Behind the Chipmunk in the Small Chair Photo: What Really Happened in the Situation Room

On Monday May 2 White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan told reporters that President Obama and his staff watched the raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound in real time.
The AP reported:

From halfway around the world, President Barack Obama and his national security team monitored the strike on Osama bin Laden’s compound in real time, watching and listening to the firefight that killed the terrorist leader.

Gathered in the White House Situation Room, members of the group held their breath and barely spoke as they waited to see whether a carefully crafted yet extremely risky plan would succeed, said White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan. Obama had been playing golf but returned to the White House for the suspenseful watch Sunday.

The White House released this photo on Monday of the administration’s security team watching the raid on the Osama compound in Abbottabad.
The iconic picture is now famously referred to as the chipmunk in the small chair photo.

(White House website)

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told the press this:

“The president and his top national security aides in the Situation Room had available to them minute-by-minute updates on the operation, and that photograph was taken during the operation.”

But then on Wednesday the CIA admitted that there was a media blackout during the Osama raid.

The Telegraph
reported:

Leon Panetta, director of the CIA, revealed there was a 25 minute blackout during which the live feed from cameras mounted on the helmets of the US special forces was cut off.

A photograph released by the White House appeared to show the President and his aides in the situation room watching the action as it unfolded. In fact they had little knowledge of what was happening in the compound.

Mr Panetta said: “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.

This just added to the confusion of the many different accounts of the raid by the Obama White House.

Then on Sunday White House Security adviser Tom Donilon told Chris Wallace on FOX News Sunday that he was not sure what they were watching when the photo was taken.

And, finally we have this from Barack Obama’s interview on “60 Minutes” tonight.

Obama said he and his top aides, who were depicted in a powerful photo of the Situation Room, “had a sense of when gunfire and explosions took place” on the ground in Pakistan. But he said they “could not get information clearly about what was happening inside the compound.”

So there you have it.
The president was most likely watching a blank screen during the iconic chipmunk in the small chair photo.

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