UPDATE 10:05 pm ET: Reuters is reporting that Brennan is mistaken and the woman killed was not Bin Laden’s wife, and that she was not being used as a shield. Bin Laden’s wife was injured, though.
Osama Bin Laden was shielded by his wife as he sought to fight off U.S. attackers, who killed her and then her husband, the terrorist mastermind, according to White House Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Chief John Brennan.
Brennan, who provided reporters with fascinating new details this afternoon about the raid that killed Bin Laden, said it was unclear whether she was placed in the line of fire or moved into it willingly.
Brennan said he did not know whether Bin Laden himself got off any rounds against U.S. forces.
The United States has proof that Bin Laden was killed but has not determined yet what information, including photos, will be made available, he said.
Brennan described a tense atmosphere in the Situation Room, as President Obama and his advisers monitored the raid in real time. Though Brennan didn’t acknowledge it directly, it is clear that Obama and his aides were watching video of the operation as it unfolded.
It was probably one of the most anxiety-filled periods of time, I think, in the lives of the people who were assembled here yesterday.
The minutes passed like days, and the president was very concerned about the security of our personnel. That was what was on his — his mind throughout and we wanted to make sure that we were able to get through this and accomplish the mission.
But 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. And when we finally were informed that those individuals who were able to go in that compound and found an individual that they believe was Bin Laden, it was a tremendous sigh of relief that what we believed and who we believed was in that compound actually was in that compound and was found.
One particularly excrutiating moment was when one of the helicopters failed. Brennan said the commandos moved to a “plan B” and executed it flawlessly, getting everyone out of the compound on the other choppers.
U.S. special forces got Bin Laden even though they were not 100 percent sure where they would find him, Brennan suggested. Obama acted on strong circumstantial evidence, Brennan said. There was no irrefutable evidence that Osama was at the compound that was assaulted.
Analysts had made a determination where the Bin Laden family was likely to be found in the compound, assuming he was there. Brennan did not push back against a suggestion that the commandos practiced extensively on a full scale model of the compound.
The U.S. special forces were also able to seize documents which may shed light on future al Qaeda operations.
While there is elevated concern about a potential terrorist attack in the wake of Bin Laden’s killing, Brennan noted that the overall threat level has not been raised because we do not have the type of specific information that would point to an attack.