“Justice was done,” President Barack Obama said in an interview with Steve Kroft on CBS’s “60 Minutes.” Regarding the Osama bin Laden mission, Obama said, “As nervous as I was about this whole process, the one thing I didn’t lose sleep over was the possibility of taking bin Laden out.”
President Obama’s biggest concern? “If I’m sending those guys in and Murphy’s Law applies and something happens, can we still get our guys out?” Obama admitted that “there would have been significant consequences” if bin Laden had not been there. “As outstanding a job as our intelligence teams did… at the end of the day, this was still a 55/45 situation. I mean, we could not say definitively that bin Laden was there.” He then re-emphasized, “My number one concern was: can our guys get in and get out safely?”
When asked about his fear of failure, Obama said, “You think about Black Hawk Down. You think about what happened with the Iranian rescue. And I am very sympathetic to the situation for other Presidents where you make a decision, you’re making your best call, your best shot, and something goes wrong — because these are tough, complicated operations… the day before, I was thinking about this quite a bit.”
According to Obama, “I made the decision Thursday night, informed my team Friday morning, and then we flew off to look at the tornado damage. To go to Cape Canaveral, to make a commencement speech. And then we had the White House Correspondents’ Dinner on Saturday night. So this was in the back of my mind all weekend.” Steve Kroft asked, “Just the back?” Obama added, “Middle. Front.”
As the operation was being executed, Obama said, “It was the longest 40 minutes of my life, with the possible exception of when Sasha got meningitis.”
Kroft asked if this was the most satisfying week of Obama’s presidency, and he replied that it was certainly one of them, because “obviously bin Laden had been not only a symbol of terrorism, but a mass murderer who had eluded justice for so long, and so many families who have been affected I think had given up hope.”
President Obama went on to say that the decision to launch the attack was “certainly one” of the most difficult decisions as Commander-in-Chief. “This was a very difficult decision in part because the evidence we had was not absolutely conclusive… Obviously it entailed enormous risk to the guys that I sent in there.”
When asked about those who question whether or not bin Laden was actually killed, Obama stated, “There is no doubt that we killed Osama bin Laden.” But regarding the photos, Obama said, “We don’t need to spike the football,” and it may have created a national security risk to release the images of Osama bin Laden dead.
In discussing Pakistan, Obama said that Osama bin Laden benefited from “some sort of support network” inside Pakistan, although Obama added it is unclear whether government officials knew that bin Laden was living in their country.
Obama said, “We don’t know whether there might have been some people inside of government, people outside of government, and that’s something that we have to investigate and, more importantly, the Pakistani government has to investigate.”
“We were surprised that he could maintain a compound like that for that long, without there being a tipoff.”
Regarding not informing Pakistan of the operation, Obama said, “I didn’t tell most people here in the White House. I didn’t tell my own family. It was that important for us to maintain operational security… If I’m not revealing to some of my closest aides what we’re doing then I sure as heck am not going to be revealing it to folks who I don’t know.”
In light of recent events, Obama said, “This will be an important moment in which Pakistan and the United States get together and say, “All right, we’ve gotten bin Laden, but we’ve got more work to do. And are there ways for us to work more effectively together than we have in the past? And that’s going to be important for our national security.”