The New York Times front-pages, “For years, the agonizing search for Osama bin Laden kept coming up empty. Then last July, Pakistanis working for the Central Intelligence Agency drove up behind a white Suzuki navigating the bustling streets near Peshawar, Pakistan, and wrote down the car’s license plate. The man in the car was Bin Laden’s most trusted courier, and over the next month C.I.A. operatives would track him throughout central Pakistan. Ultimately, administration officials said, he led them to a sprawling compound at the end of a long dirt road and surrounded by tall security fences in a wealthy hamlet 35 miles from the Pakistani capital.”
“On a moonless night eight months later, 79 American commandos in four helicopters descended on the compound, the officials said. Shots rang out. A helicopter stalled and would not take off. Pakistani authorities, kept in the dark by their allies in Washington, scrambled forces as the American commandos rushed to finish their mission and leave before a confrontation. Of the five dead, one was a tall, bearded man with a bloodied face and a bullet in his head. A member of the Navy Seals snapped his picture with a camera and uploaded it to analysts who fed it into a facial recognition program.”
As NBC’s Savannah Guthrie reported on “Nightly News” last night, the operation had a code word to indicate the successful kill or capture of bin Laden: "Geronimo.” A senior US official told Guthrie that the actual transmission from the ground commander at the compound to the operational commander in Afghanistan was: "For God and country: Geronimo, Geronimo, Geronimo."
More from Guthrie: The intel community located the bin Laden courier's compound in August. At that point, surveillance and planning commenced.
Obama was presented with four main options ("courses of actions" or COAs in admin parlance) in mid March. One option was to drop 32 2,000-lb JDAMs from stealth bombers. It was planned out of Whiteman AFB, but ultimately rejected. The concern was it would obliterate the entire neighborhood and produce no DNA, no body, and significant collateral damage. Other options were a joint raid with Pakistanis or a clandestine operation -- both rejected.
The special ops team conducted two "rehearsals" on April 7 and 13 at a mock compound on U.S. soil. After those practice sessions, the commander told the president, "This option can work."
“Dramatic details emerged yesterday of how American commandos cornered and killed Osama bin Laden in his Pakistani hideout, and President Obama pronounced the world a ‘better place’ without the Al Qaeda leader,” the Boston Globe adds. Here’s an interactive slide show describing the raid.
The Washington Post: “It was a search that employed Predator drones, sophisticated signal interception equipment, networks of informants, and teams of analysts who scrutinized every video and audio recording from the al-Qaeda leader for inadvertent clues. In the end, ‘he was more or less hiding in plain sight,’ a senior U.S. intelligence official said. ‘The only resident of the compound that was taken from the site was Osama bin Laden. He died — almost certainly — from a bullet to the head.’”
“For President Obama — whom Republicans have called weak on defense and indecisive on foreign policy — the killing of Osama bin Laden represents a key moment in his presidency,” the Boston Globe’s Viser writes. But, he warns: “Still, the contours of the 2012 campaign are unlikely to change — and by the time voters go to the polls, this could be a distant memory. The race is almost certain to hinge not on issues of foreign policy, but on the domestic issues that have dogged Obama.”
“Elected officials and campaign operatives were careful Monday to avoid any suggestion that Osama bin Laden’s death would have political consequences,” Roll Call writes. “It was clear, however, that the Obama administration’s successful hunting of the world’s top terrorist shifted the 2012 electoral landscape, giving the president and his party new credibility on a potent issue as violence rages across the Middle East. But it also became evident that the road to politicize bin Laden’s death is lined with peril.”
Yet “both conservatives and liberals praised President Obama’s operation to kill Osama bin Laden, but they also used the occasion to try to score political points for their respective parties,” The Hill writes.
Stu Rothenberg: “Politically, the killing should boost the president’s standing immediately, since he delivered good news and will certainly receive credit for the successful result. Obama now has an extremely useful credential that he can use to deflect Republican criticism on foreign policy and to demonstrate his leadership and decisiveness, two qualities he has had trouble displaying.” However: “But the bump in the polls that the president should receive is likely to be short-lived,” because of domestic issues.
Charlie Cook: “Democrats will fervently hope that the public will see this as a seminal moment in which people begin to see and appreciate President Obama in a new light, much as President Bill Clinton’s speech after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, in retrospect, was a turning point for his presidency. But it might be a mistake to assume that it is a more enduring gamechanger in terms of the politics of 2012 or that it will recast Obama as much as it did for Clinton.”
The New York Post’s cover: “How we did it!”
The New York Daily News: “How we nailed him.”
The Blagojevich trial started again yesterday.