By Meghashyam Mali - 01/28/12 12:30 AM EST
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta says he believes government authorities in Pakistan knew about the whereabouts of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
"I personally have always felt that somebody must have had some sense of what was happening at this compound," said Panetta about the fugitive's hideout in an interview to air Sunday on CBS's 60 Minutes.
"Don't forget, this compound had 18-foot walls. It was the largest compound in the area. So you would have thought that somebody would have asked the question, ‘What the hell's going on there?’” said Panetta.
Pakistan's government has denied knowing that bin Laden was hiding in a military garrison town 30 miles from the capital city of Islamabad.
Panetta said the U.S. did not alert the Pakistanis to the secret operation because of fears they might tip off the elusive bin Laden.
"We had seen some military helicopters actually going over this compound," said Panetta.
"It concerned us that... they might... give bin Laden a heads up."
Panetta added, "I don't have any hard evidence, so I can't say it for a fact. There's nothing that proves the case. But, as I said, my personal view is that somebody somewhere probably had that knowledge.”
Tensions between the U.S. and Pakistan have grown since the successful raid, which Pakistan viewed as an affront to its sovereignty.
In August a skirmish on the Afghan border between U.S. forces and Pakistani troops left 24 Pakistanis killed by a NATO air strike, which led to a further deterioration in relations.