President Obama did not actually see Osama bin Laden get shot, the CIA director said Tuesday.
It was not possible for Obama to see that moment, but the president was able to immediately verify his death through other means, CIA Director Leon Panetta said in an interview.
Panetta revealed that the president and his team, who were at the White House monitoring the raid on the al Qaeda leader's Pakistan compound, did not know what was going on for 20-25 minutes during the raid. But he said that a military officer's use of a code word confirmed bin Laden's death.
The White House had previously been coy about exactly how much Obama and his national security team were able to see during the raid.
Asked during a press briefing on Monday if they could hear shots fired, Obama's counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, only said, "We were able to monitor the situation in real-time."
Referencing the fact that U.S. forces were not certain that bin Laden was at the compound when they arrived, Brennan called Obama's decision to raid the compound one of the "gutsiest" by a president in recent memory.
"Once those teams went into the compound, I can tell you that there was a time period about of almost 20 or 25 minutes that we really didn't know just exactly what was going on," Panetta said Tuesday. "There were some very tense moments as we were waiting for information."
The White House is also debating whether or not to release photos of bin Laden's body or video of the attack or burial to prove to any skeptics, especially in the Muslim world, that bin Laden is dead.
Panetta said that Obama knew that bin Laden had been killed once Joint Special Operations Command chief Vice Adm. William McRaven, who oversaw the raid, gave the signal "Geronimo."
"But finally Adm. McRaven came back and said that he had picked up the word 'Geronimo,' which was the code word that represented they got bin Laden," he said.
Panetta said that the Navy SEALs carried out the attack so fast that, "To be frank, I don't think [bin Laden] had a lot of time to say anything" to U.S. forces.