Osama bin Laden

Osama Bin Laden Raid Launched Amidst Debate, Thin Evidence

There wasn't much to go on that the guy was actually there


There was more evidence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction than there was that a mysterious, tall man the CIA spotted pacing around a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, was Osama bin Laden. In a brand new book about the raid that ultimately killed al-Qaida's leader, Michael Morrell, the CIA's former second in command, tells author Mark Bowden, "the case for WMD wasn't just stronger — it was much stronger." Gulp.

That anecdote, and other new details Bowden unearths for his new book The Finish, published today, shows just how closely the raid came to never happening at all. It seems like the easiest of calls in hindsight, but several national-security veterans inside the Obama administration had misgivings about the raid. They argued that it would be preferable to bomb the compound, thereby sparing SEALs the danger of fighting inside the compound, or believed a drone strike could limit the U.S. liability if the intel was wrong. The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. James "Hoss" Cartwright, contended that what sounds a lot to Bowden like a Raytheon's Small Tactical Munition — an unproven, 13-pound bomb capable of being launched from a drone — could be a magic bullet.