Former intelligence director talks about Bin Laden killing

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The former US Director of National Intelligence was in the Lowcountry sharing his experience searching for the country's most wanted terrorist, Osama Bin Laden.

Mike McConnell says Bin Laden was not easy target. He described waking up six to seven times a week to have meetings with President George W. Bush, about US intelligence and locating Bin Laden. He says for the past ten years Bin Laden cut off all communications with the outside world.

"We're searching through mountains, countries, where do you look? What Osama Bin Laden did was to make himself totally disconnected from everything. No bank account, no telephone, no internet, nothing," McConnell said.

He says Bin Laden only communicated with the outside world through a courier. He says years ago under President Bush, the US government had Bin Laden within their reach, in hiding in a western part of Pakistan, and they had located him through a communications device. He says the information was leaked to the media and the communication stopped.

McConnell says seeing the Navy Seals complete the mission was a proud moment.

"If you do something wrong, if you do something against us, and we make up our minds, we will bring it to justice. That's why it's more of a celebration of the country,   not a celebration of killing Osama Bin Laden. Justice was done," McConnell said.

McConnell, who is originally from South Carolina, served as the US National Intelligence Director from 2007 to 2009, under Presidents George W. Bush and briefly under Barack Obama.

McConnell was in town as the keynote speaker of the annual Thinktec Homeland Security Innovation Conference, sponsored by the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce. Security experts took a look back a homeland security in Charleston since the 9/11 attacks, and experts say transportation security was a top priority post 9/11.

"Here we had a large military presence. The military looks after themselves. They didn't consider it much of a threat, but now we know what terrorists are capable of," conference chairman Mark Smith said.

Key changes in Charleston since the terror attacks include: tighter security at the airport and port, the integration of the coast guard and law enforcement, and more secure internet networks.

National security experts say with technology advancing every day, security development is now moving to the cyber world.

At the conference, experts discussed the growing number of internet networks and importance of keeping them safe.

"Banking data for example has come to the forefront as part of the intelligence equation because they use that money to harbor terrorists. That was a model we didn't see in the past. They used it for their own operations, so from a security standpoint it's tremendously important," Smith said.

The conference continues Thursday at the North Charleston Convention Center, with registration opening at 7:30 a.m.

©2011 WCSC. All rights reserved.