CIA Told Obama Case for Bin Laden Being in Abbottabad Was Weaker Than WMD in Iraq
Peter Bergen, CNN's national security analyst, said Sunday that President Obama was informed by CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell in December 2010 "that the circumstantial case that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction was better than the circumstantial case that bin Laden was in Abbottabad."
This astonishing revelation was made on CBS's Face the Nation (video follows with transcript and commentary):
BOB SCHEIFFER, HOST: Peter Bergen, I want to ask you, your book comes out Tuesday. You've been looking at this-- Graham concentrated mostly on the decision making toward the end. You've been looking at this for a long time. What did you find out that you find most significant?
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, AUTHOR "MANHUNT": Well, it's getting to the-- getting to the question of the President's decision for a minute. Michael Morell, the deputy director of the CIA in-- around December, the-- before the May raid, told the President that the circumstantial case that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction was better than the circumstantial case that bin Laden was in Abbottabad. That's a pretty amazing comment.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Really!
PETER BERGEN: And President Obama asked Morell and others, why is it that so many people have different percentages about the possibility that bin Laden is there, and Morell says something along the lines that a lot of this is about your experience. The people hunting bin Laden have a higher degree. The people who spent years doing this, have a highest degree of certitude. The people who are involved in the WMD problem in Iraq tend to have a lower degree of certitude. But as Graham said, you know, when your two most senior advisers and your second-most senior military adviser are both sort of advising you to do something pretty different, it is an amazing decision that he made. I also reported on the ground in-- in Abbottabad was able to get inside bin Laden's compound.
As Abbottabad, Pakistan, was where American forces killed bin Laden roughly five months later, this is a truly remarkable statement by Bergen.
And he's not to be taken lightly.
Beyond his contributions to CNN and Time magazine, Bergen is the director of the National Security Studies Program at the New America Foundation. From 2003 to 2007 he was an adjunct professor at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. After that he was an adjunct lecturer at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 2008.
He is also noted for having interviewed bin Laden in 1997.
As such, it will be very interesting to see how these revelations are greeted in the coming days as the Obama administration and his adoring press take a victory lap on the one year anniversary of bin Laden's assassination.