Pakistan Might Allow U.S. Access to Osama Bin Laden's Wives but Not to Compound

Tensions between U.S., Pakistan heighten as Pakistanis go on the defensive.

ByABC News
May 9, 2011, 10:00 AM

May 9, 2011— -- Pakistan has resisted U.S. investigators' bids for access to Osama bin Laden's compound and the wives who lived there with him, a rebuke to the United States that has escalated tensions between the two allies in the wake of the raid that killed the al Qaeda leader.

But Pakistani government officials have since told their U.S. counterparts that they soon will get access to bin Laden's three widows, who are in custody in Islamabad, a U.S. official told ABC News this evening.

The White House had said earlier that Pakistan declined to provide access to the widows or to the material that Pakistani authorities seized after the raid on bin Laden's hideout. But that didn't mean, officials added, that access would never be granted, saying that they were working on gaining access.

"We're going to have those conversations, and we hope and expect to make progress," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said today. "We think the relationship's important, the cooperation's important. We've had differences in the past and overcome them, and we think we can overcome them now."

Gaining access to bin Laden's compounds and his wives are among the United States' key demands to Pakistan and officials say the denial is another disappointment from Pakistan. Local authorities also have in custody eight of bin Laden's children and five other children, according to a senior Pakistani military official.

Pakistan's prime minister today spoke publicly for the first time since the operation about the raid and rejected accusations that Pakistani officials aided bin Laden, who had been hiding in Pakistan for several years.

In a speech to the parliament, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani today denied that officials were incompetent in searching for bin Laden or complicit in hiding him, a suggestion CIA chief Leon Panetta repeatedly made to lawmakers last week.

Gilani added that Pakistani officials will investigate why bin Laden went undetected while hiding virtually in plain sight in a military town, and criticized the United States for not sharing information of the mission beforehand.

He warned the United States not to carry out a similar secret mission again in the future.

"Pakistan reserves the right to retaliate with full force," Gilani said. "No one should underestimate the resolve and capability of our nation and armed forces to defend our sacred homeland."

In another indication of Pakistan's anger with its U.S. ally, Pakistani newspapers published the name of the CIA station chief in the region, usually a closely guarded secret. The name was misspelled, but was phonetically accurate. It is the second time in recent months the CIA station chief has been unmasked, something that is seen as Pakistani retaliation for its treatment by the Obama administration.

The CIA is pouring through the trove of information seized at bin Laden's compound, which is enough information to fill the library of a small college, officials say. Among the mysteries they are hoping to uncover is what the Pakistani government knew and did not know.

In a "60 Minutes" interview Sunday, President Obama said he believed "there had to be some sort of support network for bin Laden inside of Pakistan."

"We don't know who or what that support network was," he said. "That's something that we have to investigate, and more importantly, the Pakistani government has to investigate."

The president said his team didn't inform Pakistani officials of the top-secret mission until the last minute because of "operational safety," adding that he didn't inform his own family because of such concerns.

The relationship between the United States and Pakistan, a key U.S. ally, have been on the brink since the May 1 operation that killed bin Laden, his trusted courier who inadvertently led U.S. authorities to the al Qaeda leader, and one of his sons.

Panetta told members of Congress several times last week that U.S. officials didn't tell Pakistanis about the mission for fear that someone would tip off bin Laden.

A senior Pakistani official told ABC News it was likely that "elements of Pakistani intelligence -- probably rogue or retired -- were involved in aiding, abetting and sheltering the leader of al Qaeda."