Latest Attempt To Deny Obama Credit For Bin Laden Raid Falls Flat

Blog ››› ››› TODD GREGORY

Conservative media figures are suggesting that a recently released memo from Leon Panetta shows that President Obama doesn't deserve credit for ordering the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan. In fact, the memo fits the previously reported timeline of the decision to raid the compound and confirms Obama's role in making that decision.

Last August, The New Yorker reported the details of Obama's decision to order Vice Adm. Bill McRaven, who is in charge of the Joint Special Operations Command, to carry out the raid:

Late on Thursday afternoon [April 28, 2011], Panetta and the rest of the national-security team met with the President. For the next few nights, there would be virtually no moonlight over Abbottabad -- the ideal condition for a raid. After that, it would be another month until the lunar cycle was in its darkest phase. Several analysts from the National Counterterrorism Center were invited to critique the C.I.A.'s analysis; their confidence in the intelligence ranged between forty and sixty per cent. The center's director, Michael Leiter, said that it would be preferable to wait for stronger confirmation of bin Laden's presence in Abbottabad. Yet, as Ben Rhodes, a deputy national-security adviser, put it to me recently, the longer things dragged on, the greater the risk of a leak, "which would have upended the thing." Obama adjourned the meeting just after 7 P.M. and said that he would sleep on it.

The next morning [April 29, 2011], the President met in the Map Room with Tom Donilon, his national-security adviser, Denis McDonough, a deputy adviser, and Brennan. Obama had decided to go with a DEVGRU [SEAL team] assault, with McRaven choosing the night. It was too late for a Friday attack, and on Saturday there was excessive cloud cover. On Saturday afternoon, McRaven and Obama spoke on the phone, and McRaven said that the raid would occur on Sunday night. "Godspeed to you and your forces," Obama told him. "Please pass on to them my personal thanks for their service and the message that I personally will be following this mission very closely." [emphasis added]

For a recent cover article, Time magazine released a memo written by then-CIA director Panetta on the morning of April 29, 2011. Time transcribed the handwritten note:

MEMO FOR THE RECORD Apr. 29, 2011, 10:35 a.m.

Received phone call from Tom Donilon who stated that the President made a decision with regard to AC1 [Abbottabad Compound 1]. The decision is to proceed with the assault. The timing, operational decision making and control are in Admiral McRaven's hands. The approval is provided on the risk profile presented to the President. Any additional risks are to be brought back to the President for his consideration. The direction is to go in and get bin Laden and if he is not there, to get out. Those instructions were conveyed to Admiral McRaven at approximately 10:45 am. [emphasis added]

So, the memo confirms that Obama met with national security adviser Tom Donilon and others on the morning of April 29. Donilon then called Panetta on the phone and told him that Obama had decided to go forward with the raid, and that McRaven was in charge of operational decision-making, as one would expect with any major military operation.

The right-wing media are twisting this final detail -- that McRaven was in control of the operational decisions -- into a suggestion that there was no "gutsy call" by Obama to go forward with the raid.

Today on CNN Newsroom, CNN contributor Dana Loesch said of the raid, "[W]e learned later that it was really all kind of in McRaven's hands":

Similarly, a Big Peace post is titled "What 'Gutsy Call'? CIA Memo Reveals Admiral Controlled Bin Laden Mission," and an Investor's Business Daily editorial based on that post is headlined "Memo Reveals The 'Gutsy' Bin Laden Call That Wasn't."

Again, the memo that is the basis for all this confirms that Obama ordered the raid. And there was never any question that the operational details were in the hands of the military.

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