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October 17, 2012

6 myths about the bin Laden raid

(Continued)

It's true that the mission was bulked up because of the president's orders — but the additional men and choppers added at his direction stayed parked near the Pakistani border inside Afghanistan during the raid. The SEAL mission was never noticed or challenged by Pakistani forces. The two Chinooks that did fly into the country, one of which provided timely backup when the Black Hawk went down, were part of the force McRaven had planned for the mission from the start.

"The Obama administration has enthusiastically leaked secrets about the raid to reporters."

I wish. This charge has been leveled at the president by political opponents apparently looking to find some way to muddy one of the unalloyed successes of his term. Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney accused the Obama team of leaking secret information about the bin Laden raid in a July speech, and said that such security breaches were "contemptible" and "betray our national interest."

The charge is certainly untrue in my case, and I worked as hard as anyone to get close to the story. I would, frankly, have welcomed a leak from somewhere. In the first days after the raid, White House staff members responded to a flood of questions about the mission — and in some cases got things wrong — but none of what they said revealed secrets. Someone with close knowledge of the raid itself did speak with Nicholas Schmidle of the New Yorker for his detailed account on the assault, but he has not revealed his source.

There have also been unsubstantiated claims that a SEAL team member cooperated with filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow in creating her yet-to-be-released movie version of the raid, "Zero Dark Thirty." But with me, the White House declined to make any effort to encourage those in the military or intelligence community to discuss the raid.

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