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Bug #30147 closed:unresolved

CIA was not "certain" about Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad

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This bug appeared in a news report published by Wall Street Journal on May 4, 2011 by John Yoo. View the original news report.
Bug Type:  Simple Factual Error

Describing the intelligence trail and runup to the U.S. military raid on Osama bin Laden's compound, John Yoo wrote that "the CIA became certain that the al Qaeda leader was hiding inside."

That's inaccurate. Many news outlets have reported that the U.S. had circumstantial evidence of bin Laden's presence, but no clear proof. CIA director Leon Panetta made this explicit in the aftermath, according to the Washington Post (via SFGate):

CIA Director Leon Panetta, who supervised the operation, said in interviews that U.S. intelligence agencies never had photographs or other proof that bin Laden was living at the compound in Pakistan that was attacked. Panetta told Time magazine that analysts were only 60 to 80 percent confident bin Laden would be found.

"We never had direct evidence that he in fact had ever been there or was located there," Panetta said in a separate interview with "PBS NewsHour."



Mark Follman has contacted Wall Street Journal

Bug History

May 05, 2011 1:16 pm Open Mark Follman
May 05, 2011 1:33 pm Open: Under Discussion Mark Follman
Jul 20, 2011 9:00 am Closed: Unresolved admin

Discussion Leave a comment

We've emailed notice of this to wsjcontact@dowjones.com, the address their site designates for reporting errors to the newsroom.

May 05, 2011 1:33 pm

We've also now emailed notice to John Yoo via his UC Berkeley address.

May 06, 2011 9:43 am

No response to date; we've sent follow-up emails today to both the WSJ and Yoo.

May 09, 2011 5:54 pm

Still no response from Yoo or WSJ. I've written about the issue here:


Also see update to the post here:


May 20, 2011 2:19 pm