Officials said Obama’s national security advisers were not unanimous in recommending he go ahead with the McRaven option. The president approved the raid at 8:20 a.m. Friday.
During the assault, one of the Black Hawk helicopters stalled, but the pilot was able to land safely. The hard landing, which disabled the helicopter, forced the SEALs to abandon a plan to have one team rope down from a Black Hawk and come into the main building from the roof. Instead, both teams assaulted the compound from the ground.
The White House initially said bin Laden was shot and killed because he was engaged in a firefight and resisted. Later, White House press secretary Jay Carney said bin Laden was not armed, but Carney insisted he resisted in some form. He and others have declined to specify the exact nature of his alleged resistance, though there reportedly were weapons in the room where bin Laden was killed.
A senior Special Operations official said that SEALs would avoid providing more details about the raid, to prevent the disclosure of methods central to their success. The individuals who took part in the raid, the official said, would not grant interviews and had signed nondisclosure agreements about their classified work.
“They are interested in closing ranks and getting on with business,” he said.
SEALs scooped up dozens of thumb drives and several computer hard drives that are now being scrutinized for information about al-Qaeda, especially an address, location or cellphone number for Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden’s second in command.
But officials said the delicate process of sifting this intelligence bonanza is made more challenging because of worries that using the wrong passwords could trigger a pre-planned erasure of digital information.
In the White House Situation Room on Sunday night, the president and his national security team watched a soundless video feed of the raid.
When bin Laden’s corpse was laid out, one of the Navy SEALs was asked to stretch out next to it to compare heights. The SEAL was 6 feet tall. The body was several inches taller.
After the information was relayed to Obama, he turned to his advisers and said: “We donated a $60 million helicopter to this operation. Could we not afford to buy a tape measure?”
Evelyn M. Duffy contributed to this report.