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Osama bin Laden Photos; Escape Plan?

Aired May 4, 2011 - 19:00   ET


JOHN KING, HOST: Thanks Wolf and good evening everyone. Tonight the Taliban and other radical Islamists demand proof, but President Obama says no. He will not release photographs, we are told, show Osama bin Laden with a gunshot wound above his left eye and significant bloody damage to his skull. In making that decision, the president overruled his CIA director and accepted the advice of the secretaries of state and defense.

They worried releasing the graphic images could incite violence against Americans overseas and give al Qaeda and its allies a bloody propaganda tool. The president explains his decision in an interview with "60 Minutes."


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know we discussed this internally. Keep in mind that we are absolutely certain this was him. We've done DNA sampling and testing. And so there's no doubt that we killed Osama bin Laden. It is important for us to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence, as a propaganda tool. You know, that's not who we are.


KING: So no new bin Laden photos, but we do have dramatic other new images to share with you tonight. Let me walk over here to show you one, highlight new satellite imagery of the bin Laden compound. You take a look here as we bring up the new satellite image. This is after the raid. New satellite image. You see right along this road here, some apparent road blocks. Let's take a closer look.

You bring it out, you can see the road has been blocked, unclear as to whether bin Laden did that or whether that was done as part of the special operation force to keep anybody from escaping. That's one thing there. Now take a closer look here at the compound itself. This right here, right here, this is the wreckage of that Special Forces helicopters.

Remember, we've been told the details when they got in there, it had a mechanical failure and they had to blow that up on the way out. This is part of the damage here. Now here take a look at this, an even closer look at that wreckage and the compound. These images we're showing you now are from the Reuters News Agency and there are several snapshots of the helicopter and the wreckage of the compound itself.

Take a close look here. You can tell from the twisted metal of that helicopter wreckage it was in a fierce explosion. There are the rotors right there at the top. The Reuters News Agency releasing these photographs clearly showing that Blackhawk helicopter in the center of the compound and blown to pieces as those Navy SEALs evacuated.

Now the agency also released other photographs today. Those photographs show three men killed at the compound. One of them believed to be bin Laden's son. The other two believed to be al Qaeda couriers. I looked at these photos a short time ago. They are bloody, disturbing images. We may show them to you later but only after giving you fair warning that they are disturbing and warning so if you want to watch them you can clear any children from the room -- more on that a bit later.

CNN's Nic Robertson though has also had a good look at that compound and is with us live tonight from Abbottabad and Nic let's start with what these new photographs tell us. The helicopter exploded on the compound, a little bit more of a glimpse at the compound. You've been around it, doing reporting. What more did we learn about the operation when we look at these images?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we can see where the helicopter was. We can see how it was blown apart. And what was instantly clear to me when we arrived at the compound now, having seen those pictures, is the heavy lifting equipment, the Pakistani authorities have brought in -- apparently brought in earlier in the day, had removed the main parts of the debris of the helicopter.

We knew it had been blown up in situ and now we were able to see it in these photographs for the very first time. There were only tiny, tiny fragments of it lying around but it wasn't clear to us when we first got to the compound where the most -- where the larger parts were, were they were hidden inside the compound. Now we know some were outside and they had been lifted and taken away from the scene.

I think that's the first thing we learned from those photographs. From the photographs you're talking about that we're not showing at the moment, it certainly shows and indicates that the -- the sort of more of the narrative of what actually happened. We've heard from Pakistani intelligence, a source saying that three men were killed in there -- well they say four men actually, two brothers, one of bin Laden's sons and one of an unidentified male. That's what Pakistani intelligence sources say.

And the photographs now reveal how those men died or at least give us a better idea of how they actually died inside that compound. So I think these are the things we're beginning to learn. We're getting more of the narrative of what took place that night -- John.

KING: Nic, you've covered this region. You've covered al Qaeda for more than a decade now. What is your sense? The president says no, he will not release those photographs. What will the reaction be, especially among the radicals like the Taliban, like al Qaeda and its sympathizers?

ROBERTSON: I think among the sort of direct sympathizers there will be a very trimetric approach to this (INAUDIBLE) some of the sort of things that are paring (ph) on the Internet are if you're an al Qaeda member or an affiliate or whatever, you subscribe to that ideology and you've got an attack ready to take place, go ahead and make that attack now as revenge. Some are saying no, don't do that. We should wait.

We should wait until we're properly ready, then go ahead. And interestingly, I talked to a radical Islamist in London this evening and he told me that he believed that bin Laden was dead. Without seeing the pictures, he believed he's dead. However, he is going to use what influence, little influence he has to try and sort of raise the rabble, if you will, over this particular issue.

But here in Pakistan, it seems that the photographs are perhaps more important for the people of this city for them to believe actually what happened in this compound. This is not really to convince sympathizers that he's actually dead, but it's to convince people of this city that the events as described actually took place here. The head of Pakistan's Bar Association here told me that he wouldn't believe his government or the United States government about what happened in the compound until he saw photographic evidence of it.

So it's clear he's not going to get that. But neither is he the sort of person that's going to be -- very likely be a national terror threat to the United States, which is obviously what President Obama is worried about here -- John.

KING: Nic Robertson live for us tonight near the bin Laden complex in Pakistan, Nic, thank you.

Now more on the president's decision tonight not to release the grizzly photographs that he says proves Osama bin Laden is dead. The decision is made, but the debate is hardly over here in Washington and around the world. Dan Lothian live for us at the White House tonight -- Dan, in the end what brought the commander-in-chief down on the side of those arguing keep these photos under lock and key?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The bottom line is that the president thought that releasing the photos would cause more harm than good. That it would not be in the best national security interest of the country. And the president, we're told by aides, was very firm in his opinion that was shared by Secretary Gates and Secretary Clinton, but seemed, as you pointed out earlier, to contradict his CIA director who suggested yesterday that ultimately these photos would be released.

But nonetheless, the president today did, in an interview with "60 Minutes" talk about how the concern was that these photos could become a propaganda tool. He also compared releasing of the photos to spiking a football on the field in celebration and then the president adding in that interview that, quote, "We don't trot out this stuff as trophies". The bottom line is that the White House is very confident in the evidence that it has and does not believe that it would be able to convince the skeptics otherwise had they been released.

KING: Dan Lothian live at the White House, Dan, thanks. Among those who are arguing that the bin Laden photographs should be released, the veteran Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, who until this year was the longest serving member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Senator, you think the president's making a mistake not releasing these photos? Tell me why.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: I'm not going to judge the president on that. I would prefer to follow what the director of the CIA had to say, Leon Panetta. He feels they ought to be released, but I think it's a presidential decision. I'm going to back the president. I think, you know, it would be good for everybody in the world to actually recognize this is Osama bin Laden (INAUDIBLE) but -- and I've been truly informed that it is, and I think the president has to make this decision. I'll back him.

KING: You say you back him. At the same time, you just said you think the world should see the photographs. It's a bit of a conflict there.

HATCH: Well, there's a bit of a conflict because that's my personal feeling. But on the other hand, I think this is a presidential decision not my decision. And if he decides to not exhibit the photographs, then I would back the president on that.

KING: Your colleague Lindsey Graham, Republican from South Carolina, says not releasing the photos will prolong the debate about whether he's really dead. Is there anything else the president can do beyond releasing the photos which the president thinks "A" are graphic and could incite violence against Americans overseas?

HATCH: Well he is right on that and of course they release DNA evidence, but most people wouldn't understand what that was. So yes, I think that's probably true and that's one reason why I think the CIA director is right that it would be better to release the photographs, so everybody would know that they did get this man. And more importantly, it's important for all these terrorists to realize that we're going to hunt them down. It may take us years but we're going to get them and we're not going to put up with the wholesale slaying -- or slaying -- any kind of slaying of our people.

KING: You're trying to be respectful here, Senator, and I appreciate that, but when you say in one breath the CIA director is right, you are essentially saying that the president's wrong.

HATCH: No, I'm saying that I agree with Leon Panetta --

KING: And he says release them and the president says don't release them --

HATCH: Right, right --

KING: So -- HATCH: Well, but again, I agree with Leon. I think that it would be better to release the photographs so that it clears up any confusion. On the other hand it may very well be -- there may very well be good reasons why the president doesn't want to do that. And I think it is a presidential decision, not the CIA director's decision. And, you know, there are a lot of things I differ with the president on. But this would not be one, if he makes that decision.

KING: There's a debate going on right now about where the intelligence, the key intelligence came from. There are people like Congressman Peter King, like the man who used to run the CIA's counterterrorism program, who say enhanced interrogation tactics, those controversial tactics that could include waterboarding led to some of these clues.

There are people including the Obama White House, Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee, who say no, none of the information came from those controversial tactics and Leon Panetta, the CIA director himself told NBC yesterday you know we can't ever be really sure. Yes, some of the people we got information from were in those programs but you can't be sure. Do you know?

HATCH: Well I can't disclose what I know about it but I can say this, that there's no question that the waterboarding worked in a wide variety of ways. It helped prevent terrorist activities in this country. You know I'm not a fan of waterboarding but the fact of the matter is it did work. It certainly worked in the case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others as well.

There were three who were water-boarded and we got significant information from all three. Some of which identified this courier who was the basis upon which they found Osama bin Laden. So it's nice to second-guess these things but I can tell you right now that we got a lot of information from the waterboarding that we would not have gotten otherwise and it's been very helpful to our intelligence people.

KING: Senator Hatch, appreciate your time tonight, sir.

HATCH: Nice to be with you.

KING: We at CNN are closely watching the reaction overseas. And I'm told the relative calm so far is one reason Secretary Clinton and Gates argued forcefully against releasing the bin Laden photos. Their argument, why risk stoking emotions when so far at least there have been no retaliatory strikes against American installations overseas and only tiny anti-American or pro-bin Laden demonstrations, like this small marked (ph) funeral for the al Qaeda leader today in Multan (ph), Pakistan.






KING: Powerful images there, but worth noting, a very, very modest crowd on hand for that, very modest. There's no doubt, however, the president's decision will feed conspiracy theories and the doubts of people like these everyday Pakistanis.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They kill Osama in Afghanistan and they carry his dead body here in Abbottabad and so they drum up to the whole world that Pakistan's a terrorist country and Osama is here in Abbottabad. It's possible that they kill him in Afghanistan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pakistani government (INAUDIBLE) that he was here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) then why are they not showing his body?


KING: Another new satellite image out of Pakistan we want to show you tonight. As you know, in the past three days, we've discussed how the bin Laden compound, how possibly could he have been in this giant compound so close, so close to the Pakistani equivalent of West Point? This is the big Pakistan military academy, this red line around the perimeter of that complex, this, the bin Laden compound, tiny distance away. One of the reasons there are so many questions tonight about what did the Pakistan military -- what did the Pakistani intelligence services know about bin Laden living here for possibly several years?

Still ahead tonight what was Osama bin Laden reaching for when he was shot? The chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee tells us just ahead.

And up next, now that bin Laden is dead, where is his number two, and how powerful is al Qaeda's punch?


KING: Today we learned Osama bin Laden had 500 Euros, that's about $745, and two phone numbers sewn in the clothing, his clothing, when he was killed. What exactly was his escape plan and what more does Sunday's raid tell us about the world's most wanted terrorist? Joining us now CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank, also CNN national security contributor Fran Townsend who was President Bush's homeland security adviser.

Paul what does it tell you? That's not a lot of money. I'm more curious I think about the phone numbers than I am about the money. But what does it tell you?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well that's right. It's not a lot of money, about $800 and it tells you that he's probably trying to go somewhere nearby, probably within Pakistan, perhaps to a second safe house. And those two numbers perhaps related to people that could help him get to a second safe house, John.

KING: And so, Fran, if the goal is with a modest amount of money, a second safe house, if he was safe in one house in Pakistan and thought he had a second safe house in Pakistan, what's that tell you about the ISI or the Pakistani government?

FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Let's remember, John, he didn't -- he couldn't have planned on traveling very far. This is a -- nearly seven foot tall man who is going to stand out in a town, Abbottabad, which houses their version of -- the Pakistani version of West Point and many retired military officers. My -- I'd suggest to you, John, he didn't plan on leaving Abbottabad. And frankly that tells me there's a great indication of Pakistani complicity, at least among some retired officers.

KING: The other breaking news today, in addition to finding out these details about what he had on his body, the money and the phone numbers, is the president's decision, Fran, to say no, I'm not going to release those photographs. I think the risks outweigh the benefits. Right call, bad call?

TOWNSEND: A bad call. I mean look, John, let's start with it seems the president is terribly concerned with foreign opinion when most Americans want to see these photographs. And, John, we've spent over 10 years, billions of taxpayer dollars. I think if they want to see them, they ought to be released.

During the Bush administration, we released a number of photos -- Saddam's son, Zarqawi. We didn't see any increased inflammation of the Muslim community. If they're inflamed, they're inflamed over the fact that we killed bin Laden. I don't see that there's any reason, frankly, to withhold these.

And the person in the best position to assess that risk, after all, is Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, who seems to be perfectly supportive of the photographs being released. So I mean I'm just -- the president has made an issue here that I think he could have avoided. This is -- he's made a courageous decision. He ought to own it.

KING: Well, but Paul, what about -- what about the advice from Secretary Clinton? She's in charge obviously of those U.S. embassies overseas. And she says, you know what, Mr. President, almost 72 hours now, we haven't seen any attacks. Secretary Gates of the Defense Department was once a CIA chief. He says you know Mr. President, if you look around the world, it is relatively calm. There have not been a lot of anti-American protests. There have not been any strikes against us. Why would we incite what seems to be, thank God, a relatively calm situation?

CRUICKSHANK: Well, images like these could, of course, inflame the situation somewhat. But at the same time, there's a danger that if there are no images out there, people who support al Qaeda, who admire bin Laden, will continue to believe that he's alive and that myth will continue. And that could also be dangerous, John.

KING: Let's talk a bit about what we expect. You both know the intelligence business incredibly well. When we talk about 10 hard drives, five computers, 100 storage devices, and you know the history of al Qaeda, Paul, to you, first, what's there?

CRUICKSHANK: Well what really strikes me about this, there's all these thumb drives there, there's these couriers coming in, there's all this information on his hard drive. Is bin Laden sort of getting information from a network about their activities and is he passing on instructions back? Was bin Laden more operationally involved than perhaps we thought, John? I think that's a question that we have to ask right now.

KING: And so Fran, which way do you see it? In the sense that if I'm an al Qaeda operative around the world and I believe that bin Laden has been killed and I believe that the United States may now have the plans, casing a building maybe, diagrams of a building, maybe a document that says here are some targets in the future, do you act quickly before they can act on that intelligence or do you lay low for a while?

TOWNSEND: Well John, officials myself included when I was in the government, always fear the -- you know, launch the operation before you lose the opportunity. But that -- to the extent you're worried about that, you're worried about that in about the first 72 hours. When that hasn't happened, let's remember in the end, John, these operatives, it's a survival instinct.

And so your best course of action if you're one of these operatives, and you fear having been revealed, is to go -- you know is to go to bed. That is make sure you lay low. Go some place you've never been before and literally stay quiet for a protracted period of time.

KING: You agree with that assessment, Paul? I guess the flip side is if you think in a day or two they're going to find your name on a drive or they're going to find your plan on a drive, you better move quickly.

CRUICKSHANK: Well that's right, but al Qaeda is more decentralized now than it was in the 1990s so they may not be able to unravel the whole leadership. But I think Ayman al Zawahiri is in some jeopardy right now because western intelligence believe that he was in somewhat close geographic proximity to bin Laden in recent years and also perhaps in communication with him, so Zawahiri could be next, John.

KING: Is he in charge, Paul, to you first? Is there any doubt in your mind that he is now the new number one?

CRUICKSHANK: Well according to the bylaws of al Qaeda, the number two takes over, but it has to be rubberstamped by the al Qaeda Shura Council, so Zawahiri is now, I think, the de facto leader of al Qaeda, John. KING: And, Fran, from your days in the Bush administration, what is different, what is different in terms of how they operate, maybe how they target between bin Laden and al Zawahiri?

TOWNSEND: Well, al Zawahiri doesn't have the sort of presence and the reach, even inside his own organization. He doesn't have bin Laden's charisma nor does he have the fealty that you know each member of al Qaeda swore bayat (ph), loyalty, to bin Laden and to the organization, not to Zawahiri. And he doesn't -- it will be difficult for him to extend the power and -- of guidance and direction throughout the organization.

I mean I think over time we're going to have to watch to see what chaos this causes inside al Qaeda and whether or not somebody younger, more charismatic, like al Awlaki, the Yemeni preacher, whether or not they rise in the organization.

KING: And let me ask each of you, lastly, Fran, to you first, if you were still in the government and you were reading the chatter, getting the reports every day, what is the single biggest thing you would be looking for right now three days out?

TOWNSEND: Oh absolutely John, I'm looking at -- the reason you heard in hearings today, Eric Holder asked about whether or not he's adding people to -- we expect to add people to the watch list. My fear would be in the immediate aftermath that those operatives who might be revealed in the data but we don't -- we're not aware of yet, their true names would try to cross the border and get in before we know who they are. And so I think I would be most concerned with al Qaeda operatives trying at the last minute to get in while they still could.

KING: What next, Paul?

CRUICKSHANK: Well, there is this fear of revenge attacks. The Pakistani Taliban issued a threat two days ago against the United States. That has to be seen as somewhat credible because of the attempt on Times Square of May of last year. So that will be looked at very, very closely. Also, there's a risk that someone unconnected to al Qaeda or a Jihadist group, an al Qaeda sympathizer, some are in the West, in the United States, may also choose this moment to try and do something. There's obviously that concern right now. And there will be a lot of attention to that, John.

KING: Paul Cruickshank, Fran Townsend, appreciate your excellent insights tonight as always --

TOWNSEND: Thanks John.

KING: Thank you, both.

Still ahead here, Fareed Zakaria on the next big test for President Obama --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the most important strategic issue that's come out of bin Laden's death.


KING: But first, Osama bin Laden's final moments, new details tonight from the chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.


KING: One key lawmaker who agrees with the president's decision not to release the bin Laden photos is the influential chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Democrat Dianne Feinstein of California. She joins us now from Capitol Hill. A lot to talk about Senator, let's begin there, as you know, some people around the world and even some of your colleagues say wait a minute, Mr. President, if the goal of the operation was to prove he's dead, we need to prove he's dead.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, there's DNA that's dispositive. It's conclusive, and the only reason really to produce the photo at this time would be to incite and I see no need to do that. We're a little different than the terrorists are. I mean we went out of our way in this mission not to hurt children and to the best of our ability not to hurt women.

As a matter of fact, there were 13 children in there and they're all alive and none were wounded. And there was a problem with one or two women, but that was it. And the team went out of its way to see that there was minimal collateral damage and that's appreciated.

KING: Well let's talk a bit about that. You received a briefing today from the CIA director, Leon Panetta, and the commander of the special operation forces, Admiral McRaven. As you know, the White House has now acknowledged bin Laden was not armed. And some people, we expect his allies in the world, his sympathizers in the world will take issue with that. Tell us what you know specifically about the moment he was shot in the chest and the head and how he was behaving.

FEINSTEIN: Well, there were arms directly near the door and my understanding is he was right there and going to get those arms. So, you know, you really can't take a chance. This is the number one target. This is the mastermind that killed 3,000 of our citizens and there had to be justice. And the only way to achieve that justice is a life for a life in this case.

KING: To the degree you can, Senator, I know a lot of this is sensitive, but to the degree you can, can you describe that scene in a bit more detail? You say you were told that there were arms nearby?

FEINSTEIN: No, I -- no, I've described it in the detail I'm going to describe it to say I believe he was preparing to resist and that's why the shots were taken.

KING: More important issues to discuss. But on the issue of the photo release, do you think Mr. Panetta got too far ahead of himself? Yesterday, he said they would be released. The question was when, not if. Obviously, Secretary Clinton, Secretary Gates and some others convinced the president, "Don't do it, sir."

FEINSTEIN: Well, look, I think Leon Panetta has done a super job. This whole mission was under his direction. And it was carried out and -- with Admiral McRaven and JSOC, it was a very complicated, well-put together, carefully studied mission.

And the aim was to be able to apprehend or kill Osama bin Laden. And that aim was carried out. And it was carried out with minimum collateral damage.

They went out of their way not to use the B2, not to use hellfire missiles. But to send in a team to be as precise as possible and spare as many lives as possible. And I believe they did just that, and I'm proud of them.

KING: We're almost 72 hours out now, Senator. And, knock on wood, no retaliatory strikes against U.S. military or diplomatic installations. No retaliatory strikes against what you might call American targets, hotel chains or anything like that in this country or around the world.

What's the chatter? You have the privilege to have access to the chatter. What are they saying, the terrorists?

FEINSTEIN: Well, I don't believe there are any precise -- there's any precise intelligence at the moment about an attack.

I believe there are people trying to put an attack together. It may be a lone wolf. It may be people in Yemen, in Somalia. We don't really know.

But there's every effort being made by all of the departments that are involved in this to protect the homeland. And I might say -- I've been on this committee for 10 years now, and intelligence has been streamlined, analysis has been improved, red teams are being used. It is a much better analytic body than it was prior to 9/11.

KING: We have -- I'm sorry.

FEINSTEIN: No, I was going to say -- and I think this mission proved that.

KING: We have heard nothing publicly from the al Qaeda communications wing. We have heard from the Taliban statements like "prove it," to the president of the United States. We know they have not acknowledged the death of Osama bin Laden. In the private chatter that you have access to, are the terrorists discussing the death of their leader?

FEINSTEIN: Well, I haven't seen any of that, candidly. What I've seen are the threat assessments today and yesterday. But I haven't seen that kind of chatter. So, I can't answer that question, John.

KING: What should the United States do about Pakistan? Leon Panetta told the briefing of Congress yesterday, either they're grossly incompetent or knew they had bin Laden in their midst and did nothing.

FEINSTEIN: Well, it looks like bin Laden and his family lived there for six years. They lived in $1 million compound, eight times bigger than anything around it, 12 and 18-foot tall walls, encamped with barbed wire. Questions must have been asked.

Now, whether questions were asked and the ISI said, "Leave it alone," I don't know. Whether there were benign negligence or purposeful negligence -- I don't know. But within a mile or so of a military academy, with an intelligence office in the area, it is very surprising, I think, to all of us that one could believe that the Pakistanis did not know this.

KING: Would you give them another $100 million, billion, up to about $20 billion in recent years -- would you give them more money until you had crystal clear proof things would be different?

FEINSTEIN: Well, I think that's something to consider. I use the word "consider," because I think it's important. United States would like to have a positive relationship with Pakistan. We would like to have a true partnership. We would like to be able to be allies in the war on terror.

It's very hard when you give the Haqqani network safe harbor in North Waziristan and they are attacking our people in Afghanistan.

It's very hard when you see they won't turn over the inspirational leader and the operational leader of the Mumbai attacks.

It's very hard when you know, now, bin Laden's been living there for al these years, and -- to believe -- well, we just didn't know.

So, there's going to have to be I think some element of proof put forward. I think there's going to have to be some element from the Pakistanis that we want to be an ally, that we want to be a friend, that we want to join you and walk down the same side of the street with respect to terror.

I'm convinced that if they don't do this, that one day, you will see radical elements take over Pakistan. That's the risk that's here. We don't want to see that. I don't believe the Pakistani military or the civilian government wants to see that either.

KING: Dianne Feinstein, I appreciate your time today.

FEINSTEIN: Thank you, John.

KING: Up next: the president explains his decision not to release the photographs that he says show Osama bin Laden dead.

And several members of the United States Senate -- well, they're embarrassed tonight trying to explain now how they could have been fooled shown a fake photo of bin Laden and telling people they saw the real thing.


If you're just joining us, here's the latest news you need to know right now:

Today, "Reuters" published photos it says were taken by a Pakistani security official about an hour after U.S. forces left bin Laden's compound in Pakistan. The pictures show the wreckage of a U.S. helicopter abandoned and blown up during that raid. Other pictures we have seen tonight show three dead men in pools of blood.

Today's other big news, President Obama decided against releasing photos or video of Osama bin Laden's corpse. The president told CBS News he did not want to incite additional violence against Americans.

Already, there's talk of lawsuits to force the release of those photo, perhaps under the Freedom of Information Act. Is there a sound legal case?

We asked CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.


JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: You have no case at all. This is the kind of issue, a matter relating to national security, that is absolutely within the exclusive purview of the president of the United States and no court is going to instruct him to do one thing or another. It's his decision alone.

KING: His decision alone, even though, could I make the case -- well, Abu Ghraib was sensitive national security. They released some photographs there. I believe there were photographs of Saddam Hussein's execution released as well. Can I make a case in court that the government can't select when it releases and when it doesn't?

TOOBIN: Those other examples were unauthorized leaks. I think all of us in the news business and I think all of us who are citizens are glad that the public got to see that material because it turned out to be very important.

But in terms of an authorized release, in terms of the government deciding to release a matter -- a photograph that the president says could jeopardize national security if it's released -- no court is going to authorize, is going to force, the president or his administration to do it.

Now, the world being what it is, these photographs may leak. Someone may do it in an unauthorized way. But, certainly, the legal process is not going to be the route for these things -- these photos to be released.

KING: And if that's the case, then, it's the declassification process years down the road. If they don't leak and if you're right about the courts, we're going to wait a while.

TOOBIN: We are certainly going to wait a very long time. This is where the president's power is at its absolute peak, a matter of national security, a decision made as commander-in-chief. The courts will not get involved with it. Whether there's a leak, whether the president changes his mind -- those are separate issues. The courts will have nothing to do with it.

KING: Our senior legal analyst Jeff Toobin -- Jeff, thanks.

TOOBIN: Thanks, John.


KING: Tonight, there are some highly embarrassed senators on Capitol Hill. They told reporters they'd been shown pictures of Osama bin Laden's body. What they may have seen, fakes.

Let's go to CNN senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash.

I'm using the term "embarrassing." It might be worse than that.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think I'm just going to use the word "bizarre" right now, John. It really is bizarre, because it does seem that some senators may have been misled by what looked like fake photographs.

And, basically, this morning, we were told by several senators that they've seen photographs, they described them. Many of them say that they used the photos to form an opinion about whether or not the photos should be released. Well, it turns out this afternoon several of them are saying they may not have been authentic.

Let's start with Saxby Chambliss. He maybe is the most perplexing. He is somebody who is respected. He is on the Armed Services Committee. He is a top Republican on the Intelligence Committee in the Senate. And he told our Ted Barrett and other reporters this morning, quote, "What you would" -- describing the photos, he said, they are "what you would expect from somebody who's been shot in the head. It's not pretty. Let me just clarify, it was the one photo he was describing.

Then, in the afternoon, after sort of it became clear that some of these may not have been actually legitimate, Saxby Chambliss told myself and a few other reporters that actually it wasn't an official photo. Help said it's not sure whether it was actually authentic, he said he was shown it on an electronic device.

He said, quote, "The photo I saw was shown to me by somebody who represented it as being a picture of him" -- him meaning bin Laden -- "after he was shot. I have no idea where it came from."

So, why does this matter? Obviously, the thing we were -- we've all been wanting to know is what do these photos look like? Because so few people have seen them. They were not shown any of the official briefings in the Senate, in the House. But these senators said they saw them and it turns out maybe they weren't really seeing them.

KING: Not just Saxby Chambliss though, right? BASH: Not just him. Senators Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire also told us that they had -- and other reporters, that they had seen the photographs. In the case of Kelly Ayotte, she also described what she saw, saying he was shot in the face. She -- in her case, she said that the photos should be released based on what she saw. Scott Brown used it to make the case that he did not believe the photos should be released.

Again, later today, Kelly Ayotte said she now can't say that it was authentic. She was also shown it on an electronic device, likely a BlackBerry by a fellow senator. And Scott Brown is saying pointblank he thinks that the photo he talked about was just not authentic.

KING: Dana Bash for us on Capitol Hill -- the old Ronald Reagan phrase comes to mind, "trust but verify." Highly embarrassing for members of the Senate. Thanks, Dana.

Ahead here: now that Osama bin Laden has been killed, what's next for al Qaeda? And will there be a deep chill in U.S.'s relations with Pakistan? We'll ask CNN's Fareed Zakaria. That's next.


KING: So, did the president make the right call in deciding not to release the photos of Osama bin Laden? And what now for al Qaeda after the death of its charismatic leader?

Let's get some perspective from CNN's Fareed Zakaria. Fareed, right call or wrong call in not putting the photos out to prove convincingly bin Laden is dead?

FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, CNN'S FAREED ZAKARIA GPS: I think it's the right call, as long as they will provide a lot of other evidence, DNA reports, perhaps more testimony from some of the people involved in the actual operation in some way -- though, of course, not the actual soldiers. You wouldn't want to specify who it was who killed bin Laden.

I think that the decision was made that the photographs are probably inflammatory. That they demonstrate that bin Laden was -- you know, was shot in the head, which is not a pretty sight, and that there was a potential for it being misused. And weighing against that is the question of the conspiracy theories and such.

I think that as long as you can provide very convincing evidence that he is, in fact, dead, this will be fine. I would have maybe phrased it a little differently. I would have said for several years, we will not release the photographs. At some point, as a matter of historical record, I hope the United States will release them. But I do think at this moment, it's probably better to let cooler heads prevail.

KING: Without a doubt, this is a coup for the president and a coup for the United States after 9 1/2 very frustrating years, getting bin Laden. How much, if at all, is the administration's rollout, the administration's credibility undermined by the inconsistencies?

For example, the talk of perhaps a human shield, the woman used as a human shield, they say now that necessarily that didn't happen. First, they said there was a firefight. And bin Laden was unarmed. Now, they say he was unarmed.

Does that matter?

ZAKARIA: No, I think that this is more a sign of the 24-cable news and the requirements of this very hungry beast.

Look, the reality is you know how these things happen. We all know how they happen. You have a small number of people who actually know what happened. And then everyone else -- it's all hearsay. Everyone -- it's a kind of a game of telephone. And so, some things get muddled.

As long as it gets straightened out, I don't think anyone is going to feel as though there was any kind of, you know, either incompetence or conspiracy in the fact that there were some elements of the story that were not 100 percent.

KING: Amid what many would call a celebration and certainly a significant achievement, the death of bin Laden, there's a very troubling thing, and that is the total lack of trust between the United States and Pakistan -- a country that is supposed to be a partner in the war on terrorism. Leon Panetta telling "TIME" magazine, we didn't tell them because we didn't trust them. We thought they would tip off bin Laden.

What happens now? Will there be a deep chill in relations? Or does the president of the United States need to try to do something to reset this relationship?

ZAKARIA: Well, you put your finger on it, John. This is the most important strategic issue that's come out of bin Laden's death. The fact that it just -- common sense tells you that some elements of the Pakistani military had to know that there was this fortress-like house, eight times larger than every other house in the area, a mile away from what is Pakistani's West Point.

The problem is, with Pakistan, you can very easily describe the dilemma, describe the problem. Pakistani is not fully cooperating in the war on terror. It is being selective. But it's not easy to come up with a solution.

So, is the answer then to cut off all aid to Pakistan and put relations into a further chill? Well, that's not really going to get you very much. In fact, last time we did that, it threw them further into the arms of radicals.

Is the answer to do more? Well, some of the people we support do seem to be playing a double game.

I think at the end of the day, this is a wonderful illustration of the fact that if foreign policy, sometimes problems are not solved, they're managed. And the best way probably to manage this is what the administration has been doing, which is to maintain relations with Pakistan, to try to help strengthen Pakistani civil society.

I myself think there should be very sharp limits on the kind of funding to the Pakistani military until it is abundantly clear that the military is fully cooperating.

One final thing you could do with Pakistan that we never have really done in a serious way. The United States could encourage India to play a larger role in Afghanistan. This would drive the Pakistanis crazy because it is, of course, their great fear.

But the Indians would like to. It would be natural. They're the largest power in the region. That might get the Pakistani's attention. I mean, a way of saying, look, if you guys are not going to fully cooperate, we can only keep the Indians at bay so long and then you have to deal with the 800-pound gorilla in your region, which will have a dominant influence in Afghanistan.

But the truth of the matter is, this is a tough one and there aren't a lot of easy answers.

KING: And that is one of the big debates.

Another debate -- and we've had people in here over the last 48 hours who disagree on this question -- is what happens now to al Qaeda? Does the death of bin Laden kill al Qaeda, or does the death of bin Laden just bring about a different al Qaeda? You're an optimist on this question.

ZAKARIA: I'm an optimist. I'm an optimist partly because, John, from about two years into 9/11, I began arguing that it was absolutely clear that al Qaeda was on the ropes, that this was an organization that had thrived on the fact that nobody noticed it, that it was operating under the radar.

Now, with the combined power of the world's governments chasing it, chasing its people, tracking its bank accounts, stopping people from passing money and messages, they were having a much harder time. Bin Laden was not able to execute any major terrorist attack in 10 years. What happened in London and Madrid were smaller attacks by splinter groups or associated groups. Al Qaeda central had really become a video production unit. And then it became an audio production unit because they couldn't even put out the videotapes. So, I thought they were on the ropes anyway.

Then, comes the "Arab Spring" -- which demonstrates their basic rational for being. The whole point of al Qaeda was the only way you can get rid of Arab tyrannies is through Islamic extremist violence. Well, it turns out, no, there's a simpler democratic path. And that's what people wanted.

And then you have the death of this charismatic founding father -- this symbol of the entire movement. It strikes me as a very tough series of blows to recover from. KING: Let me ask one last question here: was this a bold singular decision by our president that is just isolated to this or did we learn something fundamental about Barack Obama here?

ZAKARIA: I think he is -- I think it was a bold decision. He is a steely character. He's very unsentimental. Some people say too unsentimental. But here, you see the upside of that kind of unsentimental approach.

The more interesting decision which I think Obama deserves credit for was the doubling down and tripling down on counterterrorism as a way of fighting the war on terror. This was Obama's big decision.

On the AfPak region, he made two decisions. One was: Pakistan is as much a part of the problem as Afghanistan is. And the second was: there was going to be a massive increase in counterterrorism efforts, best symbolized by the almost quadrupling of the drone attacks in Pakistan. There were lots more resources devoted to counterterrorism.

The death of bin Laden, the assassination of bin Laden is in some sense a fruit of that increased investment in counterterrorism. And I think Obama deserves credit for that.

KING: Fareed Zakaria, as always, thanks.

ZAKARIA: Pleasure.

KING: Tomorrow, four days after the death of bin Laden, the president of the United States visits the N September 11th Memorial. That's next.


KING: We'll be live tomorrow night from Ground Zero in New York. The president going there to lay a wreath at the National 9/11 Memorial and to visit with 9/11 families. Hope to see you then.

That's all for us tonight.

"IN THE ARENA," right now.