Nightly News | May 03, 2011
>> these questions, a number of these issues that have come up since word broke of bin laden 's death also came up during an interview earlier today with leon panetta , the director of the cia and a man who as intelligence chief had a lot riding on this raid.
>> i don't think there was any question that ultimately a photograph would be presented to the public. obviously, i've seen those photographs. we've analyzed them. and there's no question that it's bin laden .
>> were you debating how the release of a photo would go over given its gruesomeness versus the need on behalf of people all over the world to demand proof of death?
>> i think there's no question that there were concerns and there were questions that had to be debated about just exactly what kind of impact would these photos have. but the bottom line is that, you know, we got bin laden and i think we have to reveal to the rest of the world the fact that we were able to get him and kill him.
>> is the world safer?
>> brian, i don't think there's any question that, you know, when you get the number one terrorist in the world that we're a little safer today than we were when he was alive. but i also don't think we ought to kid ourselves that killing osama bin laden kills al qaeda . al qaeda still remains a threat. we've damaged them, but we still have to defeat them.
>> what did the pakistanis know, and when did they know it?
>> the pakistanis did not know anything about this mission. and that was deliberate on our part, that this would be conducted as a unilateral mission. president obama had made very clear to the pakistanis that if we had good evidence as to where osama bin laden was located we were going to go in and get him. and that's exactly what happened. so i think the only time the pakistanis found out about it, frankly, was after this mission had taken place. we had to blow the helicopter, as you know. and that probably woke up a lot of people, including the pakistanis .
>> well, i ask that because i'm curious as to why, given all the hardware, the garrison, the personnel, retired military officers in that immediate area, why weren't the united states forces fired upon?
>> well, that was obviously a concern that was raised at the time we were considering this operation, which was going into this kind of sensitive area with helicopters and s.e.a.l.s and landing on this compound, would the pakistanis suddenly respond and, you know, try to pin down our forces? frankly, we considered all of those contingencies. that's why we had the backup helicopters in place. but the reality was that i think the military commander felt confident that we would be able to get in and get out, hopefully within 30 to 35 minutes. and the fact was that we completed this operation within 40 minutes and we had everybody on their way out of that country.
>> did the president's order read capture or kill or both or just one of those?
>> the authorities we have on bin laden are to kill him. and that was made clear. but it was also, as part of their rules of engagement , if he suddenly put up his hands and offered to be captured then they would have the opportunity, obviously, to capture him. but that opportunity never developed.
>> i'd like to ask you about the sourcing on the intel that ultimately led to this successful attack. can you confirm that it was as a result of waterboarding that we learned what we needed to learn to go after bin laden ?
>> you know, brian, in the intelligence business you work from a lot of sources of information and that was true here. we had a multiple source -- a multiple series of sources that provided information with regards to this situation. clearly, some of it came from detainees and the interrogation of detainees. but we also had information from other sources as well. so it's a little difficult to say it was due just to one source of information that we got.
>> turned around the other way, are you denying that waterboarding was in part among the tactics used to extract the intelligence that led to this successful mission?
>> no, i think some of the detainees clearly were -- you know, they used these enhanced interrogation techniques against some of these detainees. but i'm also saying that the debate about whether we would have gotten the same information through other approaches i think is always going to be an open question .
>> so final point, one final time, enhanced interrogation techniques , which has always been kind of a handy euphemism in these post-9/11 years, that includes waterboarding ?
>> that's correct.
>> and you can find an extended version of our interview with leon panetta on our website. that's nightly.msnbc.com.