Defense chief Leon Panetta talks about the Osama bin Laden raid on "60 Minutes"
He says the doctor who helped get evidence should be released
The Pakistanis accused Shakeel Afridi of treason
Panetta says the Pakistanis must have known bin Laden was hiding out
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is acknowledging publicly the key role a Pakistani doctor who assisted the United States ahead of the strike on Osama bin Laden’s compound last May that killed the terrorism mastermind.
The doctor who provided key information ought to be released, Panetta told CBS’s “60 Minutes” in a segment set to air Sunday.
“I’m very concerned about what the Pakistanis did with this individual,” Panetta told CBS. “This was an individual who in fact helped provide intelligence that was very helpful with regards to this operation. And he was not in any way treasonous towards Pakistan.”
Dr. Shakeel Afridi helped the CIA use a vaccination campaign to collect DNA samples from residents of bin Laden’s to verify the terror leader’s presence there.
Pakistan, which expressed its anger over the raid without consulting Pakistani authorities, has charged Afridi with treason.
“Pakistan and the United States have a common cause here against terrorism, have a common cause against al Qaeda,” Panetta said. “And for them to take this kind of action against somebody who was helping to go after terrorism, I just think is a real mistake on their part.”
Panetta said Pakistan can discipline Afridi in whatever manner it deems appropriate but the doctor should be released.
Many analysts felt U.S. officials had kept quiet about Afridi so as to not implicate him.
Panetta also told CBS that he remains convinced that someone in authority in Pakistan knew that bin Laden was hiding in the city of Abbottabad, a largely military community outside the capital, Islamabad.
He said there were intelligence reports of Pakistani helicopters passing over the bin Laden compound. He also questioned why the Pakistanis would not notice the vast complex with 18-foot walls.
“So you would have thought that somebody would have asked the question, ‘What the hell’s going on there?’” Panetta said. “I personally have always felt that somebody must have had some sense of what was happening at this compound.”
Panetta said the United States chose not to inform Pakistan of the raid due to security concerns.
“We had seen some military helicopters actually going over this compound. And for that reason, it concerned us that, if we, in fact, brought (Pakistan) into it, that they might … give bin Laden a heads up.”