The hand-written memo authorizing a mission to kill Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, written one year ago, has been released. The note with the heading "Memo for the Record," was scribbled by Leon Panetta, then director of CIA on the morning of April 29.
Time obtained a copy of the memo Leon Panetta jotted down soon after he received the President’s orders to launch the raid.
The memo came from the desk of director of CIA, Leon Panetta, now Secretary of Defense. It documents President Obama's decision to send special forces to assassinate Osama bin Ladin, who is believed to have masterminded the September 11 attacks on the U.S.
In the memo, Panetta said he had received a telephone call from National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, that said the "President made a decision with regard to AC1[Abbottabad Compound 1] . The decision is to proceed with the assault."
Daily Mail reports the plan to assassinate Osama bin Laden began eight months earlier when Panetta told Obama that the CIA had tracked the Al-Qaeda leader to a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, close to Islamabad. But a day before Panetta wrote the memo, two of the President's closest advisers, the Vice President Joe Biden and the then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, said they thought it was too early to strike at the compound.
However, on the 29th, the President sent an order to inform key officials that the mission would go ahead. The Panetta memo said: "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."
Daily Mail reports that in taking the decision, the President took considerable risks, mainly that it was possible that Bin Laden was not in the compound. Although, surveillance drones had shown a tall figure walking in the compound nicknamed "The Pacer," thought to be Bin Laden, the identification was not certain. Panetta was relatively certain of the identification. He estimated the chance of the identification being correct at 80 percent, but other officials were not so confident. Michael Letier, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, thought there was only a 40 percent chance that "The Pacer" was Bin Laden.
The possibility of a mistaken identity loomed as the order was given to proceed with assault on the compound. Panetta's memo said: "The direction is to go in and get Bin Laden and if he is not there, to get out."
Obama settled for the option of using the elite Navy SEAL Team Six to avoid civilian casualties in the compound and neighborhood that could result if a bomb was used.
National Post notes that in taking the decision to use the Navy SEALS, Obama chose the riskiest method that involved a secret helicopter assault using special forces on a compound in a Pakistani military town.
Daily Mail reports Admiral William McRaven was head of the Joint Special Operations Command responsible for the elite Navy SEAL Team Six that attacked the compound in Abbottabad.
The first anniversary of the assassination of Bin Laden comes on May 1 and already, there are fears of a "lone wolf" attack as the anniversary approaches.
Text of the Memo:
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."