ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT (AP) — The photograph in Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s office captures the “mission accomplished” moment.
It shows Panetta, then the head of the CIA, and others in the CIA operations center on the night of May 2 with their arms around each other. They were in quiet celebration after U.S. special operations forces returned to Afghanistan having found and killed Osama bin Laden.
Not until then — 90 minutes after U.S. helicopters had lifted off from the compound in Pakistan where they went in search of the al-Qaida leader — was Panetta sure he could breathe a sigh of relief.
With the first anniversary of bin Laden’s death approaching, Panetta tells reporters that there’s no question in his mind that the U.S. is safer as a result of the raid.