Defense Secretary Leon Panetta Tells 60 Minutes Pakistan ‘Must’ve Had Some Sense’ Bin Laden Was In Its Midst
Over the weekend, CBS’ 60 Minutes offered an in-depth profile on Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, a man who is, very likely, best known for his role as CIA Director — a role that saw him presiding over the covert operations that resulted in the discovery and death of Osama bin Laden. As Secretary of Defense, Panetta is the person who would be responsible for launching a nuclear missile from the so-called “Doomsday Plane” should the President give the order.
The program noted that President Barack Obama had praised Panetta during last week’s State of the Union address, praising him of having done a “good job tonight.” What as that about? As it turned out, The Navy’s SEAL Team Six had earlier rescued two hostages, including an American woman, in Somalia.
On his mind currently, the interview revealed, is Iran’s nuclear capabilities, and what would happen if that country were to build just one nuclear weapon. “The United States — and the President’s made this clear — does not want Iran to develop a nuclear weapon,” he shared. “That’s a red line for us.” And the U.S. would take whatever measures deemed necessary to stop this from happening. “There are no options that are off the table.”
Panetta still lives on the farm where he grew up, and jokes that his father told him he was ready for life in Washington thanks to his ability to “dodge all the nuts” he’d shake down from the family’s many walnut trees.
Panetta remembers being as surprised as anyone when he was tapped to oversee the CIA as its Director, particularly since much of his focus before had been on balancing the national budget. The President, he remembers, had told him that he’d needed someone who could “restore the credibility of the CIA.” One way of doing this, evidently, was ramping up efforts to find Bin Laden.
What’s remarkable is how little was actually certain when Panetta and the President decided to launch the SEAL Team Six mission into Pakistan. But Panetta was decisive about one aspect: Not working with Pakistan on the mission. “I personally have always felt,” he shared, “that somebody must have had some sense of what was happening at this compound.” There had been, he adds, Pakistani military planes seen flying over Bin Laden’s massive suburban compound, adding to his fears that, were the U.S. to loop Pakistan in on the mission, they would give the terrorist leader some sort of “heads up.” That said, Panetta is very careful to note that he doesn’t have hard evidence to back up his misgivings.
Have a look at the interview, via CBS:
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