White House officials should have “kept their mouths shut” about the reported treasure trove of material and intelligence seized from Osama bin Laden’s compound during last week’s raid, charged former CIA Director James Woolsey during a radio interview today.
Woolsey further criticized the Obama administration for entering a debate about whether to release a photo of bin Laden’s body, advising the president’s representatives to “calm down” with conflicting narratives.
Woolsey was speaking in an interview with the host of “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio” on New York’s WABC Radio.
On the issue of the announced seizure of material from bin Laden’s house in Abbottabad, Pakistan, Woolsey said, “One of the things that I think the PR people in the administration should have kept their mouths shut about was our having collected a large amount of intelligence.”
Continued Woolsey, “The story we should have put out is that we tried to get [the material] but we were too rushed and there was a lot there, but we couldn’t get it out. And put that out from an unidentified official.
“Because one of the last things you want to do is tell people that you have captured a great amount of material,” he said. “I have no idea why they felt they wanted to make that public.”
Audio of the interview can be heard below:
Asked by Klein whether Obama should release a photo of bin Laden’s body, Woolsey said it would be wise for the White House to stick to its most recent decision of refusing to put out a picture.
“I think this was a military operation against a commander of a terrorist group that attacked us,” he said, explaining one way to treat the operation was without releasing photographs.
Woolsey said the White House should never have entered the debate about releasing images. He pointed to the alternative narrative coming from the Obama administration.
He said the administration “sort of stepped on their own foot” by indicating they would release a photo, with Obama himself then later announcing no images would be forthcoming.
“They need to have their PR people just kind of calm down and keep their mouths shut,” he said.
Woolsey added that since the latest decision was against releasing a picture, Obama should just stick to that verdict.
“I think a triple switch back would probably be one more or two moves too many,” he said, laughing.
Woolsey served as CIA chief from 1993 to 1995.
The U.S. last week announced it seized a treasure trove of computer hard drives and discs from bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The seizure reportedly also included electronic equipment, personal computers and thumb drives during the lightning raid that killed bin Laden.
Just today, intelligence officials were quoted telling CBS News the captured materials yielded “positive intelligence” on the locations of key al-Qaeda leadership including the whereabouts of the jihad group’s No 2 man, Ayman al Zawahiri, who is widely regarded as the candidate to succeed bin Laden.
White House counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan confirmed analysts are in the process of reviewing the materials they obtained on site to determine the next step.
Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Defense released video footage of bin Laden watching himself on television and rehearsing for terrorist videos. The images were reportedly also part of the material seized from bin Laden’s lair.