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Leon Panetta, director of the CIA, revealed there was a 25 minute blackout during which the live feed from cameras mounted on the helmets of the US special forces was cut off.
A photograph released by the White House appeared to show the President and his aides in the situation room watching the action as it unfolded. In fact they had little knowledge of what was happening in the compound.
In an interview with PBS, Mr Panetta said: "Once those teams went into the compound I can tell you that there was a time period of almost 20 or 25 minutes where we really didn't know just exactly what was going on. And there were some very tense moments as we were waiting for information.