Can you believe President Obama exchanged confidential information about Osama Bin Laden raid through pieces of paper?

We already know that secrecy was of paramount importance in Operation Neptune’s Spear. The US willingness to use Stealth Black Hawk helicopters during the Osama Bin Laden raid is a measure of the importance of a mission involving Special Forces, aircraft, ships, drones, satellites and who knows how many new/unknown technologies, deep inside a foreign country’s territory as if Pakistan was the worst American enemy.

As we know, President Barack Obama gave the go ahead to the operation on Apr. 29 at 08.20AM, in the Diplomatic Room, before leaving for Alabama. According to the reports, he had met his “national security adviser Thomas Donilon, counter-terrorism adviser John O Brennan, and other senior national security aides to go through the detailed plan to attack the compound and sign the formal orders authorising it”.

As Italian news station Rainews noticed, few hours later, as Obama arrived in Cape Canaveral, Florida, he quite “stealthily” gave a piece of paper to Air Force General Ed Wilson (Commander, 45th Space Wing, and Director, Eastern Range, Patrick AFB, Fla.) while they shook hands. Gen. Wilson, took another paper from his pocket and, in the same way, put it into the President’s palm.

Even if it is impossible to guess what kind of information they exchanged in such a weird manner, for sure the way the information was transferred as well as the timing of the episode raise some questions. Rainews Director Corradino Mineo ventured the suggestion that the exchanged information could be related to the OBL raid, demonstrating how keeping it confidential was the number one priority of US government.

Even if I find it intriguing, I think this would be a rather clumsy way to exchange secret orders or other intelligence information: in front of cameras and not, for example, during an extremely quick private meeting. Anyway, at the same time, I can’t completely rule out the possibility that those papers contained something as important as Operation Neptune’s Spear orders. However if “mission critical” information must be exchanged on paper to ensure confidentiality, maybe time’s arrived to review Net Centric Warfare doctrine and Joint Battlespace Infosphere concept (just to name but two) which are based on an integrated, secure, internetworked information flow…

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. a mio avviso Lei attribuisce una proprietà inesistente nell’uso di tecnologie per agevolare il processo decisionale.Ad oggi qualsiasi tecnologia decisionale implica la possibilità della manomissione (anche se a misura di probabilità nulla) perché gli attuali sistemi di sicurezza si basano sulla riduzione del rischio e non su processi deterministici.Quindi ha senso che ordini d’attacco quale quello che é stato dato sia trasmesso via carta ed a mano (vis-à-vis).PER LA NOSTRA BUONA SORTE che finora hanno caratterizzato le vicende di rischio di conflitto nucleare, ritengo che procedure simili possano esistere anche per l’ordine finale di lancio di missili nucleari.Inoltre non escluderei che il disastro della catena di comando l’11/09 nell’intercettare il vettore diretto contro il Pentagono e quello contro la seconda torre abbia determinato cambiamenti nelle procedure decisionali in una direzione solo apparentemente arcaica o bizzarra,ma più idonei ad affrontare l’imprevedibile.

  2. A piece of paper, or a thumb drive…I don’t care. I’m impressed with the fact that he can palm it and pass it that smoothly (the general didn’t do so good of a job). Also no reason to have it passed to this USAF General, as that would likely mean one more person knew about the mission outside of JSOC.

    Most likely has to do with strategic national security assets of a different sort, which the President controls. Still doesn’t explain the awkward method of transmission…

  3. In American Military custom, it is quite common for high ranking officials (such as Generals & Presidents) to exchange coins. When this custom is carried out it is done precisely in this manner, by placing it in the palm of your right hand and shaking the hand of the person receiving the coin. These coins are specifically made for/by the official and display their name, rank, position, title, unit, ect. They are usually given as a token of appreciation, or to signify an event (such as a visit). It is possible that President Obama, and General Wilson are exchanging coins. This is something very common to the American Military, maybe sensationalized by the Italian media.

  4. I have been oalmed coins by Generals, First Sergeants and Sergeants Major on quite a few occasions. So, this explanation is perfectly logical. Who knows? Since Obama likely believes he can do no wrong, it may have been an Operation Neptune’s Spear coin that he already had made up!

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