U.S. had plans for failure, success of bin Laden raid
November 13th, 2013
02:23 PM ET

U.S. had plans for failure, success of bin Laden raid

By Barbara Starr

In the hours before the 2011 raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, the CIA delivered a final, crucial 66-page document to the White House.

Thirty-three pages detailed how the mission would be announced to the world if it was a success. But the other 33 pages spelled out what would have happened, and what would been said, if it all went wrong. The plan was carried to the White House in a locked bag by George Little, then-press secretary to CIA director Leon Panetta. Little spoke to CNN Wednesday, just two days before leaving government service as the Pentagon press secretary.

Little said much of the plan for the possible failure of the raid tried to anticipate various scenarios, such as an aircraft carrying the commandos crashing into Pakistan, or U.S. troops getting into a firefight with Pakistani forces. There was also discussion of what the Obama administration would have told the American people and the world, if there had been overwhelming opposition at the compound in Abbottabad, and perhaps some of the U.S. troops had been killed. The troops had been told to anticipate combat at the compound where bin Laden was found hiding and to expect the entire area to be booby-trapped.

When the Navy SEALs did move in to the compound in the early morning hours of May 2, climbing over 18-foot-high walls topped with barbed wire, they went through it quickly, meeting little opposition aside from the firing of AK-47s by a few male occupants at the site.

But in advance of the raid, it was still seen as highly risky, Little said. "Failure could have taken a number of forms. This was not an ironclad intelligence case that bin Laden was there."

That meant there was also a scenario in which President Barack Obama would have had to publicly speak about getting to the compound, but finding out that the man they had been tracking was not bin Laden.

The plan "offered an option to the President in which he could explain the rationale for undertaking the mission, the strong intelligence, the months of specific leads and the years of pursuing bin Laden," Little told CNN. "We would have emphasized (that) given the intelligence we had at the time, that we believed most Americans would have made the same decision" to undertake the raid.

The difficulty for the CIA was that some details of the plan were always supposed to remain classified, such as which U.S. military unit conducted the mission. But Little said he believes that if the raid had failed, Washington still would have had to come clean. "I think we probably at some point would have had to acknowledge what happened," he recently told reporters.


Filed under: Osama bin Laden
soundoff (49 Responses)
  1. WHY OUR GOVERNMENT SUCKS- B

    1 Democrats fight Republicans
    Party system is now crumbling, destroy it

    2 We owe other countries TRILLIONS
    Stop spending money on worthless projects/imports

    3 Unnecessary Laws and Restraints
    Repeal all Irrelevant laws, and Private sector constraints

    4 Failure to protect our borders
    Full recall of all U.S soldiers, reassign to local duty

    5 support of illegal aliens
    Help your citizens FIRST

    6 Taxes on exports and production
    Create business agreements with the private sector rather than taxing them

    December 2, 2013 at 6:32 pm | Reply
    • Derek

      "We owe other countries TRILLIONS."

      Actually, the largest shareholders of American debt are...Americans. We owe trillions to ourselves, mostly.

      February 11, 2014 at 11:21 pm | Reply
  2. Khrdhte Gljtesytr

    WHERE IS MY BACKPACK FULL OF CASH...

    November 17, 2013 at 11:27 am | Reply
  3. troo tex-un

    Plan for what happens afterwards? Why would anyone want to do that? A troo leeeder like Dubya just jumps in thar with guns ablazin'. That is how yew get-er-dun. We don't need no thinkin' stuff. Ah, the simple life when you see the world through a fundamentalist Patriotic Christian lens that makes everything black and white, good(white americans) or evil (everbodee else). Yee haww ya'll.

    November 14, 2013 at 2:14 pm | Reply
    • Yakobi

      Gotta love the left-wing reactionaries always ready to "blame Bush for everything".
      Um, genius? Did you read the report was written by the CIA? You know, the same guys who said Hussein was building WMDs.

      November 14, 2013 at 3:50 pm | Reply
      • Ted

        Bush invaded the wrong country. Can't get any dumber than that.

        February 12, 2014 at 6:52 am |
    • pest

      ?

      February 14, 2014 at 1:22 pm | Reply
  4. Tom

    Quinton ..go to h ...you are a sad person.

    November 14, 2013 at 10:57 am | Reply
  5. Jirex

    Americans are too comfortable to the extent of comparing Osama death with Obamacare.How terrible will it be if Osama is left alive and he tries his evil hands on Iran's nuclear bombs,wiping out thousands of Americans(God forbids).So thank Obama for taking care of osama.

    November 14, 2013 at 7:50 am | Reply
  6. Jirex

    Keep the comments on.Hurray the devil reincarnate is gone.May his soul find 'peace' with satan.

    November 14, 2013 at 7:34 am | Reply
    • Daniel P

      UNTRUE. The Obamaniac is still with us.

      November 14, 2013 at 11:29 am | Reply
    • fookingod

      satan is out. they have a new king

      November 14, 2013 at 11:31 am | Reply
    • Evan

      So sorry, but I think I'll continue thanking the Seal team that conducted the mission instead of one man who "OK'd" it. Don't give credit where credit isn't due. Obama did what any other president would have done. He gave a thumbs up for an operation to kill a known terrorist.

      November 14, 2013 at 12:19 pm | Reply
      • Yakobi

        I disagree with your assertion that any other president would have done the same thing. Certainly Clinton would not have (since he had numerous chances and didn't), and I seriously doubt the milquetoast Gore would have had he been president.

        November 14, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
      • moronotopia

        "Any president would have done the same thing..." LUDICROUS. Obama's decision to go forward was one of the gutsiest by any president in modern times. His on Secretary of Defense was against it. The BEST odds the advisors would give that Osama was even there were no more than 50-50. On top of that the SEALS had to fly in helicopters into a sovereign nation in the dead of night at treetop height. This thing could have gone wrong a million ways from Tuesday... And you forget the ONLY reason the raid was even happening was because Obama made it a point to call CIA head Leon Panetta into the White House and gave him the marching orders to revitalize the hunt for Bin Laden and GET HIM... "Any president??" BALONEY.

        February 11, 2014 at 10:50 pm |
  7. Jack Valenti

    They should have had the same for Obamacare.

    November 14, 2013 at 1:44 am | Reply
  8. dotheflippin'math

    Ok, so it shows the administration was very prepared for any outcome, and how to handle it, politcally, and diplomatically. I hope GWB and any future candidates are taking notes. You don't jump into something w/o a clue what to do afterwards. Ok, Obamacare shows what happens when you don't have a good plan. Apparently, they skipped the part on what to do if the website developers say it's not ready. Sorry, but any tech-savvy CEO, CIO, or IT person knows to expect missed deadlines and bugs. No beginning to end test had been done successfully. Maybe that's more rumor, but, it's clear this wasn't ready to "go live," and shame on those who pushed ahead. I'm a Democrat, and I want affordable healthcare for all Americans, but if takes a few YEARS to hammer it out, so it's truly better than the rip-off system we have now, with our most needy people unable to afford healthcare for themselves, then take the time and do it flippin' right!

    November 13, 2013 at 8:24 pm | Reply
    • Tubbs

      Did you miss the part about the administration lying to the people of the world if this mission had failed?
      This doesn't bother you?

      November 14, 2013 at 4:20 am | Reply
      • Peter

        I missed it, probably because it wasn't there unless you're a deluded conservative who sees the devil in everything a black President does.

        November 14, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
  9. USA

    Quinton you are a piece if shi!

    November 13, 2013 at 8:00 pm | Reply
  10. George patton

    long story short, Osama is dead now and his bones are being used as toothpick by sea people.

    November 13, 2013 at 7:24 pm | Reply
    • George patton

      Actually Phunnie boy, the true Ussama bin laden more likely than not died in the mountains of Tora Bora between Afghanistan and Pakistan either late in 2001 or early in 2002 from nephritis from which he suffered gravely. On the other hand, he could have been most brutally murdered by those clowns who we call SEAL TEAM 6 on May 2, 2011. If this is the case, then why didn't they take him alive since he was both sick and unarmed?

      November 13, 2013 at 9:04 pm | Reply
      • George patton

        Phunnie boy, DNA samples taken from children showed Osama fathered them, so your conspiracy theory has no legs to stand. If not Americans, he could have surrendered to governments he trusted, and avoided Navy SEAL all togather.

        November 13, 2013 at 10:39 pm |
      • the REAL George S. Patton

        Obviously, some pantywaist is going around the net impersonating me with his vile, far left, loony conspiracy theories. Best to ignore such a numbskull.

        November 14, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
  11. Chris

    66 pages of prepared lies... I wouldn't expect anything less from this administration.

    November 13, 2013 at 5:52 pm | Reply
    • 20-20

      They should have used just one, reading 'Mission Accomplished'.

      November 14, 2013 at 11:37 am | Reply
      • Yakobi

        Let's see...
        Hussein and his evil sons dead–check.
        Iraq no longer a threat to its neighbors–check.
        Iraqis free to elect whomever they want–check.

        MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

        November 14, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
  12. Portland tony

    No matter what name you prefer, the man known as: أسامة بن محمد بن عوض بن لادن‎, Usāmah bin Muḥammad bin ‘Awaḍ bin Lādin or Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden is no longer among the living! Nuff said!

    November 13, 2013 at 5:48 pm | Reply
  13. king todd

    You cant fix stupid. especially when they are sitting in their parent basement with an endless amount of video games. oh, and lube.

    November 13, 2013 at 5:08 pm | Reply
  14. Quinton

    Unfortunately, none of this tells us whether it was the true Ussama bin Laden who was brutally murdered in Abbotabad, Pakistan on May 2, 2011 or an impostor. Most probably, the true Ussama bin Laden died sometime in 2001 or 2002 in the mountains of Tora Bora of kidney failure. Given his frail condition, it's quite dubious that Ussama bin Laden could have survived those ten years or so!

    November 13, 2013 at 3:07 pm | Reply
    • Mike

      Spoken like a true Muslim sheeple.

      November 13, 2013 at 5:24 pm | Reply
    • RMRondo

      Don't try portraying that cowardly, murdering, shadow of a real man as a victim because he is burning in hell right now right next to Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot

      November 13, 2013 at 5:53 pm | Reply
      • Quinton

        Don't forget RMRondo, that he'll soon be joined by the Bushes, both father and son, Dick Cheney, Barack Obama, not to mention those sniveling cowards who are operating those cursed drones from the comforts of some air conditiones office here in America, hurling 500 lb. bombs on people who can't defend themselves! Did I mention John McCain and Lindsey Graham?

        November 13, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
      • Yakobi

        Hey, Quinton, look outside–there's a drone flying over your house in North Waziristan.

        November 14, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • huh

      How did the CIA manage to get Bin Laden's family & Al Qaida in on this supposed conspiracy? Surely they would be the last people on planet Earth to conspire with the CIA. Bin Laden's family & Al Qaida publicly say that the SEAL raid that Pres. Obama authorized indeed killed Bin Laden. Your conspiracy theory cannot possibly be true.

      November 14, 2013 at 2:24 pm | Reply

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