Remembering 9/11

Four years ago I covered the first public memorial service in Shanksville.  Flight 93 crashed there on 9/11 after passengers overwhelmed the hijackers after discovering their plot.  First Lady Michelle Obama was there along with former First Lady Laura Bush.  After the ceremony the press was allowed access to family members and I interviewed the wido of co-pilot Leroy Homer.  She was apprehensive until she noted my credentials and decided I was safe to chat with.  This has been one of my most watched videos.

Biden Speaks at Shanksville Memorial

Vice President Joe Biden spoke this morning in Shanksville where Flight 93 crashed eleven years ago.  I wasn’t invited to cover the event (again, I suppose criticizing this President for war crimes and civil liberty violations gets you knocked out of events).  Two years ago I got up at 2 AM and drove the four hours to cover First Lady Michelle Obama in Shanksville and it was a sobering experience.  I interviewed some family members of those who perished that day as the nation was attacked by Al Qaeda.

We also should commemorate the awful American supported terrorism in Chile which happened on this date years earlier.  On September 11, 1973 freely elected Socialist President Salvadore Allende was overthrown in a violent coup backed by the CIA and overseen by Nixon Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.  Augusto Pinochet was put in power and 60,000 Chileans were executed or “disappeared” for political activity.  What happened to us on 9/11 should be kept in perspective with what we’ve done elsewhere.  When attacks like the World Trade Center are done and Americans ask “why do they hate us?” this is one of the many answers.

Pinochet was a brutal dictator who murdered scores of his fellow citizens.  On his deathbed in London, justice was finally served and he was extradited for war crimes.  The entire CIA operation which helped put him in power was done for U.S. multinational business interests.  IT&T was infamous this time as Ford Motor Co. was in neighboring Argentina.

The Vice President’s remarks today:



Flight 93 National Memorial

Shanksville, Pennsylvania

10:30 A.M. EDT

    THE VICE PRESIDENT:   Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  Superintendent — Jeff, you’ve done a remarkable job here.  And the thing I notice when I speak to you about is you’re invested in this place.  It sort of has a — sort of stolen a piece of your heart.  And that’s why I’m confident that all that you plan will happen.

    Patrick, you’re keeping the flame alive, and keeping the families together is — from my experience, I imagine you all find solace in seeing one another.  There’s nothing like being able to talk with someone who you know understands.

    And it’s an honor — it’s a genuine honor to be back here today.  But like all of the families, we wish we weren’t here.  We wish we didn’t have to be here.  We wish we didn’t have to commemorate any of this.  And it’s a bittersweet moment for the entire nation, for all of the country, but particularly for those family members gathered here today.

    Last year, the nation and all of your family members that are here commemorated the 10th anniversary of the heroic acts that gave definition to what has made America such a truly exceptional place — the individual acts of heroism of ordinary people in moments that could not have been contemplated, but yet were initiated.

    I also know from my own experience that today is just as momentous a day for all of you, just as momentous a day in your life, for each of your families, as every September 11th has been, regardless of the anniversary.  For no matter how many anniversaries you experience, for at least an instant, the terror of that moment returns; the lingering echo of that phone call; that sense of total disbelief that envelops you, where you feel like you’re being sucked into a black hole in the middle of your chest.

    My hope for you all is that as every year passes, the depth of your pain recedes and you find comfort, as I have, genuine comfort in recalling his smile, her laugh, their touch.  And I hope you’re as certain as I am that she can see what a wonderful man her son has turned out to be, grown up to be; that he knows everything that your daughter has achieved, and that he can hear, and she can hear how her mom still talks about her, the day he scored the winning touchdown, how bright and beautiful she was on that graduation day, and know that he knows what a beautiful child the daughter he never got to see has turned out to be, and how much she reminds you of him.  For I know you see your wife every time you see her smile on your child’s face.  You remember your daughter every time you hear laughter coming from her brother’s lips.  And you remember your husband every time your son just touches your hand.

    I also hope — I also hope it continues to give you some solace knowing that this nation, all these people gathered here today, who are not family members, all your neighbors, that they’ve not forgotten.  They’ve not forgotten the heroism of your husbands, wives, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers.  And that what they did for this country is still etched in the minds of not only you, but millions of Americans, forever.  That’s why it’s so important that this memorial be preserved and go on for our children and our grandchildren, and our great-grandchildren, and our great-great-grandchildren — because it is what makes it so exceptional.  And I think they all appreciate, as I do, more than they can tell you, the incredible bravery your family members showed on that day.

    I said last year my mom used to have an expression.  She’d say, Joey, bravery resides in every heart, and someday it will be summoned.  It’s remarkable — remarkable — how it was not only summoned, but acted on.

    Today we stand on this hallowed ground, a place made sacred by the heroism and sacrifice of the passengers and the crew of Flight 93.  And it’s as if the flowers, as I walked here, as if the flowers were giving testament to how sacred this ground is.

    My guess — and obviously it’s only a guess; no two losses are the same.  But my guess is you’re living this moment that Yeats only wrote about, when he wrote, pray I will and sing I must, but yet I weep.  Pray I will, sing I must, but yet I weep.

    My personal prayer for all of you is that in every succeeding year, you’re able to sing more than you weep.  And may God truly bless you and bless the souls of those 40 incredible people who rest in this ground.


News & Notes May 17, 2012

Two large wind farm projects for the state have been canceled because federal tax credits are going by the wayside.  If we’re subsidizing fossil fuels why can’t we subsidize clean, renewable energy?  The smart policy is to support clean energy and end tax credits for dirty ones.

Speaking of smart, does the Tea Party have an IQ test for membership?  Have you spoken with any of these morons?  I bet if you score more than 90 you’re rejected.  Their signs are the most hilarious examples of illiteracy around.

I was in Shanksville in September 2010 covering the first public memorial to Flight 93.  It’s a sobering experience to see where the heroes aboard that flight cratered into the mountain.  A fundraiser in DC just raised $2 million for the memorial.

James O’Keefe has had yet another video debunked.  This time he sought to prove voter fraud and, oops, missed the mark because he didn’t check his facts.  Think Progress has the story.

Keystone Progress is putting the heat on Pennsylvania legislators who are members of ALEC.  So far 14 have resigned from the lobbying organization whose mission it is to take away your rights.  Go and sign their petition.  Surprisingly two Democrats remain on their list.

The arc of justice bends towards progress:

U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest found that a section of the NDAA which gives the government powers to regulate the detention, interrogation and prosecution of suspected terrorists could be used against journalists, scholars and activists to curtail their first amendment rights.

The NDAA is clearly unconstitutional and President Obama failed when he decided not to veto the bill.

VP Biden went after Romney’s days as a vulture capitalist in an appearance in Youngstown, Ohio yesterday:

Biden casts the race as one between an Obama vision that promotes fairness and a Romney ideology that helps the wealthy at the expense of the middle class. It’s a strategy that combines an attack on Romney with a sunny appraisal of the country’s future under Obama.

“Then there’s Romney economics, which says as long as the government helps the guys at the very top do well, workers and small businesses and communities can be left to fend for themselves,” Biden says, according to excerpts of his speech released by the campaign.

As the country nears the debt limit ceiling Tea baggers are again threatening to hold the nation hostage to their radical agenda.  Republicans spent all of this money and now refuse to pay the bill.  I keep hearing these people claim the government needs to live within its means just as the average family must.  First of all the average family doesn’t.  Because real wages have been stagnant ever since this Reagan Revolution began, they live on credit.  Still, they have to pay the bills when they come due.  The country must also.  Since 1981 Republican presidents have spent like drunken sailors with the approval of Congress.  Now they have to pay the bill even if it means increasing taxes on the 1%.

President Obama has nominated two Judges for the federal bench:

Matthew W. Brann:  Nominee for the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania

Matthew W. Brann has been a partner at the law firm of Brann, Williams, Caldwell & Sheetz since 1995, where he concentrates his practice in the area of tort, contract, commercial, and real property litigation.  Prior to joining the firm as an associate in 1991, Brann served as a law clerk with the Court of Common Pleas in Bradford County, Pennsylvania.  Brann received his J.D. in 1990 from the Dickinson School of Law and his B.A. in 1987 from the University of Notre Dame.

Judge Malachy Edward Mannion:  Nominee for the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania

Judge Malachy Edward Mannion has been a United States Magistrate Judge for the Middle District of Pennsylvania since 2001.  Apart from a four-year stint as a partner at the law firm of Hourigan, Kluger, Spohrer & Quinn PC in the mid-90s, Judge Mannion spent the fifteen years prior to his appointment to the bench serving as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Middle District of Pennsylvania.  While a federal prosecutor, he served as Chief of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force from 1989 to 1993.  From 1980 to 1986, Judge Mannion was an Assistant District Attorney in the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office.  He began his legal career as an associate at the law firm of Bartels, Pykett & Aronwald.  Judge Mannion received his J.D. in 1979 from Pace University School of Law and his B.S. in 1976 from the University of Scranton.

I reported recently that prisoner John Carter was killed by prison guards at Rockview State Prison.  Now criminal complaints have been filed against the guards involved in the murder:

According to multiple, detailed witness accounts reported to the Human Rights Coalition and family of Carter, staff in riot gear filled his solitary confinement cell with an extraordinary quantity of OC chemical munitions, otherwise known as pepper-spray. Following the attack with pepper-spray, his cell door was opened and guards rushed him, assaulting Carter, who was reportedly unconscious, with electro-shock weapons and beating him.

Why is this not being investigated by the Attorney General?

In that vein a grand jury in Pittsburgh has until the end of the month to decide whether or not to indict Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin.  The testimony in her sister Sen. Jane Orie’s criminal trial has revealed extensive corruption in the use of state resources for Melvin’s two state Supreme Court races.  She continues to sit on the Court under a cloud of suspicion.

Why didn’t AG Tom Corbett investigate the obvious corruption in the Senate during his extensive probes of the legislature?   It appears they botched the Sandusky case too.  There doesn’t seem to be anywhere enough evidence to convict the former coach.  When it turns out the date of the most heinous account was off by more than a year I think there was shoddy work done by the OAG.

Congressional Republicans refused to vote for the expanded Violence Against Women Act, a signature piece of legislation pushed by Joe Biden when he was in the Senate.  Now they’ve voted for a version which actually weakens current protections.  Jim Gerlach and Mike Fitzpatrick were among state Members of Congress to weaken protections for women against violence.  Why don’t all women deserve to be protected from domestic violence?  What do these men have against women?

70’s disco queen Donna Summer had her last dance today when she died from cancer:

Bin Laden Press Briefing

I was watching the Phillies-Mets game when a push notification came into mu iPhone saying President Obama would be making an unusual late night announcement on TV.  My immediate thought was that we’d killed Ghaddaffi in the recent strike in Libya.  A few minutes later I got another notification via NBC News that Osama Bin Laden had been killed.  That was soon confirmed by other multiple sources and the White House Media Affairs Office notified me there would be a background press briefing.  Background means no one can be identified personally, the information can only be attributed to “Senior White House officials.”  In an unusual move the White House has provided a transcript of the call this morning.  The first part is basic background so I’ll go directly to the meat of the information for you:

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  As you heard, the President ordered a raid earlier today against an al Qaeda compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.  Based on intelligence collection analysis, a small U.S. team found Osama bin Laden living in a large home on a secured compound in an affluent suburb of Islamabad.  The raid occurred in the early morning hours in Pakistan and accomplished its objective.  Osama bin Laden is now no longer a threat to America.

    This remarkable achievement could not have happened without persistent effort and careful planning over many years.  Our national security professionals did a superb job.  They deserve tremendous credit for serving justice to Osama bin Laden.

    Bin Laden was a sworn enemy of the United States and a danger to all humanity; a man who called for the murder of any American anywhere on Earth.  His death is central to the President’s goal of disrupting, dismantling, and ultimately defeating al Qaeda and its violent allies.  He was responsible for killing thousands of innocent men and women not only on 9/11, but in the 1998 East Africa embassy bombing, the attack of the USS Cole, and many other acts of brutality.

    He was the leader of a violent extremist movement with affiliates across the globe that had taken up arms against the United States and its allies.  Bin Laden’s most influential role has been to designate the United States as al Qaeda’s primary target and to maintain organizational focus on that objective.  This strategic objective, which was first made in a 1996 declaration of jihad against Americans, was the cornerstone of bin Laden’s message.

    Since 9/11, multiple agencies within our intelligence community have worked tirelessly to track down bin Laden, knowing that his removal from al Qaeda would strike a crippling blow to the organization and its militant allies.  And last September the President was made aware of a compound in Abbottabad, where a key al Qaeda facilitator appeared to be harboring a high-value target.  He received regular intelligence updates, as was just mentioned, on the compound in September, and he directed that action be taken as soon as he concluded that the intelligence case was sufficiently strong.  A range of options for achieving the mission were developed, and on Friday he authorized the operation.

    Now I’ll turn it to my colleagues to go through the intelligence.

    SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thank you.  First I want to point out that today’s success was a team effort.  It was a model of really seamless collaboration across our government.  Since 9/11, this is what the American people have expected of us, and today, in this critical operation, we were able to finally deliver.

    The operation itself was the culmination of years of careful and highly advanced intelligence work.  Officers from the CIA, the NGA, the NSA all worked very hard as a team to analyze and pinpoint this compound.  Together they applied their very unique expertise and capabilities to America’s most vexing intelligence problem, where to find bin Laden.

    When the case had been made that this was a critical target, we began to prepare this mission in conjunction with the U.S. military.  In the end, it was the matchless skill and courage of these Americans that secured this triumph for our country and the world.  I’m very proud of the entire team that worked on this operation, and am very thankful to the President for the courage that he displayed in making the decision to proceed with this operation.

    With that, let me turn to my colleague to give you details on the intelligence background.

This is long so click below for the rest.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thank you.  The bottom line of our collection and our analysis was that we had high confidence that the compound harbored a high-value terrorist target.  The experts who worked this issue for years assessed that there was a strong probability that the terrorist that was hiding there was Osama bin Laden.

    What I’d like to do is walk you through the key points in that intelligence trail that led us to that conclusion.  From the time that we first recognized bin Laden as a threat, the CIA gathered leads on individuals in bin Laden’s inner circle, including his personal couriers.  Detainees in the post-9/11 period flagged for us individuals who may have been providing direct support to bin Laden and his deputy, Zawahiri, after their escape from Afghanistan.

    One courier in particular had our constant attention.  Detainees gave us his nom de guerre or his nickname and identified him as both a protégé of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of September 11th, and a trusted assistant of Abu Faraj al-Libbi, the former number three of al Qaeda who was captured in 2005.

    Detainees also identified this man as one of the few al Qaeda couriers trusted by bin Laden.  They indicated he might be living with and protecting bin Laden.  But for years, we were unable to identify his true name or his location.

    Four years ago, we uncovered his identity, and for operational reasons, I can’t go into details about his name or how we identified him, but about two years ago, after months of persistent effort, we identified areas in Pakistan where the courier and his brother operated.  Still we were unable to pinpoint exactly where they lived, due to extensive operational security on their part.  The fact that they were being so careful reinforced our belief that we were on the right track.

    Then in August 2010, we found their residence, a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, a town about 35 miles north of Islamabad.  The area is relatively affluent, with lots of retired military.  It’s also insolated from the natural disasters and terrorist attacks that have afflicted other parts of Pakistan.  When we saw the compound where the brothers lived, we were shocked by what we saw — an extraordinarily unique compound.  The compound sits on a large plot of land in an area that was relatively secluded when it was built.  It is roughly eight times larger than the other homes in the area.

    When the compound was built in 2005, it was on the outskirts of the town center, at the end of a narrow dirt road.  In the last six years, some residential homes have been built nearby.  The physical security measures of the compound are extraordinary.  It has 12- to 18-foot walls topped with barbed wire.  Internal wall sections — internal walls sectioned off different portions of the compound to provide extra privacy.  Access to the compound is restricted by two security gates, and the residents of the compound burn their trash, unlike their neighbors, who put the trash out for collection.

    The main structure, a three-story building, has few windows facing the outside of the compound.  A terrace on the third floor has a seven-foot wall privacy — has a seven-foot privacy wall.

    It’s also noteworthy that the property is valued at approximately $1 million but has no telephone or Internet service connected to it.  The brothers had no explainable source of wealth.

    Intelligence analysts concluded that this compound was custom built to hide someone of significance.  We soon learned that more people were living at the compound than the two brothers and their families.  A third family lived there — one whose size and whose makeup matched the bin Laden family members that we believed most likely to be with Osama bin Laden.  Our best assessment, based on a large body of reporting from multiple sources, was that bin Laden was living there with several family members, including his youngest wife.

    Everything we saw — the extremely elaborate operational security, the brothers’ background and their behavior, and the location and the design of the compound itself was perfectly consistent with what our experts expected bin Laden’s hideout to look like.  Keep in mind that two of bin Laden’s gatekeepers, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Faraj al-Libbi, were arrested in the settled areas of Pakistan.

Our analysts looked at this from every angle, considering carefully who other than bin Laden could be at the compound.  We conducted red team exercises and other forms of alternative analysis to check our work.  No other candidate fit the bill as well as bin Laden did.

So the final conclusion, from an intelligence standpoint, was twofold.  We had high confidence that a high-value target was being harbored by the brothers on the compound, and we assessed that there was a strong probability that that person was Osama bin Laden.

Now let me turn it over to my colleague.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thank you.  Earlier this afternoon, a small U.S. team conducted a helicopter raid on the compound.  Considerable planning helped prepare our operators for this very complex mission.  Senior officials have been involved in the decision-making and planning for this operation for months, and briefed the President regularly.  My colleague has already mentioned the unusual characteristics of this compound.  Each of these, including the high walls, security features, suburban location, and proximity to Islamabad made this an especially dangerous operation.

The men who executed this mission accepted this risk, practiced to minimize those risks, and understood the importance of the target to the national security of the United States.

I know you understand that I can’t and won’t get into many details of this mission, but I’ll share what I can.  This operation was a surgical raid by a small team designed to minimize collateral damage and to pose as little risk as possible to non-combatants on the compound or to Pakistani civilians in the neighborhood.

Our team was on the compound for under 40 minutes and did not encounter any local authorities while performing the raid.  In addition to Osama bin Laden, three adult males were killed in the raid.  We believe two were the couriers and the third was bin Laden’s adult son.

There were several women and children at the compound.  One woman was killed when she was used as a shield by a male combatant.  Two other women were injured.

During the raid, we lost one helicopter due to mechanical failure.  The aircraft was destroyed by the crew and the assault force and crew members boarded the remaining aircraft to exit the compound.  All non-combatants were moved safely away from the compound before the detonation.

That’s all I have at this time.  I’ll turn it back to my colleague.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  We shared our intelligence on this bin Laden compound with no other country, including Pakistan.  That was for one reason and one reason alone:  We believed it was essential to the security of the operation and our personnel.  In fact, only a very small group of people inside our own government knew of this operation in advance.

Shortly after the raid, U.S. officials contacted senior Pakistani leaders to brief them on the intent and the results of the raid.  We have also contacted a number of our close allies and partners throughout the world.

Sine 9/11, the United States has made it clear to Pakistan that we would pursue bin Laden wherever he might be.  Pakistan has long understood that we are at war with al Qaeda.  The United States had a legal and moral obligation to act on the information it had.

And let me emphasize that great care was taken to ensure operational success, minimize the possibility of non-combatant casualties, and to adhere to American and international law in carrying out the mission.

I should note that in the wake of this operation, there may be a heightened threat to the homeland and to U.S. citizens and facilities abroad.  Al Qaeda operatives and sympathizers may try to respond violently to avenge bin Laden’s death, and other terrorist leaders may try to accelerate their efforts to strike the United States.  But the United States is taking every possible precaution to protect Americans here at home and overseas.  The State Department has sent guidance to embassies worldwide and a travel advisory has been issued for Pakistan.

And without a doubt, the United States will continue to face terrorist threats.  The United States will continue to fight those threats.  We have always understood that this fight would be a marathon and not a sprint.

There’s also no doubt that the death of Osama bin Laden marks the single greatest victory in the U.S.-led campaign to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda.  It is a major and essential step in bringing about al Qaeda’s eventual destruction.

Bin Laden was al Qaeda’s only (inaudible) commander in its 22-year history, and was largely responsible for the organization’s mystique, its attraction among violent jihadists, and its focus on America as a terrorist target.  As the only al Qaeda leader whose authority was universally respected, he also maintained his cohesion, and his likely successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is far less charismatic and not as well respected within the organization, according to comments from several captured al Qaeda leaders.  He probably will have difficulty maintaining the loyalty of bin Laden’s largely Gulf Arab followers.

Although al Qaeda may not fragment immediately, the loss of bin Laden puts the group on a path of decline that will be difficult to reverse.

    And finally, it’s important to note that it is most fitting that bin Laden’s death comes at a time of great movement towards freedom and democracy that is sweeping the Arab world.  He stood in direct opposition to what the greatest men and women throughout the Middle East and North Africa are risking their lives for:  individual rights and human dignity.

    MR. VIETOR:  With that we’re ready to take a couple questions.

    Q    One question.  You said “a small U.S. team.”  Were these military personnel, can you say, or non-military?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Can’t go into further details at this time; just a small U.S. team.

Q    Good morning.  Can you tell us specifically what contact there was with bin Laden at the compound?  You referred to someone using a woman as a shield that was not bin Laden.  But how was he killed?  Where?  What occurred at the compound?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  As the President said this evening, bin Laden was killed in a firefight as our operators came onto the compound.

Q    Thank you.  Just to go back to what you were talking about with the attacks in response to this operation, are you hearing any specific threats against specific targets?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  No.  But any type of event like this, it is very prudent for us to take measures so that we can ensure that the security measures that we need to institute here and throughout the world are in place.  This is just something that we normally would do.  We don’t have any specific threats at this time related to this.  But we are ensuring that every possible precaution is taken in advance.

Q    Yes, hey, how are you doing?  My question would be, what was the type of the helicopter that failed?  And what was the nature of that mechanical failure?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Can’t go into details at this time.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  We didn’t say it was mechanical.  

Q    Was bin Laden involved in firing himself or defending himself?  And then any chronology of the raid itself?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  He did resist the assault force.  And he was killed in a firefight.

Q    Thank you.  Thank you for taking this call.  Can you give me a comment on the very fact that Osama bin Laden was just in Islamabad — and has long been (inaudible) Afghanistan (inaudible) also from India, that Osama bin Laden is hiding somewhere near Islamabad?  What does it signify, that?  Does it signify any cooperation or any kind of link that he had with establishments in Pakistan?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  As the President said, Pakistani cooperation had assisted in this lead, as we pursued it.  So we’re continuing to work this issue right now.  We are very concerned about — that he was inside of Pakistan, but this is something that we’re going to continue to work with the Pakistani government on.

Q    But the very fact you didn’t inform the Pakistani authorities — did you have any suspicion that if you informed them, the information might lead somewhere?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  An operation like this that is conducted has the utmost operational security attached to it.  I said that we had shared this information with no other country, and that a very, very small group of individuals within the United States government was aware of this.  That is for operational security purposes.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I would also just add to that that President Obama, over a period of several years now, has repeatedly made it clear that if we had actionable intelligence about Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts, we would act.  So President Obama has been very clear in delivering that message publicly over a period of years.  And that’s what led President Obama to order this operation.  When he determined that the intelligence was actionable and the intelligence case was sufficient, he gave us high confidence that bin Laden indeed was at the compound.

Q    Thank you.  What is going to happen next?  And what is the U.S. going to do with bin Laden’s body?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  We are ensuring that it is handled in accordance with Islamic practice and tradition.  This is something that we take very seriously.  And so therefore this is being handled in an appropriate manner.

MR. VIETOR:  Great, thanks.  Just to remind everyone, this call is on background, as senior administration officials.  We have time for one more question, and we’re going to go to bed.

Q    Do you have a sense of the vintage of the compound and how long bin Laden had been there?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  The compound has been in existence for roughly five years, but we don’t know how long bin Laden lived there.  We assess that the compound was built for the purpose of harboring him.  But again, don’t know how long he’s been there.

MR. VIETOR:  Great, thank you all.  We’ll talk more tomorrow.

                     END            12:24 A.M. EDT

oh yes, the Mets won in 14 innings 2-1.

Update:  As more information comes to light we know the operation was conducted yesterday by about 25 Navy Seals.  One helicopter crashed during the operation.  A woman used as a shield was killed.  How brave was it to grab a woman and try to use her to keep from getting shot?  This sort of tells us exactly what sort of men with which we were dealing.

Osama’s body was prepared and buried in the North Arabian Sea.  Pictures were taken.  Obama decided against an earlier missile attack so there would be proof of death.  The insane controversy over his birth certificate. reportedly was a factor in that decision.  It might have been impossible to convince the crazies that Osama had actually been killed.  Unfortunately this put soldiers at risk.

Once the courier was established it took tradecraft to follow him over months and determine the location of the compound.  Then it took months of surveillance to establish OBL’s presence there.  Inmates at Gitmo were questioned about the identity of the courier and it was learned he was a trusted confidant of OBL.  It seems torture wasn’t needed to gain this valuable intelligence.

Once the compound was ID’d the fact it was without phone or internet in spite of its size and nature were red flags.  Bin Laden knew he had to eliminate any communications chatter which could be intercepted by the NSA.  What this did was necessitate couriers.  Finding him was a matter of finding them and tracking them to the compound.  Old fashioned spycraft.

“Draw Strength From These Heroes”

Those were the words of wisdom one member of the Flight 93 families had for a small group of high school students to wish he was dispensing advice following this morning remembrance vigil in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  On September 11, 2001 Flight 93 crashed into the field here killing the 40 passengers and crew.  The heroes on that plane commandeered it from the terrorist hijackers to prevent it from being flown into the Capital building in Washington.  Forty everyday, ordinary Americans did an extraordinary act of heroism and bravery and today marked the somber ninth anniversary of their untimely deaths.

Nine years ago I was driving west on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  I was going to Hagerstown, Maryland to visit my mother.  I stopped at a service area and discovered a group of shocked faces staring at a television set.  I got in my car and turned on the radio.  I was out of the WHYY listening area and had it turned off as I frequently do when I drive.  I got an ABC News station and heard Peter Jennings’ voice describe the tragedy of the towers collapsing and the Pentagon being struck.  There were reports of other potential planes in the sky and so I constantly scanned the clear, beautiful blue sky as I got to Carlisle and headed south of I-81 towards Maryland.  As I got below Shippensburg and began closing on Waynesboro a succession of Pennsylvania State Police cruisers were parked a mile apart in the grassy median facing west.  They were looking for the rogue Flight 93.

Shanksville is about two hours west of Carlisle in driving time, much less on a jetliner flying at 500 mph.  Al Qaeda terrorists had taken over Flight 93 and intended to do major harm and mass murder in our Capitol.  The passengers and crew on board discovered the horrible news about New York and determined their plane wouldn’t become another terrorist missile.  Their final acts of bravery saved countless lives and the destruction of part of our seat of government.  They are remembered in Shanksville, their final resting place, every year on this anniversary.

So it was I was driving west once more on September 11th.  This time I would be in Shanksville and see this hallowed ground, a blank field with a crater where Flight 93 made its final exit.  The families of those 40 sat before me and on the stage were two First Ladies, a Governor, the Secretary of the Interior and other dignitaries.  Laura Bush has become special to the families since her first visit to the site on September 17, 2001 when they were allowed their first access to the location.  Today was her third visit to Shanksville and she has forged a bond with the families.  Today she was introducing Michelle Obama to them inside a wind blown tent on a chilly 40 degree morning.  As the sun rose behind wind turbines on the distant ridge the families gathered once more in privacy, a family of the surviving family members who, over the years have forged a family of their own through a bond none of us will ever imagine.  Joined by Governor Ed Rendell, Secretary Ken Salazar and others they mingled together sharing thoughts and prayers among themselves before taking their place before the stage and facing the field where Flight 93 came to rest.

Laura Bush spoke lovingly of the sacrifices made by the 40 Heroes, words the families have heard before but words which continue to comfort them in their days of grief and this day of remembrance.  Michelle Obama spoke eloquently of the special day, the special people and the meaning of it all.  Ed Rendell compared them with other historical Pennsylvanians who have been heroes.

Following the event we were allowed time to see the family members and the field where a memorial is beginning to be built commemorating the flight and the heroes.  I took a moment to simply gaze out upon the hallowed ground and remember that awful day.  I remember driving through Hagerstown and seeing a hand made sign on the front lawn of a home that said “kill all Arabs.”  Of course that isn’t the answer, war is never the answer.  Hatred and revenge only beget more of the same.  Today the messages were of peace, hope and understanding.  It was a day for reflection and remembrance, not of hate and fear.

I sat and watched as Karl Rove took his seat to my right and wondered if he has had second thoughts about lying the nation into war against Iraq predicated on their mythical involvement in 9/11.  Walking to the site I encountered a conspiracy theorist who maintained she was related to the Bushes, the Obamas, the Gerald Fords and Princess Diana and who said she “knew all the secrets.”  I saw ordinary Americans there to pay homage to the day and to the families, to those who died and those who will come in future years to remember these forty brave souls.  It was a microcosm of America as two Park Rangers sat upon their steeds on the ridge overlooking the event, a testament to the ever present risk that someone may choose this site, this day, to exact revenge of a putrid and perverted sort.  Their sentry was not needed today and I wondered how poignant their silhouette was on another day with jet entrails present in the sky over Shanksville, they too remembering where they were nine years ago.  I got back into my car and, this time, headed east on the Pennsylvania Turnpike forever changed by being there and talking with families, Park Service people, ordinary Americans and the man who gave that wisdom to those young people:  “draw strength from these heroes.”