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Blackout in US bin Laden operation exposed



US President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden (far left), Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and members of the national security team may not have been watching the mission unfold as they gathered in The White House Situation Room.

The head of the CIA has revealed that there was no live footage of the main part of the operation that killed Osama bin Laden, contradicting earlier reports that the US president was watching the action.

CIA Director Leon Panetta stated on Thursday that there was a 25-minute video blackout during the raid on the fortified compound owned by the al-Qaeda chief and that the US President Barack Obama and his national security aides had little knowledge of what was happening during the 38 minutes of the US special forces’ operation on Pakistani soil, the Daily Telegraph reported.

This is while a photograph of Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, along with defense staff and national security aides in the Situation Room was released by the White House, appearing to show them anxiously watching as the mission unfolded.

“Once those teams went into the compound I can tell you that 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,” the director of the CIA said in an interview with PBS.

“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.” Panetta added.

He went on to say that it was the US Navy Seals themselves who made the final decision to shoot bin Laden, rather than the US president.

“The authority here was to kill bin Laden. And obviously, under the rules of engagement, if he had in fact thrown up his hands surrendered and didn’t appear to be representing any kind of threat, then they were to capture him. But they had full authority to kill him,” the CIA director noted.

On late Sunday, Obama claimed that Osama bin Laden was killed by US forces on May 1 in a hiding compound in Pakistan, resisting while unarmed. He added that the military mission was conducted without the knowledge of Pakistani authorities due to US mistrust of their purported South Asia ally.

The dilemma surrounding the “Geronimo” operation to capture the al-Qaeda chief has significantly deepened over the past few days amid conflicting reports about what really happened in his compound and why Pakistan’s intelligence agencies were in the dark about the raid.

The skepticism deepened after Obama announced in a televised interview that he decided not to publish “disturbing imaged” of bin Laden’s dead body to avert “a national security risk” and due to concerns that it might be used as a “propaganda tool.”

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