Sen. Levin: Questions Remain About Pakistan's Role

Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, received the news about Osama bin Laden's death in a personal call from Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Levin tells Steve Inskeep he has many unanswered questions about Pakistan's role in hiding bin Laden.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

Let's hear a couple of responses now from Congress to the death of Osama bin Laden, one from each party. We start with Democrat Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Committee of Armed Services, who the news in a call from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. But he still has many questions, he says, about the role of Pakistan's government and how much that government knew about bin Laden's whereabouts.

Senator CARL LEVIN (Democrat, Michigan): How's it possible that the Pakistan army and the Pakistan police and the Pakistan intelligence did not know of the presence of bin Laden when it was in such a central place? It was so distinct.

It's been there five years. God, it has almost no contact with the outside world - high walls, no wires, no satellite dish. It's kind of hard to believe that the Pakistan army and the Pakistan intelligence did not know he was there. And that his - the questions need to be asked by the Pakistan government and then to share those answers with us.

INSKEEP: The evidence that you raise would suggest perhaps something even more than giving Osama bin Laden a pass. Steve Coll of the New America Foundation, who we heard on this program yesterday, author of "Ghost Wars," said that when he looked at the evidence you just described he sees circumstantial evidence that Osama bin Laden could've actually been under the protection of the state, that they weren't just ignoring him but actually protecting him. Is that something you would suggest is possible?

Sen. LEVIN: Well, I don't want to speculate that far. If they had knowledge he was there that's plenty damning for me. And if the intelligence people in Pakistan or if their army had information or knowledge that he was there that is, as far as I'm concerned, so damning that I don't have to take the next step and speculate about that one.

INSKEEP: What would any Pakistani official's motivation be, though, for doing anything to hide or assist or even ignore Osama bin Laden knowing how extremely negatively that would be received should the United States ever find out?

Sen. LEVIN: Well, whatever they're doing would be motivated by trying to buy peace inside of Pakistan, trying to avoid being a target themselves, making a bargain with the devil. Leave us alone and we'll let you alone. And if that's true, it's very, very important that Pakistan own up to it and I think in some sense would have to be held accountable for it.

I don't want to go beyond that, because obviously the relationship is an important one. But it's important that they clear the air on this. And right now this air is anything but clear in terms of what the army of Pakistan and the intelligence community in Pakistan knew.

I'm glad the government responded positively, but again, there's a lot of questions that need to be asked and answered.

INSKEEP: How do you intend to pursue this question?

Sen. LEVIN: First by getting as much information as we can from our people and then asking our leadership, both in the State Department and the administration, to seek information from the Pakistan government and to ask them whether they have asked their own army and their police about how it's possible that something so - which stands out so much as this compound did from the neighboring compounds - was not a subject of inquiry by either the Pakistan army or police.

So first get our own information from our defense people, which we'll get tomorrow. And then secondly to ask our State Department to ask Pakistan to get information and to get questions answered.

INSKEEP: Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, thanks very much.

Sen. LEVIN: Sure. Thank you.

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