The ‘heartstopping’ moments

THE ‘HEARTSTOPPING’ MOMENTS…. It’s probably going to be a while before we a complete picture of what transpired in Abbottabad — and the White House Situation Room — yesterday, and some of the details will probably remain classified indefinitely.

But what we do know sounds pretty extraordinary. MSNBC noted some “heartstopping” moments earlier.

The first was when the operation’s helicopters first arrived at the scene. The plan was for the choppers to hover and lower 12 Seals to the ground rather than land. But one of the choppers stopped working due to a lack of air within the high compound walls.

It made a soft landing (not a crash) on the ground and the raid went forward. At that point a third “emergency” chopper on standby came to the scene.

As the team returned with bin Laden’s body, they blew up the broken chopper, which resulted in a “massive explosion.” The team exited in two helicopters.

The other tense moment came when the choppers were leaving the country but remained within Pakistani airspace. The Pakistanis, seeing the choppers and not knowing if they were friendly or not, scrambled their fighter jets, causing white knuckles before the helicopters were able to leave.

Half a world away, in the Situation Room (the real one, not that one), President Obama and his national security team were actually able to watch the Navy SEALs conduct the raid in real time on secure video screens and in radio bursts.

John Brennan, assistant to the President for Counter-Terrorism, told reporters today, “It was probably one of the most anxiety-filled periods of time in the lives of the people who were assembled here.”

Brennan also noted that there had been some disagreement around the table about whether to greenlight the operation before the president gave the order, a move Brennan called “one of the most gutsiest calls of any president in recent memory.”

Marc Ambinder, meanwhile, has a fascinating piece on the “specially trained and highly mythologized SEAL Team Six, officially called the Naval Special Warfare Development Group,” part of “the Joint Special Operations Command, an extraordinary and unusual collection of classified standing task forces and special-missions units.”