Return to Transcripts main page
ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
No Bin Laden Pictures Released; New Details of Raid Emerge
Aired May 4, 2011 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone.
What a day it has been. We are live from Ground Zero again tonight with breaking news.
The Navy SEALs who carried out the mission to kill Osama bin Laden are back home tonight. Their anonymity, of course, prevents the hero's welcome they would otherwise get and should get. But a senior U.S. official tells CNN, yes, the SEALs are back on U.S. soil, this just as the picture of their mission is coming into clearer focus tonight.
We have newly released photos to show you from the raid on bin Laden's compound in Pakistan. Reuters News Agency says the pictures were taken by a Pakistani security official at dawn on Monday after U.S. Navy SEALs had left the compound. The pictures show the wreckage of the helicopter that crash-landed and was left behind and could be our first look at a new kind of military technology, a new kind of Black Hawk. Experts who have actually seen these photos say the helicopter's tail assembly is different from known helicopter types, and they say that could indicate some kind of new radar-avoidance capability. We're going to have much more on this later in the program and what Pakistan may be doing with those helicopter parts and that new information.
There are also a number of other pictures that were also -- that Reuters actually got from this same Pakistani official that we believe are just too graphic to show you on television. They show too men lying dead in large pools of blood. Presumably, they are the other men who were killed that day in addition to bin Laden, although their identities have not been confirmed.
I'm sure you will be able to see the pictures elsewhere if you want. We just don't think it's appropriate to show it on television at this time.
The pictures of course that CNN haven't seen, that very few people in the world have seen are the pictures of Osama bin Laden's dead body. Today, President Obama deciding those photos will not be released. In an interview that's going to air on Sunday on CBS' "60 Minutes," Steve Kroft asked the president about his decision. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE KROFT, CBS CORRESPONDENT: Did you see the pictures? BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes.
KROFT: What was your reaction when you saw them?
OBAMA: It was him.
KROFT: Why haven't you released them?
OBAMA: You know, we discussed this internally. Keep in mind that we are absolutely certain this was him. We have done DNA sampling and testing. And so there's no doubt that we killed Osama bin Laden.
It is important for us to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence, as a propaganda tool. You know, that's not who we are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, there are lawmakers who say the president made the wrong decision. And a CNN poll released yesterday shows 56 percent of those surveyed said the photos should be made public.
We also have more breaking news tonight in that vein. Some lawmakers tonight are having to backtrack on what they have said about the photos and could have been duped by some of the fake pictures that are making the rounds online. The official photos were not shown in any of the congressional briefings over the past few days, but some lawmakers have been saying they saw photos.
Today, several senators admitted that the photos they saw were unofficial, passed around on electronic devices. For all the fake photos, and photos that will stay classified, the fact remains the White House says there's absolutely -- there's absolute certainty that bin Laden is dead.
And new details today about his death continue to come in by the hour. Here's what we know right now.
COOPER (voice-over): New details about the final moments of Osama bin Laden's life, a U.S. official telling CNN bin Laden was -- quote -- "moving at the time he was shot." One U.S. senator, who was briefed on the operation, said he may have been reaching for a weapon.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: There were arms directly near the door and my understanding he was right there and going to get those arms. So, you know, you really can't take a chance.
COOPER: After bin Laden was killed, the SEAL team went about positively identified him. One of bin Laden's key physical features was his height, but according to ABC News, the SEALs didn't have a tape measure, so one of them laid down next to bin Laden for a comparison. Also new, the moments before his death are now under some dispute. Pakistani officials say bin Laden's daughter, believed to be 12 or 13 years old, says she saw her father killed right in front of her.
According to the Arab news network Al-Arabiya, the daughter also said he was taken alive on the ground floor of the compound in the first few minutes of the raid. She says he was then shot and killed in front of family members, his body dragged by U.S. special forces to their helicopter. That account differs completely from the one the White House gave yesterday. They say bin Laden was shot on the third floor during the last part of the nearly 40-minute raid after U.S. troops methodically cleared the building room by room.
A U.S. official told CNN that bin Laden did not -- quote -- "hold his hands up and surrender."
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He resisted. The U.S. personnel on the ground handled themselves with the utmost professionalism and he was killed in an operation because of the resistance that he -- that they met.
COOPER: Questions today over those final moments went unanswered.
CARNEY: I don't have any more information. I'm not going to discuss beyond what I have said already the operational details.
QUESTION: But some things, as you acknowledged yesterday, have changed as the information came in. Is the fact of the firefight solid?
CARNEY: You've heard the account that I read yesterday, and that is information that I provided. And I'm not -- I'm just simply saying I'm not going further than that.
COOPER: New evidence revealed today also suggests bin Laden was ready to flee his Pakistani compound at a moment's notice. Sources tell CNN bin Laden had 500 euros, equivalent to about $745, and two phone numbers sewn into his clothing.
But there was no time for bin Laden to flee and, according to CIA Director Leon Panetta on PBS, no time for last words either before he was killed.
LEON PANETTA, CIA DIRECTOR: To be frank, I don't think he had a lot of time to say anything. It was a firefight going up that compound. And by the time they got to the third floor and found bin Laden, I think it -- this was all split-second action on the part of the SEALs.
COOPER: About two dozen family members and residents of the compound were left behind after Monday's raid, including a woman believed to be one of bin Laden's wives, a 29-year-old Yemeni who rushed at U.S. troops before being shot in the leg. This video from Pakistan's Geo TV shows what it says is a passport of a Yemeni woman found in the debris of the house, but CNN cannot confirm it was his wife. New information too about items taken from the compound. In addition to the computers and hard drives, officials say the SEAL team also collected about five cell phones and around five guns, including pistols and an AK-47.
It is also claimed the SEALs found -- quote -- "lots of paper documents" and audio/visual equipment as well. A fiberoptic cable that would allow access to the Internet was also found, according to "The Washington Times," possibly suggesting bin Laden continued to provide some sort of strategic direction to al Qaeda while he remain sequestered in his compound.
According to CBS News, much of the material recovered is encrypted and could take some time to decipher. Everything is stored at the FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia. The White House today decided not to release photos of bin Laden's dead body, citing a security risk because of the graphic nature of the photos. A senior U.S. official told CNN the photos show a massive open head wound over both of bin Laden's eyes.
President Obama told CBS News' "60 Minutes" that didn't want to -- quote -- "trot out this stuff as trophies."
CARNEY: There is no doubt that bin Laden is dead. Certainly, there is doubt -- no doubt among al Qaeda members that he is dead. And so we don't think that a photograph in and of itself is going to make any difference.
COOPER: There's certainly no doubt the world's most wanted terrorist is dead, but questions remain over how he died and how he was able to escape detection for so long while hiding in plain sight.
COOPER: It is amazing.
Joining me live here at Ground Zero, senior White House correspondent Ed Henry.
Ed, thanks for being with us.
And in Washington, CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger.
Obviously, Ed, the big announcement today is that the photos would not be released. President Obama all along apparently didn't plan to release them.
ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I have heard from senior officials the president was consistent from the very beginning this weekend that he thought it was the wrong thing to do. As one of his aides said, it's like spiking the football in the end zone. That is what is going to inflame the Muslim world.
COOPER: Do we know why Leon Panetta then earlier said, well, one photo will be released?
HENRY: There seemed to be some confusion about that. And I talked to one top Democrat who said that there were people in the White House who were a little bit upset that Leon Panetta seemed to be getting ahead of the president yesterday by saying, look, these are going to come out eventually.
But I think, in Leon Panetta's defense, he was just saying it's bound to leak one way or another, not necessarily that the administration will do it. This is likely to wind up on WikiLeaks, wind up on the Internet in some way. So why not have the U.S. government control that release, rather than letting it spring out at some point down the road?
There clearly was division, but people inside the White House say it was not a nasty dispute or anything like that. And at the end of the day, this was the president's call and he thought it was the right thing to do to just keep this behind closed doors.
Gloria, I know you have been working your sources as well. At the end of the day, the president didn't want to give anyone additional incentive to target American troops overseas. Is that right?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. And it -- yes, absolutely. And I think that was the most important point.
The two most important people here, in addition to president, are the secretary of defense and the secretary of state.
And in actually talking to a Republican who was a senior member of the previous administration, this Republican said to me, look, when your secretary of defense, when the military says to you, please don't release this because it could potentially endanger the troops, you have got to listen.
And I think it was the president's instinct, as Ed is reporting. I think it was the instinct of a lot of his top staff inside the White House. We were talking about this last night, that one top staffer said to me, look, we have got everything. We have got the DNA, the facials, the wife, the measurements. We don't need to do this for shock value.
And I think, in the end, the military advice kind of made all the difference to the president.
COOPER: Ed, how concerned is the White House at this point about the changing stories? I mean, we heard originally that a woman was used as a human shield by bin Laden. On this program, we sort of were raising questions about that from the very beginning because it did seem like the kind of thing people -- someone would put out to make bin Laden look particularly bad or weak.
(CROSSTALK) HENRY: They pulled back on that.
COOPER: And then they pulled back on that.
Are they going to be continuing to respond to like the drips and drabs of information coming out? Because it seems like this could go on for a long time.
HENRY: I think you saw Jay Carney try to have a delineation there in the clip you played to say no more drip, drip on the specific details.
I think they learned their lesson that maybe they put a little bit too much out in the early hours that they really had not completely verified. And it kind of blew up in their face.
In fairness, I think, in talking to some senior officials, they say, look, they have been interviewing some of these Navy SEALs. These were Navy SEALs under an extremely high-pressure situation. If you and I are walking down the street, as I think John King said last night, we might see an accident and see totally -- two totally different things just on a New York City street.
If you're in a firefight for 40 minutes, there's all kinds of stuff happening. Details are going to be a little mixed up. But the White House probably should have realized that and been a lot more careful in the initial hours. So I think now they're going to pull back and they're falling behind this, we don't want to give away operational details of the Navy SEALs.
Well, they seemed willing to give up operational details in the first 24 hours, when it made the White House look good.
HENRY: Now that some of it is not turning out to be true, I think they're pulling back...
COOPER: And we have tried to be very cautious in our reporting, even when the administration was coming out and saying this stuff categorically, because, as we know, we all have seen early indications, early reports from combat are often wrong or conflicting or flat-out made up, as we saw with the Jessica Lynch incident, with the death of Pat Tillman as well, Gloria.
COOPER: Gloria, there were several senators, Scott Brown, Saxby Chambliss among them, who were apparently shown fake photos purportedly to be bin Laden's corpse. They subsequently spoke publicly about them, not realizing until later that they had actually been looking at fake photos.
BORGER: Well, it's kind of embarrassing for them, I think. They were looking at photos that staffers had shown them that were on their phones or whatever and they realized, in fact, that these were not official photographs.
It seemed to me odd yesterday when we thought that they had been shown these photographs that if you want to keep these photographs really secret, why would you show them to people on Capitol Hill, who are kind of notorious for spreading things around? So, actually, they had to say, you know what? We're sorry. We don't think we saw the official photographs.
BORGER: But once members of Congress start getting briefed really in-depth on the actual details of this action, I think we're going to be hearing more and more, no matter what the White House wants us to hear, because that will be coming from Capitol Hill.
I would question how much more we really need to know the inner details of this. But let's talk about what happens here tomorrow. We're at Ground Zero. The president arrives here tomorrow. What should we expect?
HENRY: This is a huge opportunity for him to connect with some of these 9/11 families that he, we should remember, has had a pretty rocky relationship with.
You know, the Khalid Sheikh Mohammed trial, that the administration was pushing to have a civilian trial here in New York City, there were a lot of 9/11 families who thought that was a bad idea. They pulled back on that. The president seemed to endorse a while back the idea of having an Islamic center right near Ground Zero here. That blew up in their face. They pulled back on that as well.
So this is a chance for the president. He's not going to make public comments at this point on his schedule. I'm told he's going to have an off-the-record stop at a firehouse, meet with some first- responders. He's going to lay a wreath here behind us at Ground Zero.
And then he's going to meet privately with some of these 9/11 families. I think they realize it's a tricky balancing act to come out here and give a speech at Ground Zero and look like you're politicizing...
COOPER: And he had invited obviously former President Bush.
HENRY: He did.
COOPER: But the former president decided not to come.
HENRY: He did. And, remember, President Bush had that bullhorn moment here.
HENRY: We will see if there's a moment like that.
COOPER: Gloria Borger, Ed Henry, appreciate the reporting.
Let us know what you think. We're on Facebook, of course. you can follow us on Twitter @AndersonCooper.
Coming up, more about the newly published photos of the helicopter wreckage at bin Laden's compound. This is really fascinating stuff. Could we be looking at a totally new kind of Black Hawk helicopter? Fascinating details about what could unprecedented new military technology that now may be in the hands of Pakistan. And our question is, what are they going to do with it?
We will also look at the road to bin Laden's compound, amazing, but less than a mile away from Pakistan's equivalent of West Point, where all of Pakistan's army officers get trained. That's where bin Laden was hiding out. CNN's Nic Robertson actually takes us on a journey from the military academy to the compound and he joins us live from Abbottabad coming up.
COOPER: And we're coming to you live from Ground Zero, this the remarkable view of Ground Zero. That's formally what used to be called the Freedom Tower. Now it's going to be I believe One World Trade Center there. Now you see Ground Zero, this the view from the World Center Hotel, where we are broadcasting from tonight.
Really from the top floors of this hotel, you just have a remarkable view of the effort to rebuild Ground Zero, which happen -- which is going on round the clock. You can probably here some of the jackhammers behind me, not as loud as they were last night or the night before, but the work continues here, even though President Obama is going to be coming here tomorrow. And no doubt security sweeps will probably be under way at some point during this evening.
One of the most surprising revelations, almost hard to believe about the killing of bin Laden is that bin Laden was living in a part of Pakistan that's pretty much crawling with soldiers and soldiers in training. Those were his neighbors. A military academy is less than a mile away from bin Laden's compound.
And WikiLeaks' cables reportedly show that U.S. forces were actually stationed there in 2008.
Senior international correspondent Nic Robertson is in Abbottabad right now. We are going to hear from him in just a moment.
But, first, Nic takes us on a walk from the military academy to the Osama bin Laden compound, which is just a stone's throw away from that, and until very recently sheltered the most notorious terrorist in the world.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is Pakistan's famous military academy. they have got a great big tank right outside of it, and it's famous because this is where all of Pakistan's army officers come to get trained, and it's literally is about half a mill to a mile from where bin Laden was living. Going to go take a look at how far away it was how to get there.
It's straight down this road. You can see the road goes long and straight towards the mountains. Plenty of soldiers around here. It's the equivalent, if you like, of West Point in the United States, or Sandhurst in Britain. It's absolutely famous throughout Pakistan.
But further up the road here we've got a problem, because where we were able to drive up the road yesterday, and then take the back streets to get across to bin Laden's compound, today the police upon -- the police are up there. they have got a check point, and they won't let us go through. So we're going to have to park up in a minute and dive down, take a walk down some of these little back alleys.
But this is about -- we said about a kilometer, just over half a mile from that military academy. It's quite an affluent area. There's another house here being built. Quite posh looking. Cut above the average here. Protection along the railings here. And then just painting the walls.
This is an up-and-coming town. People here tell us that it's expanding quite rapidly. An ideal place for bin Laden to move into unnoticed.
If it wasn't for the police checkpoint we wouldn't have to go across the river, but this does seem to be the only way we can get to bin Laden's compound. He made it look easy. I'm not sure that I will. Some of them are a bit wobbly.
We're about a mile from the military academy now. Over out in the farm, the fields, cabbages, over here. Cows grazing over here. It's a completely different feel to the center of the town. And this is perhaps how bin Laden was able to hide away because there weren't so many people around. More houses, though. This one is almost as tall as bin Laden's. But it doesn't have the wall. But this one over here -- it's quite large. The wall's not as high, but it does have the barbed wire.
And again, the thing that made bin Laden's different, the wall was just higher. Probably twice that height. And it also had the barbed wire at the top.
This is about as close as we're going to be able to get to bin Laden's compound. It's about 500 yards that way. There's a police checkpoint here. Army checkpoint over there. Police checkpoint there. The police are coming down here. We're not going to be able to go any further forward.
How come he was able to live here and get away with it and that intelligence services didn't pick up on him sooner, that's going to be a lingering question. And no indications we'll get an answer to it any time soon.
COOPER: And, Nic, a lingering question, because if you or I or anybody walks down the street in Pakistan or starts to build a building, I mean, even if it's in a relatively not trafficked area, people are curious and ask questions. I mean, it's not like often people don't have must have going on throughout the day and any kind of new activity is the center of attention.
So, I -- how could this compound have been built? How could nobody have noticed, nobody coming in and out of there for years and years?
ROBERTSON: You know, I have got various opinions on that from people here. I talked to a doctor here.
And he said, look, this is a city where the population goes up in the summer. People come here because it's cooler. It's an expanding city. It's got a transient population. People come from Afghanistan. So, there's all sorts of people moving in and it's growing. And he said in that environment, it could happen.
But then I talked to a lawyer and he said there's no way that anyone could be living in a building and the neighbors wouldn't know how many women lived there, how many men lived there. He said, of course they would have to know. And I said, OK, well, does that mean the intelligence services would know then that somebody like bin Laden would be living there? And he says, yes, they would have. The local population, if they had known, would have told them. And he said there's no way they couldn't have known.
So, it does leave you wondering, but, again, mixed opinions, Anderson.
COOPER: Nic, I understand that the person who built the compound has been arrested. Is that true? What do we know about it?
ROBERTSON: Well, we know that he was arrested, but then it seems that he was released a couple of hours later, that he doesn't really -- or didn't really have -- although built the construction, didn't really anything to do with bin Laden and didn't see, I guess, anything too out of the ordinary with a slightly extraordinary design that it had.
COOPER: Also, Nic, what happened to all the other people who were in the compound who weren't killed, the women and children who were left behind? Are they in custody now? Are they being interrogated by Pakistani official? And what do you know about this daughter of bin Laden's who is apparently saying that what she saw is very different than what U.S. officials say happened?
ROBERTSON: Well, this is really fascinating at the moment, because they were picked up. The women and children were picked up by Pakistani authorities and they now are being questioned by them. The woman believed to be bin Laden's wife, who was shot in the leg, a 29-year-old Yemeni woman, according to the authorities here, is being treated in hospital, but all being questioned. And really right now, the Pakistanis are in a powerful position to kind of add to the narrative that we have already heard from U.S. officials, to give the version of events from the people who were actually inside the building from bin Laden's family.
And this young girl, 12 to 13 years old, we're told, according to a Pakistani intelligence source, says that she saw her father being shot. That's all they told us. They're interrogating her right now.
But you can be sure they have got many more details. And it's in the purview of Pakistan now to release that information when it wants to, Anderson.
COOPER: Nic, I also want to bring in CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen.
Peter, A, how credible -- if this girl in fact did say that to Pakistani officials, how credible do you think she is and how credible do you think Pakistani officials are in terms of what information they're releasing? I mean, should they be trusted?
PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, A., she's a child. And as a general principle of reporting, we tend to be very careful about children's accounts, particularly something as sensitive as an account of her own father's death.
So, I think a high degree of skepticism about her account, particularly since it's going to through -- it's hearsay essentially, as we are talking about it. Now, this girl may well be somebody called Safia.
Bin Laden boasted to a Pakistani reporter around the time of 9/11 that he just had a girl daughter and he called her Sophia. It's quite interesting about why he called her Sophia. He named her Sophia because Sophia was a woman who lived at the time of the Prophet Mohammed who had killed a Jew.
So, just think, Anderson, about the kind of environment who would name his daughter in such a sort of anti-Semitic fashion and just think about the kind of environment in which she grew up in, and then think about how that might relate to her account of her own father's death and the skepticism with which it should be treated.
I'm not saying what she's saying isn't true. I'm just saying I think we need to be very skeptical.
COOPER: Yes. I think you're absolutely right on that.
Nic, there was a report that Pakistani officials say that they had told U.S. officials about this area or this compound. You know, there's so much stuff floating around now. We're trying to sort out what is true and what is not. Have you heard that? What have you learned? ROBERTSON: Well, apparently, according to Pakistani officials, that they told U.S. officials -- this seems to be something between the intelligence services -- back in 2009 that they should pay attention to this particular city right here.
We're not clear on the specifics, but I think what Peter is saying here in our analysis of what the daughter is saying and how it's being relayed by Pakistani authorities, that we should remember at this time there's a huge amount of tension between the CIA and the ISI, between the Pakistani government and the U.S. administration at this time.
One must remember these tensions when analyzing and listening to what we're being told. So, we don't have more details from the Pakistanis about what it was they said back in 2009 or what -- what specific event or feature that they were pointing to here. So, we should all -- we should look at it in that context, Anderson.
COOPER: Right. It also could be them trying to cover their trail for not finding out this information or perhaps having the information sooner and not informing the U.S.. Again, so much we don't know at this point.
Nic Robertson, appreciate the reporting.
Peter, we're going to talk to you shortly more about bin Laden's family, because it's really fascinating, how many wives he had, how many children he had, where they all are.
Peter Bergen knows better than anybody. He's written a remarkable book, "The Osama I Know." It's an oral history of Osama bin Laden's life.
Coming up, more with Peter, also more breaking news, new pictures of that helicopter that crashed during the raid on bin Laden's hideout. It's now raising new concerns it was no ordinary helicopter. The SEAL team tried to blow it up, which is common practice, but it remain there. And there's some concern about top-secret technology that could end up in the wrong hands. We will talk about that.
And, later, the president's decision not to release the photos of bin Laden's body, a unique voice weighs in on that decision tonight. I will be talking to a reformed Islamic extremist to get his thoughts.
COOPER: As we mentioned at the top of the broadcast tonight, breaking news about the Navy helicopter that crashed during the raid on bin Laden's hideout. It's believed this is the first time pictures of this type have ever been seen.
Now experts say -- experts say this is not an ordinary Special Ops Black Hawk but appears to be a stealth version, being tricked out to avoid detection by radar and other means.
Now one of the concerns is that something this specialized, this secretive, may have already ended up in the wrong hands. There are reports that Pakistani authorities have had the larger pieces of wreckage hauled away. The SEALs reportedly destroyed vital parts of the helicopter, but a lot of it was left behind.
Take a look at this. Those are kids collecting pieces of the damaged chopper. Where these -- where these souvenirs may end up is anyone's guess. They could easily end up in the hands of governments trying to build stealth technology.
Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence has been digging into this. He joins me now.
Chris, obviously, an attempt to blow this up was an attempt to, just as they did with "Black Hawk Down," not let this kind of technology fall into the wrong hands. This clearly does not seem to be the standard Black Hawk helicopter.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, it doesn't, Anderson. You know, I spoke with a veteran military pilot who's flown Black Hawks on numerous missions, knows those planes inside and out. And he says what he saw in that picture just doesn't fit.
Take a closer look. Look here and you can see this sort of round disk, sort of looks like a hub cap covering the tail rotor. He says that could hide the gears that turn the tail rotor, something that radar would easily pick up. He says he doesn't know of any helicopter in the U.S. military that has something like that.
Also, the pieces of the tail rotor, he said it looks like it has five to six blades, and the blades may be shorter. A Black Hawk normally has more blades. He said more blades and shorter blades would reduce that "whoop, whoop, whoop" sound that you hear normally with a Black Hawk helicopter.
And also the coloring. Looks like it's been painted a gray similar to what the Air Force uses to evade radar.
Now, the aviation enthusiasts have been buzzing about this since these pictures hit the Internet, speculating that this is a new form of stealth Black Hawk. But just to throw a grain of salt out there, you know, this is the wreckage of a piece of a plane -- Anderson.
COOPER: Yes. And also, I think it's important to point out for some people that may be watching this to say why are you talking about this? The event -- this information is already out there. This helicopter is now in the hands of the Pakistanis who have a relationship with the Chinese, who are very interested in the U.S. technology.
Is there any indication at this point from Pentagon officials and so basically what we're talking about is nothing that's not already all over the Internet and certainly among aviation enthusiasts, already known and being discussed. But is there concern in the Pentagon that any of this stuff may fall into the wrong hands?
LAWRENCE: I've got to be honest with you. Pentagon officials so far will not say a word about the specifications of this particular aircraft that was left behind. A U.S. official did confirm that the pieces of it were left behind and, to the best of his knowledge, they were now in the hands of the Pakistani government.
But the SEALs obviously did try to blow it up. They didn't want to leave this technology behind. You have to weigh that, though, with the fact that part of it didn't go up in that explosion. You know, the idea of trying to go back and finish the job, you've got to remember at that time they got the body of Osama bin Laden. They've been on the ground now almost 40 minutes. So you've got to weigh the importance of that mission versus going back and trying to set off yet another explosion.
COOPER: Yes. Again, I think the fact they were able to explode what they did and destroy probably the key technology, which is obviously not in that section of the helicopter, is just amazing and in a 38-minute raid, it just -- again, the precision to me is just remarkable.
Chris Lawrence, I appreciate the reporting.
The White House is defending its position to not release any photos of bin Laden's corpse. We talked about that at the beginning of the program. You heard spokesman Jay Carney citing security concerns, as well as the desire to avoid our perception of U.S. gloating, spiking the ball in the end zone, as it were.
But would the image, if released, really be as incendiary as some are saying? Maajid Nawaz is a former Islamic extremist who has renounced Islamic extremism while remaining a Muslim, of course, and he actually tries to counsel and convince younger people who may be attracted to extremism to say away from it. He works with the Quilliam Foundation, which is a counterterrorism think tank. He joins me now.
Maajid, you were someone who was drawn to extremism, so you really do have a special insight into the impact the words and images can have, but you actually think the United States should release the photos of bin Laden. Why?
MAAJID NAWAZ, FORMER ISLAMIC EXTREMIST: I think that they shouldn't release gruesome photos. It's very important not to appear, first of all, that the United States is gloating. But also to have some respect for the dead and not to become the beast that we're trying to fight.
But I do think there's a case for releasing some form of proof. And that proof could be in the form of releasing DNA samples to independent institutions that can verify the DNA of bin Laden or indeed, less gruesome photos. And they could come in the form of the photos that were taken -- and we're told we were taken -- of the burial procedure. So bin Laden post, the pictures of his being shot. I assume we would have been wrapped in some form of shroud when he was buried at sea.
So there is a case, I think, of releasing some form of proof. And people would say that won't squash the conspiracy theories, and they will continue to theorize regardless. And of course, that's true. But what I think it will do is it will inoculate the vast majority of Muslims out there, of young Arabs out there, whether they're Muslim or not, who are sitting on the fence, and who are neither predisposed to believing or disbelieving in these conspiracy theories and only have the facts available at their disposal -- their disposal to go by. And I think we can inoculate them against such conspiracy theories.
COOPER: So you don't think it will -- it will inflame passions all the more or change the narrative and, in fact, the image become the narrative?
NAWAZ: Well, here's the problem. It's good that you used that word. The problem is that we're going to see very shortly family members who were present in the raid, whether it's the daughter or the wives, and I can guaranty you that sooner or later they will be interviewed.
Some Arab stations, either Al Jazeera or one of the others, is going to interview those survivors of the raid, and they will define the narrative in the Arab world.
Now, when the U.S. administration first engaged in this operation, they had the advantage that no one else knew what was going on. And right at the early stages, the U.S. administration controlled the narrative.
Now of course, since then, some of the facts and the minutia of the story have started changing. One of them was the human shield point. Now, I think -- I fear that what's happening now is that the U.S. administration is going to be put on the back foot. As details emerge, as facts begin to change, and especially as the survivors start giving their version of events, the shift will occur anyway to a different perspective.
And I think it's very important to seize an initiative and to control the message. Because the last thing you want is to do is have the death of bin Laden turn into a rallying cry and the conspiracy theories grow to a point where the focus point -- the focal point becomes revenge and it becomes animosity towards the United States.
COOPER: I find it so fascinating what you do. And I watched on "60 Minutes" the piece they did on you, which I really thought was fascinating. How -- in your travels, in your talking with young people, how popular is bin Laden still, or was he prior to his death?
NAWAZ: Bin Laden is actually, funny enough, more popular than al Qaeda as a movement. He became a symbol. He became a symbol for resistance. And that's why you see across the board, whether it's Hamas members, or certain members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and other, even media pundits in Pakistan, mainstream media pundits actually praising the man.
And this is something which we have to be very careful about, because Bin Laden actually became very irrelevant. The events of the Arab Spring not only dented his message, they demonstrated, for example, that democratic change was possible, and it was peaceful change, and we didn't need to resort to terrorism or violence to bring about that change. And the west intervened on behalf of the average, everyday young Arab.
So these were serious chinks in bin Laden's message. And he became an out-of-date and out-of-touch, irrelevant person for that brief period of the Arab Spring.
And now with this arrest, of course, suddenly he's become also relevant again and young people are suddenly looking to him as some form of symbol of resistance. He's being called a martyr. He's being called a shaheed in Arabic, which of course, is such a revered status for Muslims. So suddenly he's been thrust back into the limelight.
And what I'm worried about is that he becomes this Che Guevara- like figure. And we have competing narratives at the moment. And our challenge is to make the legacy of the Arab Spring the one that captures the imagination of young Arabs and not the legacy of bin Laden and his terrorism.
COOPER: And -- yes, I saw the statement that was put out by Hamas, praising -- praising him and condemning the -- the killing.
Maajid Nawaz, I appreciate you being on. I'd like to have you on again so we can talk longer. Thank you very much.
NAWAZ: Thank you.
COOPER: Ahead on the program -- ahead on the program tonight, bin Laden surrounded by family in his highly-secure hideout. Coming up, inside bin Laden's inner circle of wives and children.
COOPER: As we said earlier, Pakistani officials say that one of Osama bin Laden's daughters is giving a different account of the raid that played out on Monday. She says she saw her father being shot and killed by U.S. forces on the first floor of the compound, not the third floor. She's said to be around 12 to 13 years old, one of eight to nine kids who were living at the compound.
Tom Foreman tonight has more.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even as Navy SEALs descended up bin Laden's compound, he was surrounded by family, including his youngest wife, Amal al-Fatah, and their three children. She was from Yemen. He married her when she was just 17 after sending a $5,000 dowry to her family. Now 29, she is the woman the White House says came between the terrorist and the troops.
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Bin Laden's wife rushed the U.S. assaulter and was shot in the leg but not killed. FOREMAN: According to G.O.-TV, a Pakistani news source, this passport was found at the compound, but CNN can confirm if this is Amal. Another woman was killed in the same building, and CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank suspects she may have been another wife, the mother of one of bin Laden's grown sons. He also died in the assault.
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, over the years, bin Laden liked to have his wives with him, near him, living in the same house, and if he was, indeed, in this compound for up to around seven years, he will have wanted his wives to be there with him to look after his children, to bring up his daughters, to bring up any sons that were still with him at this point.
FOREMAN: Cruickshank helped research the book "The Osama bin Laden I Know" written by CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen. It includes many details of the terrorist's five wives.
The first was Najwa Ghanem, a teenaged first cousin whom he married in 1974. A family member called her "meek, submissive, highly religious and constantly pregnant."
The next wife to join the family, Um Ali, Saudi Arabian. Bin Laden divorced her after she complained about his life of hardship.
Another wife, Um Khalid, a sister of a fellow jihadist, was highly educated in religious law.
Yet another, Um Hamza, had a degree in Arabic language.
And of course, the youngest, Amal al-Sadah.
(on camera) Bin Laden's wives knew each other, shared family events, and are generally described as devoted to him. And yet they also are believed to have lived apart in homes around Afghanistan and elsewhere, at times seeing him only occasionally.
(voice-over) Bin Laden and his wives produced close to 20 children, although how many family members remained in touch with him at the time of his death, like much of his life, remains murky.
Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.
COOPER: Well, joining us back again is CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen. Peter is one of the few western journalists who have interviewed Osama bin Laden. He also wrote a remarkable book, "The Osama I Know: An Oral History."
Peter, you talked to a lot of people who knew him. Were you surprised that he was surrounded not by security guards but by -- by family at the end?
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: No, I think that, Anderson, was very predictable. I mean, this is a guy who's -- the first time he got married he was 17. He's had five wives. The wife that was in the building, the Yemeni was -- you can only have four wives in -- you know, if you're a very conservative Muslim, as bin Laden is, and one of his wives divorced him when they were living in the Sudan, essentially saying, "I didn't sign up for this life of jihad. And I thought I was marrying the son of a billionaire, and we're living in this life of poverty" and sort of -- and moved on.
So, you know, it's even possible that he may have even married again into the Pakistani tribal society. That's speculation on my part.
But certainly Ayman al-Zawahiri, his No. 2, has -- has married into some local families, which gives these guys an extra level of protection due to the way that society works.
But, you know, the fact that he had his kids -- he's got 20 kids as Tom Foreman said in the report. He's a family guy. The -- actually, there was -- the account that people give of his treatment of his wives is that he was fairly equitable with them. He would say, "Look, if you don't like the life we're living, you can leave me." One of them took him up on that offer.
He would take his wives on hunting expeditions in the Afghan desert, obviously without other males present. These are wives who lived in a great deal of seclusion. We see in the Foreman report that we don't have pictures of these wives for obvious reasons. This is an enormously conservative Islamic zealot.
And, you know, he played football, soccer with his kids. He'd urge them not to drink American soft drinks like Pepsi and Coke. They would drink them any way behind his back.
But you know, he -- his -- the picture that emerges from the accounts of people who spent time around his family is of a fairly doting father and a fairly loving husband. But then, of course, Adolf Hitler was pretty nice to Eva Braun. So, you know, that doesn't really necessarily mean much.
COOPER: Right. Right, yes. Doesn't really mean much at all.
What do you know about the wife who, by U.S. accounts, rushed to -- rushed toward the SEALs and was shot in the leg? Do you think she would have information that would be, I mean, interesting to authorities? They left her behind, but she's apparently now being questioned by Pakistani authorities.
BERGEN: I think, you know, again, for a very conservative Saudi man, I don't think he would have clued in after all a wife who was only 17 when they first married, and bin Laden was already in his mid- 40s by then. She's very much a sort of junior person in the constellation of, you know, the al Qaeda.
I don't think that she would -- she might know something about his comings and goings, but she certainly wouldn't be privy to his planning. He wouldn't -- he would just not have involved his wives, whether the Yemeni or the Saudi ones, in that kind of level of detail. COOPER: Interesting. Peter, appreciate the expertise. Thanks.
Still ahead, breaking news: new photos from inside bin Laden's compound in Pakistan, including never-before-seen pictures of a possible stealth helicopter used in the operation. All the day's breaking news ahead.
COOPER: Well, we usually add someone to our "RidicuList" at this point in the program, but as we mentioned last night, it just doesn't seem appropriate this week. So again, I just wanted to share a personal thought as we bring the program to a close.
I was talking to someone on the street today in New York who was upset that so many people were starting to ask questions about the raid on bin Laden's compound. Questions about whether bin Laden was reaching for a gun, whether he should have been shot or not. This person, who's not a TV expert or an academic, said a lot of very smart things.
One of the things they said was now the media and politicians are going to start picking this thing apart. He went on to say, we know what we need to know. Osama bin Laden is dead. The SEALs did a great job. We don't need to know every detail, he said.
The SEALs did do a remarkable job, and I hope in all the discussion and dissension and doubts that will inevitably continue to be raised, I hope in all that cacophony and clamor that we don't forget that singular fact.
So many have sacrificed in this fight against fanatics, this long war against Islamic extremists who plot and plan and think only of death. There have been so many sacrifices made that can fully be acknowledged, never even fully known. So many families separated for multiple tours of duty. So many moments missed: birthdays, anniversaries, minute milestones that make up a family's history. So many sacrifices, so many lives lost.
Tonight, as we wait for President Obama to visit Ground Zero tomorrow, we think not just of the people who perished here and at the Pentagon and in that fiery field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. We think of all those who have lost their lives in the war against terror in Afghanistan and around the word.
We think about 26-year-old Senior Airman Jason Cunningham from Camarillo, California. He was shot and killed in Gardez, Afghanistan, back on March 4th of 2002. His helicopter kept under fire during a search-and-rescue effort. The airman saved ten lives before he was killed.
He was posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross, the nation's second highest military honor for valor, for his heroic efforts to treat the wounded.
He left behind a wife and two daughters who were 2 and 4 years old when he died. His memory lives on at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan where there's a compound named Camp Cunningham.
We also think about Sergeant Andrew Seabrooks. He lived his whole life not far from Ground Zero: Queens, New York. He was killed by a roadside bomb and small arms fire in Kandahar on June 21, 2008.
The father of five kids, everyone called him Drew. According to "the New York Times," he loved to play jokes and collect action DVDs.
The Army National Guard mechanic volunteered to go to Afghanistan. He volunteered to earn enough money to save his family's home from foreclosure. Sergeant Seabrooks was 36.
And we think tonight about Sergeant Zainah Caye Creamer, who died this past January in Kandahar province when insurgents attacked her unit with a roadside bomb. She was a military dog handler. Her dog was not hurt in the attack.
A native of Texarkana, Texas, family and friends called her Caye. A cousin told the "Post" that -- "The Washington Post" that Caye was often smiling and laughing. She rarely had a bad word for anybody.
Sergeant Creamer was just 28.
We think of all of them tonight and their families and all the other men and women who have died serving this great land of ours. We think of them, and we thank them.
If you want to here more of some of the others who had given their lives serving this country, you can go to our Web site, AC360.com, where we have a list of remembrances.
Good night. I'll see you tomorrow.