Did Obama administration blow bin Laden intel with touchdown dance?

posted at 9:50 am on November 7, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

When a SEAL team killed Osama bin Laden in his safe house in Pakistan, it didn’t take long for the President of the United States to pass along the news.  Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for a series of misinformed conjectures about the mission to solidify into “fact,” either, with no small push from members of the Obama administration.  Now an author who has extensively interviewed the commandos in the raid wants to set the story straight, and also scold the White House for neutering the intel the mission gleaned through massive leaks in the days after it succeeded:

Forget whatever you think you know about the night Osama bin Laden was killed. According to a former Navy SEAL who claims to have the inside track, the mangled tales told of that historic night have only now been corrected.

“It became obvious in the weeks evolving after the mission that the story that was getting put out there was not only untrue, but it was a really ugly farce of what did happen,” said Chuck Pfarrer, author of Seal Target Geronimo: The Inside Story of the Mission to Kill Osama Bin Laden. …

“The version of the 45-minute firefight, and the ground-up assault, and the cold-blooded murder on the third floor — that wasn’t the mission,” Pfarrer told TheDC.

Pfarrer tells the Daily Caller that the problem appears to start with non-commandos watching video feeds without understanding what exactly they were seeing, and what they were not seeing.  Some of that doesn’t cover the misinformation in the open at the moment, though, especially the notion of a ground-up fight.  The SEALs entered through the top of the house, not the ground-level door, and almost immediately encountered Osama bin Laden.  The terrorist leader reacted instantly to get his weapon, which is why he got shot.

That’s wasn’t the outcome the US most wanted.  The SEALs had hoped to capture bin Laden, for obvious intelligence reasons, but also for legal reasons.  As Pfarrer points out, a “kill mission” — one with explicit orders to kill a particular target — could have been illegal:

And statements from as high as then-CIA Director Leon Panetta offered confirmation that the endeavor was a “kill mission.”

Pfarrer dismisses that assertion.

“An order to go in and murder someone in their house is not a lawful order,” explained Pfarrer, who maintains that bin Laden would have been captured had he surrendered. “Unlike the Germans in World War II, if you’re a petty officer, a chief petty officer, a naval officer, and you’re giving an order to murder somebody, that’s an unlawful order.”

Pfarrer doesn’t blame Obama for the misinformation that avalanched out of the administration in the days following the mission, but he certainly lays it at the feet of those working for Obama.  He does blame Obama for going public so quickly with the news that bin Laden had been killed, and the announcement of the treasure trove of intel that had been recovered:

“There was a choice that night,” Pfarrer told TheDC. “There was a choice to keep the mission secret.” America, Pfarrer explained, could have left things alone for “weeks or months … even though there was evidence left on the ground there … and use the intelligence and finish off al-Qaida.”

But Obama’s announcement, he said, “rendered moot all of the intelligence that was gathered from the nexus of al-Qaida. The computer drives, the hard drives, the videocasettes, the CDs, the thumb drives, everything. Before that could even be looked through, the political decision was made to take credit for the operation.”

Well, it would have been nice if Obama could have kept the secret for “weeks or months,” but let’s be fair.  We didn’t conduct this mission in a Waziristan cave far from prying eyes.  We hit a compound in a nice Pakistan suburb, just a stone’s throw away from one of their premier military academies.  News of an American raid would have spread fast, especially since we lost one of our high-tech and easily identifiable helicopters in the raid (at the end or the raid and not the beginning, Pfarrer says).  The Pakistani government might have wanted to keep a lid on this news — but more likely they would have used it just as they did after the raid, to put pressure on the US to back off of Islamabad.  Obama probably figured that we would have to explain our invasion of Pakistan in a short period of time, and that it might be better to get ahead of the curve — and it’s almost assured that al-Qaeda would have realized what happened fairly quickly and taken cover as a result.

Still, it sounds like a fascinating book, and it will be interesting to see how Pfarrer’s account squares with the Hollywood version coming out in 2013.

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But how can we blame this on Bush?

Del Dolemonte on November 7, 2011 at 9:57 AM

Wait a minute! I thought HE left the golf course and personally went there and killed Osama with HIS bare hands?

Dingbat63 on November 7, 2011 at 9:59 AM

the problem appears to start with non-commandos watching video feeds without understanding what exactly they were seeing, and what they were not seeing.

POTUS, VPOTUS, and SOS Clinton: The three best squad leaders the world has ever seen. …just ask ‘em…

ted c on November 7, 2011 at 10:00 AM

bin Laden as a prisoner? What a great concept. The jihadis immediately take 500 schoolchildren hostage and demand his release in exchange for not killing the kids, one by one. I have absolutely no confidence in the ability, or desire, of the Obama administation to keep his capture secret.

a capella on November 7, 2011 at 10:00 AM

and killed Osama with HIS bare hands?

Dingbat63 on November 7, 2011 at 9:59 AM

I saw it on video. He really did do it.

CW on November 7, 2011 at 10:02 AM

So PBHO, glistening in the moonlight and armed only with a dagger, didn’t take down Bin Laden by expertly throwing said dagger in a perfect arc to land right between Binny’s eyes while yelling hoarsely “This is for America, biotch!”

Bishop on November 7, 2011 at 10:03 AM

it will be interesting to see how Pfarrer’s account squares with the Hollywood version coming out in 2013.

I’m sure the HWood version will have AF1 performing a combat assault landing on a hastily improvised landing strip near OBL’s compound with Obama donning assault gear, running off the back, scaling the 10ft walls and capping bin laden himself before exfilling with the intel booty. //

ted c on November 7, 2011 at 10:03 AM

They really screwed the pooch leaving that chopper on the ground.

What really bothers me is how Pakistan was so angry after the raid, and then we lost over 30 SEALs immediately after….and then everything went quiet.
An unprecedented number of our most elite fighters dead in one group, and everything went dark??? Almost no mention in our media, those anti-war zealots?? (Unless there’s a Nobel Laureate in the White House apparently) The Pakis went silent? Everything just….stopped?

Were our men offered up as “payment” to the Pakis?????

KMC1 on November 7, 2011 at 10:03 AM

News of an American raid would have spread fast, especially since we lost one of our high-tech and easily identifiable helicopters in the raid (at the end or the raid and not the beginning, Pfarrer says).

Doesn’t matter how public it might have been. Sitting on he news for 48 hours would have been beneficial to us regardless. AQ knowing something happened and knowing exactly what are two different things. We could have used their confusion and ignorance of the facts to our advantage if there was actionable intelligence gained from the raid. Granted it is a narrow window, but a valuable one none the less.

NotCoach on November 7, 2011 at 10:04 AM

I heard Obambi beat OBL to death with his Nobel Peace Prize.

osogrande on November 7, 2011 at 10:06 AM

Why is it murder to order Osama killed in his home and not murder to whack a specific jihadi with a Hellfile missile?

Akzed on November 7, 2011 at 10:07 AM

ted c on November 7, 2011 at 10:03 AM

Perfect. It didn’t take 16 hours to decide to act; it took 16 hours to get AF1 in position above the raid as vital support. Didn’t Obama drop from a zip-line to exfiltrate stranded SEALs after the chopper when down?

NotCoach on November 7, 2011 at 10:08 AM

The insiders I want to hear from are the ones in the WH. Did Obama really dither for many hours before making a decision, as has been reported? Did he have to be dragged in from the golf course, as has been reported? Was the decision to green light the mission basically forced upon him, as has been reported?

Inquiring minds want to know.

AZCoyote on November 7, 2011 at 10:08 AM

Why is it murder to order Osama killed in his home and not murder to whack a specific jihadi with a Hellfile missile?

Akzed on November 7, 2011 at 10:07 AM

hey, don’t you be questioning your intellectual betters now you hear?

ted c on November 7, 2011 at 10:08 AM

Didn’t Obama drop from a zip-line to exfiltrate stranded SEALs after the chopper when down?

NotCoach on November 7, 2011 at 10:08 AM

AF1 must have that new hover capability.

ted c on November 7, 2011 at 10:11 AM

i was so ticked when i heard that breaking news… only a complete idiot would not use the strategic advantage of that intel to work to dismantle AQ…

Amateur hour continues on its deadly path

gatorboy on November 7, 2011 at 10:12 AM

Obama screws everything up.

txhsmom on November 7, 2011 at 10:15 AM

AF1 must have that new hover capability.

ted c on November 7, 2011 at 10:11 AM

Obama was manning both wings with his teeth through the improvised swivels he installed upon hearing that a chopper was down.

NotCoach on November 7, 2011 at 10:15 AM

72 hours, maybe a day or two longer, a week would have sufficed, not announcing to the world and doing a happy dance in the White House could have produced some remarkable results.

Osama tossed his satelite phone after some dimwit announced to the world that we were listening in on his every conversation, obtaining locational data, and Osama went to ground, using “trusted” couriers to convey orders, info and intel.

Imagine for a moment having all of Osama’s hard drives, and a ton of paper as well…for a few days or a week before any word leaked out?

The Pakis were not about to announce to the world that Osama was gunned down in his bedroom in his home just a few blocks from where a large number of senior Paki officers lived, and in sight of their major military school, now would they? Their line, their official line, was that Osama was somewhere on the Afghan side of the border living in squallor, hiding from us and all the rest of the world.

Perishable information was prematurely lost by going public even before the SEALS had been debriefed, fed and rested from their mission.

Just like when we rounded up a number of key AQ and AQ-Iraq members back in the day, we never made it public until well after so we could let the bad guys assume things and let them carry on as if Akhmed was merely in Dubai getting his ashes hauled or in Mumbasa having his plumbing checked. These guys rarely asked where Akhmed was after a few weeks being gone. They all were hiding, Akhmed merely was hiding better, so went the logic.

Based on the hard drives alone, we may have located, identified, and neutralized a huge swath of AQ and AQ support and sympathizer nets all across the globe.

Once word got out, AQ, if they showed any operational skill at all, they’d have gone to ground, split up nets into more tightly controlled cells, and made sure to re-vet any and all members/supporters who had the least bit of unaccountable time off the screen.

Instead, we got happy dance.

Same thing happened with Holder’s wonderful round up of a Russian SVR spy net here in the States. They were arrested, immediately deported and the press informed in a great show of bravado. No interrogation/interviews with the suspects, no going over their personal property and papers looking for concealment devices, codes, cell/contact lists. Just arrested and allowed to go home.

Did Obama administration blow bin Laden intel with touchdown dance?

I’d bank on it.

coldwarrior on November 7, 2011 at 10:18 AM

alternate theory: they got no intelligence. they said they did in order to observe reactions and movements. however that would have required obama to subordinate his ego.

casel21 on November 7, 2011 at 10:28 AM

Why is it murder to order Osama killed in his home and not murder to whack a specific jihadi with a Hellfile missile?

Akzed on November 7, 2011 at 10:07 AM

Either way Obama is a Democrat so there is nothing to see. Move along.

CW on November 7, 2011 at 10:30 AM

Akzed on November 7, 2011 at 10:07 AM

Or set up a federal officer to be gunned down/murdered?

Obama must have watched “The Untouchables” a few times too many.

Or, murder is simply the Chicago way?

coldwarrior on November 7, 2011 at 10:32 AM

Just par for the course with dear leader

cmsinaz on November 7, 2011 at 10:34 AM

The intel integrity issue aside, it would have made good political sense to sit on the announcement till summer’s end.

First, as EM notes there would have been some noise in the press because of the conspicuity of the attack. But that would allow Team Barry to tease out the story with “no comment” non-denials right up to the actual announcement.

Second, there was no political advantage to the May announcement. There was no big legislative or agenda item that benefited from a peripheral boost. But Mr. Obama knew tough debt ceiling talks needed to be concluded by August. Had he announced the OBL kill when he was taking a beating in the talks he might have been able to play a stronger hand. Ditto on waiting on the announcement till after gauging the reaction to his jobs bill — except in May Mr. Obama had no idea he would be shamed into mashing up a jobs bill for September.

If nothing else, an early August announcement would have recast his vacation narrative as well-deserved.

In this, as in so much else (e.g., his embrace of OWS), Mr. Obama’s political instincts are feeble.

DGB

Damian Bennett on November 7, 2011 at 10:35 AM

I heard Obambi beat OBL to death with his Nobel Peace Prize.
osogrande on November 7, 2011 at 10:06 AM

Nope. Nine Iron.

Dingbat63 on November 7, 2011 at 10:37 AM

“An order to go in and murder someone in their house is not a lawful order,”

By definition murder is an unlawful act but who says it’s murder?! Some effete elite in Brussels? Nonsense, this is war (on Islamic terrorists, though our leaders stupidly can’t say it – might violate our unwritten law: thy shall not upset Muslims).

The instigator of a horrendous terrorist attack is an enemy combatant that can be taken out anywhere. A government’s job 1 is the physical protection of the people it serves, not the patronage and comforting of moral elites, and especially not the F@$#!%& elites in European robes.

Chessplayer on November 7, 2011 at 10:39 AM

Were our men offered up as “payment” to the Pakis?????

KMC1 on November 7, 2011 at 10:03 AM

You can’t be serious by this question? And, the downing of that chopper, was just an unfortunate coincidence-very lucky strike on there part…

Static21 on November 7, 2011 at 10:45 AM

I heard Obambi beat OBL to death with his Nobel Peace Prize.
osogrande on November 7, 2011 at 10:06 AM

Nope. Nine Iron.

Dingbat63 on November 7, 2011 at 10:37 AM

I heard he had the Peace Prize made into a nine iron.

Maybe that explains everything.

profitsbeard on November 7, 2011 at 10:49 AM

Dear Peons of this Country My Wife is Not Proud of My Fellow Americans,
Let me get this straight. I had to:

1.) Come off the golf course
2.) Take credit for others bravery and harm America’s security – at the same time – and you don’t want me taking a victory dance?

That’s as unbelievable as me not knowing Bill Ayers!

Signed,
Barack O’Scoamf

Branch Rickey on November 7, 2011 at 10:51 AM

Just par for the course with dear leader

cmsinaz on November 7, 2011 at 10:34 AM

I see what you did there…

pain train on November 7, 2011 at 10:53 AM

I’m sure the HWood version will have AF1 performing a combat assault landing on a hastily improvised landing strip near OBL’s compound with Obama donning assault gear, running off the back, scaling the 10ft walls and capping bin laden himself before exfilling with the intel booty. //

ted c on November 7, 2011 at 10:03 AM

..do NOT give them any ideas!

The War Planner on November 7, 2011 at 10:54 AM

Not announcing would also have forced the Pakis into a very interesting spot. They have a downed chopper, but presumably not marked. It would have taken some time to get anything approaching proof that it was ours, though we would have been the only believable suspect. In the meantime they have a shot-up house but no bodies. Do they immediately announce who the occupant was, and thereby expose that they were aware of his presence?

I think they would have had to sit on the information they had and downplay it on their end if we had not announced immediately.

TexasDan on November 7, 2011 at 10:59 AM

You can’t be serious by this question? And, the downing of that chopper, was just an unfortunate coincidence-very lucky strike on there part…

Static21 on November 7, 2011 at 10:45 AM

I could not be more serious.

It’s a terrifying thing to think about, I know.

But it really stinks of conspiracy to me.

And frankly, I would put NOTHING past Obozo, and his desire to placate his muslim “brothers”.

KMC1 on November 7, 2011 at 11:00 AM

Obama probably figured that we would have to explain our invasion of Pakistan in a short period of time, and that it might be better to get ahead of the curve

Ed, you give Giggles too much credit. There was no logical motivation behind it – he simply wanted a chance to say his favorite words – “I, me, me, I, me, me, me, I.” He’s an immature, petlulant man-child who has no deeper motivation than himself.

crazy_legs on November 7, 2011 at 11:02 AM

I was surprised that they went public so quickly especially since they supposedly had a treasure trove of info. Pakistan wouldn’t have said anything publicly but they might have warned the terrorists that Bin Ladin was killed and security compromised.

All Mr Ego would have had to do was to let Pakistan take credit for Bin Laden and we would have had plenty of time to exploit the intel.

Vince on November 7, 2011 at 11:16 AM

Odumbo could care less about anything but taking credit for the mission.

rjoco1 on November 7, 2011 at 11:26 AM

and killed Osama with HIS bare hands?

Dingbat63 on November 7, 2011 at 9:59 AM

-
Why do you think played so much golf in the weeks leading up to the raid…? He was getting in-depth training from O.J.
-

RalphyBoy on November 7, 2011 at 11:28 AM

“News of an American raid would have spread fast” That is true but it wouldn’t be known to nearly everyone with a radio within minutes. Some of those who would care are not in places they can get information quickly. Even Osama only got imformation occasionally and he didn’t live in a place where radio reception was very limited. Days or even hours might have made a big difference. How long would you continue to use a sensetive phone after you heard that others in your network were gone or were likely to be gone very quickly.

In Pfarrer’s earlier book he describes getting a job, becoming a seal and becoming second officer in seal team five, which he had been working toward for a year, for declining to follow an order, one which was not illegal but was poorly conceived. That took more guts than declining to follow an illegal order.

burt on November 7, 2011 at 11:29 AM

Pfarrer is smoking crack if the thinks that news of the raid would have stayed under wraps for weeks or months if Obama didn’t say anything.

SoulGlo on November 7, 2011 at 11:55 AM

The Administration could have easily kept the mission a secret. The downed chopper and mission incident could have been explained away by using any type of “covert mission” cover.

After all, if the Pakistani government revealed that the mission was an effort to get Bin Laden they would have to admitted that they had him within their boarders in an easily identifiable location. That would have been awkward at best for the Pakistani government. Besides, Obama could have more effectively used the Bin Laden death later in the election cycle, and after the recovered intelligence had been gleaned and used.

In short, keeping the mission under cover for some extended period of time would have been a win for the Administration. Exposing “the kill” immediately had no real advantage for Obama, political or otherwise.

My bet is that this is just another example of the inexperience and ineffectiveness of this Administration.

watson007 on November 7, 2011 at 12:00 PM

KMC1 on November 7, 2011 at 11:00 AM

You would be wrong then. You can blame alot on Obama, but not this.

Static21 on November 7, 2011 at 12:07 PM

Doesn’t the Hollywood movie version have Obama and Biden sliding down the rope from the helicopter into Bin Laden’s home with guns a blazing???
;-)

albill on November 7, 2011 at 1:15 PM

albill on November 7, 2011 at 1:15 PM

Don’t forget screaming their catch phrases while in action.

“This is a big fing deal!” – Joe “Stoppen the Rapists” Biden

“I’m just here to find out whos a$$ to kick!” – Barack “Take the Blue Pill” Obama

NotCoach on November 7, 2011 at 1:26 PM

Not sure I’d believe Pfarer either. Those who “go tell it” in the NSW (or special ops community generally) aren’t often looked upon favorably by their mates. I can’t see NSW operators lining up to tell a writer “what really happened.”

For all the BS that came out early on, one thing was consistently reported from the get-go: that Bin Laden was killed later rather than earlier in the raid.

As far as it being a kill mission, I doubt anyone was worried about offing Bin Laden. Yeah right… the United States is going to invade a sovereign country with a dead-of-night military op but is going to wring its hands about the legality of killing Bin Laden. That doesn’t even begin to add up — not even by Obama / Holder standards of Bull$h!t.

SAMinVA on November 7, 2011 at 1:56 PM

You would be wrong then. You can blame alot on Obama, but not this.

Static21 on November 7, 2011 at 12:07 PM

I wish I had your confidence in the man.

I don’t.

KMC1 on November 7, 2011 at 1:59 PM

Why is it murder to order Osama killed in his home and not murder to whack a specific jihadi with a Hellfile missile?

Akzed on November 7, 2011 at 10:07 AM

It depends on whether it was manilla or circular.

unclesmrgol on November 7, 2011 at 9:32 PM

Were our men offered up as “payment” to the Pakis?????

KMC1 on November 7, 2011 at 10:03 AM

Until reading your post, that thought had never oocured to me. Now I’ve got a real unsettled feeling in my gut, and believe me, it’s NOT a stomach virus. : (

listens2glenn on November 7, 2011 at 10:01 PM

Static21 on November 7, 2011 at 10:45 AM

Neither KMC1 nor I can PROVE that’s what happened.

We can however document BHO’s actions and words (as well as the people he has surrounded himself with) in the past that would lend credence to it as a valid theory.

listens2glenn on November 7, 2011 at 10:12 PM

The Obama admin are pikers, plain & simple. Pathetic!!! Idiots!!!

AH_C on November 8, 2011 at 2:36 PM