The Behind-the-Scenes Moments of the Bin Laden Raid

A window into the Situation Room during bin Laden's final hours

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As the broad sketches of the U.S. government's raid on Osama bin Laden's hideout become common knowledge, newspaper teams are putting together richly-reported accounts of the tense moments inside the White House preceding bin Laden's death. Here are some of the more interesting moments:

Three Options Were on the Table, reports Bob Drogin, Christi Parsons and Ken Dilanian at the Los Angeles Times"The commando raid, an airstrike, or a pause for further intelligence gathering." Half of his advisers supported the raid, the rest were divided between the other two options, reports the Times.

A 60% Chance According to the Wall Street Journal, planners in the White House were far from certain that bin Laden was hiding in the Abbottabad mansion. "Some of the analysts who assessed the intelligence put the chances as low as 60%."

West Wing Tours Were Cancelled  In order to avoid random tourists running into every high-level national security official and raising suspicions, the White House cancelled all the West Wing tours," reports The New York Times.

From Stand-up Comedy to Commander-in-Chief  A day after telling military officials "it's a go" Obama had to rehearse his comedy bit for the White House Correspondents' Dinner. At one moment, he took a break from rehearsing to wish Admiral McRaven good luck, reports the New York Times. In a rather surreal moment, the L.A. Times notes that during the dinner, Seth Myers joked that bin Laden had been hiding in plain sight hosting his own C-SPAN. In the real world, Obama had been hearing briefings on the raid for "much of the day."

Situation Room Food "A staffer went to Costco and came back with a mix of provisions — turkey pita wraps, cold shrimp, potato chips, soda," reports The New York Times.

Dealing with the Pressure After Obama gave the Navy Seals the final order on Sunday morning, he played nine holes of gold. CIA director Leon Panetta went to church, reports the Journal.

Black Hawk Down Paranoia During the planning stages, military officials were haunted by the 1993 disaster in Somalia when two American helicopters were shot down. “There wasn’t a meeting when someone didn’t mention ‘Black Hawk Down,’ ” a senior administration official told The New York Times.

The Pressure Cooker Moment  When the president's war counsel watched anxiously as the Navy Seals carried out their mission "The minutes passed like days,” said John Brennan, Obama's chief counterterrorism adviser. “It was probably one of the most anxiety-filled periods of time, I think, in the lives of the people who were assembled.”

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.