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JOHN KING, USA
Osama bin Laden Compound; Raid Details; Osama bin Laden Photos; Senator Schumer Interview
Aired May 3, 2011 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, HOST: Thanks Wolf and good evening everyone, including our viewers around the world this evening. Tonight some major changes in the Obama White House account of just how Osama bin Laden was killed. We are now told the al Qaeda leader was not armed when he was fatally shot, first in the chest, then in the head. Does that matter to you?
And maybe this tonight a more important question, will it matter on the Arab street? The White House is also backing away tonight from the initial account that a woman, perhaps one of bin Laden's wives, was used as a human shield during the nearly 40-minute firefight. We've also learned these important developments today.
I'm told the CIA was tasked with picking several photos of bin Laden's corpse for public release. And the CIA director, Leon Panetta, just told our congressional producer Ted Barrett (ph) he believes the photos will ultimately be released although the White House tonight says no final decision has been made.
Also a source tells CNN's Jessica Yellin the Navy SEALs left the bin Laden compound -- get this -- with five computers, 10 hard drives, more than 100 DVDs, CDs and thumb drives. Officials hope those drives include valuable intelligence about al Qaeda. And our senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash is told that CIA Director Panetta responded bluntly when asked a short time ago in a classified Capitol Hill briefing for lawmakers this question, whether Pakistan was aware bin Laden was hiding within its borders.
Panetta said, quote, "we are told either they're involved or incompetent." Neither place is a good place to be. To the White House in a moment, but first, the bin Laden compound in Pakistan. CNN's Nic Robertson is in Abbottabad -- excuse me -- and he walked the perimeter of that property today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He couldn't have been hiding in any more plain sight than this. Around three sides of the compound a farmer's field, cabbages down here, potatoes back there, marijuana plants right up to the side of the compound, plain sight. The farmers were working these fields and he was just over the wall.
(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: You're learning about this compound and the town where Osama bin Laden was living, as you say, in plain sight.
KING: Nic, let's check and see if you can hear the conversation now. We're having a little bit technical difficulty. We just showed a glimpse of the daylight hours, Nic Robertson now that night has fallen give us a better sense of what you're learning about inside this compound and just how bin Laden was living.
ROBERTSON: Very secretively. People we've talked to who live right next to his compound, one man whose house overlooked it just 50 yards away told me that when children's balls, their soccer balls went over the wall that the family would just give them money rather than let them into the compound which is normal in the area to get the balls back. They would just give them money and say OK, go buy another ball.
The family had a reputation for being secret. They didn't leave the compound. There were late night visitors, SUVs, very expensive luxury vehicles for this area. That was noticed. People thought that they were gold merchants, businessmen with a sort of shady background. But this is a place where people keep themselves to themselves.
If you're not invited in to your neighbor's house, you don't ask questions. It is rude to look from the roof of your building into your neighbor's compound. So this is an area where if you want to be left alone, you can be left alone. And that's what happened to bin Laden here. Everyone we talked to surprised that he was found right here -- John.
KING: And Nic, you and your crew had some access today and took some exclusive images. We've seen other images come out, of medicine bottles inside, socks inside, the place in obviously a mess, a chaotic mess after the raid. What do we know about what was on the inside, how fancy, if you will, and what type of equipment they might have had on the inside?
ROBERTSON: Well, there were some medication that was found. It's not clear what that medication was. It's being called a million dollar compound or building. We haven't been able to nail that figure down with Pakistanis who live around here. They're not aware of exactly how much it cost or even who the land was purchased from in the first place, but it does appear to be a cut above what you would find.
The furniture inside, the beds look quite nice, you compare them with what we saw in some of the houses that we went through to get on to the roofs today. It's clearly a place where people had a little bit more money. The computer hard drives very, very interesting, all those -- all that software and hardware has been discovered there.
Of course, back in 2001, in Kandahar where bin Laden was living he had a stockpile, a library of videotapes that CNN was able to get at one point. So he clearly is somebody who stockpiles information about himself and what interests him. So perhaps that's what's going to be found here as well -- John.
KING: And Nic, you mentioned a neighborhood that's a cut above, a complex that's a cut above within that neighborhood less than a mile from the Pakistani equivalent of West Point. How is the government explaining that the U.S.' most wanted man, perhaps the world's most wanted man was living, perhaps for a couple of years right there?
ROBERTSON: It is hard to understand exactly how it could happen. The neighbors, of course, one can see that they wouldn't know. But this is a building that it's out of place in some context. There are sort of questionable comings and goings late at night. It stands out for various reasons. It didn't have Internet. It didn't have a telephone connection.
So how can all of this have been missed? Well the Army base is perhaps 10 to 15 minutes walk away. It doesn't really have a line of sight over the house. But a senior source within Pakistan's Intelligence Services, the ISI, said look, are we embarrassed that we missed this? Yes, we are. Does it mean we are incompetent or we weren't trying? No.
They're very touchy about it. The government you get the impression really wants to move on quickly. They don't want a lot of attention drawn to this. There could be a backlash. But it does seem to be raising huge questions not only externally but also internally, how could they have missed this? It does make the country and the intelligence and security services look very bad -- John.
KING: Nic Robertson on the ground for us live tonight right near the bin Laden compound. Nic thanks so much. We'll keep in touch.
Now the White House tonight blames the fog of war for conflicting accounts of how the raid went down. The biggest provision, the new account that bin Laden was not -- not armed when he was shot and killed. Initially the White House counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, said he was armed and may have fired a few shots.
Ed Henry is here with us now with more and Ed, let's start with that, the discrepancies in the account. The White House says fog of war. Are they confident now that they have a consistent, clear, factual account of what happened or are they worried they're still mixed up on a few things?
ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well they believe they have most of us. But they do add the caveat that they are right now in the process of interviewing these Navy SEALs. And they say, look, accounts change. All of these SEALs were under extremely high pressure situation and if you're in one room or a different floor, you may have seen something different than others.
And they're trying to compare all of these accounts. The bottom line is why is this important? Beyond the credibility of the administration, why it's also important is if bin Laden did not have a weapon, as the White House now says he did not, the question is were they justified in killing bin Laden or should they have captured him and maybe gotten more intelligence out of him? A bottom line is that some intelligence officials are saying, look, as soon as bin Laden, even if he didn't have a weapon, the fact that he did not put up his hands and surrender, they could not risk -- the Navy SEALs could not -- that he might get away again and continue to be out on the lam and terrorizing people, number one.
And number two, there's also a sense here within the administration that this is someone that, you know, I asked one official, for example, would it have been more valuable to capture him instead of kill him? This official said, look, we think it's pretty valuable having bin Laden where he is now, which is dead.
And oh by the way, we've gotten a lot of intelligence anyway. Those computer hard drives you mentioned. Other things that were found in the compound, they think they've got the best of both worlds. That bin Laden is now dead, he's no longer a terrorist threat and secondly they've got a lot of intelligence anyway -- John.
KING: And Ed, I'm going to explore this a bit deeper in a minute, but let's get the very latest information. Leon Panetta in an interview recorded earlier today with "NBC News" said, yes a photo will ultimately be released but we're not quite so sure, are we?
HENRY: We're not. And in fact the defense secretary, Bob Gates, was here behind closed doors in the Oval Office with the president and vice president a little earlier today. They're still going through this. There are some people within this administration that feel strongly that in the interests of transparency, just get it out there.
It's going to leak one way or the other. It'll be on WikiLeaks. It'll be somewhere ultimately as Leon Panetta said, so why not let the U.S. government control its release and do it that way? But there are others who are saying look, these photos are gruesome. They show Osama bin Laden after he was hit in the head and there's blood, it's gruesome, et cetera, and this is not the kind of thing that maybe should be on the front pages of America's newspapers.
And so I think there's a lot of back and forth about this right now, because they have not decided that issue and the fact that if you put it out there, it may inflame the Muslim world. Something when you've got U.S. military bases and others on a high state of alert right now, do you really want to inflame the Muslim world, John?
KING: Ed Henry for us live at the White House tonight. Let's reinforce the point Ed was just making. The debate goes on at the White House tonight about whether to release these photos. There are some who say, as Ed noted, you have to release them because there are all these conspiracy theories. The Taliban, for example, saying today prove it. We don't believe that Sheikh bin Laden is dead.
And to echo Ed's point, here's the deputy national security director, Dennis McDonough, at the White House, deputy national security adviser saying one of the fears is if you release these photos and the White House acknowledges they are gruesome, and it could put Americans overseas including military personnel at risk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DENNIS MCDONOUGH, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We're not going to add to the public record here anything that puts at risk our troops, puts at risks our intelligence personnel, puts at risk our diplomats or even private Americans overseas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Now, the White House did release this photo yesterday. Take a look at it. It has generated international attention because of the urgent and the nervous expressions on the face of the Obama War Cabinet as it received live updates Sunday on the Pakistan raid. Well what are they watching? Look at this.
Here is a previously released Situation Room photograph showing, if you look down at the end there, monitors at the end, monitors to the left and the right, all available to the president and his team. We're told in this case most of the live information was coming from the CIA, which we know was among the first customers for these, the perceptive pixel multi-touch screens that we at CNN have used since our election coverage back in 2008.
What were they watching? Well it could be something just like this. Now this is a CNN simulation, but we do know a bit about the technology available to the CIA and the White House. One thing they watch in such a military operation, this is from the Iraq war. This is a drone flying overhead of an operation down below.
And if you look here you can see the outlines of the streets, the outlines of the houses and the compounds and people walking, see the shadows right there, people walking in the streets. You would obviously have a map up showing everyone in the Situation Room what are we talking about in the world? Audio levels coming in from the radio transmissions, from the troops on the ground, from the helicopters overhead, from jets overhead, perhaps from a military base as well.
In this case here is your model of the bin Laden compound right here. The X's would show people on those live feeds just where are the helicopters, where are the U.S. assets as this played out? As the situation is playing out, perhaps you're watching this and something up here catches your attention. You bring that up maybe up on to a bigger feed. This is a helmet cam feed from the Iraq war again, we're simulating this.
Night vision equipment here, this would be something like what played out in the bin Laden compound, going in, kicking in a door, Special Forces you see their helmet cams on them right there, going through a compound like that. Again this is from the Iraq war; we're showing you something about what this might have looked like. Perhaps during the operation, you want to see a closer look at what the compound itself looks like, you can bring in that video here.
This is CNN video from today of the actual bin Laden compound watching this play out. At the CIA, in the White House Situation Room they have available to them all of these live feeds. Some coming in from the helmet cams, some coming in from the helicopters, some coming in perhaps as we said from a drone overhead that looks like this, a running clock, how long have the troops been on the ground.
We were told the goal here was 30 minutes. They stayed about 38 minutes. What time is it in the region? All that available to you here, other feeds as well. And we are well aware at the CIA they don't have just one of these, they have many of these. So even as you're watching this playing out here at one point tracking all of the assets, aircraft, land assets, drones, where are your cameras, you can access all this. Maybe you have additional questions as well, you can get help.
You use your Google Earth technology like this, trust me, the military uses a lot of basic technology we have as well, but they can also enhance it. Suppose in the middle of this they want to see a live satellite feed from an eye in the sky of the town where the compound is playing out, well they can zoom right in. Once they see the town, they have a location on that, maybe they're watching for something happening here or perhaps they want to get a closer look at the compound itself.
Use their technology, zoom straight in. Here's the bin Laden compound. Remember, they would have it -- the military -- the sophistication to have a live feed of this during the operation. And because they knew where they were going to go, they also have the opportunity to enhance everything on the ground here and label it to get a sense of the operation as they go. And you bring this up right here -- let me make that work a little bit.
There you go. This is the actually 3-D model built by the CIA. This is a diagram, on which they used to build the 3-D model. From those satellite images they built this model so the SEALs could train both in the East Coast and the West Coast, not knowing when they were training who their target was, but to train into it (ph), so they have all this technology available to them. They can feed it from the CIA to the White House easily.
Again, aerial assets, ground assets, a way to track all this plays out in the Situation Room. We are told they did not have a live feed of the actual shooting of bin Laden, but they did have the radio transmissions as all this played out. This is remarkable technology. And trust me, theirs is even a little more fancier than ours.
Ahead tonight inside a Navy SEAL mission, a former SEAL joins us right here to discuss the training, the risks, and what he would do if Osama bin Laden came into view. And the CIA gives members of Congress a classified briefing on the bin Laden raid. We have some important new details and new questions. That's next.
KING: The House and Senate this evening received classified briefings on the bin Laden raid. Those briefings were led by the CIA director, Leon Panetta, and as we noted at the top of the program, CNN was told he was openly critical of Pakistan suggesting its security services either protected bin Laden or are grossly incompetent. Well what else did he share? Our senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash has more and Dana, let's start right there with the CIA director. He was very critical of Pakistan. What other enlightening things did he share with Congress?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well let's start there. First of all, in terms of Pakistan, from the perspective of Congress, John, we are hearing very loudly from members of Congress in both parties how frustrated they are with Pakistan. And that was the first question that he got in this briefing and his response on Pakistan was, quote, "either they were involved or incompetent. Neither place is a good place to be" -- as you said, very, very tough.
Beyond that, lots of questions from members of Congress, again, this is a classified briefing so this is from sources who were willing to give us a little information, but mostly it was really to give members of Congress a tick-tock of specific information on exactly how this mission went down. We're told that they got some nuggets that they didn't get from the press, but otherwise it was just fascinating just to hear from his lips how this all happened.
KING: And on the question of Pakistan, with so much mistrust and now some open anger about this, it's in the ballpark I think of $20 billion in U.S. aid to Pakistan in recent years. Will there be an effort in Congress to either completely cut or significantly cut that money?
BASH: There already is. There already is. Again, very interesting bipartisan effort, we're hearing from Democrats and Republicans. They say, look, if Pakistan, even if they were -- regardless of what we know -- what they did or didn't know, we know that they didn't help get bin Laden and he was just a mile away from a military installation.
And so what members of Congress are saying is that they believe that they should withhold money now and that would -- that from their perspective hopefully force Pakistan to give them some answers. Now we're hearing that from a lot of rank and file. Some senior members though John I can tell you are saying let's just hold off. Let's not rush to judgment because as you well know, they say that the relationship with Pakistan is quite complex, quite complex, and they're very worried about making Pakistan an enemy right now.
KING: And in closing on the sense of the photos, what do the members of Congress think? Do they think it would help the administration to put out the photos and prove bin Laden is dead or do they think that's too risky?
BASH: Again there is a split. The senior members of intelligence committees are telling us that they actually believe it's too risky. They're saying that it actually could create martyrdom and that they believe that it is simply the wrong thing to do. But the DNA is out there and that, that should be enough.
However, there are some members of Congress, especially those from New York, who are saying, you know what? They do believe it's important to get out there and I can tell you mentioned Leon Panetta, he told our Ted Barrett (ph) walking out of these meetings that he does believe that these photos should be released. And he said that he believes it's important they know they have it and that's why he believes that they should be released.
KING: Our senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash, Dana thank you. Now every American had a stake in the hunt for bin Laden, but it is fair to say I think for some it was more personal. For some those hardest hit by 9/11 like the families of those who worked at the Pentagon or at the World Trade Center.
Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York is with us now live from Capitol Hill. Senator let me start with where we just left off with Dana Bash there. Good evening, sir. In your view, should the photos be released?
SEN CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Well I think there are good arguments on both sides on this one. Obviously, if you release the photos, it helps establish that he's gone. There is the issue of martyrdom and what the photos would look like. So I think on this -- look, the administration has handled this so, so well. I'd leave it up to them.
KING: You'd leave it up to them. Did you learn anything in the classified briefing today? I know you can't share classified secrets, but any highlights --
SCHUMER: No, I can't.
KING: -- broad-brush you can give us --
SCHUMER: No, it's just -- I can tell you in general, the exquisiteness with which the basic background was done, the training was done, and the raid was carried out was just incredible. You marvel at how good our military is and how good our -- you know these sort of unsung hero, the CIA. And Leon Panetta, now, in full disclosure, he was my roommate for 11 years when we were in the House. What a guy. He is just an incredible guy and our nation is lucky to have him in positions of importance.
KING: One of the things that lucky guy, you say Leon Panetta, who has got a tough job. I'm sure he feels lucky some days, not so lucky other days, Senator. He told this to "TIME" magazine today and this came up in the briefing with Congress I'm sure. It was -- quote, "it was decided that any effort to work with the Pakistanis could jeopardize the mission. They might alert the targets."
Senator, they're supposed to be a partner in the war on terrorism or whatever we want to call it tonight. If the CIA is afraid to tell the Pakistanis about an operation like this, can you call them a partner?
SCHUMER: Well, they're half a partner. The problem with Pakistan, the country, the military, the ISI, their intelligence services, they're divided. We have some very good allies and some very good friends in Pakistan and in the Pakistani government and Army. We also have some people who are anti-American and sympathizers with the Taliban and perhaps even al Qaeda. And that's why it's such a difficult situation. Hopefully the killing of bin Laden will strengthen those who are on our side and weaken those who are against.
But it's not a secret that the military in Pakistan and the ISI are sort of filled with people who are not reliable in security. Most of them believe that Pakistan's greatest enemy is India. They're fighting a war that's 40 years too old. They should realize that the terrorists in their northwest and in Afghanistan, the Taliban are their greatest enemy and the enemy to a growing and prosperous and free Pakistan. But they're stuck in the past. I guess it's a lot easier to hate India than deal with these new problems.
SCHUMER: But they're a lot of them like that.
KING: Are they just stuck in the past or maybe can you make the case that their head is stuck in the sand. And it's often said of President Karzai in neighboring Afghanistan that he just doesn't get it. That he likes to blame others. That he won't confront his own problems.
I want to read to you a bit President Zardari of Pakistan wrote this op-ed in "The Washington Post" today and he says this. "Some in the U.S. press have suggested that Pakistan lacked vitality in its pursuit of terrorism or worse. Yet that we were disingenuous and actually protected the terrorists we were pursuing. Such baseless speculation may make exciting cable news, but it doesn't reflect fact." Am I the problem, Senator, or is President Zardari the problem?
SCHUMER: Well I think the president sort of (INAUDIBLE). Clearly you know the Pakistanis they protect the Haqqani network, which is a terrorist network. They truck around with a lot of unsavory people. But of course in that part of the world, that's not unusual. I think the problem is that what they don't see is the greatest threat to Pakistan are the rebels, are the Taliban and that's pretty objective.
So these people, I guess, you're right, John, their heads are in the sand. And let me -- this is a prediction. The greatest foreign policy problem America will have in the next decade is going to be Pakistan. It is nuclear. It is poor. It is ethnically divided and it has never had a coherent policy or even a very strong leader.
KING: Senator, you were in New York when President George W. Bush went to ground zero in the days after 9/11. It was a very emotional moment. You remember him standing on the pile of the rubble and saying, I hear you and we will get them. You were right there with the president. The current president of the United States is going to go up on Thursday to see some 9/11 families. What would you like to hear him say, President Obama say?
SCHUMER: Well I -- look, I was 10 feet away from George Bush when he piled on the rubble, and I can tell you, you know there was some speculation that, oh, this was staged. It was as spontaneous as it comes and that's what gave it its power, huge power. There was the smell of death in the air. We were all shocked and here is George Bush addressing the country and the people who were -- who had all suffered and at that point were probably just not certain where their loved ones were, that they thought some of them might be alive.
I'd like to hear President Obama. I'm so glad he's going to New York. I believe I'll be going up there as well. And I'd just like him to talk to the families about what has done and talk to America about this war on terror and how we're getting better and better and better at conducting it. We're safer and safer and safer, but we can't let up. And I think -- I mean, he was eloquent on TV Sunday night. And I think we'll hear the same eloquence on Thursday.
KING: We're watching live pictures of ground zero as we end this conversation. Senator quickly in closing, you gave great credit to Leon Panetta and I hope all Americans gives great credit to Leon Panetta and the men and women of the CIA, the men and women of the Navy SEALs and the United States military. This trail did begin; they finally started to follow this trail of the couriers back in the Bush administration. Do they deserve some of the credit?
SCHUMER: Oh, absolutely. Look, both presidents get credit and I think that even though the orders were given by Barack Obama, he had nerves of steel and did the right thing, the beginnings of what happened were laid by George Bush, and he deserves a heck of a lot of credit, too. I think the two of them, if they talked on the phone on this one would both be generous in spirit and share the credit with the other.
KING: I think it's a good time to have a little generosity of spirit. Senator Charles Schumer of New York, Senator, appreciate your time tonight. We'll keep in touch as you head back to New York.
SCHUMER: Thanks John.
KING: Thank you, sir.
SCHUMER: Take care.
KING: Five computers, 10 hard drives and dozens of disks and thumb drives. What might be learned from the intelligence found at the bin Laden compound? And before any big operation, did you know Navy SEALs went to isolation? They're not told if a child gets sick or if some major world event occurs. What else is important to their training? A 10-year SEAL veteran joins us next.
KING: Most of us just can't imagine what it's like to jump out of a helicopter in the middle of the night and hunt down a high value target.
For 10 years, former Navy SEAL John McGuire did just that. He joins us now to talk about this high stakes operation that led to the death of Osama bin Laden. Thank you for being here.
One of the new details today is the White House is saying that bin Laden was not armed, that the commandos went upstairs to the third floor, wife charged one of the attackers, she was shot in the leg, then bin Laden was shot in the chest and the head.
Will that prove controversial now? What are the rules of engagement?
JOHN MCGUIRE, FORMER NAVY SEAL: Each case is different. I do know this mission had to be a little bit different. And there were no hostages. That makes it more complicated.
But in the fog of war, you don't know. I mean, the guy could grab a weapon and get a team guy pretty quick.
KING: And so, take us through -- I know, obviously, it's a very different than any you were in. But when you're in that situation, you're rushing in. You're full of adrenaline. There is a firefight going on.
What goes through your head? I assume when anything moves, you're suspicious.
MCGUIRE: And what goes through your head is get the job done and protect your teammates, you know? Whether we win or lose means whether we live or die. You know, things can turn on a dime. And, you know, we don't know, maybe he had something in his hand or something near him that was a weapon.
KING: But when you've watched the coverage about this and you see the compound. It's a building with three-story. There are some guards. There are some smaller buildings.
What kind of training goes involved in something like this? We understand there were mock-ups built on two coasts, guys training for a while. How's that work?
MCGUIRE: Yes. But they basically rehearsed to the T. You know, we might spend four days, five days on something that takes 10 minutes to do. We look at every contingency, you know, what if the helicopter breaks, for example, what if the radio goes down or what.
When we go in there, we know pretty much every angle where every bullet is going to go.
KING: And when you get off the helicopter and you know that one is having a problem, and that you know there are backups, but you might not -- you might not get a ride out. What happens then?
MCGUIRE: We pretty much know the plan if the helicopter goes down. We look at every contingency whether helicopters, equipment, and we're prepared for that. So, surely, you can't let that change your plan. You got to say, OK, Murphy, have you heard of Murphy's Law? Murphy's Law states anything that can go wrong will go wrong at the worst possible moment. And that's what's very important that we have the right training and the right contingency plan.
KING: As you've seen about this coverage and read about it yourself, what jumps out to you most in terms of how it played out?
MCGUIRE: What goes through my mind is closure. You think about the families affected. A lot of lives have been destroyed because of this man's terror. And, you know, obviously, you're not going to get your loved one back.
But I think even on your show, I've seen people come in and talk about how, you know, it's been nine years. We have the best military. How come you catch can't a 6-foot-something terrorist. And I don't think we're going to hear that any more.
And I think we sent a message to America that if you mess with Americans, whether you make $20,000 a year or $1 million a year, you're valuable. And it might take us some time, but we're going to get you. And I think you know that's going to deter future attacks -- at least I hope so.
KING: Take us, if you can, deeper inside. What happens in the training? They build a mock-up of the site. You go in. Do they have sort of fake engagements the test it out or is it just practice runs to learn the details, where the staircases are, where the windows are.
MCGUIRE: Well, you try to think it through. It's like a chess game. You look it like this could happen or this could happen or this could happen and you try to train for every possibility. So that when something comes up, it's like clockwork.
You got -- I'll tell you, SEALs are very tight. We know by the sound of your foot on the ground who you are on our team. At night, the silhouette, I mean, we know each other. We know that every mission you're going to step of your left foot first or your right foot first because of all that practice.
KING: I don't think they use the term any more, but describe to people who might not understand what ST-6 is.
MCGUIRE: SEAL Team Six is, well, you know, something we don't talk about too much in the teams. But it's -- they know the top mission. They're the most seasoned SEALs.
KING: And when you look at the mock-ups, what you've seen, the coverage, some video and pictures of this compound, anything stand out about the challenge of it, getting in a helicopter, getting out in a helicopter, does it pretty basic?
MCGUIRE: You know, obviously, it takes the best to do something like that. But this went on for so long and no one knew he was there. But I wasn't there, so it's hard to discuss that. KING: If you're in that final brief and they tell you after your training your target is Osama bin Laden, what would have gone through your head if that were you?
MCGUIRE: It's on. It's great -- an honor. It's an honor to, I guess, do such a great service for our country.
KING: How old are these guys?
MCGUIRE: These guys, I would say, are seasoned SEALs, very good at what they do, very proud of them. Probably 30, 35.
KING: Thirty, 35?
KING: If you were on a mission and you ran up those stairs and you're looking across the room and you were certain the guy across the room was Osama bin Laden, would you hesitate?
MCGUIRE: That's not the way we're trained to get the job done. So, you can count on us.
KING: Get it done.
So, do you think there was any possibility of him coming out of there alive?
MCGUIRE: I think so. And I'd say this, our guys are the most professional -- we call ourselves, we're called quiet professionals. And I'll tell you what? A lot of times you run into a SEAL and you went out and you say, "I can't believe that guy is a SEAL."
It's not about how we look. It's how we do our job. And we are quite professionals and we follow orders.
Now, obviously, if there's a threat, we're going to protect our teammates.
KING: Will we ever know the names of the guys who did this?
MCGUIRE: You know, looking at the history of things like this, you never know. You never knew. I mean, I would -- I would think so.
KING: You think so?
MCGUIRE: I think so.
KING: John McGuire, thank you for your time.
MCGUIRE: Thank you for your time.
KING: An explosion rocks Afghanistan's capital city today. Could it be retaliation for bin Laden's death? We'll take you there to Afghanistan, next.
KING: Welcome back.
If you're just joining us, here the latest news you need to know right now:
In a costly gamble today, the Army Corps of Engineers started blowing holes in levees along the flooded Mississippi River, sending water over fertile land rather than risking uncontrolled flooding in towns down river.
Within the past hour, CNN's Frederik Pleitgen reported hearing loud explosions and jets flying overhead in Tripoli, Libya.
Also, today, the United Nations says nearly 40,000 Libyan civilians fled to Tunisia just this past month.
Amnesty International says tonight it has firsthand reports of detainees in Syria being tortured after last weekend's crackdown on anti-government protests.
An explosion rocked Afghanistan's capital city several hours ago.
CNN's Mohammed Jamjoom is in Kabul live.
Mohammed, a police station, we understand some kind of rocket attack. What more do we know?
MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, when the explosion was first heard, there were reports that possibly the U.S. embassy in Kabul had been attacked. We found out that that wasn't the case.
But a Marine that was posted at the U.S. embassy here in Kabul told us, in fact, there may have been a rocket attack directed at a police station about two miles southwest of the embassy here.
One of the reasons fears were so heightened is because people are concerned there could be a retaliatory strike because of the killing of Osama bin Laden against Western targets in Afghanistan, especially here in the capital. As of now, not a lot of details coming from police here in Kabul as to what exactly happened. If this police station was hit, that has not yet been confirmed.
We also heard there was an attack, possibly a land mine, buried next to a residential compound somewhere close to the house of the mayor -- the current mayor of Kabul. Again, not a lot of details at this point. But security is going to be heightened here in the capital of Afghanistan in the coming days because people are concerned about retaliatory strikes against Western targets -- John.
KING: And you're there at a fascinating moment, Mohammed. A couple of questions. Let's start with this one: any reaction yet from the Afghan government which for years has tried to say, "Bin Laden's not here, we think he's on the Pakistan side"? Any sense of vindication? JAMJOOM: Oh, absolutely, John. The last couple of days, you've seen the Afghanistan government really saying that they are vindicated right now. They're using this, the death of Osama bin Laden, especially the fact that he was found and killed in Pakistan as a way to bolster the credibility of their government.
We've heard, so far, from the president, from Hamid Karzai, from the interior minister, the defense minister, from members of parliament all saying, look, we told you so. We told you he wasn't here. Now, we know that the real terror problem isn't in our backyard but in the backyard of neighboring countries. Many of them saying, we believe this will enhance the security situation here if not in the short term in the long term, but they're all saying, look, the terrorist problem in this part of the world is not in Afghanistan.
That having been said, many people still very concerned about the Taliban, and the Taliban here has started a new offensive. They're saying they're going to be in more provinces, they're emboldened, they're more of a threat, and they vow to continue to fight on -- John.
KING: Mohammed Jamjoom on the ground for us live tonight in Kabul Mohammed -- thank you so much.
While the U.S. government celebrated the successful mission to take out bin Laden, we have seen the Pakistani government was caught off guard by the secret mission. Tensions in U.S./Pakistan relations.
And here's another question: what might the value be of the computers, the hard drives and all those discs taken from the bin Laden compound? That's next.
KING: Did the bin Laden trail turn warm in part because of information gleaned from those controversial Bush interrogation tactics? And what will we learn about al Qaeda from the computers, drives and discs seized at the bin Laden compound?
With us, two of the smartest analysts in the business: John McLaughlin, the CIA former deputy director, and Tony Cordesman, who is part of the group that helped General Stanley McChrystal developed the new Afghanistan strategy back in 2009.
Gentlemen, thanks for being here.
I want to start with the revision today in the account from the White House that bin Laden was not armed when he was shot. I want your sense of whether that will matter in the Arab world. I want you first, though, to listen to CIA Director Leon Panetta telling CBS here that he thought there was a slight possibility -- slight possibility -- bin Laden could be taken alive.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEON PANETTA, CIA DIRECTOR: I think we always assume from the beginning that the likelihood was that he was going to be killed. Per chance, he were to be captured, I think the approach was to take him quickly to Bagram, transfer him to a ship offshore and then have the principals at the White House decide what steps would be taken.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: So, I guess there's two questions there. Number one: easier to deal with. It sounds coarse to say it that way. Easier to deal with him dead, right? Instead having to hold him, think about how you're going to try him, things like that?
ANTHONY CORDESMAN, FORMER DEFENSE DEPT. OFFICIAL: Well, you also have to move him at night with a helicopter crashed over a wall, somehow find a way to get him into a helicopter, do so without knowing who will intervene, when they'll intervene. And to do this, you'll also have to walk in to the equivalent of a shooting room and act as if you have 20/20 foresight before you even begin to think of seizing him.
KING: John, you know the business well. How well -- what's left of al Qaeda, how will other anti-American, whether they're Islamist radicals or somebody else, play and propagandize the fact that bin Laden was not armed?
JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, FORMER CIA DEPUTY DIRECTOR: We're going to hear about that. That will play big in their propaganda. And I'm sure they've got plans on the shelf for various retaliatory operations.
So, I'm sure that U.S. intelligence and our law enforcement are on heightened alert now anticipating that, here and overseas.
KING: Back in your days at the CIA, were you aware of a specific playbook that if bin Laden was captured or killed we will do this?
MCLAUGHLIN: No, I don't think there's such a playbook. I think what they do is have plans that they develop over a long period of time, put on the shelf, take off the shelf when they're ready to go. We have a problem with the affiliates in places like Yemen, of course, who I think, at this point, may be the most dangerous elements to worry about.
KING: You agree with that? It's a 40-year-old American-born terrorist, al-Awlaki, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Is he now, in your view, the bigger face, the singular face of global terrorism?
CORDESMAN: I think if we look for a singular face, we're going to delude ourselves. We know that he has a network, a group of at least seven to eight people around him. Many of them are young, relatively, experienced fighters.
There are also, as John points out, separate, almost isolated groups, the one in Yemen, for example, is not one face. It's a group of people. You have the remnants of al Qaeda in Iraq. You have groups in Algeria, which have allied themselves to al Qaeda, but have no prior ties. You have scattered groups throughout areas in Europe and down in the Sahara, below the actual desert. So, to talk about this as if there's one face and somehow one man is going to be the figure that dominates this is simply unrealistic.
KING: Unrealistic, perhaps naive.
One of the big controversies, or at least the questions now, is when the trail finally turned warm after so many years of frustration with bin Laden, it was in the Bush administration, where they started to track these couriers. And one of the questions now is did that information about the couriers, about where to find them, did some of that come through the use of these enhanced interrogation tactics, which are controversial?
I want you to listen to Leon Panetta here, again, the current CIA director. This is with NBC News, I believe, talking about perhaps -- perhaps -- some clues did come that way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PANETTA: I think some of the detainees clearly were, you know, they used these enhanced interrogation techniques against some of these detainees. But I'm also saying that, you know, the debate about whether we would have gotten the same information through other approaches, I think, is always going to be an open question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: The debate continues. The Obama administration has stopped using many, if not all, of those techniques. But is it a vindication for those techniques?
CORDESMAN: I think you need to be very careful which enhanced techniques. There are a lot that don't come close to torture. And which witness. The kinds of training, the rules set down, for example, at places like Ft. Wichuka (ph), have really created very effective techniques.
They're not what any of us would want to go through, but they don't involve waterboarding or more extreme versions. I'd have to defer to John, though.
MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the one thing I would say here, first, I would like to know more about the specific details of who provided what and what they provided. But, by and large, the interrogation program that the CIA ran was very effective and did produce accurate information. And I suspect this is the latest indication of that.
KING: What would you do with Pakistan right now? Leon Panetta tonight saying they're either complicit or completely incompetent.
CORDESMAN: I think we may be overstating that. There are certain elements which are complicit. And I think, privately, Pakistanis will say that.
But we are trapped in a way. We can't ignore this country. We can't let it fall apart. It isn't just a matter of our troops in Afghanistan, having an outcome of that war that's successful. That's the fact that Pakistan itself is strategically far more important than Afghanistan.
And before we rush out, we also need to understand a lot more about the cover story bin Laden was using, because some of the things he did, like using two Pakistani families as a cover, in an area where there were many other families who had been dislocated and had sort of covert or quiet identities, that's only beginning to be apparent. And we might give Pakistan at least a few days' grace.
KING: A few days' grace.
John, let me ask you lastly in closing, what do you know from your days at the CIA about Osama bin Laden, the record-keeper, if you will? They took the computer, they took some hard drives, about 100, we're told, CDs, DVDs, thumb drives. Did he just keep news clippings and video clippings of his attacks around the world, or is this a guy that you think is keeping active, present-day files that will be valuable?
MCLAUGHLIN: I'll be very surprised if this isn't a gold mine for us. Just thinking back to the last operation I was involved in, in which we captured the computer of Ahmed Ghailani, one of the plotters in the African embassy bombings. On that computer, we found very explicit casing reports for major financial institutions in New York City, something that we made available to everyone and helped prevent attacks there.
So, I think we're probably going to find reports of potential plotting. We'll probably find something about funding. We may learn something about whatever relationship he did or didn't have with Pakistan. We'll learn about key aides.
KING: Maybe where they are?
MCLAUGHLIN: Maybe where they are. So this is the sort of thing that people will be going through in incredible detail in the next few days.
KING: John McLaughlin, and Tony Cordesman -- appreciate your insights. Let's stay in touch. The story is going to be with us for a while.
When we come back -- if you've seen this picture, you've been following bin Laden, you probably seen this picture right here. What is the president and his team looking at in the Situation Room? We'll give you a sense, next.
KING: A map of the region there.
Many of you have visited CNN.com, maybe the White House Web site, to look at this photo. We're going to show it to you. It's Sunday in the Situation Room at the White House. The president of the United States, the vice president holding rosary beads, you see Secretary Clinton with her hand over her face, Secretary Gates, other members of the Obama war council.
What are they watching?
Well, you can see from a previously released White House photograph what the other end of the Situation Room looks like. A number of monitors there, you see them on the far walls, on the side walls as well.
We are told on Sunday much of the information was coming from the CIA and we know full well that the CIA, like us at CNN, own several of these, perceptive pixel, multi-touch boards.
And what the CIA does in live operations it often has a monitor set up like this. This is a CNN simulation, but it looks something like this. This is from Iraq war, a drone flying overhead in an operation, sending you live aerial pictures. You see the outlines of buildings, people walking in the streets right here.
The CIA would have had live aerial images during the raid at the bin Laden compound.
Another thing they might have wan wanted from the scene -- this is an Iraq war footage here, you see here, this coming over, night vision goggles here and you watch these men going into a compound, you see this on their heads, most of this is night vision on the helmets. In some of them, you'll see flip up. Some of these gentlemen, though, would also be packing cameras as they went in as well, often live feeds coming back.
They also would have here -- a model, probably 3D, of the compound as it played out there. This, the type of technology available at the CIA and they can feed it through to the White House as these highly sensitive operations unfold.
It is fascinating stuff.
We'll see you back here tomorrow.
"IN THE ARENA" from Washington tonight, starts right now.