US President Barack Obama described the lonely decision he made to mount a Navy SEAL raid to kill Osama bin Laden and called the daring escapade the "most important single day" of his tenure.
In an interview to be broadcast later on Thursday, Obama talked about the nerve jangling moments he endured as he watched the operation, the cloak of secrecy that enveloped it and the moment he saw a photo of the dead al Qaeda leader.
"I did choose the risk," Obama told NBC News anchor Brian Williams, in the latest episode of a nearly week-long commemoration of the anniversary of the bin Laden killing.
Obama spoke to Williams in the secure Situation Room in the White House basement, where top officials gathered to watch the raid unfold on a screen, and which was the site of an iconic photograph seen around the world.
Republicans have accused Obama of inappropriately celebrating the anniversary as he seeks to bolster his standing ahead of his re-election fight.
He spoke about how the operation was planned and conducted in utmost secrecy, and how he did not share knowledge of it with many of his staff, or even First Lady Michelle Obama.
"Even a breath of this in the press could have chased bin Laden away," Obama said. "We didn't know at that point whether there might be underground tunnels coming out of that compound that would allow him to escape," he said.