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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
White House Press Briefing on Osama bin Laden
Aired May 3, 2011 - 13:56 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: This thing has been there for days.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Better that way. Aged.
CARNEY: Yes, OK. All right. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any announcements to make, so let's go straight to questions.
QUESTION: Jay, could you talk about the (INAUDIBLE) photo that you guys put out that shows the president and others watching in the Situation Room. What were they seeing in the moment that photo was taken?
CARNEY: As John Brennan, the president's counterterrorism adviser, explained yesterday, the president and his top national security aides in the Situation Room had available to them minute-by- minute updates of the operation. And that photograph was taken in the operation, and they were looking at and listening to those updates. I can't get more specific than that.
But this was during the operation, and during those tense moments that Mr. Brennan described yesterday and this morning on television.
QUESTION: And why can't you get more specific without revealing technology or anything?
CARNEY: Well, I think it is specifically that we don't talk about with any great detail, you know, how we get our real-time information for a variety of reasons.
I mean, those meetings take place in the Situation Room for a reason. They are there for secure communications.
So, I can't get more specific than that. I think that it has been said so I can say that Leon Panetta, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, was on a screen and communicating with those in the Situation Room and the president. So, he was present in that room in that sense as well.
QUESTION: So they were looking at Leon Panetta?
CARNEY: Well, again, they were receiving real-time minute-by- minute updates on the -- excuse me -- on the operation taking place in Pakistan at that moment. But, they were receiving a lot of information at once. QUESTION: OK. So, Brennan, in his briefing yesterday, made a couple of, I guess, misstatements or statements that later appear to be somewhat incorrect, such as that the wife was shielding bin Laden and it turned out it was not the wife, and there may not have been a shield and it was not clear whether or not bin Laden had a gun.
Are you guys in a fog of war in this or what gives?
CARNEY: Well, what is true is that we provided a great deal of information in -- with great haste in order to inform you and through you the American public about the operation and how it transpired and the events that took place there in Pakistan. And obviously, some of to information was came in piece by piece and is being reviewed and updated and elaborated on.
So, what I can tell you, I have a narrative that I can provide to you on the raid itself on the bin Laden compound in Pakistan.
On orders of the president, a small U.S. team assaulted a secure compound in an affluent suburb of Islamabad to capture or kill Osama bin Laden.
The raid was conducted with U.S. military personnel assaulting on two helicopters. The team methodically cleared the compound, moving from room to room in an operation lasting nearly 40 minutes.
They were engaged in a firefight throughout the operation, and Osama bin Laden was killed by the assaulting force.
In addition to the bin Laden family, two other families resided in the compound, one family on the first floor of the bin Laden building, and one family in a second building.
One team began the operation on the first floor of the bin Laden house and worked their way to the third floor. A second team cleared the separate building.
On the first floor of bin Laden's building, two al Qaeda couriers were killed, along with a woman who was killed in crossfire. Bin Laden and his family were found on the second and third floor of the building.
There was concern that bin Laden would oppose the capture operation, and indeed, he did resist. In the room with bin Laden, a woman, bin Laden's wife, rushed the U.S. assaulter and was shot in the leg, but not killed. Bin Laden was then shot and killed; he was not armed.
Following the firefight, the noncombatants were moved to a safe location as the damaged helicopter was detonated. The team departed the scene via helicopter to the USS Carl Vinson in the North Arabian Sea.
Aboard the USS Carl Vinson, the burial of bin Laden was done in conformance with Islamic precepts and practices. The deceased's body was washed and then placed in a white sheet. The body was placed in a weighted bag, a military officer read prepared religious remarks which were translated into Arabic by a native speaker. After the words were complete, the body was placed on a prepared flat board, tipped up, and the body eased into the sea.
That's the narrative that I can provide to you today.
QUESTION: In what way did --
CARNEY: And I want to make clear that this is, again, information that is fresh. And, you know, we will continue to gather and provide to you details as we get them and we are able to release them.
The resistance was throughout. As I said, when the assaulter entered the room where Osama bin Laden was, he was rushed by one individual in the room, and the resistance was consistent from the moment they landed until the end of the operation.
QUESTION: Jay, just how did Osama bin Laden resist if he didn't have his hand on a gun? How was he resisting?
CARNEY: Yes. The information I have -- first of all, I think resistance does not require a firearm, but the information I gave you is what I can tell you about it. I'm sure more details will be provided as they become available and we are able to release them.
QUESTION: Did he have any weapon?
CARNEY: He was not armed, is what I understand to be true.
QUESTION: On the same theme, but to Afghanistan, do you see the capture of bin Laden affecting the pace and timing of the planned withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan?
CARNEY: No. I think that the president's plan is on track. It is -- you can see the operation that took place on Sunday within the context of this plan that the president put in place for Afghanistan and Pakistan and within the context of his broader commitment as a candidate and as president to refocus our attention on the AfPak region, which is the home to what they call al Qaeda, and was, until very recently, the home to the leader of al Qaeda.
This president was very determined, as you remember when he ran for office and since he came in here, to refocus our attention on that region, on al Qaeda. And as you'll recall, in the very carefully deliberated-upon plan that the president put forward for Afghanistan, that the number one objective was to dismantle and eventually defeat al Qaeda.
Getting bin Laden was very much a part of that plan, but it is not the only part. As John Brennan and others have said, the president has said, we are continuing the fight against al Qaeda every day. And the focus of that operation, of the U.S. personnel in Afghanistan, is on al Qaeda. The operation continues. The July, 2011 transition date for the beginning of a drawdown remains very much in place. The pace of that drawdown will be determined by conditions on the ground.
QUESTION: Final question, any update on the plans to release video or images?
CARNEY: I don't have any updates on that except to echo what John Brennan said this morning, which is that we are obviously reviewing information. We have made a great deal revealed to the public in remarkable time. We're talking about the most highly- classified operation that this government has undertaken in many, many years. And the amount of information that we have tried to provide to you in this short period of time is quite substantial.
We will continue to review that and make decisions about the appropriateness of releasing more information as that review continues on.
QUESTION: The Pakistani government put out a statement in which they said that the ISI had been providing information about the compound since 2009, whereas all we know about in terms of the media is that we have known about the compound since 2010.
Could you explain the discrepancy? And also, has the ISI be providing information about this compound?
CARNEY: Well, what I will do is to point you to the comments that John Brennan made and others have made, which is that the Pakistanis have, in general, been very helpful in many ways in the fight against al Qaeda. And that help has -- was of assistance, in general, in the gathering of intelligence and information that led to the successful operation on Sunday. I'm not aware of and I believe we have said that we have been quite clear about our knowledge about the existence of this compound and about the communications we did not have with Pakistani intelligence about this operation.
QUESTION: OK. They also say in a statement that many houses in that region occupied by affectees of operations in the region have high boundary walls as part of a culture of privacy. So, high walls in that region. Obviously, you got the right house, I'm not questioning that. But is this your cultural understanding of the region, that the high walls are --
CARNEY: I think this was a unique property within the region, but he clearly successfully hid from sight, at least our sight, for a very long time. And he is not the only high-value target who did that by hiding in highly-populated areas.
Obviously, there was some speculation for many years that he and other high-value al Qaeda targets were hiding in caves or in the mountainous region, small villages, or living a nomadic existence. And, in fact, what we have seemed to have discovered over the course of these years of investigating and finding these high-value targets is that there is a preference -- or has been in these cases -- a preference for highly-populated areas, which understandably can sometimes be an easier place to hide.
QUESTION: And then, lastly, the previous administration did release photographs of high-value targets. Uday and Qusay Hussein are just two examples. What would volt you back from doing it? It seemed to have gone off relatively without a hitch, as far as I know. Why would you not release a photo of bin Laden?
CARNEY: Well, I'll be candid that there are sensitivities here in terms of the appropriateness of releasing photographs of Osama bin Laden, and in the aftermath of this firefight. And we are making an evaluation about the need to do that because of the sensitivities involved.
And we do -- we review this information and make this decision with the same calculation as we do so many things, which is what, you know -- what we are trying to accomplish. And does it serve or in any way harm our interests? And that is not just domestic, but globally.
QUESTION: Can you explain sensitivities? Do you mean because it's a gruesome photograph?
CARNEY: It's fair to say that it's a gruesome photograph?
QUESTION: That could be inflammatory? That's the sensitivity you're --
CARNEY: It is certainly possible, and this is an issue that we are taking into consideration, is that it could be inflammatory. I'm not going to get into who and where -- who has seen the photographs and where they are.
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Jay.
(INAUDIBLE) said that bin Laden was not armed. Why was the decision made to kill him as opposed to capture?
CARNEY: As Mr. Brennan and others have made clear, there was -- we were prepared to capture him, if that was possible. We expected a great deal of resistance and were met with a great deal of resistance.
LOTHIAN: But he wasn't armed.
CARNEY: But there were many other people who were armed in the region -- I mean, in the compound. There was a firefight.
LOTHIAN: But not in that room went they (ph) went in.
CARNEY: Again, it was a highly-volatile firefight. I'll point you to the Department of Defense for more details about that, but it was -- he resisted. The U.S. personnel on the ground handled themselves with the utmost professionalism, and he was killed in an operation because of the resistance that they met. LOTHIAN: Since everyone here was getting real-time information, was the decision to shoot and kill one that was done by that unit, or was there consultation? Was there information flowing back and forth and it was directed that, yes, go for the kill at that point?
CARNEY: The operation was run for the ground -- or certainly not from the White House. And at the point -- I think Mr. Brennan described this yesterday at the briefing, or perhaps on television, or maybe in both places, that at that point, the folks in The Situation Room were observers and listeners to an operation that obviously had been carefully thought out, meticulously prepared for.
The decision to go was the president's and obviously was a very weighty decision. Once it began, however, obviously it was up to those who were taking the action to execute the plan.
LOTHIAN: Yesterday the White House put out a readout, the president's calls to various world leaders. Any additional calls today? And also, have any of these world leaders expressed concern about the U.S. going into another country unannounced?
CARNEY: We did provide a readout. I don't have any new calls to read out for you at this time.
My understanding is that the calls all included congratulations to the United States for their successful operation and in capturing and killing Osama bin Laden. I'm not aware of any concern expressed about the issue that you raise. And, in fact, the president of Pakistan has an op-ed in "The Washington Post," and they also congratulated us on this success.
QUESTION: Thanks, Jay.
At one point, I think you said the assaulter was brushed when you were describing the situation when bin Laden was killed. Was there just one assaulter in the room with bin Laden? And were both shots fired by one person?
CARNEY: I don't have a detail on the shots and who fired them. When you -- my understanding is they entered a room one at a time, this particular room. But beyond that, I don't know.
There was obviously a team in the compound, but I don't want to venture a guess. I always find it better to not do that. So I would point you to the Department of Defense for that.
QUESTION: OK. But it's still believed that a wife of Osama bin Laden was shot but not killed.
CARNEY: Yes, shot in the leg.
QUESTION: Shot in the leg. But not in that room?
CARNEY: On the first floor. QUESTION: On the first floor.
Do you know how many -- you said that it was, you know, a real gun battle. But my understanding is of the 22 or so people in the room, 17 or so of them were noncombatants.
CARNEY: Well, a number of people, as you know, were unharmed and safely made secure after the operation was complete and the helicopter had to be detonated. But there was a firefight.
QUESTION: Do you know how many people were firing from --
CARNEY: I don't -- again, we're providing you this information as it's made available for public release. The Pentagon is working on this and will, I'm sure, continue to update the information as it becomes available.
QUESTION: OK. And there was a report sourced for the ISI that the noncombatants had had their hands tied in preparation for taking them away on the helicopter, at which they could not do because one of the helicopters had been damaged.
Do you know anything about that?
CARNEY: I don't. And I certainly haven't heard anything like that in this building.
QUESTION: OK. Finally, is there video of the burial at sea?
CARNEY: Yes. I'm not going to get into the --
QUESTION: Not whether they'll release it. Does it exist.
CARNEY: No, I understand, but the visual material that is being reviewed, decisions about it will be made about what, if any of it, can be or should be released. I don't want to get into the specifics about what there is and what there isn't. I would just urge you to be patient given how much information has been released, and understanding about why we need to review this and make the appropriate decision.
I would also say, there is not -- as has been reported, there is not some roiling debate here about this. There is simply a discussion about what the appropriate action should be.
QUESTION: Is the president involved in that discussion now?
CARNEY: The president is intimately involved in all aspects of this operation.
QUESTION: Do you have a timeline for when a decision will be made?
CARNEY: I don't have a timeline. QUESTION: Could it be today?
CARNEY: I don't have a timeline.
QUESTION: Jay, what is the status of U.S./Pakistani relations today as the White House sees them?
CARNEY: It's a complicated but important relationship. Pakistan is a partner, a key partner in the fight against al Qaeda and terrorism. They have been extremely helpful, and we look forward to cooperating into the future.
We have been in contact at many levels with the Pakistani government. And as you know, the president called President Zardari the night of the operation, before he spoke to the American people.
And so while we recognize that there are complicated differences between our two countries and how we approach and view things at times, there has also been a great deal of important cooperation. And that should not be lost. The American people should know that as they view this and try to view the complete picture of that relationship, and within the context of the successful mission on Sunday.
QUESTION: We've heard some lawmakers suggest perhaps freezing aid to Pakistan until they can demonstrate that they didn't know anything about bin Laden's whereabouts.
The White House have a view on that?
CARNEY: I would just say that it's an important partnership, and Pakistan has been on the front lines in many ways of the fight against al Qaeda and against terrorists. Pakistanis have suffered in large numbers at the hands of terrorists, and they have been -- the government has provided useful and important assistance and cooperation to us in the years of this struggle against terrorism.
So I would leave it at that, while accepting the fact that we do need to find out. And as John Brennan said this morning, we look forward to finding out more information about the support network that did allow bin Laden to hide in this compound, in a suburb of Islamabad. And we understand that the Pakistanis are investigating that as well.
QUESTION: Mr. Zardari said today in his op-ed, "Pakistan did its part."
CARNEY: Again, I would say, as I said earlier, that Pakistan did provide and has provided useful intelligence and cooperation over the years. And broadly speaking, provided assistance that helped us build the mountain of information that we needed to build in order to find bin Laden and execute this mission.
QUESTION: Jay, just a follow-up on Pakistan.
Senator Lindsey Graham today said, "You cannot trust them and you cannot abandon them."
Do you agree with that assessment?
CARNEY: Look, I don't think it's a question of trust. I think it's a question of the interests that we share and the cooperation that we have forged.
There are -- it's a complicated relationship, there is no question, and we do have our differences. And I think it's important to note that there are many people in Pakistan and there are many people in the Pakistan government.
So it is a -- I think you have to be careful about tarring everyone, either in the country or the government, because they have provided extremely useful assistance over the years. And we look forward to cooperating with Pakistan going into the future.
And it's vital, because as we have said, lopping the head off of the snake is important, but the body, while battered and bruised because of the actions that have been taken over the years, is still there, and we need to bury that body. We need to keep the fight up against al Qaeda, and Pakistan is a very important partner in that effort.
QUESTION: In previous dealings with Pakistan, it seems that you guys have had to deal with them in sort of three separate camps. So, if the president called President Zardari (INAUDIBLE) called by Gates, I mean, were other people informed at the same level since it's not quite the same type of government?
CARNEY: We have had contact with the --
QUESTION: On the night of the --
CARNEY: Well, calls on that evening beyond the president to President Zardari, I'm not going to read out from here. But I will say that we have maintained contact with senior members of the Pakistani government regularly.
QUESTION: On the issue of the photographs, you say that there is some concern about them inflaming some passions. Are you consulting anybody outside the United States on this issue?
CARNEY: No. I would just leave it that we are reviewing the situation. I don't have details on the consultations. I think we're going about this in a methodical way and trying to make the best call.
QUESTION: Anything new to add? Yesterday, John Brennan wouldn't characterize what was gotten intelligence-wise from the compound. After that, there has been descriptions of the amount of data.
Do you have anything to add to that? CARNEY: I don't have a quantitative assessment, but I think that what I can say is that there are sort of three areas that we hope the information was collected, the material was collected, will provide insight into.
First of all, and most importantly in any case, is any evidence of planned attacks. Second, would be information that could lead to other high-value targets or other networks that exist that maybe we don't know about, or that we only know a little bit about. And then, you know, third, and more broadly, on the al Qaeda network, itself, and then the sustaining network for bin Laden in Pakistan, what allowed him to live in that compound for as long as he did.
QUESTION: It's my understanding that the president got an updated assessment of threat levels post bin Laden. Can you shed some light on whether --
CARNEY: Well, the president receives regular threat level briefings, so I wouldn't necessarily tie that to the bin Laden operation, although, having said that, I will also say that it is, without question, that our homeland security officials and everyone involved in counterterrorism has been assessing and was assessing prior to the operation's success what the impact might be on a successful --
QUESTION: So far?
CARNEY: So far, we don't have any specific or credible threats, which is why some have asked about the -- why we haven't raised the NTAS. But we are vigilant, and we take measures that are both seen and unseen to maintain that vigilance, because obviously we have anticipated the potential for a backlash, the potential for at least a desire, if not the ability, to exact some kind of revenge against the United States, the American people, or our allies. So we are very vigilant.
QUESTION: Is the White House concerned at all that a rift with Pakistan over what they knew and when they knew it could harm the relationship, which, as you, has been critical to the United States?
CARNEY: We are working very hard on that relationship. And it is an important and complicated relationship that has been tested in many ways over the years, and even this year. But we are in communication directly with the president and other senior members of the government, and we are committed to continuing the cooperation that we have had, because it is so important both to our fight against al Qaeda, but also Pakistan's. And I think we remain confident that cooperation -- I know we remain confident that cooperation will continue.
QUESTION: But as you look at what knowledge they had about bin Laden and the compound, I mean -- and that plays out in the media and all that, is there any concern that that's going to harm --
CARNEY: Well, look, first of all, we don't know yet. We don't know who, if anybody in the government, was aware that bin Laden or a high-value target was living in the compound.
What John Brennan has said and others have said is that it's logical to assume that he had some sort of supporting network. But what constituted that network is -- remains to be seen. And again, there are -- it's a big country and a big government, and to -- you know, we have to be very focused and careful about how we do this, because it is an important relationship.
I would also say that the idea that these kinds of complications exist is not new. Obviously, this is a very sensational case because of who we're talking about here because it was Osama bin Laden, but this is not an issue that arrived on our doorstep on Sunday.
QUESTION: And then particularly on the debt ceiling, the U.S. is going to hit the debt ceiling next week. Is the White House making any progress on talks with the Republicans on how to deal with that?
CARNEY: Well, it's a complicated process, the debt ceiling. And as you know, the secretary of the treasury issued a letter yesterday that actually -- because of the extraordinary measures that the Treasury Department is able to take, and other administrations, Treasury Departments before this have taken, and because of the revenues that come in slightly above than expected, the deadline has been pushed back by three weeks, I think. But that is an estimate, and it is important to remember that it is just an estimate, and the urgency of raising the debt ceiling remains.
Having said that, we look very much forward to the discussions that will begin on Thursday with the vice president on the lead on our fiscal issues that we hope to reach bipartisan compromise on. And we recognize that while we believe it's very important that these are parallel tracks, that this will also be a topic of conversation.
And we are heartened, as we have been in the past, by comments that have been made about the absolute necessity of raising the debt ceiling because we do not want another recession, we do not want to default on America's -- the full faith and credit of the United States government. So, we hope that and believe that the conversations that -- negotiations that begin on Thursday will bear fruit in both directions.
QUESTION: Can you talk at all about what the president is going to do on Thursday?
CARNEY: At the meeting? I'm sorry.
QUESTION: No, in New York.
CARNEY: Oh, in New York. You know, we'll give you a full schedule. It's obviously out there, that we will be -- the president will be visiting New York and Ground Zero. But beyond that, I don't have details at this time. Mark (ph)?
QUESTION: Jay, can you tell us who wrote the narrative that you read to us?
CARNEY: That was provided by the Defense Department.
QUESTION: By DOD?
QUESTION: Are you able to describe how bin Laden resisted?
CARNEY: Beyond what I was able to give you from here, I would refer you to the Pentagon.
I'd simply say that we have been -- we have worked very hard to declassify information in record speed to provide as much insight into this operation as we can, as quickly as we can, mindful, obviously, of the equities that are at stake here in terms of the never revealing sources and methods, never compromising our intelligence procedures. But I -- you know, we are working very hard to provide as much information as we can.
QUESTION: Can you say if there has been any change in President Obama's opposition to so-called enhanced interrogation techniques?
CARNEY: No change whatsoever.
QUESTION: Were any results of such techniques used in helping to track down bin Laden?
CARNEY: Mark (ph), the fact is that no single piece of information led to the successful mission that occurred on Sunday. And multiple detainees provided insights into the networks of people who might have been enlisted by bin Laden, but reporting from detainees was just a slice of the information that has been gathered by incredibly diligent professionals over the years in the intelligence community. And it's simply strange credulity to suggest that a piece of information that may or may not have been gathered eight years ago somehow directly led to a successful mission on Sunday. That's just not the case.
QUESTION: I wasn't suggesting it.
CARNEY: OK. Others have.
QUESTION: Did anything come out of last night's dinner that would show there is movement towards an agreement on the debt ceiling and deficit reduction? Anything specific?
CARNEY: Not that I'm aware of. This was obviously a big dinner. What I think does help the cause of bipartisan cooperation is sitting down with one another and having conversations, and realizing that through those conversations, that there are shared values and shared goals, and that just the -- having an event like that is useful in and of itself.
Now, I don't want to overstate it, because there have been dinners here in the past with bipartisan leaders of Congress, but it is part of an overall effort to bring Democrats and Republicans together so that an atmosphere is created that allows for the kind of really tough work that needs to be done to reach consensus and compromise on very hard issues, the kinds of issues that haven't been resolved in the past precisely because they are hard and because there is disagreement, honest disagreement about how we get from here to there, how we get the result, in the case of deficit reduction, the result that both parties and the president agree on, which is, in this case, $4 trillion of deficit reduction over 10 to 12 years.
So that, in and of itself, is a unifying point. And the president looks forward to the negotiations that will begin on Thursday at Blair House, led by the vice president.
Obviously, that will be the first of many meetings, we hope. We hope that it's productive and that it will lead to a process that will, in the end, achieve an agreement on some serious deficit reduction. Maybe not all of the issues will be resolved, but there certainly should be areas of compromise that we can find if everyone enters the building across the street with a spirit of compromise in their hearts. And that requires an acceptance that we're not going to get everything we want and nobody is if we're going to reach an agreement.
QUESTION: What areas of compromise is the vice president going to be bringing up?
CARNEY: Well, I will say that the vice president will bring to the table some serious ideas, but I'm not going to negotiate them here. But we are committed to the process, and we believe there is room for compromise and reason to believe that because the goal is shared, because the imperative is there, because the American people expect us to do this that we can actually get a result.
QUESTION: Has the administration been in touch with the members of the Gang of Six?
CARNEY: Well, we have had conversations with senators in and out of gangs, and -- the -- but it is safe to assume that we have had conversations -- that members of the administration have had conversations with members of that group and with everybody who takes this issue seriously and is putting on the table constructive ideas about how we can reduce our deficit, get the fiscal house in order in a balanced way that makes sure that responsibility is shared, that the prosperity is shared and that we don't do anything that actually reverses the progress that we have made in terms of the economic growth and job creation.
QUESTION: The pool said that there was audible laughter through the cabinet meeting room door. Can you talk about what the president's mood has been in the last couple of days since this mission was successful completed?
CARNEY: I don't know about laughter. I mean, I think that the -- there's a recognition in this building as there is across the government and across the country that what occurred on Sunday evening or Sunday afternoon was a historic event and a great victory for the American people. And a demonstration of the grit and resolve that Americans have when they have an objective. And when it seems like the goal is unachievable, Americans keep working. I think that is reflected in the spirit that is felt here and around the country.
What I will say, I was in a meeting with the president for over an hour yesterday and Sunday's events didn't come up. And what was reflective -- and it was a serious meeting about a serious policy issue. What I - what I took away from that was the observation and realization that this train never stops. There is work to be done all of the time on so many issues. And that is -- as significant as what happened Sunday is, and how important it is that the president will on Thursday to fully recognize the loss that took place on 9/11 and the sacrifices that have been made over this decade in this fight against al Qaeda, there are so many other issues as well that need his attention.
QUESTION: And so it is not like a visible weight lifted from his shoulders?
CARNEY: Not that I have seen. But I would not say that the weight was wearing on him. I was -- I think I mentioned yesterday that what was remarkable about Friday and that long day we had was in retrospect how capable he was of focusing on the issues that he was dealing with in Alabama, the terrible devastation that those tornadoes wrought on Tuscaloosa and the rest of the state. And then the meeting with Congresswoman Giffords and the crew at Cape Canaveral and then meeting and speaking to the graduating students at Miami-Dade.
And you know, again, in retrospect to look back and to think that this, too, was weighing on his mind and he had known that prior to getting on Marine One and flying out to Andrews he had signed off and said it is a go is rather remarkable.
QUESTION: Can you talk about the push of immigration in the White House in the last three or four weeks and how it is different from the previous three or four times (INAUDIBLE) pushed?
CARNEY: Well, it is not different, and it is again commitment and resolve. The fact that we were not, unfortunately, able to get immigration reform in the first two years does not lessen the commitment or the resolve to keep trying. And I think that this president, as you will see, in coming weeks, is committed to the need for comprehensive immigration reform. And that is what the meetings he has had and continues to have are about. And the push will continue. Because, he thinks it is important. It is hard, but it is important.
Yes? QUESTION: Jay, can I go back to the narrative just one more time?
QUESTION: When that assaulter entered the room, you said he was rushed by the woman, presumably, that is bin Laden's wife?
CARNEY: No, no, no.
CARNEY: Bin Laden's wife was on the first floor.
QUESTION: And she was shot in the leg.
QUESTION: OK. And then on the second or the third --
CARNEY: Yes, yes.
QUESTION: No -
CARNEY: Let me stop, let me stop
QUESTION: That is not what the narrative says.
QUESTION: Is that a narrative or discrepancy.
CARNEY: I apologize. Even I am getting confused. In the room with bin Laden was bin Laden's wife. She rushed one of the U.S. assaulters and was shot in the leg but not killed. A woman on the first floor was killed in the crossfire.
QUESTION: Okay. And bin Laden's wife was unarmed as well?
CARNEY: That is my understanding, yes.
QUESTION: OK. And there was no one else in the room?
CARNEY: We don't know. We don't know that.
QUESTION: Following on the same thing yesterday, Mr. Brennan suggested --
CARNEY: Sorry, Mark. Did you have -
QUESTION: Go ahead.
QUESTION: I had one more general thing.
CARNEY: I would be happy to continue on this.
QUESTION: The question I had more broadly was do you think that -- or is President Obama concerned that having taken out such a visible symbol of al Qaeda, whether or not it truly degrades al Qaeda as a network, that it will be more and more difficult for him to make the case to the American people that this effort is worth 100,000 troops, 80,000 troops? And if so, what steps can be made to continue the argument?
CARNEY: Well, he will continue to make the argument that we need to remain vigilant and we need to take the fight to al Qaeda. One of the things to remember about the approach here is that it was not solely about Osama bin Laden. And in fact, while he was focused on it, as has been evidenced by some of to information we've released including the memo from June of 2009, the effort itself, was not broadly focussed on one individual.
And again, his approach, I mean, you -- the increased pressure that this administration has put on al Qaeda in the border region has been reported on in great detail by your newspaper and many other outlets. And that is a function of, a result of his approach to this problem. The focus on al Qaeda that he felt had been lost in previous years when the focus was shifted from al Qaeda and Afghanistan to bin Laden onto Iraq.
One thing that, you know, that is always important to remember and bears repeating because I think that a lot of Americans don't realize is that more than 100,000 troops have been withdrawn under this president from Iraq. And that has freed up, and again it's part of the -- refocus of our attention on the Af-Pak region, refocus of our attention on al Qaeda, making that the goal of everything we're doing there, the principle, primary goal. The defeat - the ultimate defeat of al Qaeda that.
And that will continue, and there's no question that the case has to be continued to be made. But we are under no illusion that killing bin Laden will remove the threat entirely. We believe that he was an important symbolic figure in this, and that -- other al Qaeda leaders out there might be re-evaluating their safety and security as a result of what occurred Sunday. Because they will be hunted down, too. The fight doesn't stop.
QUESTION: In the narrative, which of those women was being used in the human shield as Mr. Brennan suggested?
CARNEY: Again, what I would say about that is, to use your phrase, "fog of war," "fog of combat" that there was a lot of information coming in. It is still unclear. The woman I believe you are talking about is the one on the first floor who was caught in the crossfire. Whether or not she was being used as a shield or trying to use herself as a shield or simply caught in crossfire is unclear. We are working on getting the details that we can.
QUESTION: And what the president called President Zardari --
CARNEY: If I can just point out, first of all, that the woman shot in the leg and physically assaulted the -- or attempted to assault or charge, rather, one of the U.S. assaulters. And that every effort was taken for those who were not engaged in an effort to resist to protect them, the nine combatants and it was rather extraordinary the number of individuals who were in the compound who were not posing a threat to the assaulters, that they were made secure and not harmed.
QUESTION: And when the president called President Zardari, was President Zardari aware of any of this action?
CARNEY: Well, you know, I don't know. It was obviously a number of hours afterwards, but -- I'm not sure if it had become public yet.
QUESTION: And from the first phone call that President Obama made that evening, was it to President Bush or --
CARNEY: I don't have the chronology on that. I'm not sure that that's the case. But it was one of the early phone calls.
Can we just -- I will get to you.
QUESTION: The events that took place on Sunday, do you think that they changed the atmosphere at all in which the debt ceilings discussions take place in a way that is perhaps more positive for the president?
CARNEY: I think that what happened on Sunday -- and I think that this is very important because it would be a shame if this became a piece in a partisan narrative -- because what the president feels very strongly about is that the accomplishment on Sunday was an American accomplishment and not a Republican or Democratic accomplishment, but the result of incredibly hard work, especially by a lot of unseen and unknown individuals in the military and in the intelligence community.
And it was the product of a focus that was brought to bear on bin Laden, on al Qaeda central, and that, you know, was -- and in the product of a very risky operation. The - what - to the extent that it affects the atmosphere, we obviously hope it affects it positively, because we believe it demonstrates the capacity of Americans to do big things when they work together and work on common goals. Obviously, nothing changes Washington overnight, and it does not erase -- a great success like that does not erase the real differences that we have on policy issues. But it does demonstrate, I think, a part of who we are as Americans. And that kind of positive indication we hope will carry through for at least a little while.
QUESTION: You mentioned that you hoped that people would --