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Obama: bin Laden Death is 'Good Day for America'

President Barack Obama speaks about the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden before he awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously to two Korean War veterans during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Monday, May 2, 2011

The day after U.S. forces killed terror network leader Osama bin Laden, President Barack Obama said it is a good day for America. And, the president’s top counterterrorism adviser briefed reporters on Monday about the details of the operation that killed bin Laden.

President Obama said the killing of the al-Qaida founder shows what Americans can do when they work together.

"I think we can all agree this is a good day for America," he said. "Our country has kept its commitment to see that justice is done. The world is safer. It is a better place because of the death of Osama bin Laden."

At a ceremony recognizing the heroism of two U.S. soldiers during the Korean War, Mr. Obama said he could not be more proud of the troops who carried out Sunday’s raid on bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan.

U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan gestures during the daily news briefing at the White House, May 2, 2011
U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan gestures during the daily news briefing at the White House, May 2, 2011

Later in the day, John Brennan, the president’s assistant for homeland security and counterterrorism, told reporters that U.S. forces were prepared to take bin Laden alive, if possible. But he said that possibility was remote, and that bin Laden was killed in a firefight at his compound.

Brennan said the al-Qaida leader was "hiding in plain sight," and must have had help.

"I think it is inconceivable that bin Laden did not have a support system in the country that allowed him to remain there for an extended period of time," he said. "I am not going to speculate about what type of support he might have had on an official basis."

Brennan said U.S. intelligence officials are talking with their Pakistani counterparts, whose cooperation, he said, is crucial to rounding up more terrorists.

The president’s counterterrorism adviser said Pakistan has captured and killed more terrorists within its borders than any other country.

Brennan said Sunday’s gathering of the president and his top advisers in the White House Situation Room to monitor the progress of the operation was tense. He said there was some disagreement among the advisers on how to proceed.

"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," he said. "The minutes passed like days."

According to Brennan, the tension increased when a helicopter malfunctioned, but he said there was a sigh of relief when word came that Osama bin Laden had been killed. He said President Obama’s response was, "We got him."

Brennan said the circumstances surrounding bin Laden’s death reveal his hypocrisy.

"Here is bin Laden, who has been calling for these attacks, living in this million-dollar-plus compound, living in an area that is far removed from the front, hiding behind women who were put in front of him as a shield," he said. "I think it really just speaks just how false his narrative has been over the years."

Brennan told reporters that al-Qaida has been damaged but remains dangerous, like a fatally wounded tiger.

"There is always the potential for terrorist groups to try to strike out and avenge an operation like this," he said. "But also, I think, some of them are asking themselves, 'Bin Laden is dead, the al-Qaida narrative is becoming increasingly bankrupt.' There is a new wave sweeping through the Middle East right now that puts a premium on individual rights and freedom and dignity."

Brennan said Pakistani authorities were not notified before the operation. And as a result, some Pakistani fighter jets were scrambled. But he said there was no engagement with U.S. forces.

The adviser said U.S. officials are 99.9 percent sure that the man they killed was Osama bin Laden, and that that confidence increased over time.

Brennan said bin Laden’s body was buried at sea on Monday. He said a place for a land burial could not be found in time to comply with Islamic custom.

John Brennan called the killing of Osama bin Laden a strategic blow to al-Qaida, but not a fatal blow. He said President Obama’s decision to proceed with the mission was "one of the gutsiest calls of any president in recent memory."