Author challenges White House to show timeline of bin Laden raid

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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The author of a new book describing presidential paralysis prior to the May 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden’s hideout is demanding the White House back up its vehement denials with documentation.

“I call on them to release the full [planning] timeline, starting in October 2010, of each of the major decisions that the president made relating to the bin Laden mission,” author Richard Miniter told The Daily Caller.

TheDC asked Miniter if his inside sources might go public with their accounts of presidential indecision. “Yes, yes,” he replied. “There is a chance.” (RELATED: Book: Obama canceled Bin Laden ‘kill’ raid three times at Jarrett’s urging)

Any confrontation between national security officials and President Barack Obama in the months preceding the 2012 election could hamper to his chances of winning a second term.

That’s partly because Obama and his deputies have repeatedly cited his risky decision to kill al-Qaida’s leader as a counterweight to growing worries about his non-confrontational response to the region’s rising Islamist political groups.

The White House’s principal deputy press secretary, Josh Earnest, today dismissed the revelation in Miniter’s book that Valerie Jarrett, Obama’s top aide, helped delay the raid by persuading Obama to call it off on three separate occasions.

“That is an utter fabrication,” Earnest said.

“It seems pretty clear that Mr. Miniter doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” he insisted, adding that Jarrett “was not ‘read in’ on the operation on the mission against Osama bin Laden.”

“So I wouldn’t put any stock into that vignette — or into the book itself,” he added.

Earnest’s answer was focused on Jarrett’s role. He did not explicitly deny Miniter’s revelation that the raid was delayed three times.

The White House’s claim that Jarrett was not read into the meeting is a “red herring,” Miniter insisted.

That’s because the “read-in” phrase means an official is briefed about operational details, such as flight paths, nearby reinforcements and back-up plans. Miniter has not suggested that Jarrett was provided with those military details.

His book, “Leading From Behind: The Reluctant President and the Advisors Who Decide for Him,” says Obama delayed the raid three times amid pushback from his aide Jarrett. It is set for release August 21.

The long-time political adviser met Obama when they were both advancing upwards in Chicago’s political machine.

“Obama canceled the mission three times at the urging of Valerie Jarrett, according to an official … who had knowledge of the operation,” Miniter wrote.

Obama “called a halt to preparations three times,” Miniter reiterated this afternoon during a phone interview. “Everything froze in place for weeks as people had to persuade him to get back on the train and get moving again.”

The revelations about his indecision came from “a number of career and political sources,” Miniter said — not just the single source his book mentions.

News of the book’s claims, first reported by The Daily Caller, has boosted the title’s sales ranking at Amazon.com. It now sits behind only Edward Klein’s “The Amateur” among titles covering the White House and the rest of the U.S. government’s executive branch.

Minter’s insider-based revelations about Obama’s indecision are buttressed by official weather reports from the Air Force.

Those weather reports refute the White House’s post-raid explanation for a fourth last-minute delay in launching the raid.

The White House has claimed that 24-hour delay was caused by bad weather.

But the Air Force had actually reported favorable weather in the area around bin Laden’s Pakistan hideout, Miniter said.

The unclassified report of favorable weather “was provided to my by the U.S. Air Force Combat Meteorological Center, and is the same report from the same weather stations that were reviewed by the planners of the mission to kill bin Laden” just prior to the 24-hour delay, Miniter said.

The author, whose past books include multiple New York Times nonfiction best-sellers about Islamists’ war on the United States, challenged the White House to release the official timeline of the raid’s preparations.

“We’ll see whether their official timeline is actually different from my story in any significant way,” said Miniter.

His book’s revelations also threaten to cut to the heart of Obama’s claim of national-security competence.

The president and his deputies frequently tout the successful killing of bin Laden as evidence that his Arab-region policies are working. Vice President Joe Biden has even compressed his stump speech into a nine-word sentence: “Bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive.”

But Obama’s claims are undermined by the visibly rising power of Islamist political parties, and by Iran’s rush to develop nuclear weapons.

Those parties, principally the Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood, are gaining power in Egypt and Tunisia, and also reaching for power in Syria and Afghanistan, long after bin Laden was killed in May 2011. An Islamist party, though a more moderate one, now leads a coalition government in Morocco as well. (RELATED: What Barack Obama can learn from Morocco)

Obama’s policy treats Brotherhood-related parties as potential partners, and focuses U.S. military and economic power against al-Qaida and Iran.

But the Brotherhood’s parties and al-Qaida’s jihadis share a similar goal — Islamic rule over society — even as they differ over how to achieve it.

Brotherhood officials say they can win power via elections, while al-Qaida’s Islamists split from the Brotherhood in the 1970s, claiming the best way to win power in Arab countries is by launching attacks against the United States.

The public’s reaction to evidence of presidential indecision will also likely be sharpened by Obama’s repeated personal claims for credit.

That self-promotion has even prompted a scathing response from some of his political allies. “To turn it [the bin Laden raid] into a campaign ad is one of the most despicable things you can do,” Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post, said in April.

Her comment was showcased in an ad from Veterans for a Strong America, a 501(c)(4) lobbying organization that is not required to publicly disclose its donor list.

In response to criticisms, Obama has dialed back his claims of credit — but not his exclusive focus on al-Qaida.

“Not only have we given Iraqis an opportunity to determine their own destiny, but we were able to refocus our attention on al-Qaida, the folks who actually carried out the 9/11 attacks. … We’ve got them on their heels and decimated their leadership, including Osama bin Laden,” the president said during a New Orleans fundraiser on July 15.

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