(CNSNews.com) – Did the Pakistani government withhold information on Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts from the United States? Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, says that’s one of the questions he wants answered.
In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday, Sen. Corker noted that bin Laden was “living in comfortable surroundings merely 35 miles from Islamabad” – a fact that “calls into question whether or not the Pakistanis had knowledge that he was there and did not share that knowledge.”
Pakistani government officials have said they were unaware that bin Laden was living in the compound where a U.S. Navy SEAL team cornered him and killed him on Sunday.
Bin Laden had been living in a large, fortified compound built in 2005 and located on the outskirts of Abbottabad, which is actually 60 miles from Islamabad. The compound is just half-a-mile from the Kakul Military Academy, which is described as the Pakistani equivalent of West Point.
Nevertheless, the Obama administration continues to say that the Pakistani government is a valuable partner in the fight against terrorism.
“Osama bin Laden’s death finally puts an end to an unspeakable reign of terror carried out by the man responsible for the September 11, 2001 attacks and the deaths of thousands of Americans and innocent civilians around the world, but questions about the role of Pakistan and the true depth of our partnership remain,” Corker wrote to Clinton.
“For some time, relations between the U.S. and Pakistan have been tense yet endured many trials. The United States is fighting a war in Afghanistan against terrorists largely based in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, with little noticeable support from the Pakistanis to target those actors most harmful to our success.”
In his midnight speech to the nation on Sunday, President Obama said the Pakistanis provided some cooperation in the raid that resulted in bin Laden’s death. But Corker noted that Pakistan claimed bin Laden was “difficult to find because he was hiding in the mountains.”
Corker asked Clinton to provide details, in the coming days, “as to the extent of the cooperation received from the Pakistanis and their role in the final operation.”
The Obama administration is looking into the matter, said John Brennan, the chief counterterrorism adviser to President Obama.
“I think it’s inconceivable that bin Laden did not have a support system in the country that allowed him to remain there for an extended period of time,” John Brennan told reporters Monday. “I am not going to speculate about what type of support he might have had on an official basis inside of Pakistan. We are closely talking to the Pakistanis right now, and again, we are leaving open opportunities to continue to pursue whatever leads might be out there.”
Brennan acknowledged that the U.S. and Pakistan have differences, but he praised Pakistan for its efforts against terrorism.
“At the same time, I’ll say that Pakistan has been responsible for capturing and killing more terrorists inside of Pakistan than any country, and it’s by a wide margin,” Brennan said. “And there have been many, many brave Pakistani soldiers, security officials as well as citizens, who have given their lives because of the terrorism scourge in that country. So although there are some differences of view with Pakistan, we believe that that partnership is critically important to breaking the back of al Qaeda and eventually prevailing over al Qaeda as well as associated terrorist groups.”
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Monday reminded Americans that Barack Obama, even as a presidential candidate, said he would go after bin Laden in Pakistan if he had actionable intelligence.
“If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will,” Obama said as a candidate in August 2007. In July of 2008 Obama said, “We must make it clear that if Pakistan cannot or will not act, we will take out high-level terrorist targets like bin Laden if we have them in our sights.”
Carney said he wanted to “be clear that this is an approach that (Obama) always felt that he would take when he was president.” And once Obama became president, “He made sure that we would revitalize our focus on Osama bin Laden and the hunt for him,” Carney added.
A number of Republicans note that the actionable intelligence that led the U.S. to bin Laden’s doorstep came from Bush-era interrogation techniques conducted at an overseas prison.
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), head of the House Homeland Security Committee, says critical information about bin Laden’s courier was obtained by waterboarding. “And so for those who say that waterboarding doesn’t work, who say that it should be stopped and never used again, we got vital information that directly led us to bin Laden,” King told Bill O’Reilly on Monday.
As a presidential candidate, Obama opposed waterboarding as “torture,” and said it would produce “bad information, not good intelligence.”