WASHINGTON, May 8, 2011— -- Osama bin Laden did not surrender, said White House national security advisor Tom Donilon. In an interview with ABC News' Christiane Amanpour, Donilon said the United States forces made the right decision when they killed the al Qaeda leader on May 2.
"Osama bin Laden did not give any signal that he was intending or had any intention to surrender," said Donilon. "And in those settings, our forces, I think, made the absolutely appropriate judgment that he was a threat, given all the techniques we knew al Qaeda to use."
The killing of bin Laden also led to the single largest cache of information ever recovered from a senior terrorist.
"The CIA is describing it to us as the size of a small college library," said Donilon. The White House put together a special task force to comb through the trove of data, and will work at the direction of President Obama to pursue any leads uncovered, Donilon added. He would not say whether they had found any imminent threats to the United States.
Bin Laden's killing has eroded – perhaps temporarily – some of the bipartisanship plaguing Washington of late. Once President Obama was told U.S. forces involved in the attack were safely back in Afghanistan, "the first person he called outside the White House was President Bush," Donilon said.
But the killing has also sparked criticism of the United States' relationship with Pakistan; the al Qaeda leader was killed in Abbottabad, a military town less than 40 miles north of Islamabad, the country's capital. His compound stood only a third of a mile away from a military academy of the Pakistani Army.
"The idea that he could be in a suburb essentially of Islamabad is quite remarkable," said former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in an interview with Amanpour.
"This isn't a time bluster from Pakistan," Rice added. "This is a time for serious analysis of why this happened, why he was hiding in plain sight for apparently as long as he was."
Indeed, the United States did not tell Pakistan about the raid, though Donilon said that decision was not based on mistrust, but rather on "operational security." The United States acted on the assumption that bin Laden had an escape plan; if the information leaked, the Al Qaeda leader would vanish once more. There was also the matter of protecting U.S. forces.
"The safety and security of our operators would have been put at issue," Donilon said. "So we didn't share this with anybody, not even our closest ally."
Pakistan remains an important ally of the United States, the national security advisor noted, and its role in the ongoing fight against terrorism should not be so easily dismissed.
"More terrorists have died and been captured on Pakistan soil than any place else in the world," Donilon said. "They have been an essential partner of ours in the war against al Qaeda and in our efforts against terrorism." Pakistan, who has nuclear capability, is also crucial to the United States' war in Afghanistan.
The United States also has an immediate interest in preserving the relationship: Pakistan has in its custody all the non-combatants of the Abbottabad compound, including three of Bin Laden's wives. Pakistani officials also took additional material from the compound, according to Donilon, and the United States needs access to it.
Former Secretary of State Rice did say it is possible and probable that high-ranking Pakistani officials did not know bin Laden was hiding in Abbottabad. Ignorance, however, is not an excuse.
"If this happens in your country," Rice told Amanpour, "you have an obligation to find out and to do a thorough investigation and to punish anybody who might have been responsible."
"Don't hide behind the fact that you don't know or you don't believe it," Rice added.
Politicians and Americans are now questioning whether the United States should cut off funding to Pakistan. From 2002 to 2010, the United States gave $13.3 billion in security-related aid to Pakistan, and $6 billion for economic assistance. More than $3 billion was requested for 2011.
Rice said those funds will help Pakistan in its long-term journey ahead to try and deal with the extremism in its military and intelligence services.
"U.S. aid is really aimed at helping the Pakistanis, the civilian government, the Zardari government, to make Pakistan a less extreme place over time," Rice told Amanpour.
"That's still worth doing."