40 Tense Minutes Inside the Situation Room

Obama's order was fraught with risk
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted May 2, 2011 6:41 PM CDT
Obama Situation Room: Inside the Tense 40 Minutes as President Monitored Raid on Osama bin Laden
President Obama, Joe Biden, and members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room, Sunday, May 1, 2011.   (AP Photo/The White House, Pete Souza)

It was a daring gambit: Invade another nation's airspace, raid a compound, bag the world's most notorious terrorist, and get your troops out alive—all on the 50% to 80% chance Osama bin Laden was even there to begin with. Once President Obama ordered the raid on the Pakistan compound, all he could do was sit helplessly and literally watch as US soldiers a half a world away tried to carry out his orders. It was a vein-popping 40 minutes as the national security team monitored the mission from the Situation Room. "So when word came that a helicopter had been grounded," Michael Scherer writes in Time, "a sign that the plan was already off course, the tension increased."

But minutes later the radio crackled: "We've ID'd Geronimo," bin Laden's code name. Next came "For God and country, Geronimo, Geronimo, Geronimo," reports MSNBC, confirming bin Laden's death. But "Only when the last helicopter lifted off some minutes later did the president know that his forces had sustained no casualties," writes Scherer. Click through the gallery for official White House photos. (Read more President Obama stories.)

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