May 2nd, 2011
05:21 PM ET
WASINGTON (CNN) In the days leading up to the attack on Osama bin Laden’s compound, President Obama stuck to his routine and kept a poker face even though he was on the verge of getting his most wanted terrorist.
While he juggled a trip to tornado ravaged Alabama and the Kennedy Space Center, made jokes at the White House Correspondents dinner, and played a half round of golf, the president was holding secret meetings and weighing intelligence before giving the operation a green light.
The decision to “undertake the operation,” came early Friday morning before the president flew to Alabama, according to a White House official.
It happened during a meeting in the Diplomatic Room. The president was joined by his Chief of Staff Bill Daley, his National Security Adviser Tom Donilon and deputy Denis McDonough, and his homeland security adviser John Brennan.
But the operation itself did not begin until Sunday.
President Obama, fresh off the course sporting his golf shoes, met with his national security team to “review final preparations,” at 2:00pm the official said.
By 3:32 pm he was back in the Situation Room for another briefing.
Brennan, who briefed reporters in unusually candid detail less than 24 hours after the successful mission, described some tense moments.
“It was probably one of the most anxiety filled periods of time I think in the lives of the people who were assembled here,” he said.
“The minutes passed like days.”
At times, especially when one of the helicopters used by U.S. forces had mechanical failure, those in the Situation Room were holding their breath, Brennan said.
“There was a fair degree of silence…as we would get the updates.”
Those updates were flowing into the White House in real time.
By 7:01pm there was a “high probability” that bin Laden had finally been cornered.
Later, after what officials described as a firefight, visual evidence and DNA tests confirmed the death of the most wanted terrorist, after a nearly 10 year manhunt.
For the officials in the Situation Room tense hours gave way to relief.
President Obama, at a Medal of Honor ceremony Monday, called the outcome “a good day for America.”
“Our country has kept its commitment to see that justice is done. He added that the world was safer “because of the death of Osama bin Laden.