Halfway around the globe from the U.S. Capitol, a few hours before President Obama joked about spilled milk, U.S. special operations forces engaged in a covert raid to free an American aid worker, Jessica Buchanan, and her Danish colleague Poul Hagen Thisted from Somali pirates, the White House announced Wednesday.
A timeline provided to The Post’s Karen DeYoung by a senior administration official details the path to freeing the two aid workers. A little more than two hours before Obama took the stage for the State of the Union, he found out the raid had been successful.
Obama appeared to reference the just-completed, but still-unannounced, rescue when he spotted Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in the House Chamber. “Good job tonight,” Obama said, pointing to Panetta.
Follow the timeline below:
October 25: 32-year-old Buchanan and 60-year-old Thisted are kidnapped by armed men while on a trip to monitor humanitarian activities in the region.
October 26: The President is advised of the kidnapping and asks to be kept apprised of Ms. Buchanan’s status. Over the next three months, the President is provided updates and makes regular inquiries about efforts to locate Ms. Buchanan.
November 21: John Brennan, Obama’s chief counter-terrorism adviser, meets with Danish Minister of Justice Morten Boedskov to discuss the status of Ms. Buchanan and Mr. Thisted.
November 23: The President holds a meeting with top White House National Security Staff and discusses the Jessica Buchanan hostage situation. The President directs that efforts to find Ms. Buchanan continue.
Week of January 16: New intelligence emerges and shows that Jessica’s health was deteriorating rapidly. Brennan begins daily presidential updates noting that an attempt to rescue Ms. Buchanan might be made in the near term. The President directs that planning proceed for a rescue.
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January 21: Key national security officials hold a secure video televised conference (SCTV) to discuss potential rescue options. Brennan briefs the President on the status of rescue efforts.
Monday, January 23, 7:15 p.m.: Key national security officials hold a SVTC to review options for rescue operation.
Monday, January 23, 9 p.m.: After discussing the proposed rescue operation with National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon and Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough, Brennan briefs the President in the White House Residence and the President authorizes the operation to proceed.
Tuesday, January 24: The President is provided a half a dozen updates by Brennan during the day on movement of forces, progression of rescue operation, and extraction of hostages and forces.
Tuesday, January 24, 6:43 p.m.: Brennan briefs the President that Ms. Buchanan and Mr. Thisted are safe and in U.S. hands.
Tuesday, January 24, 10:32 p.m.: The President calls John Buchanan, Jessica’s father and informs him of the successful rescue operation.