How the bin Laden Announcement Leaked Out
The terse announcement came just after 9:45 p.m. Sunday from Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director. “POTUS to address the nation tonight at 10:30 PM Eastern Time,” he wrote on Twitter, sharing the same message that had just been transmitted to the White House press corps.
According to Brian Williams, the “NBC Nightly News” anchor, some journalists received a three-word e-mail that simply read, “Get to work.”
The nation’s television anchors and newspaper editors did not know, at first, that President Obama would be announcing the death of Osama bin Laden, an extraordinary development in the nearly ten-year-long war against terrorism waged by the United States and its allies. But reporters in Washington suspected almost immediately that the announcement could be about bin Laden.
That speculation was not aired out on television immediately, but it did erupt on Twitter and other social networking Web sites. Wishful thinking about bin Laden’s death ricocheted across the Web — and then, at 10:25 p.m., while Mr. Obama was writing his speech, one particular tweet seemed to confirm it. Keith Urbahn, the chief of staff for the former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, wrote at that time, “So I’m told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin Laden. Hot damn.”
Mr. Urbahn quickly added, “Don’t know if it’s true, but let’s pray it is.” He was credited by many on the Web with breaking the news, though he did not have first-hand confirmation.