Panetta: relationship with Pakistan "difficult"

Late Tuesday, CBS News producer John Nolen asked Panetta about releasing the photo of bin Laden taken after he was killed.

"I think it will be," Panetta said. But the "White House makes the final decision."


NEW YORK -CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric spoke Tuesday with CIA Director Leon Panetta about the Osama bin Laden operation. Couric asked why photographs of bin Laden taken after he was killed have not been released.

Panetta: Well, I'm sure the concern is that just the nature of the photos themselves are such that it could in fact be used to try to develop a lot of the revengeful nature of what al Qaeda is all about and try to inspire them to take even further action against us. And I think that's the concern.

Special Report: The killing of Osama bin Laden

Couric: Yesterday, White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan said, "The Navy SEALs were prepared for a capture or kill mission." If in fact they had taken Osama bin Laden alive, what were the plans?

Panetta: I think we always assumed from the beginning that the likelihood was that he was going to be killed. But, if per chance he were to be captured, I think the approach was to take him quickly to Bagram, transfer him to a ship offshore, and then have the principles at the White House decide what next steps would be taken.

(Scroll down to watch the full interview.)

Couric: In a Washington Post op-ed today, President Zardari of Pakistan said bin Laden, "Was not anywhere we had anticipated he would be." Given that he was hiding about a half mile from Pakistan's top military academy, how is that possible?

Panetta: We don't really have any intelligence that indicates that Pakistan was aware that bin Laden was there, or that this compound was a place where he was hiding. But having said that, this was a location that was very close to a military academy. It was close to other sensitive military sites. It had been there since almost five years ago. It was very unusual as a compound. I just think they need to respond to the questions about why they did not know that that kind of compound existed.

Couric: But common sense would dictate that they had to have some idea, come on.

Panetta: Well those are, that's why there are questions here that I think the best people to respond to those questions are going to be the Pakistanis.

Couric: What role, if any, did the Pakistanis play in this operation?

Panetta: This has been a long process, obviously, developing a lot of streams of intelligence. And some of those streams of intelligence were kind of in the normal process of working with the Pakistanis. But they were never aware of our focus on this compound or in bin Laden. And we made the decision that we would not inform them that we would conduct this operation unilaterally on the part of the United States.

Couric: Former President Musharraf has criticized that, the fact that they were not informed that this operation was going to transpire. What's your reaction to that?

Panetta: I think that President Bush, President Obama have both made very clear to the Pakistanis that if we found a location where Osama bin Laden was located, that we were going to go in and get him. And I think they understood that very clearly.

Couric: Author Salman Rushdie himself, no stranger to Islamic Fundamentalism, of course, wrote yesterday that, "Perhaps the time had come to declare Pakistan a terrorist state." Does he have a point in your view?

Panetta: Obviously, it remains a very complicated and difficult relationship. But I don't think we ought to break the relationship with the Pakistanis. Look, we are virtually conducting a war in their country going after al Qaeda. And at the same time, we're trying to get their help in trying to be able to confront terrorism in that part of the world. And they have given us some help, and they have given us some cooperation.

Couric: One of President Obama's first acts was to outlaw enhanced interrogation techniques. Now, some of these were used on detainees who provided information that led to bin Laden's whereabouts. Given that, do you think that the use of these techniques should, in fact, be reevaluated?

Panetta: No, I really don't. You know, I think what we had here were a lot of streams of intelligence that came together. And I think it's probably going too far to say it all ties to just one source of information that-- we received. We were looking at a lotta lines of-- information, going back a long way.

Couric: Having said that, some valuable information did, in fact, come from enhanced interrogation techniques.

Panetta: Obviously, there was some valuable information that were derived through those kinds of interrogations. But I guess the question that everybody will always debate is whether or not those approaches had to be used in order to get the same information. And that, frankly, is an open question.

Couric: We solicited questions from Facebook, and a lot of people are worried about some kind of retaliation. What are you most concerned about?

Panetta: The fact that bin Laden is dead does not mean that al Qaeda is dead. The president gave me the mission to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda. And while the step we took in the last few days was very damaging to Al Qaeda we have a lot more work to do to truly defeat them.

Couric: In fact, bin Laden's number two, Al-Zawahiri is still out there. Is he now public enemy number one in your mind?

Panetta: He's moving up very fast on the list. You know, we'll see how it plays out, because they've got to go through the effort to try to decide who in fact will replace bin Laden. We think that'll give us some opportunities to be able to continue to attack them in the confusion and debate that they're going go through as to who ultimately replaces bin Laden. But I can assure you, whoever takes his place he will be No. 1 on our list.

  • Katie Couric

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