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The ever-changing White House story on bin Laden’s death

By ERICA WERNER
May 4, 2011

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney pauses during his daily news briefing at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, May 3, 2011. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Killing Osama bin Laden was a big victory for the U.S., but how exactly the raid went down is another story — and another, and another.

Over two days, the White House has offered contradictory versions of events, including misidentifying which of bin Laden’s sons was killed and wrongly saying bin Laden’s wife died in gunfire, as it tries to sort through what the president’s press secretary called the “fog of combat” and produce an accurate account.

Press Secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday that officials were trying to get information out as quickly as possible about the complex event witnessed by just a handful of people, and the story line was being corrected.

“We provided a great deal of information with great haste in order to inform you. … And obviously some of the information was, came in piece by piece and is being reviewed and updated and elaborated on,” Carney said.

The contradictions and misstatements reflect the fact that even in the case of a highly successful and popular mission, the confusion inherent in a fast-paced, unpredictable military raid conducted under intense pressure in a foreign country does not lend itself immediately to a tidy story line, some experts said.

“People are demanding the equivalent of a movie, they want to know scene by scene the most trivial details. You’re in the middle of a combat operation,” said Anthony Cordesman, a national security analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“One of the things we all have to be careful about is the idea that you can suddenly rush to transparency and understanding in a matter of minutes or hours on the first day of an event like this.”

The circumstances for the Navy SEALs involved hardly lent themselves to careful note-taking. One of their helicopters stalled even before they rushed bin Laden’s compound, entering different rooms from different angles, not knowing who they’d find and then, according to the White House, engaging in a firefight. Some of what happened during those 40 minutes in Abbottabad, Pakistan, may never be known.

Nevertheless, the contradictory statements seem certain to raise suspicions about the White House’s version of events, given that no independent account from another source is likely to emerge. The only non-U.S. witnesses to survive the raid are in Pakistani custody.

Some of the White House contradictions and corrections that have emerged so far:

_White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan told reporters Monday that bin Laden’s son Khalid was killed in the raid. When the White House released a transcript of Brennan’s briefing, it substituted the name of a different son, Hamza. The White House said that was a transcription error.

_Brennan said bin Laden’s wife died while shielding the terrorist leader from U.S. gunfire. Carney said Tuesday that the wife hadn’t died and was merely shot in the leg, although another woman did die. But it wasn’t clear that either of them was trying to shield bin Laden.

_Brennan and other officials suggested that bin Laden was holding a gun and even firing at U.S. forces. Carney said Tuesday that bin Laden was unarmed.

_Officials have offered varying accounts of how President Barack Obama and his team in the White House Situation Room were able to monitor the raid. Without providing details on the technology involved, Brennan said that “we were able to monitor in a real-time basis the progress of the operation from its commencement to its time on target to the extraction of the remains and to then the egress off of the target.”

CIA Director Leon Panetta told PBS on Tuesday that “Once those teams went into the compound, I can tell you that there was a time period of almost 20 or 25 minutes that we really didn’t know just exactly what was going on.”

_The night of the raid, administration officials held a telephone briefing for reporters. “During the raid, we lost one helicopter due to mechanical failure,” one of the administration officials said. Later in the same call, another official contradicted that: “We didn’t say it was mechanical.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, clarified Tuesday that the explanation was more technical: The air temperature in the compound was hotter than expected and the helicopter was too heavy to stay aloft under that condition.

Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press

20 Responses to The ever-changing White House story on bin Laden’s death

  1. Jim0001

    May 4, 2011 at 9:15 am

    Like the boy who cried wolf, Obama has not told the truth on anything.
    Why should he be believed now? His veracity is non-existant.
    One report said the raiding party arrived in CH-47 “Chinook” helicopters while another said MH-60 “Blackhawks”, The MH-60 is the designation for the super high tech “Pave low”. If it were a “Blackhawk” it would have been a UH-60.
    Another report said 22 were killed while another said 5.
    And now Feinstein is an aeronautical expert. This is nice to know because I thought she was only about destroying the Second Ammendment.
    Like most things with “Team Obummer” we will never get the truth!

    • Lillibet

      May 5, 2011 at 8:57 am

      After action reports are almost never right on the truth in the first 24 hours. It takes time to get all the viewpoints of all the actors to make sure the description of what happened reflects what really happened.

      This is true in criminal legal matters and it is true in the armed forces.

      The reason is simple. People are uncommonly inaccurate in their impressions being confused for truth. This is why in criminal trials there must be multiple witnesses or sources of evidence to convict a person of a crime. Flapping gums of a single individual are never enough. The requirement for reviewing evidence from multiple sources and observers is the raison detre for detectives, investigators and experts. Let those who are expert study and then report. With evidence. Then you can call out either lying or truth telling depending on the results.

      So, please do not brand the story a lie right at this moment because the after action report has been revised to match accurately what is reported to what actually happened there.

      • Jim0001

        May 5, 2011 at 11:15 pm

        During my military career, I participated in many AAR’s. I understand the concept and appreciate your comments. Military operations, however are not court cases or Police proceedings. The fog is not as dense when dealing with Special Operations personnel. Every aspect of training and preparation includes accurate AAR’s. We are now four days beyond march time and the story from this administration becomes more conflicted day by day.
        Armed / unarmed, wife killed / not killed, shield / not a shield, dog / no dog, firefight / no firefight, ad nauseum. This administration either revels in creating confusion (divide & conquer) or they are the most bumbling administration in history.

        Jimmy Carter must be happy knowing he is no longer the worst President in history.

        • logtroll

          May 6, 2011 at 7:22 am

          Yeah, Bush II has a solid grip on that title.

  2. Sandune

    May 4, 2011 at 9:36 am

    And here we have a strong Rush Limbaugh follower. Anything to downgrade President Obama must be issued across the internet. Jim, you want the truth? get your butte into the campaign for Congress in your district! The whole government has floated on corruption since Bush 41 was in office. I’m certain the GOP could use another Liberal Hater.

    I have been a Republican since Ike but after paying attention to the obnoxious changes in the GOP, I ran from the whole agenda. There is not a single member of the GOP who can describe the agenda of these dreadful people. Until the GOP can locate a candidate who respects all American values, you will never see the light of day under the corruption. At this time the corruption is planted in its own itshay and will either sink or swim. Your best bet is to stop making waves and get down to some rational repairs. This is my Party you represent and I resent your shallow comments.

    • Jim0001

      May 4, 2011 at 10:28 am

      You make some erroneous assumptions.
      1) I am not a Rush Limbaugh fan.
      2) I am not a Republican.
      What I am is a conservative and I believe in the Constitution of the United States of America. I do not believe in a new-age revised version. The Constitution (especially the Bill of Rights) says what it means and means what it says. I hate no person. I do hate what liberals / Democrats represent! I do hate their lust for the destruction of the principles this Nation was founded upon!
      Which of my “shallow comments” was incorrect?
      Please enlighten me.

      • Almandine

        May 4, 2011 at 9:07 pm

        Onward Thru the Fog!

  3. Almandine

    May 4, 2011 at 9:59 pm

    When you tell the truth you don’t have to keep trying to remember what you already said.

  4. Lillibet

    May 5, 2011 at 9:01 am

    Almandine, remember the lie gets around the world before truth has time to get its pants on.

    That statement has been attributed to Churchill and Mark Twain. Either way, it remains accurate.

  5. Walter Wouk

    May 5, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    Incompetence is a recurring theme in the Obama gang. Barry and his crew are handling this issue like they handled the birth certificate fiasco.

    • logtroll

      May 6, 2011 at 7:25 am

      It was incredibly incompetent that Obama bagged ObL. Bush and Co. never made THAT mistake!

      And the birther thing, my God, don’t these clowns know how to handle a bunch of utter fools in the press?

  6. Jeffrey King

    May 5, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    It’s mostly noise in these modern days. Wasn’t the intent of the President’s announcement to be first to speak of an important event. The media then became a parade of speculators, not of reporters.

    There will always be doubters, some are even reasonable. Short term memory loss doesn’t apply to all.

    Pat Tillman or the heroic female soldier from WV ring any bells?

    There is no fog of war involved when a gang of people running their mouths to fill time are simply spreading rumors or misinformation.

    • Sherry

      May 7, 2011 at 12:00 am

      You are absolutely right.
      The one unchanging fact is OBL is dead. I don’t care whether his wife was a shield, if a dog was used, if there was a firefight.
      I did find humor in the military statement, “we weren’t raiding a Girl Scout looking for cookies”
      None of our guys died.
      Obama should have taken the time to get the facts together before he went on TV. He didn’t . I question his need to put out a story before he got his facts straight..
      Bottom line: OBL is dead. Our guys took on a dangerous assignment, did the job and the only death was the intended target.
      The rest is noise.

      • Fivebyfives

        May 7, 2011 at 9:27 am

        Sherry: I share your sentiments. However, I would be a little harsher on President Obama. When I voted for him I voted for a president, not a Hollywood producer. As far as I’m concerned the killing of Bin Laden morphed quicklly into a campaign tool for next year. In the haste to control the narrative, the presidential screenwriters got ahead of themselves.

        I find the visit to New York Thursday offensive; this was a further canonization of Barack Obama as the glory sponge reminding everyone of his “courage” in adversity. George W. Bush was a lousy president (but the vote is not quite in on whether he’s been exceeded in that regard) but he DOES deserve some credit for the efforts made during his tenure.

        But neither Bush nor Obama should have been in New York. They should have had the SEAL team given a tickertape parade in gratitude.

        The Obama administration has shown a clear tendency to reverse or alter any promise or vow made for over 2 years now. The inconsistencies of the past week are only conforming to and established modus operandi.

  7. baal

    May 6, 2011 at 1:06 am

    Im sure all you Obama haters cried long and loud when your Hero, GW Smirk and his band of Thugs LIED about Pat Tillmans death and the heroic exploits of Jessica Lynch.

    GAWD, I HATE DOUBLE STANDARD HYPOCRITES!!

  8. baal

    May 6, 2011 at 1:11 am

    “I hate no person. I do hate what liberals / Democrats represent! I do hate their lust for the destruction of the principles this Nation was founded upon!”

    Really Jim, You liked the creation of Free Speech Zones and unfunded programs like Faith Based Services that NEVER gave ONE THIN DIME to any religious org that wasnt christian?

    How magnanimous of you….

  9. logtroll

    May 6, 2011 at 7:31 am

    ” I hate no person. I do hate what liberals / Democrats represent! I do hate their lust for the destruction of the principles this Nation was founded upon!
    Which of my “shallow comments” was incorrect?” Jim 0001

    Why Jim, that statement is incorrect. You have a sick fantasy that liberals/democrats lust for the destruction of of the principles this nation was founded upon. Just move that hatred a little bit to the point where you hate your fantasy and maybe you can get well.

    • Jim0001

      May 6, 2011 at 10:11 am

      Mr. Logtroll, Apparently, you are comfortable with the mess the Country is in. 1 in 7 on food stamps, debt and spending out of control, we are being invaded on our borders, have a vacuum in leadership, and not a hope on the media controlled horizion. We have become a nation of spoiled, self-indulgent wimps. The liberal agenda cannot be sustained. Our once great Nation is in decline and frankly I question if it can survive. My Father’s generation (WWII) saved this country! My generation has pissed it away with this great society, a chicken in every pot entitlement mentality. Contrary to the liberal agenda the People are sovreign, not the government. As a civilized society, We have an obligation to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves (elderly, sick, infirm), but I’ll be darned if we have an obligation to support thoes who WILL NOT take care of themselves! We are running out of taxpayers to support these liberal give-away programs and government waste…

  10. DejaVuAllOver

    May 8, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    IMHO opinion Obama wants to rub our faces in the dirt. We all know he’s a serial liar and he knows we know it. He’s saying, Yeah, I own you. Whadaya gonna do about it, punk?

    The birth certificate is even better. Apparently, if you download the Birth Sertificate (BS) as an Adobe .pdf file from the White House site, load the file into Adobe Illustrator, there are NINE distinct layers which can be edited at will. Whoever uploaded the file in the WH did us the favor of pre-editing the document. Is anyone really stupid enough to think Obama didn’t WANT to get caught? He knows we can’t do S*&T about it and he’s so arrogant this shouldn’t surprise anyone. Here’s a link:

    http://www.realzionistnews.com/?p=632

  11. frank verismo

    May 9, 2011 at 9:06 pm

    “IMHO opinion Obama wants to rub our faces in the dirt. We all know he’s a serial liar and he knows we know it. He’s saying, Yeah, I own you. Whadaya gonna do about it, punk?”

    It may surprise you to hear that Obama is far more ‘owned’ than you or I are. He long ago surrendered his own sovereignty to the powers he now answers to. You have far more autonomy than he does. Enjoy it.

    “Is anyone really stupid enough to think Obama didn’t WANT to get caught?”

    The trick is to make it neither cast-iron nor a blatant forgery.