"Face the Nation" transcript for April 29: Gov. Barbour, Mayor Villaraigosa and Gov. Brown
BOB SCHIEFFER: Some of our stations are leaving us now, but for most of you, we will be back with page two and a discussion about the death of Osama bin Laden and our Google Hangout. New details on all of that.
BOB SCHIEFFER: And welcome back now to page two. We are back with two Time Magazine contributors, Graham Allison and Peter Bergen, who are responsible for Time's cover story this week about the hunt for Osama bin Laden and they have some new details. Mister Bergen also has a brand new book coming out Tuesday called Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search For bin Laden from 9/11 to Abbottabad. David Ignatius of the Washington Post joins us this morning from Santa Barbara, and our own CBS News correspondent John Miller is with us, who usually on weekdays is with CBS THIS MORNING, but he's up early on a Sunday for a change. John actually was the last person, the last American, I believe, to interview bin Laden in 1998 back when he was with ABC.
Graham Allison, I want to start with you because, you know, we're hearing the administration and everybody is talking about how they-- they got Osama bin Laden, and they certainly did, but it turns out that there were some of the President's most senior advisors who didn't want to do this, and-- and tell us how you found out that and-- and tell us the details.
GRAHAM ALLISON (Time Magazine Contributor/Harvard University): Well, it's-- it's an amazing story, and it's one-- one twist and turn is more amazing than the next. At the last meeting when President Obama went around the room, the Vice President Biden said, don't do it. So if Biden had been President, Osama bin Laden would be alive today. Gates, the most experienced member of the national-- in national security decision making, somebody who had seen Carter make decisions, Bush 41, Reagan, Bush 43, his Secretary of Defense, he would not have chosen the option. Even his chief-- the-- the military person who was most directly involved, Hoss Cartwright who's the vice-chairman of the JCS, would have chosen a different option. So, as Gates said, he's seen a lot of Presidents make difficult decisions. This was one of the toughest calls he's seen.
BOB SCHIEFFER: I-- I never asked a reporter to-- to reveal their sources, but how did you find this out?
GRAHAM ALLISON: Well, most of these people are folks I know professionally for, you know, a long career and I've talked to--
BOB SCHIEFFER: Mm-Hm.
GRAHAM ALLISON: --and so I've been doing a case study of this, like my old case study, the CUBAN Missile Crisis, basically fascinated by the national security decision process, and the very hard calls that this required. There's a temptation to think of this as a no-brainer. You get Osama bin Laden in your crosshairs, of course, you go. But hunters know the most important question when are you thinking about a target is when to pull the trigger. If you shoot too soon, you know, the turkey may get away.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Yeah.
GRAHAM ALLISON: If you wait too long, he may hear you and he may escape. So this was a case where for five months after there was a plausible, I mean, actually after CIA thought they had this guy in the crosshairs, the process deliberated. They get to the point where the President thought he had a high confidence that this was the right target in his crosshairs and he took careful aim before firing.
BOB SCHIEFFER: You-- you make a point in your piece in TIME that this was one time when-- when the government worked, it actually worked.
Peter Bergen, I want to ask you, your book comes out Tuesday. You've been looking at this-- Graham concentrated mostly on the decision making toward the end. You've been looking at this for a long time. What did you find out that you find most significant?
PETER BERGEN (Author, Manhunt): Well, it's getting to the-- getting to the question of the President's decision for a minute. Michael Morell, the deputy director of the CIA in-- around December, the-- before the May raid, told the President that the circumstantial case that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction was better than the circumstantial case of bin Laden was in Abbottabad. That's a pretty amazing comment.
BOB SCHIEFFER: (INDISTINCT)
PETER BERGEN: And President Obama asked Morell and others, why is it that so many people have different percentages about the possibility that bin Laden is there, and Morell says something along the lines that a lot of this is about your experience. The people hunting bin Laden have a higher degree. The people who spent years doing this, have a highest degree of certitude. The people who are involved in the WMD problem in Iraq tend to have a lower degree of certitude. But as Graham said, you know, when your two most senior advisers and your second-most senior military adviser are both sort of advising you to do something pretty different, it is an amazing decision that he made. I also reported on the ground in-- in Abbottabad was able to get inside bin Laden's compound.
BOB SCHIEFFER: You also inside interviewed Osama bin Laden at one time, did you not?
PETER BERGEN: Yeah. Two of-- two out of three of us here have done that.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Yeah.
PETER BERGEN: And, you know, it was interesting to go inside the-- the room where bin Laden was killed. I kind of expected it would be like going inside Hitler's bunker. It didn't really feel like that. It was more like visiting a suburban-- a squalid suburban compound. He had a tiny little toilet which he had to squat over, a tiny little kitchen. He was not living large. He was surrounded by his kids. It was a kind of comfortable but confining retirement. He obviously spent nearly six years there. And, you know, he was surrounded by, you know, a lot of his-- his wives and-- and his kids. It was-- he was saying, he was trying to retain control of his organization. I was given access to some of the declassified--
BOB SCHIEFFER: Mm-Hm.
PETER BERGEN: --documents that explained what he was trying to do. And some of it was delusional, but some of it was still-- he was still trying to stay in charge, what remained of the rest-- the rest of his organization.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Let's go out to Santa Barbara. David Ignatius, you also got a look at some documents that were not widely distributed. People are feeling pretty good about that but how do you feel about it? Has-- has the death of Osama bin Laden really changed things very much?
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