The president says we really should conduct this operation. We’ve decided on using the SEALs — a commando raid. Two teams of SEALs, two helicopters going in, 150 miles, at night, into Pakistan to go after this compound. It was a hell of a mission and very risky.  And frankly, when we were in the National Security Council, a majority of the people on the National Security Council thought it was too risky. I thought that we should do it. I recommended that to the president, and the president, to his credit, made the decision to go. So I’m at CIA. We are conducting the operation from CIA because it’s a covert operation. I’m in charge.  Bill McRaven, who is head of Special Forces, is located in Afghanistan, and he’s tracking it from there.

The helicopters go in. We track them into the compound and then something happens that — it’s one of those nightmares that you wonder if it’s going to screw up everything. One of the helicopters goes down. It had been hot that day and heat from the ground stalled one of the engines.  But to the credit of that pilot, he was able to set down the helicopter. The tail was up on a wall. And I remember saying to McRaven, “What the hell’s going on?” He said, “Don’t worry.” He was cool as a cucumber. He said, “Don’t worry. I’ve got a backup helicopter coming in. Our Special Forces are going to go in. They’re going to breach the walls. They’re going to keep going with the mission.” And I said, “God bless you. Let’s get it done.” There was a moment of silence — actually, almost 20 minutes of silence. We heard gunfire at the beginning of that.