The US plan - Title 50

Title 50 Operation are issued directly by US President to the CIA Director.

Updated: May 05, 2011, 00:37 AM IST

Washington: The covert mission to hunt down al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was the rare `Title 50 Operation` which is issued directly by the US President to the CIA Director, the agency chief Leon Panetta has said.

Panetta said since this was what is called a `Title
50`, which is a covert operation, and it comes directly from
the president of the US who made the decision to conduct this
operation in a covert way, that direction goes to the CIA
chief.

"And then, I am, you know, the person who then
commands the mission," Panetta told PBS news in an interview.
However, Panetta said the real commander was Admiral
McRaven as he was on the site in Afghanistan commanding the
operation.

From an operations post established at the CIA
headquarters in Virginia, Panetta said he was in direct
communication with Admiral McRaven.

"We were in direct contact as the mission went
forward. We had live-time intelligence information that we
were dealing with during the operation itself," he said.

He, however, clarified that neither he nor President
Barack Obama, who was receiving the information on a real time
basis did see bin Laden being shot dead live.

"We had some observation of the approach there, but we
did not have direct flow of information as to the actual
conduct of the operation itself as they were going through the
compound.

"I think they (the White House) were viewing some of
the real-time aspects of this as well in terms of the
intelligence that we were getting," he said.

There were tense moments, according to him, when they
followed the teams going into the compound and launch the
operation.

"Once those teams went into the compound, I can tell
you that there was a time period of almost 20 or 25 minutes
where we really didn`t know just exactly what was going on.

And there were some very tense moments as we were waiting for
information.

"But finally, Admiral McRaven came back and said that
he had picked up the word `Geronimo` which was the code word
that represented that they got bin Laden," Panetta said.

The CIA Director said neither he nor the President had
had a lot of time to say anything.

"It was a firefight going up that compound. By the
time they got to the third floor and found bin Laden, this was
all split-second action on the part of the SEALs," he said.

Panetta said, he did not think that bin Laden was
shooting back at the SEALs and he was not armed.

"But obviously, there were some firefights that were
going on as these guys were making their way up the staircase
in that compound.

"And when they got up there, there were some
threatening moves that were made that clearly represented a
clear threat to our guys. And that`s the reason they fired,"
Panetta said.

PTI