The transcript of the White House briefing, about 20 hours after Osama Bin Laden was killed in Pakistan by American special forces, is now posted online here.
President Obama’s counterterrorism Adviser John Brenner said to journalists this afternoon/evening that President Obama and his advisers watched the American operation that killed Ben Laden “in real time”, as is shown in this photo just released by the White House [Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is the only one showing any emotional reaction here]:
Some 24 hours after the deed, the UN Security Council is convening in consultations about a possible statement. Matthew Lee of Inner City Press, at the front lines outside the UNSC chambers, has just tweeted that there are going to be changes in a draft text, and/as the French Ambassador didn’t like the French version…
UPDATE: Sometime around 3am Jerusalem time, the American Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, Tweeted (@AmbassadorRice): “This afternoon, the Security Council passed a statement welcoming the news that #UBL [Usama Bin Laden] will never again perpetrate acts of terrorism”.
This statement is not yet posted on the website of the US Mission to the UN, and it is difficult to find even on the official UN website. It is buried down at the bottom of a UN News Centre report on remarks made to the media outside the UN Security Council. The report says that “Ambassador Gérard Araud of France, which holds the rotating Security Council presidency this month, read out a presidential statement in which the 15-member panel welcomed the news that Mr. bin Laden ‘will never again be able to perpetrate such acts of terrorism’. The statement urged all countries to remain vigilant and intensify their efforts to defeat terrorism, including by working together to bring to justice the perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of terrorist attacks. ‘The Security Council stresses… that terrorism will not be defeated by military force, law enforcement measures and intelligence operations alone, and can only be defeated by a sustained and comprehensive approach involving the active participation and collaboration of all States, and relevant international and regional organizations and civil society to address the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism and to impede, impair, isolate and incapacitate the terrorist threat’.”
This Presidential Statement by the UNSC is contained in a UN press release which “also reaffirmed that terrorism could not and should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilization or group”.
The press release also says that “States must ensure that any measures taken to combat terrorism comply with all their obligations under international law, in particular international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law”.
According to the UN press release, “The meeting began at 5:30 p.m. and ended at 5:35 p.m”. The full text is posted here.
Meanwhile, here, for the record, is what John Brenner said at the briefing in Washington on Monday, especially about the burial at sea:
“MR. BRENNAN: I have been following bin Laden for 15 years, been after this guy, and I have the utmost confidence in the people, particularly at CIA, who have been tracking him. They were confident and their confidence was growing: This is different. This intelligence case is different. What we see in this compound is different than anything we’ve ever seen before. I was confident that we had the basis to take action. I also, though, had the confidence that the U.S. team that went in there has exceptional skill to do this very capably. So I was a supporter and I know a number of other people were supportive to do this. But the President had to look at all the different scenarios, all the different contingencies that are out there — what would have been the downsides if, in fact, it wasn’t bin Laden? What would have happened if a helicopter went down? So he decided that this is so important to the security of the American people that he was going to go forward with this.
Q Can you tell us more about the role that the U.S. — more of the role of how the U.S. is interacting with Pakistan and are we actively investigating what they knew and didn’t know about Osama bin Laden being there or not?
MR. BRENNAN: Well, a couple things. One, the President mentioned yesterday that he spoke to President Zardari, and a number of senior U.S. officials are in regular contact now with their Pakistani counterparts. We are continuing to engage with them — we’re engaging with them today — as we learn more about the compound and whatever type of support system bin Laden had. I would point out that we’ve had differences of view with the Pakistani government on counterterrorism cooperation, on areas of cooperation, and what we think they should and shouldn’t be doing. At the same time, I’ll say that Pakistan has been responsible for capturing and killing more terrorists inside of Pakistan than any country, and it’s by a wide margin. And there have been many, many brave Pakistani soldiers, security officials, as well as citizens, who have given their lives because of the terrorism scourge in that country. So although there are some differences of view with Pakistan, we believe that that partnership is critically important to breaking the back of al Qaeda and eventually prevailing over al Qaeda as well as associated terrorist groups.
Q John, can you tell us about the burial at sea? Where did it happen? When did it happen?
MR. BRENNAN: The disposal of — the burial of bin Laden’s remains was done in strict conformance with Islamist precepts and practices. It was prepared in accordance with the Islamic requirements. We early on made provisions for that type of burial, and we wanted to make sure that it was going to be done, again, in strict conformance. So it was taken care of in the appropriate way. I’m not going to go into details about sort of the where, but that burial has taken place. It took place earlier today our time.
Q And why?
Q When was that decision made?
MR. BRENNAN: I’m sorry?
Q When was that decision made that he would be buried at sea if killed?
Q Can you explain why —
MR. CARNEY: One at a time.
Q Was it thought through years ago? Was this part of the plan all along?
MR. BRENNAN: The COAs — the course of action and the subsequent decisions that would have to be made have been developed over the course of the last several months. Senior officials, and there was a working group that was working this on a regular basis, if not a daily basis, over the last several weeks, looking at every decision and based on what type of scenario would unfold, what actions and decisions would be made. It was looked at from the standpoint of if we captured him, what will we do with him? Where would he go? If he was killed, what will we do with him, and where would he go? And it was determined that it was in the best interests of all involved that this burial take place, again, according to Islamic requirements, at sea.
Q Why at sea?
Q Can you just tell us why that was a good idea?
MR. BRENNAN: It was determined that that — there is the requirement in Islamic law that an individual be buried within 24 hours. Went inside of Pakistan, carried out the operation, he was killed, he was removed from Pakistan. There were certain steps that had to be taken because of the nature of the operation, and we wanted to make sure we were able to do that in the time period allotted for it. Going to another country, making those arrangements, requirements, would have exceeded that time period, in our view. And so, therefore, we thought that the best way to ensure that his body was given an appropriate Islamic burial was to take those actions that would allow us to do that burial at sea.
Q John, did you consult a Muslim expert on that?
MR. BRENNAN: We consulted the appropriate specialists and experts, and there was unanimity that this would be the best way to handle that.
Q And last question. Do you know if detainees at Gitmo have been informed of what has happened to —
MR. BRENNAN: I do not know.
Q There are reports that he was wrapped in a weighted white sheet. How secure is that? Are you confident the body is not going to —
MR. BRENNAN: Burials at sea take place on a regular basis. The U.S. military has the ability to ensure that that burial is done in a manner that is, again, consistent with Islamic law, as well as consistent with what the requirements are for a burial at sea. And so that burial was done appropriately.
Q And so today lawmakers are urging — possibly reconsidering or reevaluating aid to Pakistan, maybe attaching strings to military aid there. Was the White House —
MR. BRENNAN: I think people are raising a number of questions, and understandably so. Again, we’re in just the first day after the operation, and he was found in Abbottabad outside of Islamabad. I’m sure a number of people have questions about whether or not there was some type of support that was provided by the Pakistani government. So I think people are raising these questions and how we’re going to have to deal with them.
Q Is there a visual recording of this burial?
MR. CARNEY: We’ve got to get other people a chance here. Mara.
Q Just a quick question about the burial and then something else. Was there an imam there? Was there a religious —
MR. BRENNAN: It was done appropriately with the appropriate people there.
Q Okay. And a question — I don’t know if this is for you or for Jay. The President is going to speak to the bipartisan leadership tonight at this dinner. What is he going to say about this that’s different than what he said before and that’s particularly geared to them? Can you just give us a preview?
MR. BRENNAN: Well, you’re going to have another 20 hours of information that has been acquired since what he said to the nation last night. I think what he’s going to try to do is to give the congressional visitors here an update on that. Last night, we didn’t have some of the analysis that was done. Now, we can say with 99.9 percent confidence that this was bin Laden. So it’s those types of things, as well as to explain to the Congress, in many respects, some of the unique features of this mission, which were the extreme compartmentation of it; how it was kept so closely held within our government; why it was done in a unilateral fashion — and so things along those lines.
Q There’s been some reporting that the burial — that the U.S. offered the body to the Saudis for a burial, but they declined. Is that true?
MR. BRENNAN: We, after we had confidence that it was bin Laden and that he was dead, we took the steps that we had agreed to in the interagency that were necessary to ensure that that burial entity was the most appropriate thing to do. And so we touched base with the right people. I’m not going to go into any details about who we might have consulted with in the aftermath of his death and before his burial” …