From the Associated Press today:
“The decision to launch on that particular moonless night in May came largely because too many American officials had been briefed on the plan. U.S. officials feared if it leaked to the press, bin Laden would disappear for another decade.”
From President Obama’s appearance on 60 Minutes on Sunday, May 8th:
KROFT: Did you have to suppress the urge to tell someone? Did you wanna tell somebody? Did you wanna tell Michelle? Did you tell Michelle?
OBAMA: You know, one of the great successes of this operation was that we were able to keep this thing secret. And it’s a testimony to how seriously everybody took this operation and the understanding that any leak could end up not only compromising the mission, but killing some of the guys that we were sending in there.
And so very few people in the White House knew. The vast majority of my most senior aides did not know that we were doing this. And, you know, there were times where you wanted to go around and talk this through with some more folks. And that just wasn’t an option.
Last Sunday, as the final preparations for the raid were underway, President Obama continued with his charade of “business as usual.” Most people in the White House, including some of his closest aides, had no idea what was about to happen. To break the tension and to clear his head, he played some golf in the morning, waiting for the sun to go down in Pakistan.
Then he returned to the White House for the most critical 40 minutes of his presidency. In mid-afternoon, he gathered the architects of the mission in a windowless room in the White House basement to watch it all unfold.
So which is it? Did the mission get pushed up because too many people knew? Or did the administration demonstrate great skill and success keeping it under wraps, with just a few key people knowing about it at all?
We can guess which story is more likely to be true based on the fact that the AP story is based accounts from “officials [who] spoke on condition of anonymity to describe a classified operation.” The AP doesn’t make clear who these “officials” are – they could be at the White House, in Congress, at the Pentagon, the CIA… “classified” is evidently defined by some as “you can talk about it all you want, just don’t put your name on it.”