Watching the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound unfold last week from the White House Situation room was interminable, the president revealed to CBS' "60 Minutes" in an interview that aired Sunday evening.
"It was the longest 40 minutes of my life," Obama told correspondent Steve Kroft during a conversation taped days after bin Laden's death. A photo of the national security team viewing the action remotely has quickly become a touchstone of the May 1 event, but officials have revealed little about what was going on behind the scenes, citing security concerns.
Obama described the mood as "very tense," revealed he felt "nervous" and said officials were talking as they sat in the Situation Room. But he stressed that they were busy listening to real-time reports.Â "There were big chunks of time in which all we were doin' was just waiting," Obama said. He added that the only comparable episode of tense anticipation in his earlier life was when his daughter Sasha contracted meningitis at three months.
You can watch the exchange after the jump, below:
The president also revealed that prior to issuing the order for the special operations to move on the bin Laden compound, his national security team was still uncertainty about whether to proceed with the military operation. "This was still a 55-45 situation," Obama said.Â "I mean, we could not say definitively that bin Laden was there. Had he not been there, then there would have been some significant consequences."
Obama also told Kroft that the safety of the individuals carrying out the mission was foremost on his mind.
He conceded that, given the risks some members of his team counseled against proceeding with the raid. Obama explained to Kroft that he made a point of taking these dissenting views into account as he approved the mission.
"The fact that there were some who voiced doubts about this approach was invaluable, because it meant the plan was sharper, it meant that we had thought through all of our options, it meant that when I finally did make the decision, I was making it based on the very best information."
Ultimately, Obama said, "I concluded that it was worth it."
"And the reason that I concluded it was worth it was that we have devoted enormous blood and treasure in fighting back against al Qaeda, ever since 2001. And even before, with the embassy bombing in Kenya ... I said to myself that if we have a good chance of not completely defeating but badly disabling al Qaeda, then it was worth both the political risks as well as the risks to our men."
Sunday's interview also included now widely circulated comments from the president regarding photos of bin Laden's corpse.Obama explained why the administration is not planning to release the images:
It is important for us to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence-- as a propaganda tool. You know, that's not who we are. You know, we don't trot out this stuff as trophies... we don't need to spike the football. And I think that given the graphic nature of these photos, it would create some national security risk. And I've discussed this with Bob Gates and Hillary Clinton and my intelligence teams and they all agree.He added that there is no question bin Laden is dead:Â "The fact of the matter is, you will not see bin Laden walking on this earth again."