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Inside the Mission: Getting Bin Laden

Aired May 15, 2011 - 19:00   ET



CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He was no ordinary fugitive and this was no ordinary hunt.

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: There was only one way to find him, which was through the couriers.

LAWRENCE: Following the trail would take years.

MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Not brick by brick, but pebble by pebble.

LAWRENCE: The decision was risky.

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: One of his aides started repeating again, "Well, we got option A. We got option B." And he interrupted and said, "We're going in."

LAWRENCE: The chance of failure: high.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: SEALs would rather die than be captured.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: At the end of the day, it was a leap of faith.


SUBTITLE: "Inside the Mission: Getting Bin Laden"

LAWRENCE: Friday, April 29th, just after 8:20 a.m., the mission begins. The president gives the go.

HENRY: The president, after a long night's sleep, basically came in and immediately told the staff, "You've got the green light. Let's go."

LAWRENCE: As President Obama departs for the tornado-ravaged South, the U.S. military's best-kept secret is underway.

STARR: The troops were ready and in place. The equipment was ready to go. The plan had been practiced again and again and again.

LAWRENCE: America's most wanted man may finally be in reach, Osama bin Laden.

The architect of 9/11 had eluded the world's most powerful nation for more than a decade.

HAYDEN: The trail was quite cold.

LAWRENCE: Former CIA director, Michael Hayden, recalls the early misfires.

HAYDEN: Most of what we had looked more like Elvis sightings than they did substantive intelligence.

LAWRENCE: The trail caught fire last August when U.S. intelligence zeroed in on this compound.

HAYDEN: An unusual compound, unusual in its security, unusual in its size, and, frankly, unusual in its location.

LAWRENCE: Its location, just over a mile from Pakistan's premier military academy, north of Islamabad. The compound was discovered after tracking down bin Laden's trusted courier.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: One of my sources said to me, you know, one of the reasons it was so interesting to us is that we knew bin Laden was in the construction business. And this was well-constructed.

LAWRENCE: More clues begin to emerge from behind the 18-foot-high walls.

STARR: What they began to notice is the occupant burned their trash. They couldn't determine that there was any Internet access or telephone in this compound.

BERGEN: It was a lack of things they did that was really interesting. You know, for a family that lived there for several years. They never went to the movies. They never went grocery shopping.

LAWRENCE: To build a better case, CIA Director Leon Panetta looks for any guarantee bin Laden is inside.

LEON PANETTA, CIA DIRECTOR: Problem was we never really certain whether or not bin Laden was there. We noticed an individual who was pacing in the courtyard who at least had some of the appearances of it, but we were never able to verify that, in fact, it was him.

BORGER: This was a circumstantial case. And I've heard lots of percentages thrown around. Some say 50/50. Some say 60/40. Whatever. Certainly not 100 percent clear identification of Osama bin Laden.

LAWRENCE (on camera): There's no smoking gun, no photograph of bin Laden -- just a tall shadowy figure in a compound that arouses suspicion.

Still, the odds are good enough for Panetta to make a case to the president.

HAYDEN: I think the argument was this was the best chance we've ever had. The odds have never been higher and if we don't take this opportunity, the odds may never be this good again.

LAWRENCE (voice-over): Panetta tapped Special Operations commander, Vice Admiral William McRaven to hatch an action plan. Three options are put on the table.

STARR: One of them was to just go in and bomb it, obliterate it. The problem with that is you probably wouldn't have a body left and you couldn't show evidence that Osama bin Laden was really there. The next option was to send in an unmanned drone with a missile, a predator.

LAWRENCE: Both scenarios are ruled out for fear of collateral damage, leaving the riskiest game plan of all -- a commando-style assault.

STARR: The risks are unimaginable. Everything could have gone wrong. But the reward was: if it worked, they would come out with a body. They'd come out with DNA analysis.

LAWRENCE: President Obama shared what weighed on his mind in a CBS interview on "60 Minutes."

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These guys are going in the darkest of night. And they don't know what they are going to find. They don't know if the building is rigged. They don't know if, you know, there are explosives that are triggered by a particular door opening. So, huge risks that these guys are taking.

And so, my number one concern was: if I send them in, can I get them out?

LAWRENCE: And those men are willing to risk everything. Navy SEALs known as Team Six, a covert commando force -- made up of some of the military's best. Like former Navy SEAL Howard Wasdin.

HOWARD WASDIN, FORMER NAVY SEAL: It's like being part of an elite team that made it to the Super Bowl.

LAWRENCE: Wasdin's Super Bowl came in 1993, during a raid against a Somali warlord. Shot three times, Wasdin nearly lost his right leg.

WASDIN: I started thinking then -- I'm really not going to make it out of here. This -- this is it. I'm going to die today.

LAWRENCE: The battle better known as Black Hawk Down left 18 Americans dead and scores wounded. A failure, Wasdin says, because the security of the mission was compromised.

WASDIN: We were in there with the United Nations and these guys did not know how to keep operational security.

LAWRENCE: Painful memories of Black Hawk Down would trouble the president and advisers. The decision is made to keep Pakistan in the dark.

HENRY: To not tip them of in order to maintain the secrecy shows, number one, that there is not a lot of trust between the U.S. and Pakistan. But, number two, it showed that this was an even bigger gamble.

LAWRENCE: That April morning in Alabama, surrounded by the wreckage of Mother Nature, President Obama hides any sign of worry.

HENRY: He really kept a pretty good game face on to not let the public know at all that there was something else cooking behind the scenes.

LAWRENCE: A high risk plan is now in motion, but the ghosts of Tora Bora will haunt the mission to get bin Laden.




LAWRENCE (voice-over): It was 10 years ago that Osama bin Laden became America's worst enemy.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: There's an old poster out West as I recall that said "Wanted: dead or alive."

LAWRENCE: Bin Laden's base of operations is Afghanistan. Here, the fundamentalist Taliban regime provides sanctuary. So, immediately after September 11th, small U.S. commando teams begin working with local warlords who oppose the Taliban to get bin Laden.

CIA officer Gary Berntsen is on the ground helping lead the mission.

GARY BERNTSEN, FORMER CIA OFFICER: Keep pushing people forward. Keep taking ground. Keep working with northern alliance or other tribal units to seize territory and to kill the enemy.

LAWRENCE: Concerned that a large deployment of American troops would provoke a backlash, the Americans are, in effect, outsourcing the hunt for bin Laden -- using caches of cash.

BERNTSEN: We paid the enemy off to get them to surrender at times. We paid for our allies. We used cash as a tool. And it was quite effective.

LAWRENCE: Within weeks, Afghanistan is falling. Bin Laden is on the run, east to the mountains, nestled among the 14,000-foot peaks, a complex of caves known a Tora Bora.

BERGEN: It was an excellent place to hide because Bin Laden had spent many years living in and around that region. He had a house with a small rudimentary swimming pool. There was a bakery. There was -- he had a whole set-up there. And, you know, he had this little mini- jihadist kingdom that he would retreat to. It was his country retreat.

LAWRENCE: Six years earlier, journalist Abdel Bari Atwan had interviewed bin Laden here, in a cave turned into a command center. ABDEL BARI ATWAN, JOURNALIST: He told me that he feels safe in these caves. He knows the area very well. And he knows it is very difficult for anybody to come and follow him there.

LAWRENCE: But now, bin Laden is being followed.

BERNTSEN: And at that point, I only had about 20 Americans in the province, and, you know, working with a couple thousand Afghans that we had put online. We'd paid a number of Afghans.

TIM LISTER, CNN EXECUTIVE EDITOR: The journalists all gathered up on the mountainside there.

LAWRENCE: Tim Lister was part of the CNN team covering the war.

LISTER: We undoubtedly outnumbered the number of U.S. personnel that were on the ground.

LAWRENCE: The Americans call for airstrikes and they come with thundering force.


BERNTSEN: We brought in gunships which can put a bullet on every inch of a football field.

LISTER: The amount of ordinance dropped over a period of two weeks almost defies belief. The mountains were rearranged.

LAWRENCE: From a radio stripped of a dead al Qaeda fighter, the Americans hear bin Laden trying to rally his men.

BERNTSEN: We listen to him apologize to them for having led them into this trap, and having led them into a location where they are having airstrikes called on them just relentlessly.

LAWRENCE: With bin Laden in the crosshairs, Berntsen wants U.S. forces sent in to finish the job.

BERNTSEN: In the first two or three days of December, I would write a message back to Washington recommending the insertion of U.S. forces on the ground. I was looking for 600 to 800 Rangers, roughly a battalion. They never came.

LAWRENCE: Instead, the U.S. relies on its hired guns.

BERGEN: Yes. It was not a professional military force by any stretch of the imagination. Some of them reportedly were -- you know, took bribes from members of al Qaeda to look the other way.

LAWRENCE: Outsourcing fails. Bin Laden vanishes into the mountains.

BERNTSEN: He was there. We were listening to him on the radio. Bin Laden and roughly 180 would escape.

LISTER: The moral of the story, I think, is that to capture someone as resourceful as Osama bin Laden who has so many local contacts and local friends, you had to do the job yourself.

LAWRENCE: Though he has disappeared, his threats continue.

OSAMA BIN LADEN, AL QAEDA LEADER: This speech is to tell you how to avoid another tragedy.

BERGEN: The fact that he communicates through videotapes and audio tapes I don't think that's a sign of weakness. I think that he just -- he had a choice which was to say nothing and become irrelevant or to continue saying things publicly and stay relevant. And he chose the latter.

BIN LADEN: Just as you destroy our security, we will destroy yours.

BERGEN: And so, you know, his message continues to kind of resonate even when he was on the run.

LAWRENCE: With a $25 million bounty on his head, bin Laden is now the most wanted man on the planet.




LAWRENCE (voice-over): In the years after Tora Bora, bin Laden seems to have vanished, appearing only in video messages that mysteriously materialize, but leave no trace of his whereabouts.

General Michael Hayden headed up the CIA at the time.

HAYDEN: For most of my time in office, I would even publicly say that the trail was quite cold. We didn't have a whole lot of evidence in which we had much confidence.

LAWRENCE: Tough interrogations of al Qaeda detainees, some at secret prisons, begin to provide the clues that will lead to a compound in Pakistan, the mansion hideout of Osama bin Laden.

HAYDEN: We began to focus, drill down on the courier network as perhaps a way to chase after bin Laden. We knew he was communicating, but we were convinced he could not possibly be communicating electronically; otherwise, we would have picked that up. So, it had to be human-to-human contact, hence, the courier system.

LISTER: Amongst people who were detained soon after Tora Bora were Iman al-Qahtani (ph). He had tried to enter the United States as the 20th hijacker. He never got around to that because he was never admitted to the United States.

LAWRENCE: According to this interrogation log obtained by "TIME" magazine, the would-be 9/11 hijacker doesn't give up information easily to investigators at Guantanamo Bay. So, they subject him to standing nude and to having pictures of scantily-clad women hung around his neck. According to this FBI letter, they also make him endure months of intense isolation in a cell always flooded with light. At some point, he starts talking.

LISTER: And as far as we can tell from looking at the detainee assessments that were published by WikiLeaks, he mentioned quite a lot of names. One of those he mentioned was this gentleman Abu Ahmad al- Kuwaiti, who in turns out was a courier.

LAWRENCE: A courier who had been with Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora, a tantalizing tidbit.

But is it the one nugget out of thousands that's worth pursuing?

HAYDEN: We could sense the trail getting warmer.

LAWRENCE: Hayden credits the enhanced interrogation techniques or EITs.

HAYDEN: Well, we actually found out that the EITs were productive. Now, look, honest men can differ as to whether or not they want their country doing them. I understand that. That's a very honorable position.

But a lot of folks like to make the argument I don't want you doing it and it didn't work. I have not met anyone who has actually been involved in this program who would say that this didn't work.

LAWRENCE: Amid much controversy, waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques were banned by President Obama shortly after he took office, but the story of the trail that led to bin Laden has re-opened the debate.

Steven Kleinman is an experienced military interrogator.

STEVEN KLEINMAN, MILITARY INTERROGATOR: I've spent about 27 years now, all in human intelligence-related activities, most of it on active duty in the Air Force and the remainder in the Air Force Reserve. To get useful information on a consistent basis and a reliable basis, the use of coercion is not the way to go.

HAYDEN: Given how much we learned from detainees, particularly in the first three or four years after 9/11, it's hard for me to conceive of an operation like the one that happened a couple of weeks ago taking place without relying on information that we got from this program.

KLEINMAN: I had a number of colleagues from the FBI, from the military, who had more direct access to what was going on with those interrogations than I, who suggest very strongly that coercion was not involved.

LAWRENCE: Whatever techniques the interrogators are using, they are finally taking the first steps along the path that will take them to Osama bin Laden's front door.

BORGER: What they had was not the courier's name, but a nickname. And it took them a couple more years to try and figure out who this courier was, whether or not this courier was important or not important. One of the interesting things here is that they went to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and al-Libi, both very high vale detainees. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had been waterboarded 183 times.

LAWRENCE: They asked him what he knows about the courier.

BORGER: And Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was completely dismissive -- completely dismissive about who this person was and said, "Not important."

And it was the lie, as my source said, that was alerting -- the lie of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the lie of al-Libi. Those two men lying about this courier made them understand that, in fact, the courier was actually important, because they knew from other sources that the courier had been a protege of KSM. And he made believe he didn't know who he was. So, bingo, right?

Then, they had to go about finding him.

LAWRENCE: Investigators established the courier's name and begin to monitor his family's phone calls and e-mails.

LISTER: Once they established one cell phone call then it was a question of making inquiries at the ground level, listening out for any further calls. They were beginning to close in on him at this stage. What we believe happened is that al-Kuwaiti was tracked to a particular vehicle and once they found that vehicle, perhaps in the environs of Peshawar, it was waiting to see where he went.

BORGER: Last August -- August 2010, they finally had the courier lead them to the compound. And my source said to me -- one of my sources said to me -- "When we got a picture of that compound, we said, 'Wow, this is different.'"

LAWRENCE: Despite constant surveillance, there's never 100 percent certainty that Osama bin Laden is inside.

But back in the United States, an elite force has begun to train for a top secret mission -- getting bin Laden.



DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone. I'm Don Lemon. Here are your headlines this hour. For the first time in 38 years the Morganza Spillway in Louisiana has been opened. Historic flooding along the Mississippi River made the move necessary to prevent the river from overwhelming the levies in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The last time the Morganza Spillway was opened was 1973. Thousands of people must evacuate ahead of the rising water.

Two Florida Imams, a father and son, have been arrested on charges of providing support to the Pakistani Taliban and another son in the same family has also been arrested. A federal indictment accuses the three men, along with three others inside Pakistan, of supporting a conspiracy to kill, injure, and kidnap people abroad. We are told the arrests are not linked to the recent killing of Osama bin Laden.

Those are your headlines this hour. We now return you to the CNN Presents Special: Inside The Mission, Getting bin Laden.


LAWRENCE: Osama bin Laden has survived attack, eluded detection, and hidden away for 10 years. But, finally, U.S. Intelligence believes they've found him. Now, it will take an ambitious plan to get bin Laden. It will take some of the best of the American military. It will take the Navy SEALS.

STARR: They are very highly trained. They do a lot of very tough jobs around the world. These are the commandos. These are the ones that were going to kick down the door, take Osama bin Laden, dead or alive, and get the job done.

LAWRENCE: For an elite unit a special kind of sailor.

HOWARD WASDIN, FORMER NAVY SEAL: The heart and soul of a Navy SEAL is somebody who's committed to their country and committed to their teammates.

LAWRENCE: Howard Wasdin was a Navy SEAL for nine years.

WASDIN: And I think that's somebody who just wants to be part of the best. It's like, I really want to do something special and that's the SEAL law and motive, someone special. You want to be special? OK, prove it.

LAWRENCE: Proving it means surviving a training program so long and so tough that most don't make it. They call it BUDSS.

WASDIN: Basic Underwater Demolition Seal School. It all starts there. My class started, I think, around 126, 130, and we graduated around 22 to 25.

LAWRENCE: Every day begins with physical training, miles of swimming, running, hundreds of situps, pushups, all before the day's real work begins. And even more important than preparing the body is preparing the mind. Case in point, an exercise called drown proofing.

WASDIN: Candidates' hands are tied behind their back. Their feet are tied together and then you're thrown into the pool. You better not panic, you better remain calm. You control your breathing, you control your heart rate. They tell you day one at BUDSS, mental toughness, not physical toughness. It's what's between the ears that keeps the body going.

LAWRENCE: And then comes hell week. Six days, little sleep, submerged in frigid water or running hundreds of miles.

WASDIN: Now, the important thing to remember about that 200 miles, you're running that 200 miles with a boat on top of your head. You have to paddle out in those boats, dump the boats over and right them, paddle back in, do tons of paddling, tons of swimming.

LAWRENCE: Even the toughest are pushed to their limit. WASDIN: I always get asked, did you ever think about quitting? I've never spoke to anybody in the teams that said at one point they didn't at least think about it. The difference is, just like going into battle, controlling your fear. You don't quit.

LAWRENCE: For months after hell week the training continues until these sailors become Navy SEALS.

RYAN ZINKE,SENATOR, MONTANA (R): That sequence of developing confidence is part of SEAL training.

LAWRENCE: Ryan Zinke was a SEAL team commander.

ZINKE: That's why, at the end, you know, they're tough guys and when I go toe to toe against somebody there is an absolute belief that they'll win. Failure isn't an option and -- and guys will not give up, ever -- ever.

LAWRENCE: That's why, when the target is Osama bin Laden the President turns to the Navy SEALS and a special unit, Seal Team Six. Wasdin and Zinke were both members.

WASDIN: Seal Team Six is a different unit than the rest of the SEAL teams and as much as they concentrate primarily on one thing, counter- terrorism, hostage rescue.

ZINKE: It's the nation's 911. This our nation's best that is trained and equipped, superbly led to do the missions that help strategic importance worldwide. That's a big responsibility.

LAWRENCE: So, how do you prepare to go get bin Laden? Practice.

WASDIN: It's perpetual training all the time and that's why America should be proud of these guys. They make their lifestyle so that when they get up in the morning they start training and they never quit training because the training is forever.

LAWRENCE: And, for this mission, an extraordinary step. Training on an actual model of the compound. Navy SEALS hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

ZINKE: They what if it to death and -- and that's what's called the murder board. If you take things and you basically have so many contingencies, so many what ifs, that -- that you kill the plan.

LAWRENCE: There is plenty in this operation that could go wrong.

STARR: They hadn't been to Osama bin Laden's compound. They had no idea what they would find. Would there be booby traps? How would they get through the compound walls? How would they kick down the doors? How would they even find Osama bin Laden in this compound?

LAWRENCE: The training complete, the plan prepared, finally it's go time.

ZINKE: For every seal on the ground there was 50 to 100 maybe 200 people that were supporting the mission in some capacity. And you're amped. I mean, you board the helicopter. Your adrenaline is rushing. But, also, is that the sequence of events, you've rehearsed it, it's not your first rodeo.

LAWRENCE: For Seal Team Six total focus. Howard Wasdin remembers.

WASDIN: I would say a little prayer, first of all, for me and my teammates. The next thing that would be in my mind is paying attention to right now. Double checking everything, have I gone over this in my mind enough? And then, just going out, taking my place on that bird and going systematically through that same mental checklist until the job's over.

LAWRENCE: On their minds, the mission. But, on their shoulders, a President's legacy and a nation's grief.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The President of the United Status.

LAWRENCE: Saturday, April 30th, 2011.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is wonderful to be here at the White House Correspondent's Dinner. Just in case there are any lingering questions, tonight, for the first time, I am releasing my official birth video.


LAWRENCE: But, behind the laughter it is a defining moment for Obama's presidency.


ED HENRY, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Little did we know what he knew, which is that we were just a few hours away from killing Osama bin Laden.

LAWRENCE: Just hours earlier, the President made a final phone call to Vice Admiral McCraven.

HENRY: It was very dramatic because the President basically said, you know, Godspeed, we've given you all we can, you know, to get the job done. Now it's up to you and your men.

LAWRENCE: Seven thousand miles away at a U.S. military base in Afghanistan a handful of America's elite commandos are gearing up for the most important mission of their lives, capturing or killing Osama bin Laden.

Under the cover of darkness in the early morning hours of Monday, May 2nd, two U.S. Military Blackhawks with 25 Navy SEALS descend on the compound, believed to be hiding the world's most wanted terrorist. WASDIN: You've got endorphins being released, you've got epinephrine or, you know, adrenaline being released. If you control that fear you fight.

LAWRENCE: An intense mission with no room for error. But, as the SEALS close in on their target.

STARR: Something went very wrong. One of the helicopters lost lift and crashed. The whole plan had been that they would rope down from helicopters hovering overhead. It doesn't work any more. The SEALS on that helicopter had to get out and assault the compound from the ground.

LAWRENCE: Now, the second chopper shifts gears and lands outside the compound. The SEALS have to breach the outer wall.

MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: I am sure that the folks monitoring the operation had their hearts in their throats when that happened.

LAWRENCE: President Obama and his National Security Team are following the mission in realtime from the White House Situation Room.

For 25 anxious minutes there are no updates from the ground. The President and his staff wait.

JOHN BRENNAN, WHITE HOUSE COUNTERTERRORISM ADVISOR: The minutes passed like days. It was clearly very tense, a lot of people holding their breath, and there was a fair degree of silence as it -- as it progressed.

LAWRENCE: From the ground, the teams approached the buildings ready for battle. Former SEAL Howard Wasdin knows what it was like.

WASDIN: Now everything is coming faster, faster, faster. Heart's going to beat a little quicker, going to breathe a little faster.

LAWRENCE: The SEALS encounter enemy fire from the guest house at the south end of the compound and kill a man who turns out to be the courier, Al-Kuwaiti. The SEALS move through the main house.

WASDIN: You come through that door and you don't know what's on the other side. You don't know what they're holding, if they're good guys, if they're bad guys, how the room's set up.

ZINKE: These Navy SEALS didn't know whether there was going to be some sort of booby trap, whether or not there'd be suicide vests, whether or not they would walk in, essentially, to a killing field.

LAWRENCE: Inside the house, they confront and kill the courier's wife and brother and one of bin Laden's sons. Then, they climb to the third floor where they come face to face with the target they came for.

STARR: Bin Laden knows they're coming, sticks his head out in the hallway. There is a first shot. It misses. That would be a very tough shot to take. Remember, it's night time. It's night vision goggles the SEALS are wearing. Things are loud and confused. But, then, bin Laden goes back in the room by all accounts, all very quickly, in seconds. The SEALS kick down the door.

LAWRENCE: Bin Laden's wife rushes them and they shoot her in the leg and they go for bin Laden.

STARR: The first shot is to bin Laden's chest. By all accounts he moves -- he reels backwards from the impact and then they shoot him very quickly above the left eye in the forehead. This is the classic double tap. Two rapid nearly simultaneous shots. The target is dead. He falls to the floor.

LAWRENCE: In the Situation Room the President's team is still holding their breath.

STARR: And nobody knows what's going on until Admiral McCraven is able to report back to Washington that they've gotten him, that they have bin Laden and he's dead.

LAWRENCE: But it's not over yet.

STARR: Nobody takes an easy breath until the helicopters are back, everybody's back home, everyone is accounted for.

LAWRENCE: At the compound, the SEALS move quickly out of the house, taking with them a treasure trove of intelligence data and bin Laden's body. They destroy the disabled chopper to protect its reported cutting edge technology. 38 minutes after the daring raid began the SEALS are gone before Pakistani fighter jets can scramble to reach them.

WASDIN: I've never been on an op that went that smoothly. I've never even heard of an op that went that smoothly. Nobody was injured or killed and they achieved all their objectives.

STARR: The risks are unimaginable. Everything could have gone wrong but the reward was if it worked they would come out with a body, they'd come out with the intelligence on the ground that they gathered up, the computers, the DVDs, the thumb drives, all the things that would have been destroyed in a bombing or missile attack and show the world.

LAWRENCE: Bin Laden's body is flown to the U.S.S. Carl Vinson. Following Islamic tradition, within 12 hours the body is washed, wrapped in a white cloth, and buried at sea. At 11:35 p.m. Eastern Time on Sunday night, President Obama speaks to the nation, delivering the news Americans have waited a decade to hear.


OBAMA: Tonight I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LAWRENCE: A risky decision, a daring mission, and soon the world would see bin Laden as they'd never seen him before.


LAWRENCE: Ground Zero, May 2nd, 2011. Almost a decade earlier the site of unspeakable tragedy. Now, a place of celebration. Osama bin Laden is dead. It is a scene that plays out in cities across the U.S. and around the world.

NIC ROBERTSON, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: You can understand that people are ready to celebrate that he's gone. It's what they've been waiting for, for 10 years. It's a completely different feel.

LAWRENCE: CNN's Nic Robertson is one of the first reporters to arrive in Abbottabad.

ROBERTSON: I think there was a lot of surprise. They were -- they knew about the helicopters coming in. They heard the helicopters and had seen the flames, heard the explosions, heard some of the gun fire, gone to their rooms to look at what was happening. But, it was all sort of too unreal for them, if you will, that this most wanted terrorist was living right under their noses. You'll see the road goes long and straight towards the mountains.

LAWRENCE: On the streets of this town, 70 miles from the Capital, the mystery of where the world's most wanted terrorist was hiding out begins to unfold.

ROBERTSON: It was up there on the second and third floor where bin Laden was killed, two shots, one to the head, one to the chest, where it's becoming, already, a tourist attraction in of itself and look at all the people that are gathered here right now.

LAWRENCE: This small resort town is a far cry from the remote mountains or primitive caves that many imagine is bin Laden's hideout.

ROBERTSON: He couldn't have been hiding in any more plain sight than this. Around three sides of the compound are 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. And this is a very beautiful area.

LAWRENCE: Hassan Abbas, a former Pakistani government official lived there in the '80s before bin Laden arrived.

HASSAN ABBAS: Some people come there for tourism also. I -- I have very good memories of the area but I do remember that as soon as you start going close to the military academy it's like Pakistan's West Point. Then, there is these check posts and the surrounding area is also, if not cordoned off, at least watched very carefully.

LAWRENCE: The location was likely a strategic move by Osama bin Laden. ROBERTSON: One Pakistani said to me, there's darkness in the shadow next to the candle. What he means is that if you're next to a military base and you're hiding there, it's the last place that people are going to look for you and, in that way, it seems that bin Laden was smart choosing this city because it wasn't associated with terrorist activity.

ABBAS: He knew that the area closer to any military installation would at least be saved from the (INAUDIBLE).

LAWRENCE: At the compound, there is evidence bin Laden was not expecting trouble.

ROBERTSON: I was surprised at the lack of intensity of gun battle. I think it tells us that bin Laden had grown safe and that's why we didn't see the signs of a mass struggle. That's why Navy SEALS were able to take down the courier, the courier's brother, bin Laden's son, and get to him in the room without huge signs of a struggle, without having to blast their way through walls to get to bin Laden sort of in a super secure room.

ABBAS: He was living with his wives, maybe two or three, seven or eight children. This is not a sign of someone who is hiding and running away and really scared. This is someone who is having a comfortable life.

LAWRENCE: Suggesting bin Laden had help in Pakistan. A point not lost on President Obama as he told CBS's 60 Minutes.


OBAMA: We think that there had to be some sort of support network for bin Laden inside of Pakistan but we don't know who or what that support network was.


LAWRENCE: The Pakistani government vehemently denies any role.


YOUSEF RAZA GILANI, PAKISTANI PRIME MINISTER: Allegations of complicity or incompetence are absurd. We emphatically reject such accusations.


LAWRENCE: The White House and the world may find answers in the mother lode the Navy SEALS carried with them from the compound, 10 hard drives, five computers, more than 100 storage devices, even bin Laden's diary. We already know there are details of a possible attack on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 as well as plans to strike Washington, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

PETER BERGEN, NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, CNN: I think this is as significant as the death of bin Laden as what was found with him. It's really a treasure trove and the fact that the President took a decision not to go in and bomb the place means we have this very rich amount of data coming out of there which will make people safer and give us a better sense of what was happening entirely within Al Qaeda.

LAWRENCE: Released already, this video.

BERGEN: One of him watching TV, looking like this old guy monitoring his own image, very unheroic. Look, and a great piece of American propaganda to put that out there, to undercut bin Laden's heroic image.

LAWRENCE: An old man reliving his early fame. Perhaps afraid he had become irrelevant.

BERGEN: I think bin Laden must have been looking at the events of the Arab Spring in the Middle East with a mixture of glee and despair, glee because this is what he wanted, the overthrow of these regimes, the authoritarian regimes. Despair because this had nothing to do with him. You know, what's striking is there's not a single protester in Cairo, Benghazi, or Libya carrying a picture of bin Laden. President Obama correctly called him a small man on the wrong side of history and history just sped up for them. The Arab Spring shows that their ideology is irrelevant and bin Laden's death shows that their leader is now dead.

LAWRENCE: Will bin Laden's number two, the Egyptian, Ayman al- Zawahiri step into his shoes? Few Al Qaeda observers think he's capable of it.

BERGEN: If Ayman al-Zawahiri took over Al Qaeda, that's a very good thing for the United States and -- and civilized world prospective because he would probably drive what remains of the group into the ground.

LAWRENCE: Bin Laden's message of Jihad and hate may outlive him and continue to fan the embers of Al Qaeda. But, the long hunt for bin Laden and his death have sent a different message to future terrorists loud and clear. However long it takes, they will be hunted down.