By DAVID BAUDER
NEW YORK — A new documentary reveals that a last-minute double-check of intelligence before the raid that killed Osama bin Laden last spring cast fresh doubt on whether the al Qaida leader was really in the Pakistani compound where he was found.
The History network, in its “Targeting Bin Laden” special that airs next Tuesday, said President Barack Obama convened a special “red team” of terrorism experts to take a fresh look at the evidence. That team had greater doubt that bin Laden was in the Abbottobad, Pakistan home primarily because they didn’t believe he would take the risk of having as many visitors as he did.
Despite the new assessment, Obama ordered the mission to proceed. Four days later on May 2, a team of U.S. Navy SEALs successfully located and killed the terrorist leader behind the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Obama was interviewed two weeks ago for the special, which provides a tick-tock account of what went into the planning and execution of the raid. Other people interviewed for the special include national security adviser Tom Donilon, White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan and former CIA officials.
The special “red team” had not been involved in the intelligence operation that searched for bin Laden or planned the raid. It was reviewing the evidence for the first time, History says in the special. Their assessment initially deflated policy makers, and only half of those planning the raid advised Obama to proceed after hearing their report.
“At the end of the day only the president can weigh those risks,” Donilon told interviewers. “Only the president can ask, `What’s in the nation’s interest? What are the risks worth running here? What will we accomplish if this works? How will I deal with it if it doesn’t work?’ It was a quintessential presidential decision.”
“Targeting Bin Laden” was made for the cable network by the same production company that made “America The Story of Us.” It airs at 8 p.m. EST on Sept. 6.
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