The most wanted man in the world, who had been portrayed as hiding out in a remote cave, was actually residing in a comfortable (albeit heavily fortified) suburban home - and, said one official, he had been there for the last five or six years.
White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan said that, according to their information, Osama bin Laden had been hiding out not in the remote Afghan-Pakistan border region but in Abbottabad, a rural-suburb of the capital, Islamabad. Bin Laden was literally under the noses of the Pakistani military, with many active-duty or retired service members living in the area.
CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports that residents in the northwestern Pakistan town can't believe bin Laden was their neighbor. They said the inhabitants of the compound, which was surrounded by 15-foot-high walls topped with barbed wire, were discrete and hardly talked to anybody at all.
The Navy SEAL assault on the compound Sunday yielded not only bin Laden but a treasure trove of intelligence information retrieved from computer hard drives and other materials culled from the site.
Brennan told CBS' "The Early Show" the latest information was that bin Laden had been inside the compound for the last five or six years.
"He had virtually no interaction with others outside of that compound. But yet he seemed to be very active inside the compound," he said. "We know he had released videos and audios. We know he was in contact with some senior al Qaeda officials. So what we're trying to do now is understand what he has been involved in over the last several years, exploit whatever information we were able to get in the compound, and take that information and continue our efforts to destroy al Qaeda."
Brennan said the release of additional photographs, video or other evidence of bin Laden's death will be weighed in light of possible retaliatory actions taken by bin Laden's adherents. "One of the things we have the responsibility to do is to make sure we take measures to guard against any type of adverse reaction to the news of bin Laden's death," Brennan told "Early Show" anchor Erica Hill.
"We have put out the results of the DNA testing, the facial recognition, details about the raid itself, [and] what we're doing now as far as exploitation of materials that we found. ... We've done that in a prudent way, overseas and in the homeland here. So in the coming days, we'll continue to look at releasing additional information.
"So any type of a photographic or video material that we have, we're looking at it carefully to put it out, to make sure it is in the right condition - and also to understand what the implications are of such release.
"Al Qaeda has demonstrated throughout the years that it is intent on carrying out murderous attacks on innocent men, women, and children; they may try to use bin Laden's demise to try to justify these attacks," Brennan said.
When asked to describe the scene in the White House among those who were watching the operation unfold, Brennan said, "I think everybody in that room who was involved in putting this operation together and supporting the president when he made his decision to go forward with it, they understood the different phase of the operation. We were looking to ensure that the phases were unfolding as planned.
"We were concerned about some type of reaction on the ground, if there was going to be extended firefights, if people were going to come from outside that compound. So we were hoping that it was going to move forward and that we were going to get our people out.
"The president was concerned with the safety of the assaulters who took the compound," Brennan said. "An intense time, an intense period of time, and we were holding our breaths, but ultimately it came out very well and the individuals who perform in this flawlessly. "