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THE SITUATION ROOM
Inside the bin Laden Compound; President Obama Visits Ground Zero; 'Valuable Information' From Osama bin Laden; Pakistan Admits Intel 'Shortcomings'; Growing Fascination With Navy SEALs; Pakistan Admits Intel 'Shortcomings'
Aired May 5, 2011 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Brooke, thanks very much.
Happening now, new evidence that Osama bin Laden had been hiding in his mansion fortress for months, possibly several years. Stand by for fresh details on the raid that killed him and the secret surveillance leading up to the assault.
President Obama pays tribute to bin Laden's 9/11 victims, trying to give their families some measure of comfort. I'll talk to the former New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani, about Mr. Obama's visit to Ground Zero. Giuliani was with the president all day.
And they're the military's superstars right now, but they are also shrouded in secrecy. We'll visit the home of the Navy SEALs team credited with killing bin Laden to get a glimpse of where they live and why these commandos are prepared to die.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
This hour, we have a more detailed account of the resistance inside Osama bin Laden's hideout when Navy SEALs raided the compound and killed him. And we're learning more about the surveillance that persuaded President Obama to order the assault in the first place.
Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, has been doing lots of digging on this story.
She's joining us now with more on what's called Operation Neptune Spear.
We just learned the name of this operation -- Barbara, what are you learning?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, what we now know, according to U.S. officials very familiar with what transpired, over the last many months and weeks, the U.S. had information that a tall man had been seen at this compound walking around essentially in the compound yard -- not leaving the compound, just walking around inside. They never were able to identify it was bin Laden. But after repeated walkarounds, they came to believe it most likely was. That was part of the reason they went after this. Let's very quickly look at this compound schematic. We can now tell you exactly how it all went down. The commandoes, the Navy SEALs first entered the building you see basically along the southeast wall. This is a small guest house. In there, they shot and killed the Kuwaiti courier that was so close to bin Laden. Now that is the only man that was able to shoot against the SEALs. This was the only armed resistance. You know, initially, a lot of talk about a continuous firefight. But as more information has come to light, officials say that was not correct. This was the only guy, the courier in the guest house, that got any shots off against the SEALs.
The SEALs then moved north across the compound, to that three story building. On the main floor, they killed the courier's brother. As they went up the staircase, Osama bin Laden's son came down the staircase at them. They shot and killed him. Neither the son or the brother of the courier was able to get off a shot. We are told the SEALs fired very quickly. They moved up the staircase, which had some barricades and they found bin Laden in that third floor room, burst in the door, shot him once in the chest, once in the head.
There were weapons in the room. They feel that bin Laden was moving at the time, moving toward the weapons. That posed a threat. That's when they took their double tap two shots to kill him -- Wolf.
BLITZER: If bin Laden would have raised his hands and said, "I surrender," would the Navy SEALs have taken him in that helicopter back to Afghanistan, maybe eventually to the United States?
STARR: The thing we are told -- and let me be very precise about this -- is, yes, if Osama bin Laden has put -- had put up his hands, stopped moving and said, "I surrender," they were not in an execute mode, they were in a capture or kill mode.
But the reality is no one expected bin Laden to do that. They expected him to make a move. And the slightest move by Osama bin Laden was very much perceived as a threat. They did not know if he had a suicide vest, a grenade in his hands. And given bin Laden's record, I don't think the Navy SEALs were in any mood to take a chance against him.
BLITZER: Yes. Well, OK.
Let's get to the president, his trip to Ground Zero today, his meeting with 9/11 heroes and families. It was a restrained, but moving day for this commander-in-chief, so soon after America's most wanted terrorist was kind his watch. The president, by the way, is now back at the White House.
Our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry, is in New York.
He stayed behind at Ground Zero to give us an update.
This was a very emotional, moving day for the president, coming only a few days after bin Laden was killed.
ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It really was, Wolf. And this is a White House that's gotten frustrated with the media, suggesting this president doesn't emote enough. For example, after the oil spill in the Gulf, that people are looking for these big, dramatic moments, like Ronald Reagan after the shuttle blew up or -- or Bill Clinton after the Oklahoma City bombing. So today was all about the personal stories. The president went to a firehouse where they lost 15 of their men on 9/11. Then he went to the 1st Precinct Police Department near Ground Zero. They were first on the scene. One of their men was lying under the rubble for hours, but somehow survived, rescued by some of his fellow men.
Then the president came here to Ground Zero, laid a wreath and met families, including a 14-year-old girl who lost her dad, who just wrote a letter to the president a few days ago. The president invited her and her mom, her sister, one of her friends here. And this was all about, when the president did speak at the firehouse, about trying to send a message that bin Laden dying maybe will now bring some closure.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I wanted to just come up here to thank you. This is a symbolic site of the extraordinary sacrifice that was made on that terrible day almost 10 years ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: I'll give you a idea of the kind of stories the president was trying to -- the people he was trying to reach. I met a 10-year- old boy, Chris Canazero (ph), from Staten Island, right outside Ground Zero. His father was killed, a fireman. And he had a medal around his neck with his dad's photo. He was just a few months old when his dad perished. He's now 10 years old as we come up on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. So sad.
But this kid was so brave and told me, I'm so proud that the president came here and remembered my dad. And he said, I'm also going to tell my fellow fifth graders I got to fist-bump the president -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Very cute.
You know, and, yes, an emotional day today. But he's got another one tapped for tomorrow. Tell our viewers what he's planning on doing.
HENRY: He's going to be going to Fort Campbell in Kentucky. Now, he is going to meet with some of the members of the Navy SEALs, some of the team -- the elite team that was able to take out Osama bin Laden. But, also, he's going to try to send a message to the troops that, look, this is a big victory in the war against terrorism, but the bottom line is that it's not over. We've still got 100,000 troops in Afghanistan. In fact, I've got this little button -- you may not be able to make it out. But I bought it on the streets of Manhattan this morning on the way to Ground Zero. It says, "mission accomplished 5-1-11," the night Osama bin Laden was killed.
The president's message tomorrow is clearly going to be mission not accomplished -- a very loaded phrase, obviously, in American politics after the war in Iraq and what President Bush did with that famous speech. He'll be very careful tomorrow to make sure people remember this war is far from over -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. He'll thank those Navy SEALs, though, for a job well done.
Ed, thank you.
Bin Laden's victims at the Pentagon were also remembered today. The vice president, Joe Biden, took part in a wreath laying ceremony over at the Pentagon Memorial. He met privately with 9/11 families and first responders, as well.
Jack Cafferty has certainly been following the bin Laden story.
He's joining us now with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Leon Panetta, the head of the CIA, said earlier this week that intelligence collected from detainees who were waterboarded provided clues that eventually helped the United States track down Osama bin Laden. Waterboarding, which is the simulated drowning of prisoners until they agree to tell us things, is no longer legal, thanks to President Obama. It was one of the first things he did as president.
The Bush administration before him had been harshly criticized for what some said was legalizing torture.
Panetta, in the past, has said that enhanced interrogation techniques, like waterboarding, is torture and is morally wrong. But he also said the debate about this stuff will continue for probably forever.
Some former members of the Bush administration and a handful of other Republicans were quick to defend the practice in the wake of Osama bin Laden's death. Former Vice President Dick Cheney -- no surprise; former Justice Department official John Yoo and Congressman Peter King from New York all said in interviews this week that information obtained through enhanced interrogation techniques used on prisoners, things like waterboarding, was key to the successful raid on Osama bin Laden's Pakistani hideout.
None of these men is really in a position to know this for certain. And there's been no official statement or any proof that any information gained from prisoners by using these interrogation techniques ultimately led to the killing of Osama bin Laden.
So here's the question -- it's a kind of does the end justify the means thing -- does getting Osama bin Laden justify the use of enhanced interrogation techniques such as waterboarding?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog.
BLITZER: You're going to get a lot of different opinions, I suspect, Jack.
Thanks very much.
Bin Laden's wife is now talking to Pakistani officials, we're told. It turns out she was holed up in that compound where he died for years.
How long was the Al Qaeda leader hiding there?
We're getting new information.
And we'll take you to the hometown of the Navy SEALs who killed bin Laden and explain why a ticker tape welcome home parade is not an option.
BLITZER: Pakistan is promising to launch an investigation into what it acknowledges as an intelligence shortcoming in the wake of bin Laden's death. But it's warning the United States Sunday's raid could jeopardize further cooperation with American forces.
CNN's senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, is in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where new details about bin Laden are just surfacing.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What we are learning about bin Laden's compound here is still only fragmentary and it's still hard to verify. But we do know that the land around here was purchased in 2004 and 2005, purchased in several pieces. Clearly, somebody had the intent, even at that early stage, perhaps, to move bin Laden in here. But we also know that the man who constructed the compound was arrested by police in the past few days, but then released without charge within a few hours. Again, not clear why he was released so quickly.
We know from the White House that bin Laden was up there on the third floor of the building when he was cornered and killed. But we have also learned from a senior Pakistani intelligence source that one of bin Laden's daughters, who is 12 or 13 years old, was also up there on the third floor, the top level and witnessed, she says -- and Pakistani intelligence sources say -- witnessed her father being killed.
And we also know that the Pakistani intelligence source says that one of bin Laden's wives, a woman of Yemeni origin, 29 years old, was shot in the leg. Pakistani officials say she has told them she lived in the house for the past five years.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
BLITZER: Let's bring in Nic Robertson right now.
He's joining us from Abbottabad.
He's joining us live -- Nic, what would happen -- what are Pakistani officials saying would happen to the U.S.-Pakistani relationship if the U.S. were to do this again?
Let's say, the U.S. had indications that Ayman al-Zawahiri, the number two al Qaeda leader, were in specific location in Pakistan, or Mullah Mohammed Omar, the former leader of the Taliban in Afghanistan, if he were in a specific location, a lot of speculation he's in Quetta, for example, a city in Pakistan.
What are Pakistani officials -- military, intelligence, political -- saying would happen if the U.S. launched a raid like this again?
ROBERTSON: Wolf, very interesting right now. There seems to be a sort of a mixed message coming from Pakistan right now. On the one hand, we've got government officials saying that the U.S./Pakistani relationship right now is heading in the right direction. But at the same time today, there was a senior level, top-level military meeting in the military headquarters just outside Islamabad, and at that meeting,, the bin Laden case was discussed.
Pakistani military officials considered this a violation of their sovereignty, because they weren't informed this operation was going to happen and they are warning the United States that this could damage the relationship between the countries. If it happens again, if there's another violation of their sovereignty, going after Ayman al- Zawahiri or anyone else on Pakistan territory would be a violation and they would consider the relationship that they have right now and the cooperation they have right now between the Pakistani military and the U.S. military and the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, and the CIA. All of these things, Pakistan's military, are now indicating are in jeopardy, Wolf.
BLITZER: Nick Robertson on the scene for us in Abbottabad -- we're going to get back to you, Nic. Stand by.
But I want to dig deeper right now with our CNN national security analyst, Peter Bergen, and our national security contributor, Fran Townsend. She was a member of the external advisory board for the Homeland Security Department and the CIA.
Peter, my gut tells me and what I'm hearing from sources is that the Pakistanis themselves may now want to prove that they are being cooperative in the war on terrorism by helping find, let's say, Ayman al-Zawahiri, or may be in the tribal areas, who knows where he is in Pakistan, or Mullah Mohammed Omar who maybe in Quetta. Are you hearing anything along those lines?
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I would say three things, Wolf, to that first of all, you know, responding to Nic's excellent report there. Some Pakistani officials that I've spoken, actually, they've been some -- you know, have actually said they were not unhappy that they weren't given the heads up, because they didn't really want to take ownership of this operation in any way, particularly if it went wrong. So, the fact that they weren't informed is for some Pakistani officials a bit of a relief.
Of course, they are a proud country. They do have -- they feel -- you know, they have very mixed feelings about their relationship with the United States. This is a huge public embarrassment for them. There's even a discussion that a head might roll in the intelligence agency, somebody might have to take a fall for this it is quite embarrassing.
Does that mean they go after Ayman al-Zawahiri? You know, I just -- I don't know. Is it in their power to find Mullah Omar? I believe it is. They may not be holding him personally, but if they really put their mind to it, they found Mullah Baradar, the number two there in the Taliban. They were able to arrest him basically because he was doing sort of unauthorized negotiations with the Afghan government over peace.
And so, if they can do that, it seems to me that with a little bit of hard work, they can probably find Mullah Omar, too. So, that might be an easier task than finding Ayman al-Zawahiri, who's pretty slippery.
BLITZER: Yes, I'm hearing that -- one source said to me, Fran, that if I'm Mullah Mohammed Omar, right now, I'm very, very nervous -- not necessarily the U.S. is going to find him, but the Pakistanis are going to sacrifice him and hand him over do or do something to him, same, by the way, for Ayman al-Zawahiri.
I'm also hearing, Fran, that the Pakistanis right now are being very stubborn in not letting U.S. officials have any access to the individuals who were picked up in bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, and they won't let the U.S. get involved in interrogating any of them. It may change. But what are you hearing?
FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: You know, Wolf, a couple of points about that. First of all, that's not unusual. I can tell you we went through a number of investigations during my time in the White House. And more often than not, the Pakistanis would not permit the U.S. government to have direct access. Sometime what is that means is they will permit CIA to pass questions to their interrogators and then they'll pass the answers back, not a very effective means if you're a U.S. interrogator.
But, really, Wolf, we've got to ask ourselves, what is we think we could get from them? It's unlikely, given bin Laden's view of the role of women, that we have shared any operational information with the women or children. Most of these -- most of the people left behind, Wolf, by the way, were children. There was his wife, there was another woman. But it is unlikely that he would have shared much information with them. So, I'm not sure how much we are missing by being denied access.
BLITZER: How worried should U.S. officials be right now? Maybe it's question for Fran and then I will let Peter weigh in, that the Pakistanis are going to let that helicopter that was destroyed at the compound with some very sensitive technology on board, certainly had -- looked like it had some stealth technology there, how worried are U.S. officials that technology could be compromised if, for example, Pakistan allowed Chinese officials to take a look at it?
TOWNSEND: Very worried, Wolf. This is exactly why the Navy SEALs tried to destroy it before they left. I mean, a couple of things -- one, you're worried about Pakistan actually being able to look at this, examine it and try to ascertain what those materials are that allow it the stealth quality. Then you're worried about them reverse engineering it to the point that they could remanufacture it and perhaps sell that technology around the world.
And, thirdly, to your point, Wolf, and there's been some history of technology exchange between Pakistan and China, and so you really do worry about them sharing it with China, who also may reverse- engineer and try manufacturing and distributing. You know, you can't get that technology out of U.S. companies because it's export controlled. And so, this represents a real vulnerability in the proliferation of this kind of material in a very uncontrolled way for the United States where it could be used against us.
BLITZER: And very quickly, Peter, getting back to those who were left behind that the U.S. didn't take out of that compound -- was that smart to just leave them behind and not bring them out?
BERGEN: Well, first of all, we don't engage in collective punishment of people's families, we don't do that in the United States or anywhere else. These are people not part of bin Laden's organization. You know, they're his kids and his wives.
And as Fran said, this is a guy who's, you know, he's basically a religious nutcase, the last thing in the world is he's going to clue in his wives about what his kind of day-to-day operation is. They live in seclusion. They're not told what's going on.
They're told, you know, bring me dinner essentially and that's it. There's nothing -- he wouldn't be -- he wouldn't be telling them anything operational.
BLITZER: Guys, thanks very, very much.
Now that bin Laden is dead, is the U.S. any closer to finding the number two leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri? The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee is here. He'll share some surprising insight. You're going to want to hear what he has to say.
Plus, President Obama explains the controversial decision to bury bin Laden at sea. Ahead, why he says it was handled appropriately?
BLITZER: U.S. officials are learning more by the hour about the U.S. raid on Osama bin Laden's compound, and so are we. We're told intelligence agencies are aggressively poring over electronics and other evidence seized by Navy SEALs and that they've already gotten valuable information.
Joining us now from Capitol Hill: Congressman Mike Rogers. He's the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.
You are one of the handful of members of the House and Senate who've actually seen this photo of bin Laden's body. Could you describe it to us?
REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-MI), INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN: Well, I'm a former FBI agent. So, if you've ever seen a crime scene photo, and there's certainly a lot of those out there, it is a victim with a shot to the head. And it can be distorting to the shape of the head and the face, but it is clearly bin Laden. But it's pretty gruesome.
BLITZER: But you can clearly, you know, we've all seen pictures of bin Laden over the years. If you see it, you know for sure, just based on the appearance of the face, that this is Osama bin Laden?
ROGERS: So, I mean, obviously, there is some swelling and whatnot that goes with a gunshot wound to the head. But the features are clearly identifiable as Osama bin Laden.
BLITZER: Would you describe it as gruesome, gory?
ROGERS: Sure, it's gruesome. It's a high-caliber gunshot wound to the head. Pretty gruesome stuff.
And my whole thing on this, Wolf, has been, you know, we have to ask ourselves a question, and I -- as a matter of fact, I talked to a soldier yesterday who was there during the Abu Ghraib incident when they leased the photos, and he was recalling about how they had to get their medical packs doubled up, they had to redouble their patrols, all of this because they expected so much violence. And once the pitchers hit -- sure enough, a huge spike in violence.
So, my argument was: does releasing this photo help or make our soldiers more safe or less safe? And, at the end of the day, I came to the conclusion this is not something we should be doing. His family says he's dead. The DNA says he is dead. That photo I looked at surely says he's dead.
And it's time to move on. I mean, I just think that we're going to do more harm than good and I wouldn't lose the life of one soldier because some conspiratorial theorist person out there doesn't believe it until they release a photo that they're not going to believe in anyway.
BLITZER: So, you agree with President Obama's decision not to release it?
ROGERS: Absolutely. Absolutely.
BLITZER: How worried should we be or how worried should the U.S. government be that it could be leaked? ROGERS: Boy, if that were leaked -- it is so closely held. I'd be surprised if it were leak and I'd be the first one to try to find that individually personally to deliver (INAUDIBLE). That would not be helpful of the U.S. national security interests.
I feel pretty comfortable that it will not be leaked and will be never be out of the custody of a very few people.
BLITZER: Let's talk about the intelligence, the information that was gathered at bin Laden's compound in Pakistan and brought back to the United States -- the computer disk, the hard drives, thumb drives, the documents. As far as you know right now, is any of that information resulted in what's called actionable intelligence on a potential terror attack?
ROGERS: Well, you have to remember, some of it is encrypted. You have -- some of it is -- the language issue is a problem. So, it's going to take a little longer than people think. We have to sort through all of those issues and then they'll have a series of things that they want to look at first.
So, the number one priority is exactly that. Is there something in there that says we can either: (a), go get bad guy, (a), or (b) is there a threat to the homeland that we need to disrupt right now? So, they are going through that process even as we speak. It will take a little longer than we think, but I think this is going to be incredibly valuable.
I'll tell you why -- think about how we caught bin Laden. A nickname out of an interrogation five years ago and a constant investigation and widening what we know to finally get Osama bin Laden, we're likely to get more than just a nickname in some of this information that I think is going to be incredibly valuable.
BLITZER: But so far, have you gotten that -- any kind of really new, credible, important information based on what you know?
ROGERS: I can say that it's going to be good day for -- on the terrorism -- global war on terrorism in the months ahead.
BLITZER: So, I'll take that as a yes. There's really great stuff in there that will help the U.S. fight terrorists?
ROGERS: Well, I believe it will be and I would argue, now is the time to step on the gas. You know, we've spent a lot of time on Osama bin Laden, more than a savage terrorist deserves -
****30 ROGERS: Well, I believe it will be, and I would argue now is the time to step on the gas.
You know, we've spent a lot of time on Osama bin Laden, more than a savage terrorist deserves. And this organization is going to try to change. We know their pattern. They immediately are trying to change couriers, change the way they operate. They are going to instigate all across their network security protocols that they have developed that keeps them from getting caught.
So all of that is going on right now. And it's going to be an interesting and challenging time for our intelligence services to keep up with those changes.
And, of course, one of the things we were definitely afraid of here in the UBL case was that if he did get out, or he did -- it was leaked and did he escape, it would be another 10 years, given his security protocols, before we could catch him. And that was certainly our concern then, and that's kind of the thing we are looking at now with the network.
BLITZER: All right. I've got a few questions. Give me a quick answer.
Any closer to finding Ayman al-Zawahiri, the number two?
ROGERS: We have lots of information on him. I do believe that -- I can't say it's imminent, but I do believe we're hot on the trail.
BLITZER: In Pakistan?
ROGERS: I do believe we are hot on the trail. Wolf, you're good.
BLITZER: I suspect --
ROGERS: I look really bad in one of those orange suits with the numbers on the back. It doesn't do anything for me.
BLITZER: No, I don't want you to release anything that could compromise that search.
The phone numbers that were sewn on his garment, and the 500 euros that were sewn in, what did that say to you?
ROGERS: Well, I can't talk about that specifically, but I will tell you this -- is that it is a common thing that we have found both in Iraq and Afghanistan and other places where we do these kind of raids. And by the way, the raid that you saw happens two or three times a night at the height of Iraq and will build up to that tempo, I do believe, in Afghanistan, really an amazing capability for us.
And I think America got a better glimpse of it on this particular one. But it happens all the time.
And what they would find when they would go into those houses and capture those folks is that they had gear ready to go for quick escape. So they were trained to travel light and to travel with just enough things that they needed to get to the next place to get away to escape. And that's clearly what we found in the UBL compound.
BLITZER: And what were those two phone numbers?
ROGERS: I can't specifically say what we found on his person.
BLITZER: Hey, Congressman, thanks very much for coming in. Good luck. I know you guys are working really hard in the aftermath of the death of bin Laden.
Appreciate it very much.
ROGERS: Hey, thanks, Wolf. Thanks for your interest.
BLITZER: We've heard Pakistani officials give their account on the raid on bin Laden and how he was able to hide out under their noses. We are going to map out their version of what went down. Stand by.
And Hillary Clinton's inside take on the now-famous photo inside the White House Situation Room and the expression on her face.
BLITZER: This has already become an iconic image, the White House Situation Room photo taken during the raid that killed bin Laden. Many of us have wondered what the president and his top national security team were actually seeing and thinking at the moment the picture was snapped.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave us some surprising and, indeed, amusing insight during her trip to Italy today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Those were the 38 of the most intense minutes. I have no idea what any of us were looking at that particular millisecond when the picture was taken. I'm somewhat sheepishly concerned that it was my preventing one of my early spring allergic coughs, so it may have no great meaning whatsoever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: On the other hand, it may have a great meaning. We are continuing to study that photo.
Meanwhile, the Pakistani government has its own take on just what went down during that raid.
CNN's Tom Foreman is digging deeper on this part of the story.
What are you finding out?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Wolf.
You know, the Pakistani foreign minister started speaking out -- foreign secretary -- started talking about the timeline of what Pakistan knew here. And we started reverse-engineering this to take a look at how this all came to be.
Let's consider the raid had to fly in from outside of the country, had to cover a lot of ground here. Let's say the operation starts at 1:15 a.m., as it did Pakistan time, and we're going to give it about 60 minutes of time to get to the target. It may have been less. We don't know.
Nonetheless, when they hit the target out here, they are on the ground for 40 minutes. We know that.
This is the target area. There is that helicopter that blew up. They are on the ground for 40 minutes.
The foreign secretary said up until this point, they did not know in Pakistan this was happening, so already we're talking about a sizeable period of time. He said the first real warning was this, when they started getting news reports that there had been some kind of a helicopter crash in their country.
They contacted, after about five minutes, their own aviation services and said, what kind of helicopter went down here? What's going on?
Word came back after about 10 minutes this was not a Pakistani helicopter, we had none in the air. So they reached out further. They then scrambled their own jets and said get into the air, see what you can do.
It took about 15 minutes for the jets to reach this location. Likewise, they had scrambled troops. Those troops also took some time to reach it.
All in, we're talking somewhere around two hours and 10 minutes from the time all of this began until the Pakistanis were on the scene saying they knew that something had happened, not really what had happened at that point, but that something had happened. Now, that number maybe different, Wolf. It may not be a full two hours and 10 minutes, but even if it's half that much, you can see how this kind of adding up of their own numbers is suggesting the depth to which the Pakistanis were not aware what is happening, and for really a substantial time -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I would just point out once again this is the Pakistani version of what went down, right?
FOREMAN: Exactly. Exactly.
BLITZER: Tom Foreman, thanks very much.
The masses of intelligence seized from bin Laden's compound could deal a serious blow to al Qaeda. The latest on the urgent search for information. They are translating it right now.
Plus, the mystery men who took bin Laden down.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This (ph) is widely believed to be the home of the commando team that killed Osama bin Laden. The folks here would love to embrace those Navy SEALs, if only they knew who they were.
I will have that story, coming up.
BLITZER: As we learn more and more about the elite U.S. military raid that took out Osama bin Laden, there is growing fascination with just who those mystery men behind the operation really are.
Our Brian Todd is joining us now from their hometown of Virginia Beach in Virginia. He has got some fascinating new details -- Brian.
TODD: Wolf, the team that killed Osama bin Laden is back on American soil, but here, in the town where they are widely believed to be based, you would never know it, and that's by design.
TODD (voice-over): In a town where the buzzing of fighter jets is constant, where joyful reunions are a staple, America's most fearsome fighting unit goes unnoticed. Unofficially called SEAL Team 6, they are the Navy commandos widely believed to have killed Osama bin Laden.
SEAL training takes years. At least 75 percent of those who try out wash out.
Despite their elite status, many of SEAL Team 6's neighbors here at Mary's Restaurant in Virginia Beach wouldn't know one of those warriors if they fell over him.
(on camera): When the SEALs come into a place like this, are they noticeable?
HEATHER SKROBACKI, VIRGINIA BEACH RESIDENT: Personally, for me, I don't think they are noticeable beyond any other person in the military.
TODD (voice-over): John McGuire, a SEAL for 10 years, was once stationed near Virginia Beach.
(on camera): If I'm in a bar with a bunch of SEALs, am I going to know it?
JOHN MCGUIRE, FMR. NAVY SEAL: Well, hopefully you won't. You know, we just -- we're Americans, and you can't really put us in a box or in a category. We are just tall, short, large, not so large. We try to just blend in and be Americans.
TODD: SEAL Team 6 is widely reported to operate out of this facility near Virginia Beach. We couldn't get on base.
The unit is covered with such a degree of secrecy, the military doesn't acknowledge that it's here or that it even exists. And that code goes beyond operational security at the base.
(voice-over): When city officials here in Virginia Beach asked if they could honor the SEALs with some simple recognition at a town festival this summer, the Navy declined. City Councilman Bill Desteph isn't surprised. He's former naval intelligence officer.
BILL DESTEPH, VIRGINIA BEACH CITY COUNCILMAN: There's no city, no matter where these individuals are from, that will be able to confirm or deny or throw a ticker tape parade or anything else.
TODD (on camera): What would the ceremony be like? I mean, is it just kind of handing you something and saying thanks, but don't ever talk about this?
MCGUIRE: Well, I might be speculating. It might not even be that.
MCGUIRE: It might be a beer and a "Hoorah."
TODD (voice-over): Then the SEALs will simply blend in, going to restaurants, stores, coaching little league, until that next call comes. Then, according to Navy support group head Mary Ellen Baldwin, their wives or girlfriends won't even know much.
MARY ELLEN BALDWIN, NAVY LEAGUE OF HAMPTON ROADS: Well, it's tough times, that's for sure, because at any given time, the families really don't know when they are going to be deployed with it. It can happen in the middle of the night. It can happen on a holiday. It really doesn't matter.
TODD: A dedication that might compel these folks to wrap their arms around the SEALs if they only they knew who they were.
LEILA BATMAN, GENERAL MANAGER, MARY'S RESTAURANT: We have the la creme of the la creme in this area, and thank God we have them.
TODD: One local official here says they are concerned that the bin Laden operation might bring too much attention and a heightened terrorist threat to this region, but frankly, with so many military bases here, they say that they have had an acute sense of the terrorist threat here for many years, actually, anyway -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian Todd, in Virginia Beach for us.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: All right. We're getting important new information on some of the information that was picked up when bin Laden was killed.
Our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, has been learning some fascinating and critically important details -- of what?
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: The Department of Homeland Security this afternoon issued an informational alert to people in the rail sector and others -- saying this was an unclassified notice -- saying that back in February of 2010, members of al Qaeda had discussed an attack on rail that was to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. That would be this coming September.
According to two individuals who I've spoken with who received this notice, it concerned not explosives, but placing obstructions on tracks. I'm told that it did not mention any specific city or rail system.
I'm also told that this is viewed as operational. One person said, and I quote, "I would not view it as operational plan. I am not aware that anyone was ever tasked to carry this out."
But I am told by a law enforcement source that this was developed from information seized at the bin Laden compound this past week.
BLITZER: So, just to be precise, when you say rail, you mean either trains or subway, something that goes on a track?
MESERVE: That's right. And these have been frequent targets of al Qaeda.
You had bombings in London, for instance. Rail has been attacked in Madrid and other places.
Those attacks have involved explosives on trains. According to this unclassified notice put out by the Department of Homeland Security, this aspirational plan involved something different. It involved putting something on the track so trains would derail.
BLITZER: And to coincide, do something spectacular on the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
So here is the question. Why would the Department of Homeland Security release this kind of information, an unclassified form, so quickly after the information was gathered?
MESERVE: Well, the idea is to push the information out to the stakeholders who need it. They certainly did not give it to CNN. We have gotten it from other sources.
BLITZER: When you say stakeholders, you mean local law enforcement?
MESERVE: Local law enforcement, state law enforcement, the people who operate in the rail sector, people who would be most concerned with this. They need to have the information at hand.
And it is not -- this is not classified quality information that says, you know, something's about to unfold. This just says a long time ago, back in February of 2010, they were talking about this possibility. We think you ought to know about it, particularly, I'm sure, because that anniversary is coming up in a couple of months.
I will tell you that several rail systems with whom we have communicated in the last couple of days this already ramped up security simply because of the raid on the bin Laden compound. They are well aware that rail has been a target in the past of al Qaeda.
BLITZER: Jeanne, thanks very, very much.
Will the death of bin Laden change President Obama in some way? I'll ask a man who was changed himself by 9/11, the former New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani. He spent the day with the president at Ground Zero in New York.
He's my guest. That's coming up in the next hour.
BLITZER: Let's get right back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: Does getting Osama bin Laden justify the use of enhanced interrogation techniques such as waterboarding?
Jamie in Missouri writes, "Yes, even though I thought they were already justified. We ought to do whatever it takes to defeat these criminals. If we have to dunk somebody's head under the water a few times to keep some psychopath from killing innocent people, then so be it."
Mark in Tucson writes, "Is there actual proof that enhanced interrogation techniques were responsible for getting bin Laden? Who knows for sure? The answer to your question, though, is yes, but only in extreme and extraordinary cases, or where time is of the essence."
Dave in Phoenix writes, "On its face, it sounds like a good idea to promote torture. Let's call it torture, Jack. That's what it is. It's all good until this starts happening to our soldiers some day in the future. And Americans then will become indignant about it."
Scott writes, "Hardball will never be tasteful for softballers. In the murder business, no more Mr. Nice Guy. The covert invasion of a sovereign nation by U.S. Navy SEALs in stealth aircraft under the cloak of darkness ought to bug the softballers than the waterboarding of terrorist prisoners, but I'm not hearing it."
Bill writes, "Hell, yes, whatever it takes to save American lives. Those animals hate the West and all we stand for. They have no respect for any life or anybody but themselves."
Nancy in Tennessee, "Our military risk their lives every day for us and we should carefully weigh what we are willing to do versus what in turn might be imposed on one of our brave soldiers. Enhanced interrogation techniques are not justified, and only a few have said this is what gave us Osama bin Laden 10 years after 9/11." And Al in Delaware writes, "Torturing prisoners is a war crime, period. I don't care what the results are. If Ahmadinejad or some other villain of the month tortured an American, we would be crying for days."
"We're a bunch of hypocrites. It's no wonder the rest of the world has no respect for us. We can't even stand up to the ideals that we preach."
If you want read more on the subject, you'll find it on my blog, CNN.com/caffertyfile.
BLITZER: Thanks, Jack. Thanks very much.
The bin Laden raid showed the world where the al Qaeda leader was hiding, and it revealed one of America's military secrets at the same time -- a super stealthy helicopter.
And another security issue in the region. An in-depth look at hundreds of Taliban prisoners tunneled their way to freedom.
BLITZER: CNN is looking in depth at another mysterious vanishing act in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region. We're talking about the jailbreak by hundreds of Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan.
CNN's Nick Payton Walsh filed this exclusive report.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From outside, these Kandahar prison walls look unbreachable until you see inside. There, Americans and Afghans have unearthed just how sophisticated the Taliban were when they broke 475 militants out of here.
The narrow tunnel doesn't travel straight, but has support beams, a tube to feed in oxygen, light fittings, and the dirt was wheeled out on trolleys. It must have been a mammoth operation.
(on camera): Inside this tunnel you get an idea of really how cramped and difficult it must have been to move through, and really how long it would have taken for hundreds of people to crawl hundreds of feet out.
(voice-over): We go inside and enter where the Taliban were held, the political bloc, wondering exactly how did no one notice the months-long operation? We're told not to film any of the Americans, Afghans, or prisoners. The corridors, once full of insurgents. The cells, all empty.
The cell that led to freedom left, though, as it was. Life here had little luxuries and one big one, an escape route.
(on camera): Well, the concrete on the floor of this cell is two or three inches thick. And it would have literally impossible for somebody digging upwards to have broken through it, so investigators believe that people inside the cell must have finished off the tunnel.
(voice-over): Nobody wants to talk. Nobody here was on shift that night, they say.
(on camera): Was he here that night?
(voice-over): "If the general comes," he replies. "He'll punish me for letting you in here for a long time."
Suddenly, the guards decide we must leave.
We look for where the tunnel emerged. It is inside this house. The hole in the back of a front room now filled in.
(on camera): Well, once the prisoners had emerged from the tunnel into the compound here, they faced two choices how they could leave. One is a door in the corner over there. And that leads out onto a canal. Not very useful for the minibuses they apparently escaped on.
The most obvious choice would have been this, the front door of the house. And this leads right out on to the main road opposite the prison.
(voice-over): Yes, the house had less than 100 feet from the prison's main gate. But still, the Taliban had to be stealthy. This mast is from a heavily-armed American military base just down the road.
And in the end, even the Americans also didn't notice the huge tunnel below until it had found light at its end, until it was too late.
Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Kandahar.