Obama monitored Osama bin Laden attack in real time

The hideout of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is pictured after his death by US Special Forces in a ground operation in Pakistan's hill city of Abbottabad on May 2, 2011. Pakistan said that the killing of Osama bin Laden in a US operation was a 'major setback' for terrorist organisations and a 'major victory' in the country's fight against militancy. AFP PHOTO/AAMIR QURESHI (Photo credit should read AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images) AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama in the Situation Room
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, along with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011. Please note: a classified document seen in this photograph has been obscured.
White House/Pete Souza

President Obama and members of his national security team monitored the attack against Osama bin Laden on a real-time basis, White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan said today.

"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," Brennan said in a White House press briefing. "The minutes passed like days, and the president was very concerned about the security of our personnel."

The president and his team were able to monitor the sequence of events from the very start of the operation through its completion, Brennan said. It took the team of CIA officers and Navy SEALs carrying out the operation no more than 40 minutes to kill bin Laden in the compound in Abbottabad, which is close to Pakistan's capital of Islamabad.

Brennan said the president and his team had "real time visibility into the progress of the operation," but would not go into details about what sort of technology was used.

"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," Brennan said. "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."

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