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CIA Director Panetta Feared Pakistan Would 'Jeopardize the Mission' to Kill Bin Laden

"They might alert the targets," Panetta told 'Time' magazine.

12:00 AM, May 4, 2011 • By BILL ROGGIO
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In the wake of Osama bin Laden's death at the hands of a covert U.S. assault force, there has been plenty of specualtion in the U.S. press about Pakistan's involvement in sheltering the terror chief, followed by denials from Pakistan. But in an interview with Time magazine, CIA director Leon Panetta issued perhaps the most telling statement that shows just how little the U.S. trusts Pakistan's military and intelligence services.

In his first interview since commanding the mission to kill Osama bin Laden, CIA chief Leon Panetta tells TIME that U.S. officials feared that Pakistan could have undermined the operation by leaking word to its targets. Long before Panetta ordered Vice Admiral William McRaven, head of the Joint Special Forces Command, to undertake the mission at 1:22 p.m. on Friday, the CIA had been gaming out how to structure the raid. Months prior, the U.S. had considered expanding the assault to include coordination with other countries, notably Pakistan. But the CIA ruled out participating with its nominal South Asian ally early on because "it was decided that any effort to work with the Pakistanis could jeopardize the mission. They might alert the targets," Panetta says.

There are three points to keep in mind. First, any U.S. contact with Pakistan would occur at the highest levels. In this case, it would likely be with General Kayani, Pakistan's chief of staff for the army, and General Pasha, the head of the Inter-Services Intelligence. So the CIA was concerned that the top leaders, or their direct aides, would notify bin Laden that a raid would take place.

Second, Panetta chose his words carefully. He didn't say the U.S. feared that news of the raid would be leaked; instead, Panetta says that the U.S. was concered that Pakistanis would "alert the targets."

Third, in order for Pakistani officials to "alert the targets," they would first have to be able to get in touch with them.

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