U.S. President Barack Obama stands after addressing the nation on TV from the East Room of the White House to make a televised statement May 1, 2011 in Washington, DC. Bin Laden has been killed near Islamabad, Pakistan almost a decade after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and his body is in possession of the United States.(Photo by Brendan Smialowski-Pool/Getty Images)
By Douglas Stanglin, USA TODAY
President Obama, in an exclusive interview with NBC's Brian Williams, describes the drama in the White House on the night Osama bin Laden's compound was raided and his reaction to seeing the first photos of the dead al-Qaeda leader's body.
The pictures had been transmitted back to the White House Situation Room as part of the process of confirming that bin Laden was dead during the raid by Navy SEALS in Pakistan a year ago.
Williams and an NBC team got unprecedented White House access for an hour-long report "Inside the Situation Room" Wednesday night on Rock Center.
When asked about seeing the first photo of bin Laden, who had been shot in the head, the president took a long pause.
"I think it's wrong to say that I did a high-five," he tells Williams, "because you have a picture of a dead body and, you know, there's I think regardless of who it is, you always have to be sober about death. But understanding the satisfaction for the American people, what it would mean for 9/11 families, what it would mean for the children of folks who died in the twin towers who never got to know their parents, I think there was a deep-seated satisfaction for the country at that moment."
Williams also spoke to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton about events that night. Clinton says she believes strongly that the president was right not to release the photos.
"I looked at them," she says. "Obviously, (it's) never easy to see any dead body, but it was part of the job. I think we made the right decision not to sensationalize this, not to desecrate it, so to speak. His body was flown to a Navy ship. It was given a proper Islamic burial at sea and I think that we handled it exactly right."