, 2011 at 8:42 AM | PERMALINK

August: "Mr. President, we think we have a lead on the location of OBL"

"Very good, keep me posted. But noone takes any moves until we are absolutely sure we have the right location and we have reviewed a plan of attack several times, even if it takes eight months."


Imaginary Bush administration

August: "Mr. President, we think we have a lead on the location of OBL"

"Take 'im out. Now."

Posted by: zmulls on May 2, 2011 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

In a nation where 'birthers' and 'truthers' have become a routine fact of life, it's inevitable that those who find it impossible to credit President Obama with anything positive will refuse to believe this actually occurred. I've already seen posts by the doubters. I just hope there is irrefutable proof that the man killed yesterday was indeed Osama bin Laden.

Posted by: Charles on May 2, 2011 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

@ Charles....Sorry Charles . Irrefutable proof does not exist in the Faux Nooze bubble The 25%ers will always...always find a conspiracy to follow.

Posted by: John R AKA Mr. Serf Man on May 2, 2011 at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK

The replacement of news with rumor , speculation , strife , and conspiracy has historically been a boon to comedians .
Investments in comedy stock is advisable when faced with a sane government and variously unbalanced , insanely partisan corporate infotainment nues .
Ares coupling with Aphrodite produced some of the finest comedy hi jinks in the last three thousand years . The children were lovingly named , Deimos The god of fear , Harmonia The goddess of harmony , Phobos The god of panic . Panic and Fear (not so) recently replaced thought and consideration in Republican house keeping (all those cheery messages of panic and fear) .
Give us confusion or give us republicans . Either one leads to tragedy , but confusion , at least , is more straight forward .

Posted by: FRP on May 2, 2011 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

Sure glad Gitmo was kept open, or this would have never gone down. I guess this blows a big hole in the liberal "Gitmo must be closed! There's not intel value from those detainees! They are innocent!1!"

I don't want to diminish the triumph here by wondering about the domestic political ramifications, but it's inevitable. Obama did this.

Americans did this - most notably the Special Forces. Stop being a partisan hack. I guess we can cut military spending now, right?

Posted by: Jon America on May 2, 2011 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

Apparently, detained at Guantanamo Bay provided officials with the courier's pseudonym, and U.S. intelligence agencies learned his real name four years ago. It was not until two years ago that American officials knew the general area of look for him.

"people detained at Guantanamo"
"detainees at Guantanamo"

"knew the general area to look for him."

Me get paid for to write.

New right-wing rumor: OBL sacrificed himself in order to ensure that the secret Muslim Obama stays in charge in the USA.

Posted by: josef on May 2, 2011 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

Imaginary Bush administration

August: "Mr. President, we think we have a lead on the location of OBL"

"Take 'im out. Now."


Actual Bush Administration

Imaginary Bush administration

August: "Mr. President, we think we have a lead on the location of OBL"

"Pull forces off that and send them to Iraq; now I need to clear brush for 30 weeks straight."

Posted by: Phalamir on May 2, 2011 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

This burial at sea of OBL thing, getting deathers riled up - what's the story?

Posted by: neil b on May 2, 2011 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

Obama's performance at the correspondents' vaudeville show looks even sweeter in retrospect. He must have enjoyed it immensely.

I saw Peter King on one of the shows this morning and, amazingly, he gave full credit to Obama. I thought it was surprising, but welcome that a TP fave and Muslim hunter would be so magnanimous.

Posted by: CDW on May 2, 2011 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

"Sure glad they kept Gitmo open otherwise this never would have happened!" Sorry but no: The intelligence was obtained from detainees at Guantanamo FOUR years ago. Obama attempted to close the place last year. Facts are such stubborn things.

Posted by: SixStringFanatic on May 2, 2011 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

The gitmo intelligence claim notwithstanding (I'm still looking for it in the linked NYT story), the truth is that this kind of operation didn't require two wars, thousands of American dead and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghani dead.

If we had kept our heads and approached it like the INTERNATIONAL CRIME it was, we could have spared all of those lives and trillions of dollars.

There are no winners when a full accounting is made.

Posted by: bdop4 on May 2, 2011 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

Don't want to rain on anyone's parade, and certainly I have been rooting for Obama to finally take control of the message, but (there's always a 'but') not unlike his birth certificate the government is going to have provide concrete evidence of OBL's demise. The right-wing blogosphere isn't going to take his word for it, and even the credulous corporate MSM may ask some questions.

There have been assertions for almost ten years that Obama died at Bora-Bora, that he had severe kidney disease and died subsequently, and that all of his video and audio tapes have been faked. Someone has to produce a credible narrative of the last ten years of OBL's life, and irrefutable proof of his death. Otherwise it will just be more of the same old nonsense.

Posted by: rrk1 on May 2, 2011 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK


99.9 percent match of DNA with his late sister per FBI. Body buried at sea - Islamic tradition means dead must be buried within 24 hours of death. I assume the US military took pains to protect location and will be able to find the container if need be. Many will not believe this, so I hope that's the case.

Posted by: Hannah on May 2, 2011 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK


"U.S. President Obama had authorized a plan to bomb Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan but canceled it, sources told ABC News. The report said the plan called from two B2 stealth bombers dropping a few dozen 2,000-pound bombs on the compound. When Obama learned that the compound would be reduced to rubble and there would be little chance to recover bin Laden's DNA to show proof of his death, he canceled the operation in favor of the special operations strike that killed bin Laden Sunday. Navy SEALs took bin Laden's body from the compound, with U.S. officials later burying it at sea after getting DNA samples."

Posted by: Hannah on May 2, 2011 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK
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