PRESS BRIEFING BY SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS ON THE KILLING OF OSAMA BIN LADEN
Via Conference Call
12:03 A.M. EDT
MR. VIETOR: Thank you, everyone, for joining us, especially so late. We wanted to get you on the line quickly with some senior administration officials to talk about the operation today regarding Osama bin Laden. And with that I’ll turn it over to our first senior administration official.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks for joining us, everybody, at this late hour. It’s much appreciated. From the outset of the administration, the President has placed the highest priority in protecting the nation from the threat of terrorism. In line with this, we have pursued an intensified, targeted, and global effort to degrade and defeat al Qaeda. Included in this effort has been a relentless set of steps that we’ve taken to locate and bring Osama bin Laden to justice. Indeed, in the earliest days of the administration, the President formally instructed the intelligence community and his counterterrorism advisors to make the pursuit of Osama bin Laden, as the leader of al Qaeda, as a top priority.
In the beginning of September of last year, the CIA began to work with the President on a set of assessments that led it to believe that in fact it was possible that Osama bin Laden may be located at a compound in Pakistan. By mid-February, through a series of intensive meetings at the White House and with the President, we had determined there was a sound intelligence basis for pursuing this in an aggressive way and developing courses of action to pursue Osama bin Laden at this location.
In the middle of March, the President began a series of National Security Council meetings that he chaired to pursue again the intelligence basis and to develop courses of action to bring justice to Osama bin Laden. Indeed, by my count, the President chaired no fewer than five National Security Council meetings on the topic from the middle of March—March 14th, March 29th, April 12th, April 19th, and April 28th. And the President gave the final order to pursue the operation that he announced to the nation tonight on the morning—Friday morning of April 29th.
The President mentioned tonight that the pursuit of Osama bin Laden and the defeat of al Qaeda has been a bipartisan exercise in this nation since September 11, 2001, and indeed, this evening before he spoke to the nation, President Obama did speak to President Bush 43 and President Clinton this evening to review with them the events of today and to preview his statement to the nation tonight.