The former chief of the CIA's Middle East and South Asia division told CNBC he believes people affiliated with the Pakistani government knew Osama bin Laden was hiding in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
“It's hard to believe that Osama bin Laden was in a large compound in essentially a military town about 30-40 miles north of Islamabad and there were certain people in government who did not know about it, whether they're retired military people, retired intelligence officers,” said Michael F. Walker, the former chief of the Middle East and South Asia division of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Walker retired in 2010, and spoke publicly for the first time about what he knows of the CIA’s hunt for bin Laden and its relationship with the Pakistani government.
“It does look like there was some assistance from some Pakistani citizens,” he said. “You just don’t live in a compound for the time he was living there without assistance and help.”
Walker said that he’s confident the US will reevaluate its massive annual financial aid package to Pakistan in light of the revelation bin Laden was living in a spacious compound close to the Pakistani government’s military training academy.
He said the CIA’s first line of investigation will be finding out who owned the building, who paid its electricity bills and who built the facility, which sprouted up in an undeveloped field in a suburban area after 2004.
“Bin Laden didn't build the building himself with a few people. That took a lot of work to put the compound together and someone was there protecting him,” Walker said. “I imagine we’ll know very soon who was behind that.”
Walker was responsible for all of the CIA’s operations in North Africa, the Middle East and south Asia during his time at the agency and also served as the deputy chief of the Special Activities Division and chief of operations in the Counterterrorist Center.
He described a new wired, video-intensive way of war that covert operators use in raids like the one on bin Laden’s compound. The entire attack was recorded on video, he said, and “many people” were watching it live as it happened.
“The technology’s very, very sophisticated. It's incredible,” he said.
The technology allows commanders at remote locations to direct the movements of each individual commando as the raid moves forward with lightning speed.
“They are in different parts of the compound,” Walker said of the Navy SEALS who combed the facility. “They say ‘we’re down the North wing, left wing. We see this, this hallway’s clear, this room’s clear, the basement’s cleared,’ and then [the commander is] giving instructions.”
It was that technology that allowed the White House to watch the raid in real time, although Walker said the only people communicating with the SEAL team would be the local commander on the ground.
“People were not interfering from thousands of miles away,” he said. “Too many cooks in the kitchen. I imagine the command and control the decisions on the ground were the team leader on the ground.”
The intelligence gathered at the compound will likely lead to more action by the SEALs, Walker said.
“I hope that they found a lot and it's a treasure trove of lead information that will lead to other operations,” he said. “I think if you're a senior al Qaeda leader right now you're probably quite worried that you could be next.”