Watch CBSN Live

How White House kept bin Laden raid secret

"One of the great successes of this operation was that we were able to keep this thing secret."

The statement from President Obama to CBS News correspondent Steve Kroft in his exclusive interview Sunday night summed up what a key aspect of the raid in which U.S. Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden.

How was the lid kept on so tightly?

"It's a testimony to how seriously everybody took this operation," Mr. Obama continued, "and the understanding that any leak could end up not only compromising the mission, but killing some of the guys that we were sending in there. And so, very few people in the White House knew. The vast majority of my most senior aides did not know that we were doing this. And you know, there were times where you wanted to go around and talk this through with some more folks, and that just wasn't an option."

President Obama on the raid that killed Osama bin Laden
Special Section: The Killing of Osama bin Laden

On "The Early Show" Monday, CBS News Senior White House correspondent Bill Plante reported, "We're told that you can count on one hand the number of people who actually knew what was going on."

Plante, who's been covering the White House nearly 30 years, observed, "It really is very difficult to keep a big secret. Because there are so many people, usually, in the loop. But, sometimes you can make a surprise move as president.

"For example, Ronald Reagan was able to land troops in Grenada. That was a surprise. The first George Bush was able to put U.S. troops in Somalia. But as far as we know, there's been nothing this audacious since Jimmy Carter tried to rescue American hostages in Iran. And, of course, that failed."

"Early Show" co-anchor Rebecca Jarvis noted it's particularly hard to keep things mum in this age of omnipresent social media disseminating stories.

"Exactly," Plante agreed.

View CBS News In