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. He made sure it got done! The goverment changes stratigies all the time! That’s where the secrecy lies! Enough already, let the evil die! Let’s move on and concentrate on what’s on hand! People are still dying for freedom and peace,this is what’s importent now!!

  2. Maybe the exchange was of an encrypted “key” to access information from a “integrated, secure, internetworked” source…if the paper were to be seen by someone they would not have any idea what the code word or set of numbers went to;with only those two privy to the info on a secure network…just a thought.

  3. As Assault Guy stated, this was just a challenge coin exchange. It is a long-standing U.S. Military tradition. I myself have one from the U.S. Army III Corps Commander.

  4. I think for such important decisions, they want a paper trail, so it is IMHO credible these might have been important orders. Or if you want, what else and why would it have been done so? The coin explanation does not hold water, since the sequence was in reverse, if I remember well.

    • What the heck are you smokin? Since the “sequence was in reverse”? Nonsense. Obama gave the General a Presidential challenge coin, and the General returned the honor by giving the President a challenge coin from his command.

      The only interesting thing here is that this Italian “news” station likes to make stuff up, rather than actually doing any fact-checking. Is this station the Italian version of TMZ?

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