Rappoport, Jon

MAY 7, 2011. On May 2, the White House held a press briefing. Counter-terrorism chief, John Brennan, took the following question:

"Was it-was there a visual, or was it just radio reports or phone reports you were getting [during the raid]?"

Brennan: "We [in the situation room] were able to monitor the situation in real time and were able to have regular updates to ensure that we had real-time visibility into the progress of the operation. I'm not going to go into detail about what type of visuals we had or what type of feeds that were there, but it was-it gave us the ability to actually track it [the raid] on an ongoing basis."

Then the world was presented with the photo of Obama, H. Clinton, and others intently watching the raid in the situation room.

This cemented in the notion that top US officials were, in fact, watching the raid take place in real time.

But on May 5, CIA Director, Leon Panetta, told PBS: "Once those teams went into the compound I can tell you there was a time period of almost 20 or 25 minutes where we really didn't know just exactly what was going on. And there were some very tense moments as we were waiting for information. We had some observation of the approach there, but we did not have direct flow of information as to the actual conduct of the operation itself as they were going through the compound."

So the implication was: we saw everything.

Then the claim was: we saw nothing of importance.

Brennan managed to suggest, without actually spelling it out, that the team in the situation room saw everything that was vital...and then his story collapsed.

Can't these people keep their scenario straight?

There are several possible reasons for the abrupt change. Perhaps the most interesting is: the team in the White House situation room wants deniability, in case something untoward eventually surfaces about what actually went on inside the compound. Shooting unarmed women and children, for example. Or the man who was killed wasn't public-enemy number one.

"We didn't see that. We didn't see anything."

At this point, you can make up your own version of events, and you'll probably be as close to the truth as what we're getting from official sources.

Briefly, a report surfaced about a doctor in the compound being arrested. Where is he? What does he have to say about bin Laden's physical condition for the last five years? Where is the kidney dialysis equipment that was needed to keep him alive? If it were there, you'd think US officials would have released that information, as part of their "verification" procedure indicating that the man who was shot and killed was, in fact, bin Laden. If, indeed, he had been suffering from very serious kidney disease since 2001 and needed dialysis-where are those machines?

"Oh, of course we found them. We dumped them in the sea with the corpse."

Then there are the gruesome death photos that were going to be released, but weren't. What happened there? Where are the photos now? Who has them?

DNA experts have already weighed in and said the original DNA sample from a bin Laden family member may be insufficient to provide a convincing match, given the complex structure of the family tree.

Imagine you had hired an architect to build a skyscraper. He comes to your office with a few sketches and partial blueprints. You examine them.

"Here, where these pillars are located? I don't quite see how they support this slab. Then the girders. Where are the connections to the upper floors? And the roof. I don't see how it's fastened in place."

"Look, the building will stand. I assure you. I'm the architect. Accept that. Why would I present you with a dud?"

Make up your own mind. Examine the evidence, the lack of evidence.


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