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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
We Got Him: Obama, Bin Laden And The War On Terror. Aired 8:30- 10p ET
Aired May 2, 2016 - 20:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are your future plans?
OSAMA BIN LADEN (via translation): You'll see them, God willing, in the media. You will hear about them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): A plane crashed into the World Trade Center.
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: People who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us, soon.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda network were the most immediate and serious threat this country faced.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda.
OBAMA: This has been a priority from the beginning of my presidency. I'd made a commitment when I ran for office, that I'd go after bin Laden, wherever he was.
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST (voice-over): On the fifth anniversary of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, President Obama sat down with me in the White House Situation Room. The first time he's ever sat with a reporter in this highly secure room, where the nation's most classified secrets are discussed.
OBAMA: Shortly after assuming office, I directed Leon Panetta, who was then Head of the Cia, to prioritize this.
BERGEN (voice-over): I met Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, in 1997. It was his first television interview. BIN LADEN (via translation): We declared jihad against America
because the American government is unjust, and criminal, and tyrannical.
BERGEN (voice-over): Back then, his name was virtually unknown in the West.
BIN LADEN (via translation): I swear by God, who has elevated the skies without pillars neither America nor those living in America will dream of security.
BERGEN: After 9-11, Bin Laden went into hiding, eluding an intense manhunt. Then a breakthrough. In 2010, the CIA tracked a Pakistani man known as "The Kuwaiti," to this compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Home to a top military training academy.
CIA linked The Kuwaiti to Bin Laden, after piecing together a range of information. Including interrogation of members of Al Qaeda.
OBAMA: We had seen our intelligence slowly build a case that high- value target was at Abbottabad. We could not definitively say it was Bin Laden. But there were couriers who we knew were associated with Bin Laden. Clearly something was going on.
BERGEN (voice-over): Surveillance showed a family living there, who rarely left the property. Among them, one man who stood out. They called him, "the pacer."
BERGEN: Why did they call him the pacer?
ADMIRAL WILLIAM MCRAVEN, FORMER JOINT SPECIAL OPERATIONS COMMANDER: He would walk around the inside of the compound, just to get a little exercise. And so he paced around the compound.
JOHN BRENNAN, CIA DIRECTOR: It was reminiscent of other opportunities I had in previous years, to see, observe somebody who we thought was Bin Laden. He has a, like a very distinctive look. He's tall, lanky. And his gate is very, was very deliberate. And so it was something that had struck me that, when I saw it -- call it instinct or whatever -- I said, "yeah, I think that's him."
MCRAVEN: But they could never get a good indication of whether or not it was, in fact, Bin Laden.
BERGEN (voice-over): The CIA had another problem. If it was Bin Laden, how would they get to him? They turned to Admiral William McRaven, Commander of Special Operations forces. Admiral McRaven has never given these details on the planning and execution of the raid, until now.
MCRAVEN: As soon as you hit the ground, you became vulnerable. So as I looked at the compound, and the distance between Afghanistan and the compound, it became -- pretty quickly it became apparent to me that we were going to need to fly directly to the target.
BERGEN (voice-over): It was risky, but it was doable. Especially since the elite SEAL Team Six would carry out the mission. The Pakistanis knew nothing about it. No one really knew if Bin Laden was actually there, but the time had come to act.
BERGEN: What did you feel about the evidence?
JAMES CLAPPER, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Well, as is always the case in intelligence, it wasn't complete. We couldn't confirm.
BERGEN: Exactly five years ago today, you were here having the final meeting about the decision. Secretary Gates gave some advice, Vice President Biden, and Secretary Clinton. What did they say, how did you process that?
OBAMA: What was clear from all my advisors was that the importance of getting Bin Laden, to defeating Al Qaeda, was critical. The odds that it was Bin Laden were probably 50/50. There was some dispute, even within the Intelligence Agency. But there was good reason to think it might be him. Part of my thinking was shaped by the extraordinary confidence I had in our Special Forces, and Bill McRaven, who was heading up our Special Forces.
And we had done run throughs of what the operation would look like. And I felt that we had not, obviously, in any way eliminated the risk, but we had managed the risk as best we could. And after the discussions with the principles, it was clear to me that this was going to be our best chance to get Bin Laden. That if, in fact, we did not take the action, that he might slip away. And it might be years before he resurfaced.
We knew that it was going to cause some significant blowback within Pakistan. And that if it wasn't Bin Laden, probably the costs would outweigh the benefits. And we would lose face internationally, because there was probably going to be a lot of difficulty keeping it secret, once the operation started.
But having weighed all that, I thought about the 9-11 families who I'd met. And their continuing pain, and sense that it was important for us to bring him to justice. And I thought about the fact that during that time, we were still monitoring, on an ongoing basis, plots that were being developed by Al Qaeda. And the importance of us being able to reduce those threats.
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: And at that particular meeting, the last meeting, he sat through and listened to everything. And then asked each and every one of us to tell him what he should do. And so I went through a thorough rehashing of what we heard, and how I evaluated it. And then concluded that I thought he should take action.
BERGEN: And by action, meaning the SEAL raid?
CLINTON: Yes. I recommended the SEAL raid.
DENIS MCDONOUGH, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The President recognized that this was not a slam-dunk.
BERGEN: Some of your top advisors were saying, "don't do the raid."
OBAMA: Well I think it's important to note that everybody thought getting Bin Laden was important. There were some who thought we should develop more intelligence. And take the risk of an additional month, or two, of intelligence-gathering, to get a sense as to whether we could confirm it.
The problem there was that we had no idea what might be underneath the compound, whether in fact, at some point, the individual we were targeting might slip out. We didn't have 24/7 visuals on the compound. And as it was, we only saw him when he was taking his walks in the compound.
The other debate was, even if we were going to go after this guy, should we just fire a missile and obliterate the compound? And I weighed that. Obviously the advantage was it didn't put our guys in harm's way. The problem was, at that point, we would not be able to necessarily confirm that we had captured or killed Bin Laden. The possibilities of collateral damage were more extensive.
BERGEN (voice-over): The best option left was Admiral McRaven's plan to send the SEAL team into the compound.
BERGEN: McRaven was the chief planner.
BERGEN: Would you say you had a lot of confidence in him?
OBAMA: Incredible amount of confidence. I -- you know, Bill McRaven is as impressive, effective, cool individual as I know in any field. He's had a central casting in a lot of ways. These guys had been through a lot of harrowing moments, and Bill McRaven had supervised a lot of really tough operations. So maybe he was as nervous as everybody else was, but he sure didn't show it. And I think that certainly helped all of us.
BERGEN (voice-over): April 28th, the President ended the meeting, and retired for the night. It was 7:00 p.m. He would give his answer on the raid the following morning.
BERGEN: When did you make that decision?
OBAMA: It's interesting. On decisions like this, you're leaning ...
OBAMA: ... in a certain direction. I had been inclined to take the shot fairly early on in the discussions. But you hold back the decision until you have to make it. And in the end, what I very much appreciated, was the degree to which we had an honest debate. I could honestly say, by the time I made the decision, that everybody had had their say. That we had all the information that we were going to be able to get. We had not looked at it through rose-colored glasses. We knew the
risks involved. We had prepared as well as we could. And it was in that way, emblematic of presidential decision-making, you're always working with probabilities. And you make a decision, not based on 100 percent certainty, but with the best information that you've got.
BERGEN: Jimmy Carter made another form of this decision, which contributed to him being a one-time President. Did you think about that?
OBAMA: Yes. And if I hadn't thought about it on my own, it was raised by a number of my advisors.
BRENNAN: And so when the President left the Sit. Room that night, he left open the question about whether or not he was going to approve it.
BERGEN (voice-over): Friday morning, April 29th, and the President had made his decision. It was a go. He met quickly with his counter- terrorism advisor, John Brennan, Deputy National Security Advisor, Denis McDonough, and National Security Advisor, Tom Donilon.
BRENNAN: Tom, Denis, and I met with the President, as the President was ready to take off. We all agreed that the intelligence was solid and sound. It wasn't dispositive of Bin Laden's presence there. The operational plan was solid and sound. And that this was the best opportunity we had ever had.
MCRAVEN: You really look at the President and his national security team. The decisions they had to make, with incomplete intelligence. Regardless of what your politics are, you would have been incredibly proud of the way the President, and his national security team can handle this very, very difficult and ambiguous situation.
There was never any discussion about politics, and whether or not the decision the President may or may not make, how that would affect his political career. At least, certainly, I never saw any of those in the Situation Room.
BERGEN (voice-over): The SEAL team was ready, but weather conditions would delay the start of the mission.
MCRAVEN: There was some low-lying fog in some of the valleys that we knew we'd be flying through. And while it wasn't a huge problem, I knew that if we waited until Sunday, we'd be in a little better position to go ahead and conduct the operation. And I didn't want to rush to failure on the thing.
BERGEN (voice-over): So the raid was set for Sunday. But first, the President needed to attend The White House Correspondents' Dinner. This is never-before-seen footage of the President preparing to give his speech, with the raid looming the next day.
OBAMA: Come on, let's get a good punchline (ph).
BERGEN (voice-over): He puts on a good game face.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please welcome the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama.
BERGEN (voice-over): Poking fun at Donald Trump.
OBAMA: You fired Gary Busey. And these are the kind of decisions that would keep me up at night. Well handled, sir.
BERGEN (voice-over): Thousands of miles away at the air base in Jalalabad, the SEAL team was ready and waiting.
MCRAVEN: Initially I had come up with a plan that said, "look, I understand Pakistan pretty well. If really everything goes South on us, we could probably have figured a way to get out in a manner that would not have been kinetic. We wouldn't have had to get into a large fire fight. But at one point in time, the President cautioned me, correctly so, and then directed me to have a plan to fight our way out if we had to.
We built up a package that I kept on the other side of the border, in Afghanistan. If all of a sudden we got into an engagement, and I needed fire support, I needed an additional lift to get guys out, the President ensured that I had those resources to do that.
BERGEN: So when you say a package, that means more helicopters, more quick reaction force ...
BERGEN: ... People who could come in.
MCRAVEN: I was on them cy copular (ph). I trusted the guys on the ground. We had plan A, plan B, plan C, plan D. We had thought through all of the potential consequences of the actions. Of where the risk points would be. And I knew how to handle those risks.
We moved out on Sunday.
BERGEN: And there was no moon that night.
MCRAVEN: There was no moon that night.
BERGEN: And the electricity was off in Abbottabad.
MCRAVEN: Right. Now obviously, we had planned it to have no moonlight. That was part of the mission. We wanted to come in under darkness. We did not plan to have the electricity off.
BERGEN (voice-over): The mission was underway. The President and his advisors again met in the Situation Room to wait for word on the mission. Once the SEAL team arrived in Abbottabad, the President and his advisors crowded into a smaller room across the hall, where they could watch a live, drone feed of the raid.
BERGEN: Why did you come into this room set (ph)?
OBAMA: Well this is where we actually had a live view of what was happening. And so, as you can see, it's a pretty small conference room. We were all jammed up in here.
OBAMA: One of our key guys was sitting here. I was sitting here in my windbreaker. And Gates was there, and Hillary. And we were essentially watching what was happening in real time.
BERGEN: You came in because you could see? In here we could only hear.
OBAMA: In there we could only hear it. Her we could actually see it. McRaven was able to narrate to us essentially what was happening in real time.
BERGEN: Admiral McRaven was in Jalalabad and in close verbal communication with the Seals on the ground.
ADMIRAL WILLIAM McRAVEN: I was in a small cubby hole, to be honest with you. We had a small closet for me to be able to communicate with, with Director of the CIA, Leon Panetta. The White House later on came up on the video teleconference as well.
BERGEN: As the first chopper came in to land, the heat, trapped by the high walls of the compound, destabilized the chopper, then caused it to very quickly lose altitude.
OBAMA: We came in at the point where the helicopters were about to land. It's here where we observed, for example, that one of the helicopters got damaged in the landing.
BERGEN: And what were you thinking?
OBAMA: I was thinking this is not an ideal start.
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: It was so almost surreal because the stress was intense. We could see the one helicopter's tail clipping the wall and being disabled. And your heart was in your throat the whole time we were in there. I never spent a more stressful 30 plus minutes in my life.
BERGEN: Do you remember what you told people back in Washington when this helicopter went down?
McRAVEN: I, I think I said we're moving on to plan B. I think it seemed a lot more dramatic, and it was probably dramatic for the guys who were in the helicopter, although I know a lot of those guys have been in hard landings and crashes before. I know what a crash look like. And I had had a chance to talk to the helicopter pilot ahead of time because we were concerned, as they came in, to, to conduct the mission and fast-rope down to the compound. That helicopter was at eye level with the third deck of the living quarters. The potential that somebody could have come out and fired a rocket propelled grenade or just small arms weapons at the helicopter, we knew that was a possibility. We had snipers in a helicopter ready to deal with that, but the helicopter pilot had always told me, look, if I take an RPG or I take small arms, unless I'm killed in the action, I can get that helicopter into what we refer to as the animal pen, which was in the open space next to it. And I very quickly could see that they were exiting the helicopter and the helicopter was not on fire.
BERGEN: Were you concerned that, you know, the White House is watching this all live? I mean they could have reached in to you said, hey, we don't want this to proceed.
McRAVEN: The White House never interfered with any of the tactical decisions, nor did Director Panetta. They understood that I was the military commander in this mission.
BERGEN: It never occurred to you to abort?
OBAMA: No. Because, during our planning we had made sure that we had backup helicopters. My initial concern there was extraction. That if something happened to a helicopter, that we could make sure that we got our guys out. And so we had backup helicopters that were set up away from the compound that could get there quickly. Nevertheless, it, it gave you a little, a little jolt. I think it reminded you that, that, no matter how well you plan, there's always going to be something that comes up. BERGEN: You're in the room, the cop -- chopper goes down. What is
the next big event that you're...?
OBAMA: Well, at that point you can see folks going into the building. And the, you know, there was a well-plotted approach, entry, and McRaven essentially is narrating what is happening at that point to us. There was immediately some fire, and so we knew that we had engaged someone.
BERGEN: The first helicopter went down, but the mission continued. Despite the setback, the Seal team kept moving.
McRAVEN: The living quarters were barricaded. They had some steel gates that the guys had to breach, had to blow down in order to get through. The guys on the outside swung through initially what appeared to be a door. Turned out to be a false door. So the compound had actually been built with the express purpose of protecting Bin Laden in ways that we were not able to detect ahead of time. We assumed there would be some booby traps, we assumed that the whole place actually could have been loaded with explosives. We had seen this a number of times in Iraq, where an entire compound was set to detonate if Allied forces came in.
So they had to come through another entrance. They all kind of collectively got together and then moved accordingly up the, the three flights of stairs to get where Bin Laden was on the third deck. They moved up. They obviously engaged one of the facilitators on the bottom floor. Bin Laden's son came, moving very quickly, down. He was killed, I think, on the second deck. And then, as they moved up to the third level, the first operator coming up saw Bin Laden peeking out through the door.
And as he and I talked later, he said, I knew immediately it was Bin Laden. Again, you have to understand it was dark inside the house. The operators are wearing night vision goggles, so your view is not perfect. It's not like daylight. It's very good, but it's not perfect. Your adrenaline is pumping. You've just come up three flights of stairs. You've, you've had to engage a couple of combatants and, now all of a sudden, you get to the top of the stairs, and there Bin Laden is. And, and the operators did what they, again, what they had planned to do, which was they flowed into the room as a normal practice.
OBAMA: At that point, once that engagement took place, it was fairly quick where we hear they may have Bin Laden.
BERGEN: How was that communicated?
OBAMA: Well, there's a code name that was used.
McRAVEN: I got the code word Geronimo back, but it took me a minute to wonder whether or not Geronimo meant we had captured Bin Laden or we had killed Bin Laden. So when the word came across from the, the ground force commander and he said, for God and country, Geronimo, Geronimo, Geronimo, I had to go back and ask the question, was Geronimo EKIA, enemy killed in action? And the word came back that, yes, Geronimo EKIA.
OBAMA: Everybody is sitting around this table head and, through the ups and downs of any wartime situation, it, it's interesting the degree to which nobody cheered or nobody high fived, because we couldn't be sure at that point.
BERGEN: You said we got him?
OBAMA: I said I think we got him. And but, right now, let's get you guys home.
McRAVEN: Frankly, I'm watching the clock and I am watching what is going on around the compound. Of course, by this time we have a helicopter that's down in the compound, the Pakistanis we know are beginning to realize something is happening in Abbottabad, and you can begin to see them trying to figure out what best to do.
BERGEN: The Seals were now trying to get out before the Pakistani military could respond.
McRAVEN: We began to receive word that the operators had gone down to the second floor, and now all of a sudden found this kind of treasure trove of hard drives and documents. And, and so they were trying to pull all this information. So as 30 minutes turned into, you know, 35 and 40, and I think we were finally on target. By the time we actually got off target, about 48 minutes. After about 40 minutes, I was getting a little bit anxious probably
because I just didn't want to be too long on target. And at some point in time, I, I relayed to the ground force commander, get everything you can, but it's time to wrap this up and, and get out of Abbottabad.
BERGEN: And they did. They destroyed the high tech stealth Black Hawk that crashed and took Bin Laden's body, along with everything else they gathered at the house, and took off on one of the backup helicopters.
CLINTON: Something that doesn't get enough attention is, when they blew the helicopter, not sure of what the consequences would be, the Seals took the time to bring all the women and children out of the compound behind a back wall, as far as from the helicopter being blown as possible.
BERGEN: Admiral McRaven was on video link with the White House when the helicopters landed in Jalalabad.
McRAVEN: As the helicopters were landing, at some point in time the President asked me, he said, Bill, can you confirm that it's Bin Laden? And I said, Mr. President, I can't until I go visually ID the body. And the landing field was about five minutes or so from where I was positioned. So I left the video teleconference with the President and Director Panetta. We, we traveled over to the, to the airfield.
About the time I got into the hangar, the guys had, had landed. They'd offloaded the body, brought it into the hangar. I unzipped the body bag, took a look at Bin Laden. Obviously, he had - he didn't look terrific, he had two, two rounds in his head, and his beard was a little shorter. But we had several photos and, as soon as you pulled the photo close to the face, it was immediately obvious that it was Bin Laden.
One of the interesting stories that comes out of this was I knew Bin Laden was about six foot four. So as, as I removed his remains from the body bag, I looked at it, and there was a young Seal standing nearby, and I asked the Seal, I said, son, how tall are you? He said, well, sir, I'm about six foot two. I said good. Come here, I want you to lie down next to the remains here. He kind of gave me that look and said, I'm sorry, sir. You want me to do what? I said, I want you to lie down next to the remains. OK, sir. So, he did. And of course the remains were a couple inches taller.
I didn't think much of it at the time, so but I, I came back to the, to my headquarters. And I told the President, I said, Mr. President, I can't be certain without DNA that it's Bin Laden, but frankly I - it's probably about a 99 percent chance that it is Bin Laden. And then I told the President, I said, in fact I had a young Seal lie down next to him, and I know he was about six foot four, and the remains were a little taller. And there was a pause on the other end of the, of the video conference.
And of course by this time, we had Bin Laden, the troops were back safely, the mission was for all intents and purposes over, and the President comes up on the video and he says, Bill, let me get this straight. We had $60 million for a helicopter, and you didn't have $10 for a tape measure? And it was one of those light moments in the middle of, you know, a very anxious time in our nation's history. And it was, again, kind of perfectly timed. It, it lightened a very tough moment, and, and was the right thing to say. A couple of days later the President presented me with a, a tape measure, so that next time we did a mission like this, I'd be prepared.
BERGEN: The raid was over, but the questions were just beginning, especially on the Pakastanis. Did they know Bin Laden was hiding there for all those years? And, five years later, are we safer?
SUSAN RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I wouldn't suggest we take a victory lap, but I think, if you look at it analytically, clearly the threat that, that we faced so many years ago, pre-Bin Laden raid, from Al Qaeda and its core in particular, is diminished.
JOHN BRENNAN, CIA DIRECTOR: Bin Laden's death was very important, both strategically and symbolically.
LISA MONACO, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Al Qaeda core is really largely decimated. ISIL, on the other hand, has proven its ability to project its power outward.
BERGEN (voice-over): The raid is over, Bin Laden is dead. This never before seen footage shows the president as he gets ready to announce it to the world.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, two minutes, yes.
BERGEN: His senior advisers who lived through the raid with him now wait for the final act of the night.
OBAMA: Good evening. Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world, the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda.
BERGEN: This is the view from the White House as crowds gathered outside once word leaked about the announcement.
(on camera): Did you hear cheers when you were walking down this way to give your speech to announce bin Laden's death?
OBAMA: I could. At that point, people have already begun to gather almost immediately after the news broke out. It was -- it was a warm evening and people were lined up outside.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks, Mr. President. Excellent.
OBAMA: Thank you for that. I'm proud of you. You guys did a great job.
LEON PANETTA, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: Thank you.
BERGEN: When you were walking down this hall to make the announcement to the world that bin Laden was dead, what were you thinking and were you certain --
OBAMA: Well, at that point, we were 99 percent as opposed to 98 percent certain.
OBAMA: I was thinking about the families, the 9/11 families that I had talked to, that I had met with. I wanted to make sure that they knew that their government had stood by its promise, its commitment. I thought about the incredible Special Forces that carried this out and their courage.
I had a chance to visit them a little bit later and what was striking is that unlike Hollywood casting, a lot of them were in their 40s, gray haired and if you passed them on the street, they were wearing a baseball cap and a polo shirt, you'd think that they were just a dad going to an office somewhere.
BERGEN: Did you ask any of them who took the shot?
BERGEN: Did anybody volunteer?
OBAMA: That's something that we don't discuss.
BERGEN: Right. But in a way, it was a team effort.
OBAMA: It was a collective effort and the humility and the camaraderie and the professionalism with which those guys operate is awe-inspiring.
I came for a simple reason, to say thank you, on behalf of America. This has been a historic week in the life of our nation.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
Thanks to the incredible skill and courage of countless individuals, intelligence, military over many years. The terrorist leader who struck our nation on 9/11 will never threaten America again.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
ADMIRAL WILLIAM RAVEN, FORMER JOINT SPECIAL OPERATIONS COMMANDER: I very much appreciated the president took the opportunity to meet with the members of the team. Not just the SEALs, but the helicopter pilots and we had an opportunity to brief the president and the vice president and chief of staff and others on the details of the mission. So, we actually had a chance to meet the ground force commanders and the SEALs and helicopter pilots. And again, it was a wonderful moment for both me and my team, and I
hope for the president.
BERGEN: When he met with the SEAL team, did he ask you who killed bin Laden?
RAVEN: He did not actually.
BERGEN: Did anyone volunteer?
RAVEN: No, no one did.
And I think the president understood everybody was part of this. And not just -- can we cut this?
It was everybody that has fought in the Iraq and the Afghanistan war after 9/11. I mean, this was -- and this is why it wasn't important who killed bin Laden. I mean, this was an American effort, and allied effort, and I think the president understood that, the members understood that.
There may have been one person who pulled the trigger, but there were hundreds of thousands of troops behind us.
BERGEN (voice-over): DNA evidence later proved that the body the SEALs brought back was 100 percent Osama bin Laden.
He was given a burial at sea and almost immediately questions about the raid began to surface.
(on camera): Did torture lead to bin Laden?
OBAMA: You know, I --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUBTITLE: "I can't confirm or refute tht information", James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence.
BERGEN (voice-over): Five years after the raid and still lingering questions. First, the courier, the man known as "The Kuwaiti". Analysts pieced together his link to Bin Laden partly through interrogation.
But did torture help?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where was the last time you saw bin Laden?
BERGEN: The popular movie "Zero Dark Thirty" depicts waterboarding as another form of torture. In the movie version, this leads to information on the Kuwaiti who's then tracked to bin Laden's compound.
But what about in real life?
JAMES CLAPPER, DIRECTOR NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I can't confirm or refute that information derived had any direct bearing on the location of Osama bin Laden. I just can't say that. I wasn't around when it was going on.
BERGEN (on camera): Yes. So, you don't think -- I mean, you just have no evidence?
CLAPPER: I don't -- I can't comment on it. I don't know.
JOHN BRENNAN, CIA DIRECTOR: Some of that information and intelligence came from individuals who were detained and debriefed by the agency. Some of that came from individuals who were subjected to the enhanced interrogation techniques. But as I have said before, you cannot tomorrow cause and effect as far they wouldn't have given up that information except for those EITs.
BERGEN: Did torture lead to bin Laden.
OBAMA: You know, I -- I do not believe that torture was the key to us getting bin Laden. You can't argue counterfactuals. Essentially, you have a mosaic of intelligence threads that the IC, the intelligence community was pulling on collectively all that information that led us to point A, point B, point C. What ended up being absolutely critical is hard to disentangle. What I know is, is that we can go after folks and bring them to justice without resorting to torture.
BERGEN (voice-over): The Senate Intelligence Committee report found that torture did not lead to bin Laden. Another question, do the Pakistanis know?
(on camera): How could the Pakistanis have not have known that bin Laden was in Abbottabad for almost six years, next to their military academy?
CLAPPER: Well, that's a good question. I can't answer it.
BERGEN (voice-over): Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton couldn't answer it either, but she now reveals her own suspicions.
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: There was never any evidence that we could uncover that led directly to the top of the Pakistani military and intelligence service. I believe Pakistanis knew. I believe Pakistanis either in service or retired or both knew. It is just too much of a coincidence, Peter, that that house, that unusual-looking house would be dealt in that community near the military academy, surrounded by retired military professionals.
So, no, we couldn't prove it and, believe me, we tried. We could not prove it. But I think that there a lot of arrows pointing in that direction.
BERGEN: A lot of people say, how can the Pakistanis not have known that bin Laden was Abbottabad, so near their military academy, who was there for almost six years. What do you think? OBAMA: I think it's hard to say.
BERGEN: Is there any evidence that they knew?
OBAMA: There is no evidence that they knew and I take them at their word. What is also true is that we have in many ways excellent C.T. cooperation with Pakistan. But that their interests don't always align with ours.
BERGEN (voice-over): What about the lights in Abbottabad that went out at just the right time before the SEALs descended into bin Laden's compound?
MCRAVEN: There are some out there that believe that we were clever enough to turn the electricity off. I can tell you that was the case. I think it was a blackout that was fortuitous to us, that the electricity went off in the Abbottabad and it's certainly helped us in terms of conducting the mission.
BERGEN (on camera): Blackouts are common in Pakistan.
MCRAVEN: They are common, yes.
BERGEN (voice-over): Another big question, were the SEALs ordered to kill bin Laden?
MCRAVEN: A lot of people think this was a straight kill mission. It was not.
We had looked at the possibility that if bin Laden came out and his hands were up and we knew he didn't have a suicide vest on, the rules of engagement for the operators were if you get in there and you know that categorically that he is not a threat, his hands are up in the air and you can tell he does not have a suicide vest on, then you have an obligation to capture him. And we had a plan if we capture him.
BERGEN: And perhaps the biggest unanswered question, why didn't bin Laden fight back? He knew someone was coming and he had guns in his room.
(on camera): We can't read his mind obviously, but why wouldn't he fight back?
MCRAVEN: You know, obviously, a lot of women and children in the area. So, there is a potential that he was concerned about his family. And as evil as he might have been, he had a family and so, that is a possibility. Or maybe it was just the fact that he knew the Americans were coming or somebody was coming, he probably assumed it was the Americans, and that it was -- and the game was over.
BERGEN: As a SEAL yourself, you know, it must have satisfaction to know that the last thing he saw on this earth was a SEAL.
MCRAVEN: Well, I'm sure he probably didn't know it was a SEAL, which was fine by us. But I think probably more importantly is the last thing he saw was an American. That's what's important. OBAMA: Hopefully, at that moment, he understood that the American
people hadn't forgotten the some 3,000 people who he had killed.
SUBTITLE: "Did the death of bin Laden matter?" Peter Bergen, CNN national security analyst.
BERGEN (voice-over): The threat from bin Laden is gone. But a new form of terror emerged, sprung from the roots of al Qaeda.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Know Obama that we will reach America.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are going for you, Barack Obama.
BERGEN (on camera): Did the death of bin Laden matter?
MCRAVEN: I think -- and the president said it well -- I think it was about justice. This was not about revenge. It was about justice.
All of us that have been fighting this war I think recognized that the impact of killing bin Laden, we didn't expect that it was fundamentally going to change the fight.
BERGEN: Has killing bin Laden made us safer?
OBAMA: Yes, but it obviously does not solve the problem of terrorism in general.
BERGEN: Is ISIS coming here to the United States?
CLAPPER: Well, they clearly want to. They clearly have the West as their enemy.
BERGEN: Could they have the capacity to do a Paris-style attack where 130 people were killed or a Brussels-type attack where (INAUDIBLE) --
CLAPPER: Well, sure they do.
BERGEN: -- Here in the United States.
CLAPPER: They do have that capacity and that's something we worry about a lot.
OBAMA: The Paris-style attack, the Brussels-style attack is the challenge that we're going to continue to face.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you were to describe ISIS in one word, how would you put it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Opportunistic.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Barbaric.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Doomed.
OBAMA: Overall, I think we can draw a lesson the Bin Laden raid, that we've got really effective people and a government that knows how to do this and, as long as we operate from a position of confidence and strength and are true to who we are, groups like this or individuals like this, can't defeat us.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The terrorists should know --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you come after the United States --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And if you do us harm --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We will go anywhere.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will spend the rest of eternity hunting you down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: America doesn't forget.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our reach is long and our memory is long.
CLINTON: The United States will not rest.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will find you.
OBAMA: We will be patient. We will be dogged. But eventually, justice will be done.
END OF DOCUMENTARY
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST OF THE ANDERSON COOPER SHOW: We hope you enjoyed CNN National Security Analyst Peter Bergen's in depth report on the raid and the decision making process by President Obama and his team of national security advisors. While they all agree America is safer because of Bin Laden's death, but they also know the terror threat is, by no means, over.
The ideology of Bin Laden and al-Qaeda has, of course, continued with the rise of ISIS, a group many feel have eclipsed al-Qaeda in its brutality and in its determination to destroy the west. In the past five years, we have seen continued terror attacks abroad and at home.
President Obama recently ordered more U.S. troops on the ground in Syria to help fight the war on ISIS. Peter Bergen was given exclusive and unprecedented access to the White House so he could speak to the President about all of this plus his thoughts on Donald Trump's foreign policy credentials and his advice for the next president.
They begin in the Situation Room at the White House.
BERGEN: Has the killing of Bin Laden made it safer? OBAMA: Yes, but it obviously does not solve the problem of terrorism generally. I think what we can definitively say is, as a consequence of not only killing Bin Laden, but also, going after systematically the leadership infrastructure of al-Qaeda and the Fatah, that, although, you can never say they pose no danger to us, their ability to mount large scale operations was greatly diminished.
And at this point, they are - what's remaining of al-Qaeda in that region - has hunkered down and has a great deal of difficulty mounting any significant operations or complex operations. But as we were already seeing, even while Bin Laden was still alive, the ideology that he put forward, the methodology that he tried to spread, metastasized in some fashion.
And we have to remain vigilant, and we have built, though, the kind of hardening of our defenses, that it makes it much more difficult to carry out a 911 attack than it was back in 2001.
BERGEN: How about a Paris-style attack?
OBAMA: The Paris-style attack, the Brussels-style attack is the challenge that we're going to continue to face. I think that we, here in the United States, face less of a threat than Europe. A lot of that has to do with the outstanding work that our military, intelligence and Deputy of Homeland Security, law enforcement do, in monitoring those who might threaten us.
Probably an even larger factor is the degree to which our Muslim American citizens and residents are much more incorporated into our society, and you know, have been successful and are models of how in a pluralistic society those of us with a different face can live together, something that Europe has had more of a problem in dealing with. They've ghettoized, not always intentionally, but for a range of historical reasons, these populations in a way that there's more alienation, more resentment.
There are probably more Muslims in Belgium who don't consider themselves Belgium. Whereas, the overwhelming majority of Muslims in America, consider themselves American. And that is a terrific inoculator against some of the threats, but having said that, as we saw in San Bernadino, if somebody is willing to die, particularly, given the relatively easy access of - not just small arms, but more sophisticated weaponry - they can do a lot of damage.
And so we have to continually remain vigilant and part of what that argues, also, is that until we defeat or at least greatly shrink the appeal of the ideology that Bin Laden represented, the notion that - the perversion of Islam - that we've seen. And the notion of a clash of civilizations and that, innocents are fair game, and that the only way to truly express fidelity to the faith is to kill nonbelievers.
Until we are able to defeat that, we're going to continue to have these kinds of struggles.
BERGEN: Five years ago you were attending the Washington Correspondence Dinner, you had to keep your game face on famously, Donald Trump was there as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Donald Trump is here tonight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERGEN: What are your thoughts about if he was to be sitting in this chair, about how he would be handling these decisions?
OBAMA: Well, I don't have those thoughts --
OBAMA: -- Because I don't expect that to happen. I do think that there's a larger issue, though, and that is, the American people are rightly worried about ISIL. It's a barbaric organization that not only ruthlessly kills Muslims in its area, as well as, Christians or people of other faiths who stand in their way, but they are continually trying to brainwash young people in the western world to kill themselves and kill people around them.
So the American people, I think, are right to be concerned about it. But I do think that it is important for us to understand the nature of the threat, what works and what doesn't. Painting the Muslim community with broad brush does not work. They're our greatest allies in fighting against these organizations.
Sending in huge numbers of troops to try to impose order on countries that are very different than ours, generally, is not going to work. We just don't - even as great as our military is - we don't have the capacity to maintain massive footprints all throughout the Middle East. One of the things that I think we've done very effectively since Bin Laden was killed, is I've removed 170,000 Americans who were in harm's way in Iraq and Afghanistan, while still being able to prosecute our CT goals.
And when it comes to trying to reduce conflict and create a more peaceful and prosperous Middle East or South Asia, there we have to work with partners on the ground, and they have to take responsibility for their own security, and what we've tried to do is to build our CT capacity and build up our special forces capacity, greatly build up our intelligence capacity.
But also, build up our partnering capacity, and that's an area where we still have a lot of work to do, but I would say that, you know, if I have a mission for myself and for the next president, it's for us to think much more carefully and be much more attentive to how do we create partners in the regions that are responsive to their people, that can conduct basic law enforcement, that can reduce corruption that provide outlets for political frustration.
And when terrorist organizations like this spring up, they can go after them effectively with us. COOPER: Coming up, President Obama on the personal toll it takes on him when innocent civilians are killed in drone strikes he's ordered. He also reveals his surprise at the rise of ISIS.
BERGEN: In one of the (INAUDIBLE) you've used special forces, you've used drones and killed thousands of militants, some civilians. Did you anticipate all of this when you began your presidency?
OBAMA: Not completely. Drone technology, in some ways, was just being refined and developed --
OBAMA: -- As I came in. And I think over the course of several years, our intelligence gathering and the precision and lethality of predator strikes increased significantly. It has proven to be an enormously important tool in going after terrorists in remote areas that would be extraordinarily difficult to reach with U.S. personnel.
I think it became clear to me a year, a year and a half into my presidency that, the legal architecture and the control systems that we've placed on this new tool were not entirely sufficient, and I felt it was important for us to start trying to build an internal architecture because in some ways, I think, it became so easy to use them without thinking through all the ramifications.
BERGEN: Does it weigh on you? I mean, ordering --
OBAMA: Absolutely. Look, war time weighs on you generally, and one of the things that I've always indicated when asked about predator strikes, is to remind people that when I order conventional forces into a region, there's enormous collateral damage. And, in fact, there's probably fewer civilians that are accidentally killed through predator strikes proportionally than there are when we send somebody in.
If you look at, for example, the Bin Laden raid, there were some people there who may have been related to Bin Laden, but were not themselves terrorist operatives, they got killed.
OBAMA: So what we've tried to do is to make sure that we are accountable at the highest levels for how we're using predators, that we have a significantly higher standard of - higher than, in fact, we would in a conventional war - so that we insist on near certainty that not only is the individual that we're trying to strike or the compound that we're trying to strike, an active terrorist threat, but also that we're avoiding civilian casualties.
Having said that, you always lose sleep because you know that there's always the possibility in kinetic action that somebody who shouldn't be killed is killed. Now, I also lose sleep when American troops are killed, and I have to weigh those risks, as well, because clearly, in some of these areas where terrorists are operating, the risks of us sending our personnel in are significantly higher.
BERGEN: Could you hear cheers when you were walking down this way to give your speech to announce Bin Laden's death?
OBAMA: I could. At that point, people had already begun to gather, almost immediately after the news broke out. It was a warm evening and people already lined up outside.
BERGEN: So what did you think?
OBAMA: You know, it confirmed for me, not only the strategic importance of us getting Bin Laden, but also the symbolic importance, the message that, if you harm America, we will be patient. We will be dogged. But eventually, justice will be done.
BERGEN: But he dies, but his ideology continues; ISIS is doing sort of (ph) OK. I mean, five years later, how do you assess it?
OBAMA: Well, as I said earlier, I think that the ideology has not been extinguished; the world is still dangerous. In many ways, the Middle East is in a more chaotic situation; although, that's not directly related to Bin Laden. It's related to what was unleashed during the Arab Spring.
BERGEN: Were you surprised by that? (INAUDIBLE) such a hopeful moment and yet, ISIS seems to be --
OBAMA: Well I think all of us were surprised with the direction that the Arab Spring took.
When I came into office, I think all of us understood the fragility of the regimes. They were unresponsive to their people. There were not a lot of democratic outlets. There was an ideology that was anti- Western that was growing and anti-moderate in some cases.
But I don't think anybody thought that necessarily Mubarak suddenly would have been out. And after Mubarak left, I think many of us were hoping that the spirit that was reflected in Tahrir Square, which was more liberal -- and liberal in the sense of believing in civil society and believing in pluralism -- that that would express itself. And clearly, it hasn't.
And there was always the danger -- which we knew from the start -- that in places there had been an active suppression of the civil society and where the only true binding credo was religious, but there was a danger that it would turn into negative way. I think very few people anticipated the speed with which a lot of this happened and the extraordinary consequences in places like Syria.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Next, you'll hear President Obama on his greatest fear. He tells Peter Bergen what is keeping him up at night about the direction the war on terror is going. Also, his advice for the next president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: What keeps you up at night now, and what should the next president be most concerned about?
OBAMA: I think that we have built an incredible structure of cooperation between intelligence, military, law enforcement that has hardened the American homeland. And the capacity of an organization like an ISIL or an al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to carry out a big catastrophic attack is much lower, but as we have seen, you now have a proliferation of groups, because of the power of social media, there is a mechanism to recruit volunteers that are already located in the West that are much more difficult precisely because they don't engage in the same kind of planning.
And what that means is that we've got to continue to be vigilant. It means that we've got to go after ISIL in its core where it allows itself to maintain the illusion that somehow, it's on the march.
It's going to be important for us ultimately to take them out of Mosul, take them out of Raqqa, make sure that they don't have safe havens where they can pretend that they are a state in some fashion. That will diminish their appeal.
But we're going to have small groups, lone actors, who for some time will continue to find this perverted ideology appealing. And we have to be prepared for that, we have to be resilient, and not react in ways that makes the problem worse rather than better. We have to understand that the kinds of special forces and intelligence gathering that we saw in the bin Laden raid is going to be more often than not the tool of choice for our president in dealing with that kind of threat, that sending the 100,000 troops to invade every country where an organization like this appears is going to be counterproductive, and in some ways feeds the kind of ideology that we're fighting.
Most importantly, we have to stay true to the values during this process. We have to make sure that we're not engaged in the kind of knee-jerk anti-Muslim sentiment that we've heard from some politicians. We've got to make sure that the legal structures around our intelligence gathering and our use of predators is subject to oversight.
It's not always going to be easy. It's not always going to be perfectly smooth. There are going to be times where, as president, you make a decision knowing that there are going to be critics, and knowing that there's some gray areas, and ambiguities that you have to deal with given the realities of the situation.
But overall, I think that we can draw a lesson from the bin Laden raid that we've got really effective people and a government that knows how to do this. And as long as we operate from the position of confidence and strength and are true to who we are, groups like this or the individuals like this can't defeat us.
BERGEN: Thank you very much, sir. OBAMA: OK.
BERGEN: Thank you, sir.
OBAMA: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: We thank President Obama for giving us so much of his time and to Peter Bergen for his excellent reporting.
And on this day, on the fifth anniversary of the bin Laden raid, we want to thank the men and women in uniform who helped to make that mission a success and remain on the front lines every single day. We also honor the nearly 3,000 victims from the attacks on September 11.
Thanks for watching.
"CNN TONIGHT" starts now.