tv NBC Nightly News NBC May 3, 2011 6:30pm-7:00pm EDT
on the broadcast tonight, the death of osama bin laden and new questions about how it happened. changes in the story. and those growing questions about when the world will see a photo. tonight we'll ask the head of the cia and we'll take you to the scene of the raid. also, here at home we'll check in on the desperate effort to get help to those storm victims in the american south. get help to those storm victims in the american south. "nightly news" begins now. captions paid for by nbc-universal television good evening. it started with the news of the death of osama bin laden. then we learned how he died, at
the hands of u.s. special forces by order of the president. it was and will always be an extraordinary, high-stakes raid staged by americans who were willing to die for the cause. but starting today, some of the details started to change. some aspects of the storyline involving bin laden's wife, bin laden himself, and a lot of people are waiting for a very big piece of evidence, a postmortem photograph of bin laden. in a moment you will hear the cia director confirm to us a photo will ultimately be released. potentially the most widely viewed photograph in the world. but the question is when? so again tonight we have comprehensive coverage of this story, starting with our chief white house correspondent, chuck todd. and chuck, there seems to be a little tug, a little disagreement between branches of the obama government over whether or not or when to release this photo. >> reporter: well, brian, let's
make this clear. this is the president's decision. this is a white house decision. this is not the decision that should be made by leon panetta. and that's what folks here tell me. and that's why that decision hasn't been made. and in fact many senior aides here are arguing against ultimately ever releasing a photo. it's one of many questions facing the white house today. proof of death. one reason president obama chose the risky navy s.e.a.l.s operation rather than bombing the compound was to make sure there would be evidence the u.s. got osama bin laden. and now they have it. dna, photos, even videos. all of bin laden dead at the compound andn the aircraft carrier that was used for his burial at sea. but so far senior aides to the president do not see much need to release the photographic evidence. >> i'll be candid, that there are sensitivities here in terms of the appropriateness of
releasing photographs of osama bin laden and in the aftermath of this firefight, and we're making an evaluation about the need to do that. >> reporter: it was a sentiment echoed by some on capitol hill today. >> i just don't see a need to do it. the dna has been dispositive. >> i personally think it's morbid. >> reporter: others think the white house needs to provide the proof. >> let's not have conspiracy theories develop. from what i've heard of the pictures, they're not ghoulish. >> reporter: meanwhile, some details of the government's official story have changed, raising some eyebrows. yesterday john brennan implied bin laden participated in the firefight. >> the concern was that bin laden would oppose any type of capture operation. indeed he did. it was a firefight. he therefore was killed in that firefight. and that's when the remains were removed. >> reporter: brennan also said bin laden used his wife as a human shield. >> she served as a shield. again, this is my understanding. and we're still getting the reports of exactly what happened at particular moments.
>> reporter: today, press secretary jay carney read an updated version of events, provided by the department of defense. >> in the room with bin laden a woman, bin laden's -- a woman, rather, bin laden's wife, rushed the u.s. assaulter and was shot in the leg but not killed. bin laden was then shot and killed. he was not armed. >> reporter: so brian, the reason for the change, right now all of those navy s.e.a.l.s that participated in this fight are doing after-action debriefings at a base in afghanistan. and as they get more information, the story does change, and as somebody at the white house said to me, this is something that happens regularly under military operations, the fog of war. >> all right. chuck todd from the white house, starting us off on, what as you heard, is still a movable situation. and a number of these questions, a number of these issues that have come up since word broke of bin laden's death also came up during an interview earlier today with leon panetta, the director of the cia and a man
who as intelligence chief had a lot riding on this raid. >> i don't think there was any question that ultimately a photograph would be presented to the public. obviously, i've seen those photographs. we've analyzed them. and there's no question that it's bin laden. >> were you debating how the release of a photo would go over given its gruesomeness versus the need on behalf of people all over the world to demand proof of death? >> i think there's no question that there were concerns and there were questions that had to be debated about just exactly what kind of impact would these photos have. but the bottom line is that, you know, we got bin laden and i think we have to reveal to the rest of the world the fact that we were able to get him and kill him. >> is the world safer? >> brian, i don't think there's any question that, you know, when you get the number one
terrorist in the world that we're a little safer today than we were when he was alive. but i also don't think we ought to kid ourselves that killing osama bin laden kills al qaeda. al qaeda still remains a threat. we've damaged them, but we still have to defeat them. >> what did the pakistanis know, and when did they know it? >> the pakistanis did not know anything about this mission. and that was deliberate on our part, that this would be conducted as a unilateral mission. president obama had made very clear to the pakistanis that if we had good evidence as to where osama bin laden was located we were going to go in and get him. and that's exactly what happened. so i think the only time the pakistanis found out about it, frankly, was after this mission had taken place. we had to blow the helicopter, as you know. and that probably woke up a lot of people, including the pakistanis. >> well, i ask that because i'm
curious as to why, given all the hardware, the garrison, the personnel, retired military officers in that immediate area, why weren't the united states forces fired upon? >> well, that was obviously a concern that was raised at the time we were considering this operation, which was going into this kind of sensitive area with helicopters and s.e.a.l.s and landing on this compound, would the pakistanis suddenly respond and, you know, try to pin down our forces? frankly, we considered all of those contingencies. that's why we had the backup helicopters in place. but the reality was that i think the military commander felt confident that we would be able to get in and get out, hopefully within 30 to 35 minutes. and the fact was that we
completed this operation within 40 minutes and we had everybody on their way out of that country. >> did the president's order read capture or kill or both or just one of those? >> the authorities we have on bin laden are to kill him. and that was made clear. but it was also, as part of their rules of engagement, if he suddenly put up his hands and offered to be captured then they would have the opportunity, obviously, to capture him. but that opportunity never developed. >> i'd like to ask you about the sourcing on the intel that ultimately led to this successful attack. can you confirm that it was as a result of waterboarding that we learned what we needed to learn to go after bin laden? >> you know, brian, in the intelligence business you work from a lot of sources of
information and that was true here. we had a multiple source -- a multiple series of sources that provided information with regards to this situation. clearly, some of it came from detainees and the interrogation of detainees. but we also had information from other sources as well. so it's a little difficult to say it was due just to one source of information that we got. >> turned around the other way, are you denying that waterboarding was in part among the tactics used to extract the intelligence that led to this successful mission? >> no, i think some of the detainees clearly were -- you know, they used these enhanced interrogation techniques against some of these detainees. but i'm also saying that the debate about whether we would have gotten the same information through other approaches i think is always going to be an open question. >> so final point, one final time, enhanced interrogation techniques, which has always been kind of a handy euphemism
in these post-9/11 years, that includes waterboarding? >> that's correct. >> and you can find an extended version of our interview with leon panetta on our website. that's nightly.msnbc.com. now to pakistan. nbc's tazzin ahmed in the neighborhood where bin laden managed to hide out for about five years, maybe more, where neighbors say they had no clue he was living in that house in their midst. tazzine, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, brian. tonight the pakistani government is really feeling the heat. the question everyone's asking is how could osama bin laden have been hiding under their noses for so long? abbottabad, an upper middle-class tourist destination surrounded on three sides by mountains. pakistanis come here to escape the heat during the summer months. people here say they had no idea that osama bin laden had come here too.
>> it's a very peaceful place. people around the country come here for a tour. >> reporter: it's a house set in an area that's still under development. surrounded by empty plots and half-built houses. there's no indication that behind these high concrete walled was one of the world's most notorious fugitives, living right in the heart of a garrison town, home to pakistan's retired as well as active army generals. >> i don't believe that osama bin laden can live here. it's all a restricted area by army. >> reporter: soldiers on the streets in vehicles and at checkpoints. then there's the elite kakun military academy. some call it pakistan's west point. a stone's throw from the compound where osama bin laden was living. >> this house stands out in this area not just because it's the biggest one here but because of its 12-foot wall and barbed wire fence at the top. one family lived just opposite the bin laden compound for the last five years. they told us they knew very little about their neighbors.
the family didn't mix many much with others, they said. "they never visited us and we were never invited by them." even local children thought there was something unusual about them. these kids say they thought it was strange that when they played ball in the area if it went over the fence it was never returned. local residents are still trying to make sense of what happened here. >> i feel disgraced. we are very disappointed with our army, with our intelligence. >> reporter: despite all the attention now focused on them, for most of the people of abbottabad life still goes on as normal. people are coming here to have their pictures taken. children are collecting souvenirs from what will for now be remembered as the hideout of the world's most wanted man. brian. >> tazeen ahmed in pakistan for us at the scene of the raid where bin laden had been living. tazeen, thanks. and now more questions here. first, in a town loaded with pakistani military, cadets, active duty, and retired, how
plausible is it no one knew bin laden was living in that big house, and how are things between the two countries now that the u.s. has launched a raid inside pakistan without advance warning or permission apparently? our chief foreign affairs correspondent andrea mitchell in our d.c. newsroom with a look at both of those questions. andrea, good evening. >> good evening, brian. those are the questions. relations with pakistan had already been on the down slide, especially after that prolonged arrest and jailing of a cia contractor recently. but now there is an even worse breach. and frankly, i cannot find a senior official in the u.s. government who is not deeply suspicious about the surprising circumstances of bin laden's location in what was essentially a military enclave, right down the road from pakistan's military academy. intelligence chair dianne feinstein told me that she is going to be asking those very questions starting tomorrow morning at a closed hearing with intelligence officials. essentially, what did pakistan know, when did they know it?
and she's asking were they warned off by higher-ups in the government from even checking out the compound? today pakistan amped up its criticism of the raid. after initially saying that bin laden's death illustrates international resolve to eliminate terrorism, now pakistan's government is warning against what they call an unauthorized american raid that should not serve as a precedent for the future. pakistan's ambassador to the u.s. told me today that they are asking themselves whether they had an intelligence failure, but he insists that pakistan's government was not involved in hiding bin laden. even though he was hiding in plain view. brian. >> of course no guarantee we'll ever know either way. andrea mitchell in our washington newsroom tonight. andrea, thanks. up next here tonight, the question a lot of people are asking. what happens to al qaeda now that its founder is gone? and later tonight, we're going to go back where we saw you on friday night. we're going to revisit the struggle in the american south after those twisters. sounds like somebody paid too much. excuse me? i use progressive's "name your price" tool.
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bin laden. he was, of course, the founder of al qaeda as we know it, but his influence of late is open to some question, and now the question becomes what becomes of al qaeda with bin laden dead? our chief foreign correspondent richard engel has been covering, of course, this war on terrorism around the globe for a long time, many years, and has some perspective on all of this tonight. he's in libya tonight, of course. and richard, this was never an organization with a flow chart or letterhead. it's part of what we all had to get used to in the new world. >> reporter: absolutely. but they did have a second in command. and osama bin laden's number two, dr. ayman al zawahiri-s most likely to lead the organization now. he's 59 years old, an egyptian. the u.s. military has tried to kill him at least six times, all of them unsuccessful, obviously. he has a long history of involvement with islamic militant groups.
in fact, even longer than osama bin laden himself. but ayman al zawahiri is nowhere near as cares matt i can as osama bin laden, and that could be a major problem. it was bin laden who was always the main draw for recruits. he was the spiritual leader. and now that he is gone it will be a blow to al qaeda. but over the years, that said, al qaeda has splintered off into many different franchises, and those franchises operate independently. and already today in iraq we saw the first al qaeda attack since osama bin laden was killed. that attack being blamed on al qaeda in iraq. a bomb exploding in a shiite cafe in a neighborhood -- in a shiite neighborhood, killing at least 16 people, brian. >> all right. richard engel, who again, has spent way too much of his life covering the dual wars overseas. richard, thanks. when we come back here tonight, we'll turn a little bit toward news in this country. the awful choice forced by flooding in the midwest, to blow up a levee to save a town, while
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we continue to cover the flooding in the midwest. it remains a huge story. and there's been a drama playing out there. officials were faced with the choice of blowing up a levee intentionally to flood some farmland to save the town of cairo, illinois from floodwaters. weather channel meteorologist mike seidel is there. he's in nearby metropolis, illinois. hey, mike. >> reporter: hey, brian. good evening. yes, the situation got worse today as finally the corps of engineers did what they said they were going to do. they blew a two-mile hole in a levee on the missouri side of the mississippi river. this to ease the pressure on the levee on the ohio river side and save the town of cairo, illinois. and this decision went all the way to the supreme court on sunday night. the first explosion went off last night, sending at least four feet of water across 130,000 acres of missouri formland. this flooded 100 homes and left 200 residents homeless. now, there was a second explosion this afternoon, and a final one goes off this evening.
now, so far the corps's plan has worked out like a charm. the ohio river has dropped a foot and a half from last night's record crest in cairo and they're expecting it to drop four more feet by wednesday morning. and brian, despite that the sun is out and there's no more significant rain in the forecast through the weekend, the ohio river behind me, which has swallowed up about four blocks here in metropolis will not drop below flood stage until sometime next week. brian? >> unbelievable story there. mike seidel covering an incredible decision. one evil versus another. we have in domestic news another headline in the news tonight has to do with a colleague who's becoming a direct competitor. scott pelley has been named the new anchor of the cbs evening news. as expected, this follows five years in the chair for katie couric, and we welcome our friend scott to the time slot. up next here tonight, recovering from the worst tornado outbreak ever in this country. has the government learned a lesson from some previous disasters? but look. this is doing fine. why?
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late last week. this time they are trying to do things right. nbc's ron mott reports on some hard-hit communities in alabama. >> did you find something? >> a picture my son made. >> reporter: on a dreary day in tuscaloosa christie and scott greki are looking on the bright side. >> a picture my 2-year-old son drew for us. >> reporter: though their rental is flat end they're building another new house that could be ready in eight weeks. >> at least we have that to go to and to look forward to. it's just going to be two months in a hotel. >> reporter: today christie applied for federal aid at a fema registration center, one of 23,000 tornado victims to do so in alabama. >> fema's done a great job of getting information out there on how victims can get in touch with fema. >> reporter: with at least 20 shelters open around the state and emergency supplies and food making their ways to those in damaged neighborhoods, residents are largely giving thumbs up to the overall response effort, an effort covering a lot of ground. from the destruction in tuscaloosa to small towns to the
north hit just as hard. here in the outlying less populated areas there perhaps are a few more challenges but the response has been just as active. tornado victims have been streaming in since over the weekend, and volunteers hope much-needed donations will continue to flow in as well. but there are those in remote locations like elbert nixon of haileyville who feel left out. >> the only people that's been up through here is volunteers or family members to help people. >> reporter: fema's administrator, who toured the devastation, acknowledged his agency hasn't made it around to all affected areas just yet. >> in this case getting everybody in to get out there is taking us a little bit longer but we're coming. >> reporter: people like the grekis are waiting. >> i feel really good about the future. i mean, so many people have come forward to us and i mean immediately following the storm we had help right off the bat. >> reporter: others are waiting, too. optimistic about what lie ahead, the worst they hope behind them. ron mott, nbc news, hamilton, alabama. at this point here as we come to the end of the half hour, depending on your nbc station, this is an hour-long
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