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Donilon Says No Evidence Pakistani Leaders Hid Bin Laden

U.S. National Security Adviser Tom Donilon said he hasn’t seen “any evidence” that Pakistan’s government and military leadership were aware that Osama bin Laden was living in a compound inside the country.

“I’ve not seen any evidence at least to date that the political, military, or intelligence leadership of Pakistan knew about Osama bin Laden at Abbottabad, Pakistan,” Donilon said today on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Donilon added that the proximity of bin Laden’s compound to Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, near a military school means the country’s knowledge of his whereabouts “needs to be investigated.”

In the wake of bin Laden’s killing in a town 35 miles (56 kilometers) from Pakistan’s capital, U.S. lawmakers have urged the Obama administration to evaluate the nation’s relationship with the country. Senator Carl Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said last week Pakistani army and intelligence officials have “a lot of questions to answer.”

The Pakistanis face “obviously a very big set of questions in their country about what happened and how this came about,” Donilon told CNN, adding, “We need to work with them to investigate what’s happened and how Osama bin Laden came to this place as his home for the last six years.”

‘Burden of Proof’

Michael Hayden, the former director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program that Pakistan has “a lot of questions to answer and the burden of proof is on them.”

“There was a terrorist in Pakistan that seemed to feel like he was safe,” Hayden said when he was asked if Pakistan harbored terrorists.

The U.S. asked for and hasn’t yet been given access to bin Laden’s three wives who were in the compound, or the additional materials recovered by the Pakistanis after the U.S. raid, Donilon told CNN.

The U.S. “would expect to have access to the things we need,” and “we’ll certainly press on this very hard, too,” Donilon said on CNN.

The raid on the compound in Pakistan capped a decade-long pursuit of bin Laden. The U.S. lost track of him in the wake of the offensive on neighboring Afghanistan, where the Taliban harbored bin Laden and his core group at the time of the terror attacks on New York and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

Strategic Defeat

“Our efforts to pursue strategic defeat of al Qaeda -- which is our national goal -- really was given a significant boost on Sunday in the operation against Osama bin Laden,” Donilon said on CNN.

Donilon said that based on the initial looks at the material recovered from the raid, bin Laden “had an operational and strategic role” in al-Qaeda.

“Removing a leader of the significance of this man is extraordinary,” Rudy Giuliani, who was the mayor of New York City at the time of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program. “This is like removing a Hitler or a Stalin in the middle of those conflicts. It’s a symbolic blow for an organization that feeds on emotion. It’s not a death blow by any means.”

24 Hours a Day

A task force of experts is working 24 hours a day to review material on computer hard drives, thumb drives, audio and video files, hand-written documents and other items retrieved by the U.S. Navy SEALs who raided bin Laden’s compound killed him, an intelligence official told reporters yesterday. The intelligence teams are still quantifying and cataloging the material, the official said.

Information from the cache may help lead to other individual terrorists and groups and to forestall further attacks on the U.S. or other countries, the official said.

“This is the largest cache of intelligence derived from the scene of any single terrorist,” Donilon, who made the rounds of the Sunday talk shows, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program. “It’s about the size, the CIA tells us, of a small college library.”

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