Obama on Sunday: A photo for the ages?
President Obama and his administrative and national security officials receive updates about the attack on Osama bin Laden. (Photo credit: Pete Souza/White House)
May 3rd, 2011
05:15 PM ET

Obama on Sunday: A photo for the ages?

Washington (CNN) - It may prove to be the defining image of Barack Obama's presidency.

Sunday, May 1, 2011. Obama is huddled with his national security team in the White House Situation Room, receiving real-time updates on the mission to kill or capture the most wanted man in the world: Osama bin Laden.

Obama, wearing a white collar shirt and black jacket with no tie, sits in a small chair in a corner of the room, flanked by Vice President Joe Biden and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen.

The president, so often pictured in a relaxed pose with a smile on his face, has a grave expression. He is steely eyed and hunched forward. He is staring straight ahead at a screen not visible in the photo.

Across the table, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appears worried. She is also staring ahead, one hand over her mouth and another over a classified document in her lap. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is seated to her left.

White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley and presidential homeland security and counterterrorism adviser John Brennan are among a small group standing in the back.

A partially obstructed presidential seal hangs behind Obama.

"It was probably one of the most anxiety-filled periods of time, I think, in the lives of the people who were assembled" there, Brennan told reporters Monday. "It was clearly very tense, a lot of people holding their breath. And there was a fair degree of silence as it progressed, as we would get the updates."

Brennan described "a tremendous sigh of relief" when the news came that bin Laden had finally been found, ending nearly a decade of painstaking work and frustration.

Obama's advisers disagreed over whether to launch the risky operation. "It was one of the most gutsiest calls of any president in recent memory," Brennan said.

The photo, taken by current White House photographer Pete Souza, captured "a defining moment in history very well," said Eric Draper, a photographer for President George W. Bush.

It's "very dramatic" and a "study of the intensity" of the time, he said.

"There are some moments that the photographer really just has to be there," he said. "The moment is so powerful" that it speaks for itself.

A sleepy Pakistani city awakes to violence, a unique place in history
Soldiers stand guard in Abbottabad on May 3, the sleepy city where U.S. Special Forces killed Osama bin Laden.
May 3rd, 2011
05:00 PM ET

A sleepy Pakistani city awakes to violence, a unique place in history

(CNN) - Life tends to be simpler, slower, safer in Abbottabad than in many Pakistani cities.

Drivers take their time on the winding mountain roads. Streets are largely empty at night, with people routinely turning in by 9 p.m. And violence found in tribal areas near the Afghanistan border, in the disputed territory of Kashmir, and denser cities including Lahore and Islamabad typically has no place in Abbottabad.

Until Monday morning, that is. That's when Abbottabad went from a sleepy northern Pakistani city 50 kilometers (31 miles) north of the Pakistani capital of Islamabad to the site of a bloody and historic firefight. There, in a city heavily populated with Pakistani army personnel, a handful of American special forces executed a daring 40-minute raid in which they killed Osama bin Laden, the world's most well-known terrorist leader.

The electricity was out in Abbottabad early Monday, recalled city resident Sohair Athar. This was not an especially unusual occurrence, he said. Nor was the buzz of a helicopter overhead, especially given the abundance of such flights since massive floods ravaged the region.

But the freelance software engineer, who also owns a coffee shop in town, noticed the helicopter didn't land immediately, as they usually do. Instead it hovered, prompting him to write on his Twitter feed: "Go away helicopter – before I take out my giant swatter :-/."

Shortly thereafter, Athar - who had come to the typically restive city of Abbottabad in part for peace and security from Lahore - heard a loud explosion.


Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow • Osama bin Laden • Pakistan
May 3rd, 2011
12:30 PM ET

Video: Details from inside bin Laden's compound

Editor's note: New video reveals details of what life was like inside Osama bin Laden's compound.

Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow • Osama bin Laden • Pakistan
May 3rd, 2011
09:30 AM ET

Courier who led U.S. to Osama bin Laden's hideout identified

(CNN) - A diplomatic source told CNN that the courier who was in close contact with Osama bin Laden and who eventually led the United States to him was a Kuwaiti named Abu Ahmad.

U.S. officials have said that when the identity of the courier - who they have not named - was established in 2007 the U.S. began a path to the house in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where the al Qaeda leader was living.

Analysis of assessments of detainees held at the U.S. Navy's detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, include several mentions of a man by the name of Abu Ahmad al Kuwaiti, who was reportedly close to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed - also a Kuwaiti.

The information on the detainee assessments came from U.S. Defense Department documents published by WikiLeaks.

Since the operation that killed bin Laden, U.S. officials have described the courier they were tracking as a protege of Mohammed and another senior member of al Qaeda, Abu Faraj al Libi, a Libyan detainee who was named as al Qaeda's third most senior leader when he was captured in May 2005.


Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow • Osama bin Laden • Pakistan
May 3rd, 2011
09:00 AM ET

Letters to the President: #834 'Not blinking'

Reporter's Note: More news is coming out about how the raid that killed Osama bin laden was conducted, and the very specific role of President Obama.

Dear Mr. President,

Having learned a good deal more about this raid to take bin Laden, I can understand why many Americans must be impressed with your coolness under fire. When you spoke at the correspondents’ dinner on Saturday, I was not far from the podium and you looked as if you had not a care in the world. Yet these monumental events were unfolding.

Related: Obama, juggler-in-chief

You had to know this enterprise was terribly risky and dangerous because, well…they all are. Still, you stood there and told jokes and acted as if you knew nothing of such concerns, which frankly was probably the best thing you could do to keep the bin Laden crowd from smelling something afoot.

May 3rd, 2011
03:02 AM ET

Video: 'A good day for America'

Editor's note: AC360° looks back on the first 24 hours after President Obama announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed.

Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow • Osama bin Laden • Pakistan
May 3rd, 2011
02:19 AM ET

Video: 'Hit 'em fast and hit 'em hard'

Editor's note: A former Navy SEAL and a former CIA officer speak with Anderson Cooper about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

Filed under: 360º Follow • Osama bin Laden • Pakistan
May 3rd, 2011
02:15 AM ET

Video: Former Pakistani president on bin Laden

Editor's note: Anderson Cooper speaks to the former president of Pakistan about the discovery of Osama bin Laden in the country.

Filed under: Osama bin Laden • Pakistan
May 3rd, 2011
02:12 AM ET

Video: Sifting through bin Laden's records

Editor's note: Anderson Cooper speaks to Gary Berntsen and Fran Townsend about the information found during the bin Laden raid.

Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow • Osama bin Laden • Pakistan
May 3rd, 2011
02:09 AM ET

Video: Inside elite team that killed bin Laden

Editor's note: Tom Foreman shares some details about the elite military team that killed Osama bin Laden.

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