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THE SITUATION ROOM

New Details on bin Laden Operation Emerge; Connecting the Dots

Aired May 3, 2011 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: all eyes on the compound in Pakistan, where Osama bin Laden may have spent years in hiding before being killed by U.S. special forces. CNN is there. We are taking you on a tour inside and out, and revealing a few surprises along the way.

Also, the long and complex trail that led to the world's most wanted terrorist. We are going to show you how American intelligence connected the dots.

And computers, hard drives, dozens of storage devices seized from bin Laden's home, do they contain clues about terror plots in progress?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Breaking news, political headlines and Jeanne Moos all straight ahead. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

There is growing pressure and what must be intense debate inside the White House over whether or not to release a picture showing the dead body of Osama bin Laden. A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows 56 percent of people asked here in the United States want to see what is by all accounts a very graphic photo; 39 percent do not.

Also today, we learned bin Laden was not armed when he was shot once in the head and once in the chest by a U.S. Navy SEAL, but a White House spokesman says he did put up resistance. And we are learning new details about materials seized from bin Laden's home, including five computers, 10 hard drives and more than 100 data storage devices, all potentially containing vital terror clues.

Meanwhile, Pakistani authorities have now sealed off the compound in Abbottabad where bin Laden was killed.

Our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, is there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's just across the fields here, about 100 yards away. There is already a big crowd of people gathering around there. I can see some soldiers. There's one soldier walking in across the field. But when you look at this building, look at it there, it is different from all the other buildings around it. It is taller. And it has got a higher wall. The compound starts right here. You can see how high the wall is.

Look at this. OK. I'm 6 foot. My arms may be another two feet. And that gives you an idea of just how tall the wall is. Of course, there is razor wire at the top of it as well. And if you come back come over here, come and stand up over here, we can take a look here.

And you can get to see the high part of the compound building here. It was up there on the second and third floor where bin Laden was killed, two shots, one to the head one the chest.

Well, it is becoming already a tourist attraction in of itself. I mean, look at the all the people that are gathered here right now. People got have their cell phones out, taking pictures, professional journalists down here, but a lot of people just coming to take a look.

And the door here -- soldiers guarding the door.

Salaam alaikum. How are you?

You see the doors are sealed, these pink labels here and here. No, no, no. They are sealing the doors to the compound.

(voice-over): Behind the doors, blood on the floor. This video was taken just after the fight finished. Now all that damage is off limits.

(on camera): As you walk around the compound, there is nothing to give away that the world's most wanted terrorist was living inside here, but this is incredibly ironic, painted on the outside, an advert for a girls college on the wall of the compound where the world's most wanted terrorist lived.

But think about it. More than that, this man, Osama bin Laden, denied women access to education. His view of Islam denied women the opportunity to progress in life. And here it is on the outside of the place he was hiding, an advert for girls to get an education.

Looking in, you can see it's -- all the mud is churned up, but I can see the building as well. And there is very little damage that I can actually see even -- even squinting in and taking a look from here. The building is just up there and I can't see any signs of heavy explosions or even sort of any pockmarks from gunfire.

He couldn't have been hiding in any more plain sight than this, around three sides of the compound, a farmer's fields, cabbages down here, potatoes back there, marijuana plants right up to the side of the compound, plain sight. The farmers were working these fields and he was just over the wall.

Are you surprised now to know who it was that was there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I am surprised. I am (INAUDIBLE) Osama bin Laden or any other (INAUDIBLE)

ROBERTSON: Are you happy that he has been killed?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I am happy because the peace is very important for us.

ROBERTSON: The lasting impression I have of bin Laden's compound here is how little damage there is, how few bullet marks we can see and shell blasts. It is clear the main battle took place right inside there.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Abbottabad, Pakistan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: The city where bin Laden spent his final years has deep roots, but they are more colonial, rather than Pakistani.

Abbottabad is named after the British officer who was in charge of the region back in the 1850s. We're talking about General Sir James Abbott. He helped establish the town, which served as his administrative capital. Today Abbottabad is home to about one million people and a popular vacation spot for Pakistanis, drawn by the areas of natural beauty, mild climate. That's why it is called Abbottabad.

A lot of people are wondering about the pronunciation, named after Sir George Abbott.

New details also coming out about Osama bin Laden during the last minutes of his life. I spoke a little while ago with the president's deputy national security adviser, Denis McDonough, over at the White House. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: The White House press secretary, Jay Carney, has now told us that bin Laden was not armed when he was shot.

So that raises the question, how could he have been resisting?

Was it a decision that you made in advance, you didn't want to take him alive, you just wanted to kill him?

DENIS MCDONOUGH, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: You know, Wolf, it's very difficult for us, from here, to Monday morning quarterback a very difficult decision -- tight quarters in that compound.

Here's what we do know. That team that undertook this effort is -- represents some of the best, most experienced assaulters, operators in the U.S. government. I am not going to second guess any decision they made on the compound that day. Frankly, I don't know. I have seen differing accounts as we gather more information. I don't know for certain whether bin Laden was armed or not. But I do know that our tremendous assaulter -- assault team that made that -- that raid that day made exactly the right decision in each case, as far as I'm concerned.

BLITZER: The other people who were found in the compound where bin Laden was hiding out, where are they now?

Are you interrogating them?

Who are they?

MCDONOUGH: Well, I'm told that the Pakistani officials have taken them into custody and they're making some decisions about whether they'll continue to detain them or what.

But I do -- it does appear to us that bin Laden was there, as we suspected, with his family and the families of some facilitators who, over the course of many years, protected him.

I do also know, Wolf, that here you had bin Laden sitting in a million dollar mansion, frankly, in one of the suburb communities there in Pakistan, while all these people whom he incites to violence were living in much more desperate quarters. I do think that situation we found him in speaks to the kind of individual that bin Laden was.

BLITZER: Let's talk about that critically important U.S.- Pakistani relationship. And I just want to nail down this point.

Are the Pakistani authorities allowing U.S. officials to join in the interrogation of the others who survived this attack at the compound in Pakistan?

MCDONOUGH: You know, I don't have anything firm on that, Wolf. But I have no reason to believe that they're going to make that hard for us, if that's the route we choose to go.

BLITZER: Because a lot of people are worried about Pakistan's perhaps knowing about bin Laden's presence there. Let me quote from Leon Panetta in this new interview he gave to "TIME" magazine, our sister publication.

He says this. He says: "It was decided that any effort to work with the Pakistanis could jeopardize the mission. They might alert the target," meaning someone in Pakistan could tell bin Laden, you know what, the Americans are on the way, you'd better get out of there.

Is -- is that the nature of this relationship with Pakistan, you couldn't even trust them to know what was going on?

Talk a little bit about that.

MCDONOUGH: Well, the director's recollection is certainly consistent with my own about that decision. But I will say a couple of things about the relationship with Pakistan, Wolf.

We obviously recognize that nobody has sacrificed more in this war against al Qaeda than the Pakistanis. Al Qaeda had declared war, in fact, on the Pakistani government, have threatened and continues to threaten to try to get their hands on nuclear material in that country. And so nobody is closer to the front lines, perhaps other than us, than the Pakistanis.

So they obviously have a lot at stake in this fight. So we're going to continue to work with them and continue to try to partner with them against al Qaeda, because we recognize that it's not only in our interests, but in their interests.

BLITZER: And you want...

MCDONOUGH: And...

BLITZER: -- and you want the billions in U.S. aid to continue?

MCDONOUGH: Well, I think what we've seen is that the investments in their security have been investments in our security, Wolf.

We'll continue to try to work with them to train, to try to target the common threat that we face from al Qaeda. And we'll continue to work with them.

But, obviously, these are tough questions. We expect them to be answered. We expect the press to answer them. And, obviously, we're sharing our answers on those questions with Congress, as well.

Nobody has greater concern about our ability to carry out the fight against Al Qaeda than the president. We're going to continue to do that, either with our Pakistani friends or alone. But this is too big a fight for us to give it up.

BLITZER: Denis McDonough is the deputy national security adviser to the president of the United States.

Denis, thanks very much for coming in.

And congratulations once again.

MCDONOUGH: Thanks so much for having me, Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: We are getting new details on the one man who led the United States to Osama bin Laden. We are showing you how the CIA connected the dots that ended the worldwide search. Stand by.

And, plus, computers, discs, hard drives, a look at what American forces seized from bin Laden's house in Pakistan.

And growing outrage on Capitol Hill here in Washington -- some lawmakers think Pakistani officials knew where bin Laden was all this time. And now they are issuing a direct threat to the government of Pakistan.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Terrorism is on Jack Cafferty's mind. Jack is here with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: In the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden, law enforcement agencies in cities like New York, Washington, Boston have stepped up security on the streets, at airports and at other transportation hubs, places like subways and bus stations, retaliatory attacks from bin Laden's followers, al Qaeda, very much a concern.

There has been no specific threat and the Department of Homeland Security has not issued a security alert, although the secretary, Janet Napolitano, said that Americans should remain on -- quote -- "a heightened state of vigilance" -- unquote.

Under the newly revamped homeland security warning system, alerts aren't issued unless there are specific lets to report. So far, there's nothing specific and there have been no warnings issued. But the Department of Homeland Security has warned Americans who are traveling outside the country about what they call enhanced potential for anti-American violence.

Following bin Laden's killing, chatter on the radical Web sites used by his terrorist network mourned his death, celebrated him as a martyr and vowed to continue the al Qaeda mission, despite the death of their leader.

Bin Laden's number two guy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, he is still out there. And just because one terrorist is dead, albeit the mastermind of 9/11, he's still just one man. Al Qaeda's not gone. And there is much hatred against this country among the militant Muslim extremists.

But that boatload of intelligence, the stuff that our guys got out of bin Laden's house, five computers, 10 computer hard drives, and more than 100 data storage devices, ought to give us a leg up in the short term at least as to what al Qaeda might have been planning next.

Here's the question: With the death of Osama bin Laden, do you feel any safer from terrorism? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment.

BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much.

Here in Washington, on Capitol Hill, some lawmakers believe Pakistani officials must have known bin Laden was hiding out in Abbottabad, and now there are angry calls to cut the billions of dollars of aid the United States gives to Pakistan each year.

Our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is working this part of the story.

Dana, what are you hearing from members of Congress?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, that the U.S. alliance with Pakistan has always been controversial. That alliance is to fight terrorism, of course.

And now some lawmakers are simply saying that Pakistan is not an honest partner and not worthy of American taxpayer dollars.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): Frustration with Pakistan is palpable, that Osama bin Laden was hiding here, less than a mile from a major Pakistani military academy.

SEN. FRANK LAUTENBERG (D), NEW JERSEY: It had everything except a neon sign sticking out there.

BASH: Walk the halls of Congress and many in both parties are incredulous.

REP. ALLEN WEST (R), FLORIDA: There is no way that people in the ISI and the military did not know that Osama bin Laden has been living there for quite some time.

BASH: So, these lawmakers and others say Congress should immediately stop giving money to Pakistan.

WEST: We need to cut that funding because we are wasting the American taxpayer dollar.

LAUTENBERG: We will let them know that the aid is in suspense unless we get some answers to the questions, some satisfactory answers.

BASH: Over the last eight years, the U.S. has given Pakistan nearly 20 billion taxpayer dollars, mostly to try to convince the tenuous ally to help combat terrorism. The State Department requested $3 billion more for next year. The Defense Department asked for $2.3 billion just for Pakistani counterterrorism efforts.

Despite calls to withhold that funding now, many senior lawmakers say that's premature; Congress should wait until the U.S. gets answers from Pakistan.

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: We need to understand exactly what it is the Pakistanis knew and didn't know.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Was this just benign indifference, or was it indifference with a motive? I don't know what the answer is. And we need to find that out.

BASH: Members of Congress warning against a rush to judgment note different factions of the Pakistani government offer different levels of cooperation. The relationship is often tense and quite complex.

REP. SUE MYRICK (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Well, it's complicated because it is not just all security. They are a country right in the middle of where everything is happening. They do work with us, when they choose to.

BASH: The fact that Pakistan has helped since 9/11 makes leaders in both parties reluctant to withhold aid -- yet. SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: They have lost thousands and thousands of their soldiers fighting terrorists. Now, this doesn't mean we shouldn't have more oversight. And I'm willing to do that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Now, I'm told that in a closed-door, classified briefing for House members this afternoon, Wolf, the CIA director, Leon Panetta, had some very tough words for Pakistan. I'm told that he said -- by two congressional sources, I'm told that he said, either they were involved and incompetent, and neither is a good place to be -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Tough words indeed from Leon Panetta, who is going to be the next secretary of defense.

Thanks very much for that.

So, what should the United States do about its key ally in the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban?

Let's bring in our senior political analyst, David Gergen.

Let's not forget this is a huge dilemma, David. Pakistan has an arsenal of nuclear weapons. And you don't want to so totally alienate the Pakistanis, that they could use -- that terrorists or al Qaeda or Taliban or someone could get ahold of those nuclear weapons.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely, Wolf. And this is one of the toughest problems that the U.S. faces in foreign policy.

And one of the things President Obama was most concerned about going into this operation was, what's going to happen to our relationship with Pakistan? What will the reaction be? His own top national counterterrorism official, Jack Brennan, has said it is inconceivable that bin Laden was there without some support within Pakistan.

So, there are deep suspicions. But, as you say, Wolf, look, they have got nuclear weapons. They have got 187 million people. And they are bordered by countries that are so critical to American foreign policy, Iran, Afghanistan, China, India. Can you imagine a country that touches upon more important countries to us in foreign policy?

So, I think what the administration hopes to do -- it is never going to find the truth to these questions about what the Pakistanis knew. They are not going to tell the truth on that. Nobody -- nobody really believes we will get the truth.

I think what the administration hopes to do is let things calm down and then try to conduct some sort of relationship that doesn't fly apart. And there are a lot of Islamic militants in Pakistan. If Pakistan were to fly apart as a country, and were to fracture, it would be a huge setback for the United States, very dangerous. BLITZER: It would be hugely dangerous.

I have always thought, ever since 1999, when I first visited Pakistan, there were really two Pakistans. You can't just talk about Pakistan. There are those Pakistani leaders who support the United States, want to work with the United States, have a good relationship in the war on terror. And there are others not so much and some who are actually very, very hostile.

President Asif Ali Zardari, the current president of Pakistan, he wrote this in "The Washington Post" today. He said: "Although the events of Sunday were not a joint operation, a decade of cooperation, of partnership between the United States and Pakistan led up to the elimination of Osama bin Laden as a continuing threat to the civilized world. And for me, justice against bin Laden was not just political. It was also personal, as the terrorist murdered our greatest leader, the mother of my children."

He is referring to the former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

So, you have someone like him, President Zardari, who is supportive of the U.S.-Pakistani relationship. Husain Haqqani, a man you know, the ambassador here in Washington, similar, but there are others not so much. So, how do you walk this tightrope?

GERGEN: Very carefully. And it is -- I can't tell you any -- every administration official, like Dick Holbrooke -- you know, this was a torment for Dick, because he wasn't sure. You couldn't know. You didn't really know who to trust.

So many of them are playing double games. On one hand, they may help you in sort of a public way. On the other hand, they are doing things to put a knife in your back in the dark. And it is extraordinarily difficult.

What we do know is that this is a treacherous part of the world and we have to hang in there. We have to sort of make sure that Pakistan, if we can, remains mostly on our side of the line in these struggles against terrorists and it isn't taken over by Islamic militants. That would be -- as you say, it would be hugely dangerous, especially with those nuclear weapons there.

So, Wolf, I think we are going to be in this struggle for a long time, with no clear answers, and it will just -- it is going to be agonizing for American officials.

BLITZER: Certainly will be. All right, but the stakes, as I say, are enormous.

David, thank you.

GERGEN: They are.

BLITZER: The long and complex trail that led to bin Laden -- new details emerging on how American intelligence operatives connected the dots. We have got those -- those details for you. And stopping al Qaeda's potential terror plots -- a treasure- trove found at bin Laden's hideout in Pakistan could make a lot of difference. We will share with you what we know.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We are learning more about the long and very complex trail that ultimately led to Osama bin Laden. It was a combination of classic spy work and surveillance and at the final moment the leap of faith that led to the killing of the world's most wanted terrorist.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is joining us now with new details that are just coming in.

Barbara, what are you finding out now?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, by all accounts, this was a 10-year long jigsaw puzzle that ended in that 40- minimum firefight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): It would be a leap of faith by Navy SEALs, the CIA, and President Obama that Osama bin Laden really was hiding at this million-dollar compound in Pakistan.

JOHN BRENNAN, U.S. DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: There was no one single piece of information that was an aha moment.

STARR: The final trail to getting bin Laden really started in 2003, when the CIA focused heavily on bin Laden's use of couriers to communicate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is not communicating electronically. So he has got to meet face-to-face. That's much more difficult for us to track, but it's an opportunity. And they began at that point.

STARR: A U.S. official provided CNN with many details of the hunt. By 2005, they were looking for one man in particular, a courier who is a protege of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the chief planner of 9/11, and Abu Faraj al-Libi, a top bin Laden operative. Both men are under CIA interrogation.

KSM refuses to talk about the courier. It is a clue, how important he may be. In one government report posted by WikiLeaks, it notes the courier may have accompanied bin Laden in Tora Bora before the al Qaeda leader disappeared in late 2001.

ELLEN LAIPSON, PRESIDENT AND CEO, THE STIMSON CENTER: Our ability to monitor this individual who was the courier turned out to be the critical piece of information.

STARR: In 2007, the CIA learns the man's name, Abu Ahmad al- Kuwaiti, from what official calls classic espionage. A U.S. official says Pakistanis provide some information, but the U.S. won't say what it was. By 2009, the CIA knows the general area in Pakistan where the courier is living. Once, they even spot him on the street.

In August 2010, they learn the courier and his brother are living at this compound, but something isn't right. Why do they need 18- foot-tall walls, security gates, and a million-dollar mansion?

By late 2010, the U.S. is covertly watching the compound around the clock. Overhead satellites keep an eye on it. Telephone conversations of the courier are intercepted. The courier and his brother are practicing extraordinary operational security, the official tells CNN. They don't use their real name in the town. They burn their trash.

Again, why? Who are they protecting? The U.S. comes to realize there's a third family there, and the family matches the makeup of Osama bin Laden's family. One of his wives, a son, and three children. But no sign of bin Laden.

In September, the CIA briefs President Obama for the first time in depth. They tell the president they have found a really interesting compound and a courier with ties to Osama bin Laden.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: Now, just before President Obama authorized the attack on the compound, the CIA went back one last time, conducted an analysis and said, "Could it be anything but bin Laden?"

The answer came back, "We do think that it's bin Laden who is there."

But, Wolf, it wasn't million those Navy SEALs entered the room and saw him that anybody knew for sure.

BLITZER: Were there other options they gave the president before he authorized this raid?

STARR: By all accounts, yes. A U.S. official tells us the military actually began planning various options in February. One option: to bomb the site with U.S. aircraft. But that would have obliterated it and not much of a chance of having a body left to potentially show the world the face of the dead Osama bin Laden, if that's what the administration had decided it wanted to do. So that goes off the table.

The other one was to do some kind of joint raid with the Pakistanis. But, of course, they were so concerned about the Pakistanis basically jeopardizing that mission. This is what they decided on.

BLITZER: They thought the Pakistanis might tip off bin Laden about it, and he could escape.

Thanks, Barbara, for that. They are said to be graphic and gruesome. But for some people, they are the only real proof that bin Laden is dead, and right now the Obama administration is weighing whether or not to release photos of bin Laden's body.

Our national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is here, joining us.

Jessica, first of all, what did we know about these photos and whether or not they will be released?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: First of all, Wolf, I was just in touch with a senior administration official who says that they are still deciding whether or not to release them. So that is not decided yet.

So there are two sets of photos, of Osama bin Laden. One is bin Laden as he looked when he was brought back to Afghanistan with the SEALs at the end of their mission.

The second is photographs of the burial at sea.

Now, the difference is the ones when he's first brought back to Afghanistan are much more clearly identifiable as Osama bin Laden. But they are gory. They are gruesome. I'm told that there is an open head wound across both of his eyes, across and above. And so it would be a very disturbing picture to release.

The ones of him, burial at sea, less recognizable but less gory. Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, today explained some of the considerations the White House is going through right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There are sensitivities here of -- in terms of the appropriateness of releasing photographs of Osama bin Laden and in the -- the aftermath of this fire fight. And we are making an evaluation about the need to do that. I would say there has not been, as has been reported, there's not some roiling debate here about this. There is simply a discussion about what the appropriate action should be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: So -- so some of the plusses to releasing the photos are they increase the credibility for anybody who doubts the mission and also there's a belief that, you know, in this environment, in this world, they'd be leaked anyway some day. So why not control the release?

On the other side, there's great fear of inciting more violence.

BLITZER: You're also learning about some of the material that the Navy SEALs took outside of that compound, the computer disks and all that stuff. What are you learning? YELLIN: So a senior official tells me that there were -- the SEALs were able to take out ten hard drives, five computers, and more than 100 storage devices that included discs, DVDs and thumb drives. Now some of the things they'd have to do -- plus documents -- is translate all of this into English. They set up a special task force to act on any intelligence. They'll be looking for not only any plots or people that may have conspired with Osama bin Laden but even a money trail. Who's funding all of this? So that is a real treasury trove of information they're going through right now.

BLITZER: Yes. Let's hope that they find some very useful information out of it. I'm sure they will.

Thanks very much, Jessica, for that.

More details of bin Laden's final moments are also emerging right now, including what his wife did as U.S. forces approached her husband.

Plus, the elite Navy SEALs who took him out. We show you the intense and very intricate training they underwent for this life and death mission.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: New details emerging now. The raid by U.S. Special Forces that ended with the killing of Osama bin Laden. We're learning more about his final moments and who else was living inside the compound in Abbottabad. CNN's Brian Todd is working this part of the story for us.

What are you picking up, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, up to two dozen people were living in that compound at the time U.S. forces stormed it, women and several children included. This was an operation with danger at every foot step, tension at every second, and chilling potential for many things to go wrong.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): U.S. officials now say that in the raid at this compound, Osama bin Laden was not armed but did resist. One U.S. official tells CNN bin Laden made some kind of threatening move.

Other stunning details are emerging on what U.S. Special Forces encountered as they moved room to room.

U.S. and Pakistani officials say at least 17 people were in the compound at the time. As many as two dozen were living there, at least eight of them, children.

CARNEY: In addition to the bin Laden family, two other families resided in the compound: one family on the first floor of the bin Laden building and one family in a second building. Bin Laden and his family were found on the second and third floor of the building. TODD: A U.S. official tells CNN there were no armed guards around the compound. It's believed the brothers living there were trying to keep a low profile. But two al Qaeda couriers were apparently armed and took on the U.S. commandos as they worked their way around the house.

CARNEY: On the first floor of bin Laden's building two al Qaeda couriers were killed, along with a woman who was killed in cross fire.

TODD: She was not bin Laden's wife. Officials now clarify where bin Laden's wife was and what she did.

CARNEY: In the room with bin Laden, a woman, bin Laden's -- a woman rather, bin Laden's wife, rushed the U.S. assaulter and was shot in the leg but not killed. Bin Laden was then shot and killed.

TODD: A U.S. official says one of bin Laden's sons was also killed. But it's not clear which one.

Counter to earlier reports, this official says that no one living or dead other than Osama bin Laden was removed from the compound by U.S. forces.

CNN's exclusive video inside the compound after the fire fight shows several items crammed into a sink, bloodstains on the floor, ripped out drawers, debris in a closet.

I asked CNN contributor Tom Fuentes, a former FBI assistant director who also served in Iraq, about preparations for this kind of assault.

(on camera) You led SWAT teams. You've been in these pre-assault briefings. What do they tell you about civilians who may be, you know, collateral there?

TOM FUENTES, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Well, you're hoping you have the best intelligence possible as to how many innocents might be present, how many are in there. And what you also don't know is, you know, who's to say that that one of the women doesn't pick up a gun and start shooting at you? Who's to say that others don't get involved in this, even children?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: U.S. officials say when it was over, the noncombatants were moved to a safe location -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A lot of them are children. So where are they now? Do we know?

TODD: The Pakistani foreign ministry says members of bin Laden's family who were inside the compound are now what they call in safe hands, that some in need of medical care are being treated in the best facilities. You would imagine that maybe some of those kids might need some psychological treatment. But Pakistani officials also say that some of these people are going to be handed over to their countries of origin. That's their policy. So there may be some disbursement there among the people who were living in that compound.

BLITZER: But not necessarily handed over to the United States.

TODD: Probably not at this point.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Brian, for that. Brian Todd.

They are Special Operations forces. They are warriors who took out the world's most feared terrorist. They will never talk about it, but everyone is talking about them.

And tweeting history as it unfolded. Bin Laden's neighbor and the explosion that woke up the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The Osama bin Laden mission was top secret. But a Pakistani neighbor of the feared al Qaeda leader unknowingly live- tweeted the raid as it happened. Now he's gained thousands of new followers. He's an Internet sensation. But he tells CNN he's not in it for the fame or for any money.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SOHAIB ATHAR, BIN LADEN RAID TWEETER: So I thought it was a bit suspicious. So I tweeted about it. I was actually working. I was getting irritated by the noise it was making. It was violent (ph) (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Then I heard a car going by on the near road (ph). And a few seconds after that, I heard the explosion that shook my windowpanes. And I thought it was probably a bomb of some kind. I'm from Lahore. I moved there 18 months ago. I heard a few bomb explosions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: A whole new world out there with Twitter right now all over world, I should say, as well. And we're learning more about the men who took out bin Laden. They are among the most elite U.S. Special Operations forces. And they are -- the training that they underwent for this mission, simply nothing short of amazing.

Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence.

You know a lot about these Navy SEALs, Chris. Tell us what goes into making a Navy SEAL.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I mean, you know, five-hour fast swims in the open ocean, or three days without sleep would have been nothing for these men.

They were part of the U.S. Navy's elite counterterrorism team. And they had been on probably hundreds of missions before this one.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE (voice-over): The team that killed Osama bin Laden had gone through thousands of scenarios for assaulting a compound. Just like this group of Navy SEALs on U.S. soil. But the team that went after bin Laden was special, part of the naval special warfare development group, or Dev Group.

STEW SMITH, FORMER NAVY SEAL: This SEAL team is the all-star of the SEAL teams.

LAWRENCE: Stew Smith is a former SEAL who says the men in that raid have at least five years as special operators.

SMITH: This SEAL team is based on combat experience. And all these guys probably have 100, 200 missions.

LAWRENCE: The CIA provided detailed satellite pictures of bin Laden's compound, enough to build a replica where the SEAL team practiced. A senior defense official says for a time they trained without knowing who their actual target was. But by Sunday, they knew the location of every gate and window in that compound, the exact height of the walls.

JOHN BRENNAN, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: They operated according to that, and they didn't know when they got there exactly what some of the internal features of it would be.

LAWRENCE: The defense official says by the time the SEALs ran out of the house with bin Laden's body, they could probably count the exact number of steps to the helicopter outside.

Special operator training is brutal. At least six months of sheer hell.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go, Johnson. Buck (ph) just passed you up.

LAWRENCE: Bit the men that took down bin Laden don't necessarily look like linebackers.

SMITH: They have a great deal of muscle. Just not everybody is massive. You know, you don't have to be, you know, 6'5", 250 pounds to be a SEAL.

LAWRENCE: Two teams were supposed to fast rope down from the Black Hawks. But one helicopter had mechanical problems and had to land hard. But one team directly on the ground. There was a contingency plan, and the SEALs scrambled out to continue their mission.

SMITH: There's a reason why they brought two helicopters. Because in the SEAL teams we say two is one; one is none. And, you know, they knew what to do even in the event of a downed helicopter.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: An official told me that the White House left the selection of the actual team up to the military. He says this SEAL team was chosen because it fit the mission, not because it's, say, better than Delta. He says a 12-man Green Beret alpha team might have been too small to assault a compound this size, whereas they didn't need, say, a large Ranger battalion, the SEAL team was the perfect fit, Wolf.

BLITZER: Amazing, amazing men, indeed. Thanks very much for that. Good report. Chris Lawrence at the Pentagon.

It's the most intense we've ever seen him. At least some are saying that. Jeanne Moos takes a closer look at what's being called President Obama's death stare.

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BLITZER: There's been a huge and very loud explosion in Tripoli, Libya. Let's go the scene. CNN's Fred Pleitgen is standing by.

What do we know? What's going on, Fred?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We don't know very much. We've been asking the Libyan authorities what they think it might have been. They say at this point they're still doing assessments, Wolf, and they're not exactly sure what was hit.

However, it appears to us as though this explosion which really rocked the place that we're staying at was pretty close to downtown Tripoli. Now of course, over the past couple of days, Wolf, there really haven't been any major air strikes here in the Tripoli area.

You had some on the outskirts. You had some in Misrata and Brega and other places. However, the last major air strike that occurred here in Tripoli is the one where the Libyan government says that one of the sons of Muammar Gadhafi, Saif al-Arab Gadhafi, was killed in that air strike.

So of course, the question to them is now what was hit in this air strike, and could there have been one of the members of the Gadhafi family near where that air strike hit again, Wolf.

BLITZER: Fred Pleitgen on the scene for us in Tripoli. We'll get more information. We'll stay in close touch with you. Thank you.

Democratic Senator Charles Schumer calls bin Laden's death a turning point but not the end of the fight against terror. The senator's on "JOHN KING USA" at the top of the hour. Stand by for that.

And Jeanne Moos on the most iconic photograph, at least one that we could say might redefine the Obama presidency.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here's a look at today's "Hot Shots" as the world reacts to the death of Osama bin Laden.

In Kenya, a man reads a newspaper article about how the United States tracked down bin Laden. In New Delhi, activists hold posters thanking President Obama for the U.S. takedown.

In Abbottabad, boys collect debris from the helicopter that crashed outside bin Laden's compound.

And in New York, at a makeshift Ground Zero memorial, a note to a loved one killed on 9/11 reads, "We finally got him."

"Hot Shots," pictures coming in from around the world.

It's now the iconic photo that could become the defining image of the Obama presidency. And as Jeanne Moos reports, there's no escaping the president's steely-eyed stare.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bet you've never seen President Obama look like this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He looks like he's got the weight of the world on his shoulders.

MOOS: Or Hillary Clinton look like this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Her facial expression is so intense and so scared and so concerned.

MOOS: By now you've probably scene this photo, and so will future generations.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This picture will go down in history. It's amazing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A serious and profound moment.

MOOS: Well, not for everyone. It's already being PhotoShopped with hats from the royal wedding, with President Obama holding a video game controller.

Some refer to the president's look as the death stare as in "if looks could kill" and "Osama bin Laden is dead." The photo was taken in the Situation Room.

BLITZER: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

MOOS: No, not that SITUATION ROOM, though the president has taken note of Wolf Blitzer.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The only other man in America with his own SITUATION ROOM.

MOOS: The various rooms in the real Situation Room have bells and whistles even Wolf doesn't have, but a president gets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll be able to fog the windows to give him that level of privacy.

MOOS: This is a tour posted on the White House Web site.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Phone tubes or we call them Superman tubes.

MOOS: For top secret or unclassified calls.

But it was simplicity rather than gadgetry in this photo that captured the public's imagination. The national security team was transfixed by real-time updates on the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They all seem very vulnerable.

MOOS: Especially Hillary with her hand to her mouth.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This can't happen. You want to hold your mouth -- you know, you can't -- it's unspeakable.

MOOS: On the Web, the photo's being blown up and dissected, from the words on Hillary's binder "top secret code word," to the intentionally blurred apparently classified document on the table, to the burn bag used to burn papers too secret to merely shred.

(on camera) Reporters asked but the White House wouldn't say exactly what everyone was staring at the moment the photo was snapped.

(voice-over) So the guessing game began: what was Obama watching? "Sex and the City" reruns?

We imagine it was something like the scene in "Patriot Games": a military raid, targets neutralized.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is a kill.

MOOS: What seems written all over these faces is a phrase made famous by the Bush administration.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shock and awe.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A different shock and awe.

MOOS: ... New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Because of the breaking news that we just reported out of Libya, that huge explosion in Tripoli, we were not able to bring you the answers to "The Cafferty File" question this hour. To see the responses go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile.

That's it for me this hour. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.