The Channel Four Documentary "Bin Laden: Shoot to Kill" aired on British television Wednesday night, four months after American Special Forces stormed the al-Qaida leader's compound in Pakistan and shot the man responsible for thousands of deaths across the world.
An all-star cast of White House insiders speak on camera, including the first documentary interview with President Barack Obama on the subject.
The Channel Four documentary accounted for the months, days, and moments before and after the U.S. Navy SEALs shot bin Laden. The programme covered the long intelligence gathering operation that the CIA carried out, even going as far as finding out bin Laden's favourite food.
The programme revealed that the U.S. tracked bin Laden's accomplice, codenamed 'The Kuwaiti' who revealed the whereabouts of the compound after one telephone conversation that the CIA were able to tap into. Drone planes were sent to survey the compound for eight months before Obama gave the go-ahead.
The film also recounted an extraordinary last-minute debate inside the White House that almost brought an end to the mission. Obama was said to be shocked that some independent analysts doubted bin Laden was in the compound.
Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes recalls that "when the red team had come back with a less than 50 percent that bin Laden was there, it complicated a lot of the confidence that people had in the intelligence."
"So we're starting to discuss, what if helicopters crash? What if we encounter resistance? What if there's a hostage situation? At the same time you have a separate analysis come back and say, you know what? We're not as confident as the CIA is that bin Laden is there. In fact we may even have a less than 50 percent confidence that he's there. And there's no direct evidence that he's there, it's a circumstantial case," he said.
According to witnesses speaking about this for the first time, America's leading policymakers were left "deflated" by this downbeat intelligence assessment. So many aides soured on the mission that when Obama asked for their final advice, only half of the people in the room recommended that he send the SEALs into Pakistan. Just a day later, Obama gave the command that led to bin Laden's death, a decision described as "bold" and "gutsy" by counterterrorism adviser John Brennan.
"And I think there was a deflation in the room. Because what you're looking for as you're getting closer to the call, is greater certainty, not less. So essentially it played into all of the fears that people had about what could go wrong, is this worth the risk?" Brennan added.
Speaking in his first documentary interview since the raid, Obama describes the mission as "a gamble." On the day of the operation, he conceded that he even thought there was just a 50-50 chance that bin Laden was in the compound but it was worth "a shot."
If you missed the documentary, "Bin Laden: Shoot to Kill," you can watch it here.