Who Helped bin Laden?

As questions swirl about Pakistanis' complicity in Osama bin Laden’s secret life outside of Islamabad, the U.S. administration is working on its relationship with the country. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday that Pakistan helped lead the U.S. to bin Laden and that Washington is dedicated to its partnership with Pakistan. She commented, “Our partnerships, including our close cooperation with Pakistan, have helped put unprecedented pressure on al-Qaida and its leadership,” but the fight is not over. Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan’s president, took to the Washington Post yesterday to defend Pakistan’s role in the fight against terrorism, saying Islamabad has paid an “enormous price.”

But there is no question that bin Laden had help inside of Pakistan, according to chief counterterrorism adviser John Brennan. And the administration is trying to unearth bin Laden’s support network. Though it’s too early to determine the extent of the web, Washington is “pursuing the leads and engaging with the Pakistanis.” The CIA, for instance, is poring over hard drives, DVDs and documents that the assault team took from the compound, hoping for hints about where the rest of al-Qaeda’s leadership might be hiding out. Brennan also noted today that the administration is thinking about “releasing additional information” about the operation, including a photograph of bin Laden’s body. Brennan said the administration is considering the prospect carefully, so as not to “compromise potential future operations.”

And Brennan added that though there were no “specific threats” against the U.S. at the moment, the administration is working hard to get a handle on “what threats might be out there.” But, he noted, the team is “pretty confident that we are at the right posture.” Despite increased security measures in New York City and Washington, DC, yesterday, the new Homeland Security warning system hasn’t been employed yet, which Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano pointed out yesterday.

Before the raid, administration officials were mulling over a few different options to go after bin Laden. One idea was bombing the compound, which was vetoed because it would have been very difficult to say after the fact whether bin Laden had been killed. Brennan explained the final decision to the public—Navy SEALs entered the compound via helicopter and killed bin Laden after a firefight.

In other news, the rest of the government must continue to press onward despite the recent turn of events. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner gave Congress more time to come to some sort of agreement on increasing the U.S. borrowing limit. The deadline, which had been set at July 8, could be extended to August 2 through a bit of fancy bookkeeping. Washington will technically reach its $14.3 trillion borrowing limit in just two weeks (on May 16), but after that, the administration can do things like removing investments from government pensions to trim the fat. Geithner will begin taking action on Friday, halting the sale of certain Treasury securities.