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THE SITUATION ROOM
President Obama Meets With Navy SEALs; One Last Bin Laden Tape?
Aired May 6, 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: Happening now: details of a reported safe house used by the CIA to spy on Osama bin Laden in the weeks before the deadly raid.
Also, a message from beyond the grave, a tape bin Laden recording just a few weeks before his death. Al Qaeda says it will be releasing it soon.
And President Obama meets personally with the men who took out the world's most wanted terrorist. We will hear his message to those U.S. Navy SEALs.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
There is new fallout tonight from the killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. forces. Pakistan has arrested dozens of people as part of its investigation into how the terror leader lived so long in relative openness. And al Qaeda now acknowledging the death of its founder as attention turns toward who will succeed bin Laden.
We're covering all angles this hour with our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson. He is in Abbottabad Pakistan. Our CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank, he's in New York. And CNN's Brian Todd, he is here in Washington.
Let's go to Abbottabad first for the very latest.
Nic, this has been another one of those dramatic days. We finally heard confirmation from al Qaeda itself that bin Laden is dead.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And calling for revenge, saying that his blood is too precious to be lost in vain, saying that they will continue to attack the United States and its allies not only in the United States, but anywhere around the world, and a message for Pakistanis, too, saying that the traitors that then -- that resulted in the death of leader bin Laden from Pakistan, and that the people here should rise up, find those traitors, clean the country of the traitors, and clean the country of Americans as well.
Throw the Americans out of Pakistan is part of the message. And another word from al Qaeda as well as it tries to sort of get some uplift, if you will, from bin Laden's killing, calling for a continuation of its fights, calling for revenge, but also saying that bin Laden had recorded a message just a week ago, they say a week before his death.
That message, they say, referred to the Arab uprisings, the spring uprisings, as they call them, revolutions. They are not saying what bin Laden said, but the indications seem to hint that al Qaeda will be releasing that take some time in the near future, Wolf.
BLITZER: We are also hearing that dozens of people may have been arrested in Abbottabad, where you are right now. What do we know about these arrests?
ROBERTSON: Anyone who has had any connection with that compound and the people, bin Laden, his family, the courier, the courier's family, inside there, the government is rounding them up and arresting them, not just the people who live close to the compound, but around the city, anyone who provided them with services, meat, milk, anything.
The government says it wants to question them. If there is anything nefarious in those relationships, anything beyond providing food or a service, anything that ties them to al Qaeda, anything that shows that they knew bin Laden was there, that they were helping hide bin Laden or planning attacks anywhere in the world, then that's -- those are the people the government is after finding.
In some ways, Wolf, they're sort of closing the door after the horse -- the stable door after the horse has bolted -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Nic Robertson on the scene for us in Abbottabad, thanks very much.
CNN's Brian Todd is joining us right now. He's getting new information on a safe house that the CIA apparently had in Abbottabad, this right near the compound where bin Laden had spent several years.
Brian, what are you learning?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, new details tonight on that massive and intense surveillance operation to get Osama bin Laden, information that when U.S. commandos stormed that compound, they had been given intelligence by teammates who had been in that neighborhood for months.
TODD (voice-over): Keeping eyeballs on Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad (AUDIO GAP) crucial details on the people inside this compound and their movements.
Human intelligence was critical. And CNN has learned, in the weeks leading up to the raid, there were multiple sightings of a tall man. According to "The New York Times" and "Washington Post," the CIA operated out of a safe house near the bin Laden compound, listening in, photographing, watching meticulously.
SCOTT SHANE, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": They supposedly observed behind one-way glass, so no one could look in at them, but they could look out.
TODD: We couldn't get comment on the reported safe house from anyone at CIA. "The Times" and "Post" say, for months, the U.S. team used telephoto lenses, infrared imaging, eavesdropping devices from the facility.
CNN contributor Tom Fuentes is a former FBI assistant director who served in Iraq. At our data wall, we mapped out possible safe house locations.
(on camera): Here's a satellite photo of the area. The bin Laden compound is here. If you are running a safe house, which one do you choose?
TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Probably you're going to look at something in this area here because you have multiple houses. It would be easier for people to come and go and not track the attention of some of the of the other places.
Also, you are going to have to consider, in this section of houses, do you have a higher house? It is hard to tell from -- we are looking vertically down. But are one of these facilities three, four stories high to enable a view over the compound wall to look inside of who is actually walking around on the inside? You would want to avoid a place like over here, because it is too exposed.
TODD (voice-over): White House officials have said bin Laden may have lived at the compound for up to six years. But it is not clear if he ever ventured out.
(on camera): According to "The New York Times," the American spies monitoring the house observed a man taking regular walks through the compound's courtyard, 20 minutes, sometimes an hour at a time. They were never able to confirm it was bin Laden. They called him the pacer.
(voice-over): Experts say the safe house was likely a crucial piece in this operation and a risky one. With all the equipment, personnel, and informants being shuttled in and out, it could have been blown at any time.
TODD: Tom Fuentes says because U.S. officials did not trust the Pakistanis over any of this, it is likely that only Americans were used to run the safe house. They could have really stuck out in that area, and it is surprising that they weren't noticed. If they had been, Fuentes says, both they and the operation could have been killed -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Unless they were using Pakistani Americans, for example, individuals who might have been able to blend in into that society, obviously a lot easier.
Do we know if that safe house had any direct role in the actual raid? TODD: Well, according to various reports, it did not. And "The Post" reports that since the bin Laden raid, the house has been shut down, a lot of concerns of course for security and they had to get people out there in a hurry -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much, fascinating material.
Let's dig a little bit deeper right now with CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank.
First of all, this new statement from al Qaeda promising future attacks, saying America's happiness pretty soon will turn into sorrow, how serious -- seriously should we take this threat?
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, pretty seriously, because al Qaeda does have the ability to launch attacks in the United States. And we saw this demonstrated in September 2009 with the Najibullah Zazi plot to try and target New York City, the subways here.
American counterterrorism officials intercepted this plot very late in the day. The cell trained in the tribal areas of Pakistan, which is still a safe haven for al Qaeda. Western recruits are still going there. But in the immediate term, I think the greatest danger probably comes from somebody not connected necessarily to al Qaeda, because it takes al Qaeda quite a lot of time to put these plots into operation -- so, maybe a revenge attack from an individual inspired by al Qaeda's ideology, Wolf, but not necessarily connected to it.
Also, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemeni group, may try and launch an attack. They have been the most operationally active of all al Qaeda's affiliates in recent years, twice in the last 17 months trying to attack and failing to attack the United States.
Also, there has been a threat in the last two days from the Pakistani Taliban against the United States to avenge bin Laden's death. And we will recall that on May 1, 2010, exactly a year before bin Laden was killed, they tried to bomb Times Square here in New York, so that view -- that threat being viewed as credible, too, Wolf.
BLITZER: All of which explains why the U.S. is intensifying its efforts to go after some of these al Qaeda leaders, including Anwar al-Awlaki, the leader of the al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen. And we know there was a drone strike over the past day or so. I think it went after him. Apparently, he got away. But I suspect those strikes are going to continue.
Who decides -- I mean, bin Laden was 54 years old when he died. He had been around since his 20s, when he fought in Afghanistan against the Soviets. Who decides who will be the next leader of al Qaeda?
CRUICKSHANK: Well, Wolf, according to the internal constitution of al Qaeda, it has all already been set out. The number two of al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, will assume now the leadership position. That needs to be rubber-stamped by the Shura executive council of al Qaeda. But it has already been mandated that Zawahri will now take over this organization.
He will receive a personal oath, band of loyalty from al Qaeda fighters. And I think we should expect probably in the next month some sort of video from al Qaeda announcing that Zawahri is the new leader of the organization, Wolf.
BLITZER: Since he is an Egyptian, would that be any problem? Would there be any complications as a result of that?
CRUICKSHANK: I think this could cause a lot of problems, because there has been a lot of rivalry between the Saudis and Yemenis and Egyptians within al Qaeda really since its founding in 1988.
And Zawahri within al Qaeda has been a polarizing figure, a divisive figure. And he has got a big decision coming up. Who does he appoint as the new number two?
Now, one of the favorites for that is a fellow Egyptian, Saif al- Adel. And if he really appoints al-Adel, I this could all be compounded. There are strong centrifugal forces within al Qaeda, and these could really be accelerated. The group could really start to break up if Zawahri doesn't play his cards right, Wolf.
BLITZER: And Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born cleric who is in Yemen right now, he -- he obviously speaks English well, but is he a significant player in all of this?
CRUICKSHANK: Well, he's a significant player. He's a charismatic player for this group in Yemen, but he's very unlikely to be appointed to a leadership position. He doesn't have any of the jihadist track record of someone like bin Laden.
Also, Ayman al-Zawahri has never met him. So, he is unlikely to sort of appoint him as his number two. And Zawahri will not want to be upstaged either by this charismatic figure, Wolf.
BLITZER: We assume that Ayman al-Zawahri is in some place in Pakistan right now. We always assumed bin Laden was in that tribal area, the remote area of the mountains in Waziristan or some place like that. We have been assuming that about Ayman al-Zawahri, but he could be in major city hiding out. That wouldn't necessarily be a shock.
CRUICKSHANK: That wouldn't be a shock at all, given where bin Laden was found. And Western intelligence over the last few years got some tips that bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri might in contact and might be in relatively close geographic proximity. So, some of this information now being found in bin Laden's compound could, Wolf, put Ayman al-Zawahri in some jeopardy.
BLITZER: I assume he's moving from place to place very, very quickly, as is Anwar al-Awlaki, Mullah Mohammed Omar, a whole bunch of others right now.
Thanks very much, Paul, for that. A private meeting between the president and the men who took out Osama bin Laden -- details of the award they each received from the commander in chief.
Also, in the terror leader's compound, mundane concerns, including utility bills and taxes. How much did bin Laden actually owe?
And the man who ran the mission that will go down in history, why he is rarely heard, seldom seen by the public.
BLITZER: President Obama traveled to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, today, where he met personally with the Navy SEALs who conducted the raid on Osama bin lade Laden's compound. And he spoke to the troops just back from Afghanistan.
The president awarded presidential citations to the units that took part in the mission and he told more than 2,300 U.S. men and women in the military that the United States will ultimately defeat al Qaeda.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I came here for a simple reason -- to say thank you on behalf of America. This has been an historic week in the life of our nation.
(CHEERING 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.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
Today, here at Fort Campbell, I had the privilege of meeting the extraordinary Special Ops folks who honored that promise. It was a chance for me to say -- on behalf of all Americans and people around the world -- "Job well done." Job well done.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
They're America's "quiet professionals" -- because success demands secrecy. But I will say this. Like all of you, they could have chosen a life of ease. But like you, they volunteered. They chose to serve in a time of war, knowing they could be sent into harm's way. They trained for years. They're battle-hardened. They practiced tirelessly for this mission. And when I gave the order, they were ready.
Now, in recent days, the whole world has learned just how ready they were. Across Afghanistan, we've broken the Taliban's momentum. In key regions, we've seized the momentum, pushing them out of their strongholds. We're building the capacity of Afghans, partnering with communities and police and security forces, which are growing stronger.
And most of all, we're making progress in our major goal, our central goal in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and that is disrupting and dismantling -- and we are going to ultimately defeat al Qaeda.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
We have cut off their head and we will ultimately defeat them.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
Even before this week's operation, we've put al Qaeda's leadership under more pressure than at any time since 9/11, on both sides of the border. So the bottom line is this: Our strategy is working, and there's no greater evidence of that than justice finally being delivered to Osama bin Laden.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The president speaking to U.S. military personnel at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
When you are the world's most wanted man, even simple tasks can become complicated. We are going to tell you how Osama bin Laden did things like get the gas turned on at his home.
Plus, we have learned about some very, very interesting deliveries that were coming to the bin Laden household that gives us an idea about how he was living.
Stand by. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: He may have been the world's most wanted terrorist, but Osama bin Laden faced some of the mundane tasks all of us do, including paying bills.
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is the last gas bill sent to the compound where Osama bin Laden lived and died. And it contains some useful information, actually, particularly to whom these bills for separate meters at the property were addressed.
One of them is Mohammed Alshat (ph), one of two Waziri brothers who locals really say ran the compound for the bin Laden family and the others who lived with them. A key piece of information here, too, is the installation date for these meters of April 2007, which would suggest that that was when the compound was kind of made habitable. It's not proof that is when bin Laden moved in, but it's an indication as perhaps when some of the family members may have got there.
We have also heard from one government local official here that there was a tax debt appended to that particular property. They had failed to pay about 60,000 Pakistani rupees in local property tax. That's about $700 or so.
Now, of course, tax evasion is very common in Pakistan. So, perhaps you may argue they may actually have drawn more attention to themselves had they actually paid -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Nick Paton Walsh on the scene for us, thank you.
So, is Pakistan helping or hurting the U.S. when it comes to fighting terror? I will ask Senator Carl Levin. He's the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He's been briefed on the situation in Pakistan.
Also, the man who directed the mission to take out bin Laden, why he is called America's top commando.
Plus, new video coming in from the night of the assault on bin Laden's compound taken by a neighbor.
BLITZER: You're looking at live pictures over at Andrews Air Force Base over Washington, D.C. Air Force One has just touched down, just landed, taxiing right now, the president, of course, inside, just coming back from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where he thanked those Navy SEALs and other U.S. military troops for getting the job done, assisting in the death of Osama bin Laden.
Just want to reiterate the news we broke here in THE SITUATION ROOM more than an hour or so ago, that that -- that U.S. drone strike in Yemen targeted Anwar al-Awlaki. He's the leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the American-born cleric. A drone sent there over the past day or so launched missiles against a target. The U.S. assumed, thought Anwar al-Awlaki was there. Apparently, he was not. Others were killed. He got away, the U.S. intensifying its effort to go after the American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.
Barbara Starr is getting more information on this U.S. military strike against al-Awlaki. She will be joining us shortly.
Osama bin Laden discovered hiding in relative plain sight in Pakistan, and it's raising new questions about Pakistan's partnership with the United States in fighting terror.
BLITZER: And joining us now from Capitol Hill, Senator Carl Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Senator, thanks very much for coming in.
SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Good to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Are the Pakistanis helping the United States or hurting the United States in this war on terror?
LEVIN: Both. They are helping in some ways, in terms of protecting some of the fuel that comes into their ports, and for the -- usually helping to get it to Afghanistan through Pakistan. They are helping with some of the military efforts along the border.
Going after their own terrorists probably provide some help. And when I say their own terrorists, I mean the ones that attack Pakistani targets.
But they are also hurting, because they are allowing in their presence terrorists known to them, such as the Haqqani group, and such as the so-called Quetta Shura, which is the Taliban from Afghanistan who make their residence in a town called Quetta in Pakistan. And they do it openly.
So, there's a lot of effort being made, properly, to find out what the leaders of Pakistan knew about the presence of bin Laden, because it sure looks like somebody higher up must have known.
When somebody -- the world's number-one wanted terrorist is kind of at a very, very -- a place that is centralized, close to the military, in a big villa for five years, you would think somebody would know about it. Those questions are important.
But there's, I think, an equally important question. And that is that people who are knowingly attacking us and the Afghans from Pakistani soil, the Haqqani group, and people who are knowingly directing suicide bombers in Afghanistan against us from a location in Pakistan, the city called Quetta. That's all open. That's all known.
BLITZER: It sounds to me like Mullah Mohammed Omar, the leader of the Taliban, who has been on the run since 9/11 basically, since the U.S. went into Afghanistan, you're suggesting, correct me if I'm wrong, senator, that elements of the Pakistani military or intelligence, services within the government, they know where Mullah Mohammed Omar is?
LEVIN: I'm not going to pick one person. They know where the heads of the Haqqani network live in North Waziristan. That much we know. They live very openly. They know where the so-called Quetta Shura is located in Quetta. Whether or not that one particular person is known at the moment to the intelligence services or the police or the military in Pakistan, I can't tell you.
But, I can tell you, we had discussions with the president of Pakistan, with the prime minister of Pakistan, asking them, look, you know where the Haqqani leaders are. You know that those people cross the border into Afghanistan and are killing Afghans and killing us. You know that. They don't deny that they know that.
BLITZER: So, you think they're going to do anything about that now in the aftermath of the death of Bin Laden that they will make -- they will find some of these guys like Mullah Mohammed Omar or even Ayman al-Zawahiri, the number two al Qaeda leader who is believed to be in Pakistan someplace in Pakistan?
LEVIN: Will they act against people that they know are in -- Pakistan and where they are and know those people are directing efforts across the border? They refuse to do it, so far, although, they don't deny at any moment that they know where the Haqqani group is. They don't deny that. And that's what kind of intrigues me here is that what is important as it is, that we ask questions of the Pakistan leaders as to how is it possible that Bin Laden was there for five years and that, you, folks didn't know about it at the top.
How is that possible? Those questions need to be answered in terms of the future relationship of the United States and Pakistan, but there are other questions which we've already asked of the leaders of Pakistan to which they have no answer other than their army is busy elsewhere. That is not a good enough answer.
BLITZER: Will you continue to vote for a billion or $2 billion or $3 billion a year that the United States provides Pakistan?
LEVIN: I would support parts of it which help us. I will support those parts of it which help reimburse Pakistan for providing security to the fuel that comes through Pakistan and to Afghanistan. There are cost involve (ph). I will support of certain military efforts and the border police in Pakistan where they are taking steps to reduce the flow of terrorists going into Afghanistan.
However, until we get proper answers to how is it that Bin Laden was there for five years without you, folks, knowing about it, at the higher levels, and why do you not act against known terrorists, known to you, known where they live, that are attacking across the border, specifically, the Haqqani group and the Quetta Shura, until we get proper answers to that, I can't support any longer the economic aid portion of the Pakistan aid package.
BLITZER: Here's what worries me, senator. The Pakistan has a nuclear arsenal, maybe 100 nuclear bombs, who knows, how many. If the U.S. were to completely sever its relationship or walk away from Pakistan, I'd be very worried about that nuclear arsenal, at least, some of it getting into the wrong hands.
LEVIN: I agree with you. We should be worried, and we should have a positive relationship with Pakistan, but it's got to be a two- way street. It can't just be that they go after terrorists who attack targets in Pakistan while knowingly allowing other terrorists to have a safe haven in Pakistan, who use that safe haven to attack us across the boarder in Afghanistan. That has got to end. If it doesn't, we've got to find ways of letting Pakistan know that this has got to be a mutual relationship. It can't just be a one-way street.
BLITZER: You heard the chief of the Pakistani military issue a direct warning to the United States. If the U.S. tries it again, invades, violates Pakistani sovereignty, to try to capture or kill terrorist who happens to be in Pakistan, it will have a dramatic disastrous impact on the U.S./Pakistani relationship. Does the U.S. take a threat like that seriously?
LEVIN: Obviously, you have to take any threat seriously, but then, you got to figure out whether you're going to be deterred from acting in your own necessary self-interest by that kind of a threat, and we cannot be deterred from going after people who have killed our people and because they're being located in Pakistan somewhere. We cannot be deterred from acting in our own necessary self-defense, going after people who are out to kill us, because of that kind of a threat.
We, obviously, want to consider it. We want to think about it. We want to talk to Pakistan and see whether or not that's just for external purposes or -- I mean, just for domestic purposes or whether it's for external purposes. A lot of their statements about drone attacks and opposing our drone attacks are made for domestic and internal purposes. They don't tell us personally when we talk to them hey, stop those drone attacks. They say that to their own public for political purposes.
BLITZER: Senator Levin, thanks very much for joining us.
BLITZER: We're getting more information on that U.S. military drone strike in Yemen. We reported a little bit more than an hour or so ago that we suspected that the target was Anwar al-Awlaki, the American born cleric, leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Barbara Starr is over at the Pentagon. She's getting more information. What are you picking up, Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, a second U.S. official now tells us this target area in Southern Yemen was an area frequented by Anwar al-Awlaki, and they had good reason to believe he might well have been there at the time they launched this drone strike. This was a U.S. military drone. The strike launched within the last 48 hours, but by all accounts, they did not get the Yemeni cleric.
They killed two al Qaeda operatives associated with him, they believe. They don't believe, at this point, that they got him, and they are saying that the targeting information for this mission had nothing to do with the intelligence they got when they killed Osama Bin Laden at that compound, but it does go to the point. The U.S. hunt for al Qaeda operative goes on -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, this targeted killing, as some people call it of Anwar al-Awlaki by the U.S. military as opposed to CIA predators, other drones, this is a big deal with the United States military engages in this kind of activity.
STARR: It is indeed. Yemen is a place where the U.S. military, Wolf, has been very quietly active in recent months. You will recall reports of U.S. missile strikes, bombs, big push by the U.S. military to go after al Qaeda in Yemen. They are now seen as possibly an even stronger threat directly to the United States than other elements of al Qaeda because they have been associated with the Times Square attack, with the Detroit bomber, a lot of concern that this cleric is looking to attack the United States.
BLITZER: Yes. He's obviously on the run right now. He knows the United States is after him. Anwar al-Awlaki, the American born cleric, who was targeted by the United States in this latest drone strike in Yemen. The -- we're told, as Barbara just reported, the information did not come, but many information found in Bin Laden's compound. It had been, apparently, in the works for some time. He apparently got out of the way. We'll get more information for our viewers. Barbara, thanks very much.
He is the man who ran the raid on Osama Bin Laden. He's in charge of all U.S. military covert units earning him the nickname, America's top commando. We'll tell you what we know.
Plus, new details, new video of the raid as it happened.
BLITZER: Undoubtedly, one of the toughest calls he's had to make as commander in chief. And now, President Obama is talking about how the decision was made to send in U.S. special operations forces to take out Osama Bin Laden. Listen to what he told Steve Kroft of CBS of "60 Minutes."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE KROFT, CBS: What was the most difficult part of that decision?
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My number one concern was if I send them in, can I get them out? And a lot of the discussion we had during the course of planning was how do we make sure there is backup, how do we make sure that there's redundancy built into the plan so that we have the best chance of getting our guys out. That's point number one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's bring back our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, to tell us more about the man, the individual, who actually ran this operation, Adm. McRaven. Tell our viewers what we know about him.
STARR: Well, Wolf, you may not believe it, but this is a man who trained to be a journalist and wound up living a life in the shadows.
STARR (voice-over): What is so extraordinary about this photograph of Navy Vice Adm. William McRaven is that it even exists. It was taken last year when McRaven apologized to Afghans for the killing of innocent civilians. It's one of the few photos of one of the most secretive officers in the U.S. military. McRaven is America's top commando.
As the head of the joint special operations command, JSOC, McRaven, a Navy SEAL, is in charge of all covert military units. It was his men that killed Osama Bin Laden. There was no hint of what was in the works when just a few weeks earlier, he made a rare public appearance.
ADM. WILLIAM MCRAVEN, COMMANDER OF JOINT SPECIAL OPERATIONS COMMAND: What should do is great mission (ph).
STARR: Those who know him say he may never speak publicly about Bin Laden. An operation technically run by the CIA, but even the CIA says --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have to tell you that the real commander was Adm. McRaven because he was -- he was on site, and he was actually in charge of the military operation that went in and got Bin Laden. There were some very tense moments as we were waiting for information, but finally, Adm. McRaven came back and said that he had picked up the word Geronimo, which was the code word that represented that they got Bin Laden.
STARR: Within hours, McRaven was back in Washington briefing Congress. Those who have worked with McRaven say if anybody could have pulled it off, it was the admiral with the ability to kill and the intellect to get the job done.
FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: It's a real credit to the team and to build leadership that those guys were trained and prepared well enough to be able to get in and out of there with nobody even getting hurt.
STARR: McRaven wrote a book on special operations advocating the use of a small lethal force which is exactly what he commands now. JSOC concludes the army's delta force as well as the SEALs. It's largely a result of years of training and spending on the best equipment. Little notice in Iraq and Afghanistan, they have been in the field for years capturing and killing insurgents.
Retired Adm. Timothy Keating has sat in highly classified McRaven briefings. Like others, he says McRaven is deeply intellectual and remains a covert commando at heart.
ADM. TIMOTHY KEATING, U.S. NAVY (ret.): You can almost lose him in a crowd of three, four. He -- he -- there's nothing distinctive about him physically, but it is a -- well-known fact that he is as tough as nails. He has to be.
STARR: Congressman Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, perhaps, sums up best the one-time journalism major from the University of Texas.
If you needed somebody to kick down a door? REP. MIKE ROGERS, (R) INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN: Well, I can say I used to be an FBI agent. The greatest compliment an FBI is given to another FBI agent is, I'll go through a door with you any day. And I can tell you that I'd go through any door, any day, with Adm. McRaven.
STARR (on-camera): And Wolf, what everyone will tell you about Bill McRaven is about his intellect and his muscle power -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. He's, obviously, an impressive guy, and as we say, a journalism major in college. Who knew? Barbara, thanks very, very much.
He's getting in a top statement from the White House on Syria. Blasting the Syrian regime, warning that the United States and the international community will adjust its relationship with Syria, unless, action is taken. The United States believes that Syria is deplorable actions towards its people warrant a strong international response, the statement says.
"Absent significant change in the Syrian government's current approach including an end to the government's killing of protesters and to the arrest -- and harassment campaigns of protesters and activists coupled with a genuine political reform process, responsive to the demands of the Syrian people, the United States, and its international partners. We'll take additional steps to make clear our strong opposition to the Syrian government's treatment of its people."
Strong statement on this day when more individuals protesting the Syrian government were killed on the streets of Syria. The U.S. still maintains an ambassador to Damascus, has not recalled the ambassador, has not severed relationship with the Syrian regime, of President Bashar al-Assad, but that's the threat in this latest statement, unless, the Syrian government stops its brutal crackdown on individuals seeking democracy in Syria.
That step could be taken in addition to some sanctions which have already been taken. We'll have more on this. That's coming up as well.
And as we learn more details about the raid to kill Bin Laden, the story keeps changing. Anderson Cooper has a full rundown on what we know now including new information about who was armed in the compound and how much of a fight they actually put up. Stay with us. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Five days since U.S. forces killed Osama Bin Laden in a bold raid, and new details are still coming out. CNN's Anderson Cooper has the latest.
I want to apologize. Unfortunately, we don't have that tape. We're going to fix that technological problem. We'll get to Anderson Cooper's report in just a moment. We're also finding new information out about Bin Laden's house. Officials are currently analyzing some of this information. We'll have more on the investigation. That's coming up as well.
But what would you do if you went in for surgery and you woke up with a German accent? Jeanne Moos will have one woman's incredible story.
BLITZER: We fixed the technical problems. Here's CNN's Anderson Cooper with the latest.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New video from the night of the assault on Bin Laden's compound taken by a neighbor shows his three-story house in flames. Also visible, burning pieces of the downed top secret helicopter scattered hundreds of yards away from the compound after the SEAL team blew it up. CNN has also learned the official military name of the assault, "Operation Neptune Spear," as well as new details about how it unfolded.
Only one of the five people killed inside the compound was armed, Bin Laden's trusted courier. Navy SEALs quickly killed the courier and an unknown woman who was caught in the crossfire. From that point on, a U.S. official said, there were no shots fired at U.S. troops. This new information sharply contradicts the official version of events the White House issued on Tuesday. This is what they said then.
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: They were engaged in a firefight throughout the operation.
COOPER: We now know that's not the case. After killing the courier and the unknown woman, the Navy SEALs then moved into the main three-story building where Bin Laden and his family lived. They killed the courier's brother on the first floor and began moving up the staircase which was barricaded with obstacles. Bin Laden's son rushed at them in the stairwell and was killed. Both the courier's brother and Bin Laden's son were unarmed.
According to ABC News, one of the first doors the SEALs tried to open turned out to be a false one with only a brick wall behind it. This led the SEALs to suspect the house may have been full of lethal booby traps. The SEALs, according to "New York Times," had a bomb sniffing dog with them. The SEAL team made their way to the third floor where Bin Laden was hiding out with a wife and several young children.
A U.S. official says Bin Laden was moving possibly toward a weapon in the room when he was shot first in the chest then in the head.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, (D) INTELLIGENCE CHMN.: There were arms directly near the door, and my understanding is, he was right there and going to get those arms. So, you know, you really can't take a chance.
COOPER: Also new, according to ABC News, Bin Laden had not one but three wives living with him in the compound. It's believed one of them was this woman. A 29-year-old Yemeni who was left behind after Monday's raid and is now in Pakistani custody. This image from Pakistan's GO (ph) TV taken from a passport found in the compound. Diplomatic sources tell CNN this is, quote, "almost certainly one of Bin Laden's wives."
She told Pakistani authorities she lived in the Abbottabad compound with eight of Bin Laden's children and five others for five years, never once venturing outside its walls. It's unclear how long Bin Laden, himself, lived in the compound. The BBC reports Bin Laden's family lived a comfortable life behind the walls with domestic helpers including two maids who were present during the raid.
The BBC also reports they received daily newspaper and milk deliveries along with two goats per week. The residents of the compound remain in Pakistani custody. Pakistan today admitting shortcomings in their intelligence operations and said an investigation would be launched.
SALMAN BASHIR, PAKISTAN FOREIGN MINISTER: To infer that the ISI or if the government would actually providing cover to Osama Bin Laden is absolutely wrong.
COOPER: A U.S. official also tells CNN no medical equipment was found at the compound that would suggest Bin Laden was in poor health before he died or had been receiving dialysis as had long been rumored. Authorities also say he was not given an autopsy before his burial at sea.
BLITZER: Anderson Cooper reporting. We're going to have much more on the raid on Bin Laden's compound, the fallout, coming up at the top of the hour on "John King, USA." But on a very, very different note, we want to leave you with this. Did you know that a person can lose an accent or even gain one from surgery? Jeanne Moos explains.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Before Karen Butler went to the dentist, her regular old American accent sounded like this.
KAREN BUTLER, ACQUIRED FOREIGN ACCENT SYNDROME: Hi, this is Karen. Sorry, I can't come to the phone at the moment.
MOOS: But after being sedated to have her teeth pulled, we're not pulling your leg, she sounded like this.
KAREN BUTLER: You talk to young girls, they think it's a very, very pretty sound. And they say, oh, I want an accent like that. Oh, just go see my dentist. (INAUDIBLE) MOOS: Some say she sounds Irish or English or Eastern European.
KAREN BUTLER: Now, you open your mouth and everybody goes, what's your problem?
MOOS: She's from Toledo, Oregon, and she's never been to any of those foreign places.
MOOS (on-camera): There's nothing fake about this. It's a medical condition called foreign accent syndrome, very rare, fewer than 100 known cases.
MOOS (voice-over): For instance, a Florida woman named Judy Roberts who had a stroke and went from sounding like this.
JUDY ROBERTS, ACQUIRED FOREIGN ACCENT SYNDROME: We've got fabulous things.
MOOS: To this.
ROBERTS: I felt like I was going bloody crazy.
MOOS: Doctors believe foreign accent syndrome is usually caused by some sort of brain injury or stroke, but it didn't affect Karen's sense of humor, even when it first happened a year and a half ago.
KAREN BUTLER: I sounded more like I was from Transylvania.
MOOS (on-camera): So, her daughter insisted, mom, record a special ring tone saying the words, "I want to suck your blood."
KAREN BUTLER: I want to suck your blood. It's my mom calling.
MOOS (voice-over): After 27 years of marriage.
Kind of exotic like you had a new wife?
GLEN BUTLER, KAREN'S HUSBAND: No.
MOOS: You never miss her old American self?
GLEN BUTLER: She still is her old American self. Just her voice has changed.
MOOS: Except that it doesn't sound changed to Karen. She doesn't hear her new accent until you play it back.
KAREN BUTLER: One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.
I sound German.
MOOS (on-camera): Things can get really weird when someone calls who knew Karen before her accent changed.
KAREN BUTLER: Hi, this is Karen. MOOS: So, now, they don't believe it's her answering the phone.
KAREN BUTLER: Hello, this is Karen.
MOOS (voice-over): She's a tax consultant, and her voice over the phone shocked one of her clients.
KAREN BUTLER: She calls her mother right away quick and says, somebody is impersonating Karen.
MOOS: One thing about acquiring a new accent overnight, sometimes even your own husband can't understand you.
KAREN BUTLER: I did even want to buy some postcard.
GLEN BUTLER: You want to buy some push carts?
KAREN BUTLER: Not push cart. A postcard.
GLEN BUTLER: Oh, postcards, OK.
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN.
KAREN BUTLER: Push cart.
MOOS: New York.