May 9, 2011 in City

U.S. seeks access to bin Laden’s wives

Widows could give details on terrorist leader
Richard Simon Los Angeles Times
 
Possibility of getting bin Laden outweighed risks, Obama says

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama ordered the commando raid that killed terrorist leader Osama bin Laden after deciding the risks were outweighed by the possibility “of us finally getting our man” following a decade of frustration, he said in a Sunday broadcast interview.

The helicopter raid “was the longest 40 minutes of my life,” Obama told CBS’ “60 Minutes,” with the possible exception of when his daughter Sasha became sick with meningitis as an infant. Monitoring the commando raid operation in the White House Situation Room a week ago, Obama said he and top aides “had a sense of when gunfire and explosions took place” halfway around the world, and knew when one of the helicopters carrying Navy SEALs made an unplanned hard landing. “But we could not get information clearly about what was happening inside the compound,” he said.

Associated Press

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration Sunday pressed Pakistan to grant the United States access to Osama bin Laden’s three widows as part of an investigation into the al-Qaida leader’s life leading up to his killing by American forces inside a compound in the garrison city of Abbottabad a week ago.

President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, Tom Donilon, said the U.S. seeks to speak with the women and review materials taken from the compound after the U.S. raid. U.S. officials say bin Laden lived in the compound, about 35 miles from Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, for at least five years.

Donilon, appearing on television news shows, said U.S. intelligence officers are poring over information “the size of a small college library” taken by commandos from the compound for clues to such things as other terrorist threats and the whereabouts of other terrorists.

While members of Congress from both parties have called for the U.S. to get tough with Pakistan and perhaps cut off foreign aid, Donilon urged a “calm and cool” assessment that takes into account that Pakistan is a “very important partner” in the war on terrorism.

Obama, appearing on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” said there must have been some sort of support system for bin Laden inside Pakistan.

“We don’t know whether there might have been some people inside of government, people outside of government,” Obama said, “and that’s something that we have to investigate, and more importantly, the Pakistani government has to investigate.”

Pakistan is conducting an investigation of what its government knew about bin Laden’s presence in the country, the country’s ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, told ABC’s “This Week.” Pakistani army commanders last week acknowledged their country’s failure in detecting bin Laden’s presence, but also were upset by the United States’ unauthorized raid inside Pakistan.

“Pakistan wants to put to rest any misgivings the world has about our role,” he said. “Be clear, we have been victims of terrorism, and we will see this through, and we will share our intelligence with everyone that we have to share this intelligence with.”

But he also said his country was “offended” by what it views as a violation of its sovereignty from the U.S. raid.

“America has a selling job to do in Pakistan,” he said.

Obama described the decision to authorize the raid as one of the toughest of his presidency.

“There were risks involved, geopolitically, in making the decision. But my No. 1 concern was, can our guys get in and get out safely?” he said. “I said to myself that if we have a good chance of not completely defeating but badly disabling al-Qaida then it was worth both the political risks as well as the risks to our men.”

He defended the decision not to tell the Pakistani government of the raid in advance, saying, “It was that important for us to maintain operational security.”

Former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, while praising Obama for launching the raid, sought to use bin Laden’s killing to validate the use of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques used by the George W. Bush administration.

Cheney told “Fox News Sunday” that he is “concerned about the fact that, I think, a lot of the techniques that we had used to keep the country safe for more than seven years are no longer available.”

But Donilon told “Fox News Sunday” that techniques such as waterboarding are “not consistent with our values … and not necessary in terms of getting the kind of intelligence that we need.”


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