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Osama bin Laden's death: Clarifying the Obama administration's cnofsuoin and missteaks

Obama and Staff Watch the deadly osama bin laden raid live on a SEALcam 5-1-11 A secret document was obscured by the White House before release

It's taken a couple of days to sort out the confusions and conflicting versions of Osama bin Laden's welcome demise early Monday at the hands of a gutsy president crouching on the floor and a couple dozen unidentified helpers with rapid-fire weapons, night-vision goggles and nerves of steel a half-world away; you know how it is in the chaos of battle and Chicago campaign politics.

Back in 2005, when rookie Sen. Barack Obama was just beginning to plan his $745-million 2007-08 presidential campaign, U.S. intelligence became aware of a $1-million housing compound under construction in Abbottabad, Pakistan, a city of 1 million about 60 miles outside the capital.

Using certain interrogation techniques on involuntary wartime guests, the CIA acquired the name of a high-level al Qaeda courier, who was eventually tracked toing and froing from said elaborate compound, which his invisible income would seem to put beyond his financial reach.

Last August, as Obama vainly campaigned to preserve his Democratic Party's....

...House majority, he was apprised of the growing surmisal that the compound's 18-foot walls were not to keep the courier's dogs from digging up neighbors' gardens. And indeed Osama and one of his younger wives might well also be a compound resident.

The CIA developed a plan to obliterate the compound with a salutory March flyover by a pair of B2s from Diego Garcia safely delivering smart bombs from high above.jay Carney 5-3-11

The good news is such attacks reduce everything to dust and goo. The bad news is such attacks reduce everything to dust and goo.

Without a body, how could President Obama prove that he was The One who brought Osama sudden justice without the burden of time-consuming civil trials involving Eric Holder's former law partners as high-paid public defenders?

So, although it meant only nine holes of weekend golf instead of 18, Obama OKd a May commando raid, as long as he could still attend the White House Correspondents Assn. dinner to mock that jerk Donald Trump. So on Sunday Washington time, Obama and aides entered the basement Situation Room to watch the Osama execution reality show live from Pakistan on SEALcam.

A dramatic presidential address was scheduled for late that evening. And because the president wanted to get all of his detailed ducks in a row, his major announcement actually came an hour late.

Still, it triggered seemingly spontaneous celebrations over the mass murderer's murder in the streets of Washington and, of course, New York, as well as a satisfying sense of closure for millions of Americans who remember that awful 9/11 day and the bombings of the USS Cole and embassies in East Africa.jay Carney 5-3-11

Here, gleaned since Sunday from a variety of sources, including Obama press secretary Jay Carney, is what we now know certainly might have maybe happened over in Pakistan:

Over the years Pakistan officials have been so helpful and trusted about the hunt for Osama that not one of them knew in advance of the U.S. raid on the compound, which is close to a military academy. The U.S. assault team flew from Afghanistan into Pakistan using holes in that country's radar system.

Acting at President Obama's very own direction, a "small team" of Americans consisting of 24, no 40, SEALs in four helicopters surprised the compound.

Still, a "significant firefight" erupted that was so significant not one American was injured. One helicopter crashed, no, made a hard landing; it was a mechanical failure.

One compound resident pointed out Osama. Three compound residents died in the firefight. One man used a woman as a human shield. She was an Osama wife. They both died. She was only shot in the leg running toward a SEAL. She didn't die. Another woman did on another floor. There was no human shield. The Osama son initially identified as shot and killed may have been the other one.

The goal was to capture Osama or kill him if necessary. The plan was to kill Osama all along. He was encountered in a bedroom. He was given a brief opportunity to surrender. He didn't. Blam! He died instantly from gunshots to the chest and head, including a large one in the forehead over the eye. He was unarmed. But he resisted. You don't need a gun to resist.

Osama's body was removed. The disabled chopper was detonated. Large fire ensued, attracting the attention of Pakistani authorities. Osama's DNA was collected by intelligence officials. They may or may not have actual Osama DNA from before to compare.jay Carney 4-25-11

If not, they can at least prove whether the dead compound body was related to Osama's 53 siblings produced by his father's 22 wives. (What a peaceful, nurturing childhood that must have been.)

Because it was so important to have photos of a dead Osama to head off evergreen Elvis-lives conspiracies, the gruesome big-hole-in-the-forehead photo has not been released -- and might never be.

This is because a ghastly dead OBL photo could offend the "sensitivities" of Osama's insane supporters who have been trying to kill Americans for 15 years anyway, still are, will be but didn't seem to mind photos of thousands of people dying 10 years ago inside burning, crumbling skyscrapers or leaping from them.

(UPDATE: On Wednesday, President Obama said he had decided to seal the Bin Laden death photos. Story and commentary here.)

Trust the administration, however, the death photos do exist. Someone is discussing their release. No timeline. Meanwhile, deather conspiracies thrive online suggesting, you guessed it, that wasn't really Osama with the damaged forehead. What if he left a pile of videos to come out, one by one, in the event of his death? He could be spotted on every grassy knoll from here to Yemen.

Because it was important enough to have a dead al Qaeda founder's body to show to the world that dozens of American lives were put at risk to make him dead and retrieve the infamous corpse, Osama's shrouded, weighted body was quickly dumped into the North Arabian Sea from a U.S. aircraft carrier after only a very few hours and Muslim religious rites. The Navy had til sundown by Muslim custom; why the morning rush?

Don't worry. They might show us the video of a shrouded body-shaped object being buried at sea someday. Somebody is discussing that too somewhere. Trust them for now.

So, finally, after a 10-year manhunt and thanks to Obama's "gutsiness" and crack communications team, Americans have many of the conflicting details now and should just accept, praise and move on.


Yes, the SEALs were in the raid, but aides hail Obama's office bravery

Rush Limbaugh on Osama Bin Laden's death: "Thank God for President Obama"

Donald Trump praises Obama on Osama bin Laden's death

The death of Osama bin Laden: Statements by 2 presidents who hunted him

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Pete Souza / White House (Obama and staff watch live video of the deadly Osama bin Laden raid Sunday afternoon in the White House. Editor's Note: Before release, the White House digitally obscured a secret document in front of Clinton); Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press (Carney).

Comments () | Archives (55)

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Your commentary is a sincere but unsuccessful attempt at wit. If you were a high school student, first through third year, I'd give you an A-. However, if you tried to hand this in as a paper in college, it would not be accepted. Your talents may lie elsewhere.

Meanwhile ...back at the home front...the Monday Night QBs quickly forget the operation's complexity and how easily this could have all gone wrong. Just call Jimmy Carter for the history lesson if you don't believe me. Even though we are in the internet age, information still travels by human perspective and if you ever played the child's game "telephone" know how that works.

Thanks for the example of snark in its purest form.

Is this writer really paid by the L. A. Times? This screed belongs on Fox. Or does Rupert Murdoch now own this news outlet too? Does this "Andrew Malcom" -- if that's his real name -- at least pay for his own tin foil hat? Or does the L. A. Times provide one for each of their writers nowadays?

Good job! Please check the spelling of the title of this guya cannot do such kind of mistakes

evil dead

Does anyone know how the president and his team can screw up this situation any more? Is it their goal to keep confusion and questions swirling about everything?

Politicians who are privy to some of the SEAL team debriefing keep talking to the press "off the record", and that leads to bits and pieces of the story, which then get batted around the news stations for a few hours and over-analyzed, only to have the White House come out later and say "no - that isn't what happened".

I realize sometimes you can hate someone so much that your brain ceases to function. I do not appreciate Obama's economic policy, but you should (as a rational American) give the President some credit for taking the hard work of many intelligence officers, and making a good decision based on that. He did his job last weekend (and the previous time leading up to it).

In my opinion, the WH is going to wait until they have fully debriefed the heroes, reconstructed the entire thing, and make a statement about it. Then, only once they have made an "official" record of the mission, they will release the SEAL helmet cams. In this way, they protect themselves from future backlash as people watch and analyze the evidence (video, photo, etc.) presented.

They have already said they plan to release the photo, and probably the video as well. This came from the CIA Director himself.

Hideous journalism here. Just awful. You are intellectually bankrupt.

Nice job. The Obama administration is snatching defeat from the jaws of victory with this one.

"...a ghastly dead OBL photo could offend the "sensitivities" of Osama's insane supporters who have been trying to kill Americans for 15 years anyway, still are, will be "

Why are their sensitivies more important than Americans needs to the proof that justice has been served on this scumbag?

To many missteaks in your rant to count. Your facts are lacking, much like the intelligence of the previous prez. Now there was a man who accomplished nothing.

Andrew Malcolm. You're right up there in my book with Mark Steyn!

Andrew - You are right up there in my book with Mark Steyn!

A mean spirited trite little article unworthy of the LA Times. Adds nothing. Uses grade school humor to cover up genuine ill will. Void of mature and sharp insight. Void of that minimal objectivity derived from self reflection. Send the writer back to junior college where it belongs.

A mistake?

No soldiers were hurt. They got their guy, although they didn't manage to capture him among the dozen+ people in the compound. They didn't kill a dozen + people in doing so.

And no story is going to be 100% accurate. Especially with reporters printing rumors and innuendo from unnamed sources, and asking questions and expecting answers from those only tasked with answering them, even if they don't have the complete story. It's not a system unique to the Obama Whitehouse - however the willingness to give corrections is.

I'm ashamed that the LA Times has such an under-qualified hack doing commentary. This is supposed to be a world-class paper.

The LA Times is still an English language paper, correct? (yes I know the headline's supposed to be a joke, I'm talking about the article itself.) sir are a moron. Obama could personally cure cancer and you idiots would bitch about it.

Nice to know we have such a decisive administration team, who work together to make sure all the relevant information is disseminated in a clear and concise manner.
I guess they think that if they throw enough confusing information out then people won't know what questions to ask - they's all been answered in 3 different ways already.

I hope you don't get paid to write this pathetic garbage. LA Times appears to be a rag just like the rest of the dying newspapers. This is junior high style facebook posting at best.

Die in a fire!

The main ones cnofsued are the Media.

The author of this blog post is ridiculous. Thanks for the unnecessary snarky comments about golf and dinners, ahole.

Who's the little boy cowering in the corner? He looks like he is doing something he really doesn't want to do!


Or as I like to call it, extreme right-wing bias. Obama cannot do anything right by Conservatives. Two weeks ago, this could have been a joke:

Republicans hate "Barry' Obama so much that he could find and kill Usama Bin Laden and they still wouldn't like him.

So y'all keep on stuffing that chicken, while the rest of us sit back and realize that the Obama Doctrine successfully caught and killed the most hated man of our generation. See you in 2016.

What, did they run out of editors at the L.A. Times?

Hey, all's fair in love and war, and you can't tell me that other presidents wouldn't have acted the same, given the opportunity. You clearly feel very removed from the Sept attacks, because if you had been there you probably wouldn't be the indignant, bitter journalist you come off as.

The entire point of this article is somehow escaping me. Perhaps I'm stupid.

One of the biggest disasters of the raid on Osama was the mechanical failure of the one of the military helicopters assigned to this critical mission. Not only did the mechanical failure jeopardize the entire operation but left with one less helicopter the Navy Seals had to leave Osama's wife and a female doctor behind for the Pakistanis to take into custody instead of taking them captive. Both would have largely put to rest the rumors that Osama is still alive. They would also have been great source of intelligence information.
Now the Pakistanis are refusing to allow the US to interview their captors.

We spent hundreds of billions of dollars on military hardware. It is inconceivable that one of their helicopters should break down during such an important mission.

This is not the first time mechanical failure has endangered American lives.
Two pilots ditched their US jet over Libya last month when they too had mechanical problems.

I have a Toyota Sequoia that is 8 years old, has 80 thousand miles and has never failed me. Except for regular oil change and new tires this car has worked flawlessly. It starts everytime and gets me where I want to go.

Perhaps our military hardware should be built by Toyota instead of Sikorsky

Looks like the only competent people in this story were the seals and their
leaders.It is easy to imagine all the second guessing Obama and Biden must
have delayed the military with.No wonder Mr Gates has given up on the
mickey mouse gang.

I can say this as an American citizen Reporters Silence please. And no photos. You have the story he is dead. Thanks Navy Seals and Mr. President job well done. This bin laden was a war criminal he murdered americans and kept going and even killed reporters. And all that matters in war is that we got him. War isn't fair just . And bin laden chose his destniy when he attacked us and never showed mercy once. If he was a religious leader I ask you if this is what a religious leader does murder,violent,kidnapper,unlawful,dangerous,vindictive,rage,hatred,animosity,hostile,malice,discriminator,sinister, need I go on . He was a real problem for everyone.

Andrew... I get ya! I found the article humorous and very factual according to the news we have shoved in our face and down our throats all day long, every day! People can see it, hear it, but their emotions just won't let them accept it. I thought this article was right on the money and if people actually pay attention, they would see that what you are saying is true and get the humor behind it. The Obama adminstration's handling of this is absolutely disgraceful! For those of you commenting on this article and correcting the obvious "on purpose" missteaks and high school grade righting stile, you just don't get it. Move on to something else. You're embarassing!

Andrew Malcolm you are right again, keep telling us the truth. Many people want closure to Osama Bin Laden, a photo of him deceased is one way to help bring this. Yes, CIA Director said they would release a photo. Today Obama said there will be no photo nor videos released. This administration , as usual, is very confused.

He Super Dougie...

Had Carter rescued the Hostages, are we to assume he would have dumped them in the ocean before they got home?

People are starting to look back on Carter fondly these days.

Wow, just wow - the news media runs with reports from people who may have had not much more than rumors and that's Obama's fault?

This has to be one of the most pathetic op/ed pieces I have read in a long time. After 10 years, the failure of the past two administration to capture/kill Bin Laden and we get a wildly successful mission, conducted hundreds of miles within another country's borders without detection that eliminates America's Public Enemy No. 1 and all Andrew Malcolm can do is find something to bitch about? (Coupled with the L.A. Times editors who obviously chose the worst photographs they could find to apparently mock the Press Secretary.)

After Obama switched the CIA's attention back to OBL in June of 2009, by Executive Order - charging the CIA to find him and hunt him down, evaluating intelligence, working with his national security team to develop a workable plan to deal with OBL once they believed they had located him and keeping the whole damned thing secret for nearly a year in a town which leaks like a sieve, Malcolm wants to point out the shortcomings.

If he were a sportswriter, this would be the equivalent of a team winning the Super Bowl in a 54-7 blow-out and Malcolm writing a long article about how they completely failed because it wasn't a shut-out. Unfreakinbelievable. How desperate you are Mr. Malcolm to try and paint this incredible success as a non-success and woefully you have failed. You are as transparent as a freshly washed window.

It must be just killing you that the guy you stereotyped as a limp-wristed Carter clone did what your old boss couldn't. Bush openly gave up on looking for him. Obama did the right thing.

Man up, Malcolm, and admit it. Your Obama Derangement Syndrome is showing

This is a lie. Waterboarding was not involved in gaining the name of the courier, and the LA times needs to stop giving voice to liars who spew garbage over the internet.

If your editors had bother to Google comments made by numerous members of the Bush Administration, including farking Rumsfield, and current Obama Administration, they would know this. Please don't print crap, LA times.

Wearing soiled white bermudas,you cannot climb up the coconut tree.There
are few remaining nostalgics of the gulag,but your appetite for censorship
takes the cake.

I have see more decisiveness in a 5 year-old at Toys'R'Us than I have in Obama in the last 96 hours...

Was Sheik Bin Laden read his Miranda rights ?What does human rights watch
have to say about this barbaric execution of an unarmed militant ?What
happened to habeas corpus and presumption of innocence ?

I don't know what you guys are talking about, but this article is awesome. I only had to print it once and all four of my living room windows are spotless.

Plus, frankly, this is the only article I've ever tried that actually smells better after I wipe with it. So I say all in all it's a winner.

I don't believe I've ever read a more worthless pile of drivel in my entire adult life. The mere fact that innocent electrons died so that this garbage could be vomited out onto my computer screen makes it all the more tragic.

On behalf of the entire world, allow me to apologize to you personally that the full story of how Osama Bin Laden died isn't out yet. Allow me to apologize to you that a black man had the temerity to be President when it happened. Allow me to apologize to you for whatever it was in your childhood that caused you to grow up to be such a damaged individual that you couldn't go 48 hours just being happy that a man that caused our country such great damage was killed.

Andrew Malcom, I invite you to stick your favorite extremity in a blender and hit puree. It'll give you something to do while you wait for Osama's Long Form Death Certificate.

Bush gave up on him?

By all news accounts, we became aware of the compound and the courier in 2005 after "enhanced interrogation" of a captured terrorist. Who was President in 2005?

The SEALS practiced on a mock-up built from photos taken by drone aircraft. The confidence that bin Laden was there came about last year.

Under Bush, NON-lethal CIA "waterboarding" - no water allowed into the throat, stop if that happens, supervised by a doctor; approved by the Justice Dept. and Congressional Oversight Committee including a liberal Catholic grandmother from San Franciso Nancy Pelosi…

Under Obama, Lethal execution of an unarmed terrorist by executive order - who could have been captured… offered a lawyer… interrogated in Chicaga.. and held in a nice padded cell at Gitmo.

President Obama has embraced EVERY detested-by-the-Left policy of Bush: Black sites in Af-Pak, targeted killings with collateral civilian casualties, indefinite detentions at Gitmo, Military Commissions, escalated war in Af-Pak, and even started America's 3rd War in Libya.

Where is the Lefts outrage ? the Code Pink rallies ? crickets.

Moral confusion on the Left : )

I bet you could make some real fine balsamic from those SOUR GRAPES.

Pathetic. Enjoy your festering pile of cynicism, kthxbai.

Funny how everyone's different. A poster below said Obama has handled this terribly. I think he has handled it perfectly. The burial, DNA confirmation of OBL's identity along with other physical characteristics, NOT releasing gory photos - the confusion after is likely based on different soldiers' accounts.

Seems likely to me that there were children in the room, OBL's wife charged the soldiers, was shot in the leg, OBL charged in turn and was shot.


By presidential order, the CIA task force (codename: Alex Station) that had been created to track and find Bin Laden in 1996 was disbanded by Bush in 2005. Instead of having a group of people with lots of experience focusing on Bin Laden, the members of the group were split up and sent to other positions within the CIA.

On June 2, 2009, Obama issued an executive memo to the new CIA Chief Panetta ordering him to prioritize finding Bin Laden. This basically required reconstituting the old task force which had been disbanded by Bush after a 4 year absence. They found him and now he is history.

If Bush knew about this compound in 2005, then that makes the fact that he disbanded Alec Station all that much more puzzling. If what you say is true (they discovered this "safe house" in 2005, then explain to me why they broke up the very group that was tracking him?

Sorry, Bush had given up on finding him to some degree by then as is evidenced by him disbanding the very task force assigned to hunt him down.

naksuthin, we didn't have to leave anything behind that we didn't want to. There were 2 back up helicopters waiting to come in if anything went wrong.

That article is to journalism as 'We Built This City' is to popular music.

"It must be just killing you that the guy you stereotyped as a limp-wristed Carter clone did what your old boss couldn't. Bush openly gave up on looking for him. Obama did the right thing."

Well said.

I also have to point out that the writer of this article needs to research. I know they are trying to be funny, but it didn't work out. He actually LIES when he says, "Using certain interrogation techniques on involuntary wartime guests, the CIA acquired the name of a high-level al Qaeda courier". The CIA did not acquire the name of the courier until many months after the waterboarding has stopped. In addition, "guests" that were waterboarded actually gave FALSE INFORMATION that we now know is not true.

Forget the photos and specifics. The casualty count of Japan's 1941 WW2 Pearl Harbor attack was 2402 people. The casualty count of 911 was 2751. The photos of victims of 200,000 Hiroshima and Nagasaki atom bombings and 110,000 Japanese-Americans who were interned- were not displayed at the time of Japanese surrender, and so we should skip Osama's photo now. The numbers of Osama and supporters killed is very small compared to the Japanese. Death and killing is never pretty, so forget that now.

How DARE the LA Times question our feckless leader's supreme and all-encompassing abilities? Get back to blaming Bush. No, Cheney! No, both! The fact that the particulars of the story have changed more often than my teen-aged son's description of what happened to the car last night is irrelevant.

Let's keep it this simple. I believe Osama is dead and with the technological advancements of this day and age, video and pictures can be doctored. With that said, when and if they decide release this information someone will still yell fake. Orville Redenbacher died how long ago? He's still making creepy commercials. Get over it.
You won't be pleased until things go exactly your way. Why can't we just leave it at he's dead? Whether his wife was killed as well, if he was wearing a pink shirt, or if he picked up a gun does not matter! You all are focused on things that don't change the situation. If you can do better and if any of you think the president is lying/being manipulative, take into consideration that it's articles like these that publish their opinions as fact, confusing the rest of the masses.

Wikipedia has his death published as May 2, with that being cited. We all (should) know that Obama confirmed his death on May 1, making that information incorrect. It's like we forget the media has some fault in misrepresentations.

What will it take to please everyone? Nothing! What you want is not what someone else wants, and someone will always disagree with how things are handled in the white house. If you need that absolute confirmation that he's dead build a time machine, go back and kill him yourself, bring his head back and still see if everyone believes YOU.

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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