"If we had the opportunity to take bin Laden alive, if he didn't present any threat, the individuals involved were able and prepared to do that. We had discussed that extensively in a number of meetings in the White House and with the (US) President," John Brennan, National Security Advisor for Counterterrorism and Homeland, told reporters at White House.
Bin Laden was killed in a pre-dawn operation yesterday in Pakistan's Abbottabad, 120 km from Islamabad. The concern was that bin Laden would oppose any type of capture operation. Indeed, he did.
"There was a firefight. He therefore was killed in that firefight, and that's when the remains were removed. But we certainly were planning for the possibility, which we thought was going to be remote, given that he would likely resist arrest but that we would be able to capture him," he said.
The White House official said they were trying ensure that mission was accomplished safely. "We were not going to put our people at risk. The president put a premium on making sure that our personnel were protected, and we were not going to give bin Laden or any of his cohorts the opportunity to carry out lethal fire on our forces.
"He was engaged, and he was killed in the process. But if we had the opportunity to take him alive, we would have done that," he said.
Brennan said Osama bin Laden was engaged in a firefight with those entered the house. "Whether or not he got off any rounds, I''d quite frankly don't know," he said.
Brennan said the course of action and the subsequent decisions have been made over the course of the last several months.
"There was a working group that was working this on a regular basis, if not a daily basis, over the last several weeks, looking at every decision and based on what type of scenario would unfold, what actions and decisions would be made," the official said.
"It was looked at from the standpoint of, if we captured him, what would we do with him, where would he go. If he was killed, what would we do with him and where would he go?" he added.