Jan 25, 2012 10:12 AM by Paul Kavanaugh
WASHINGTON (AP) -- "Good job tonight," President Barack Obama told his Defense chief as he arrived for his annual State of the Union message.
Unknown to a global television audience watching the speech moments later, a bold hostage rescue operation had played out half a world away with an elite Navy SEAL team's rescue of two hostages in Somalia, one of them an American. It was the same SEAL unit that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, two U.S. officials said Wednesday.
Publicly, Obama did not tip his hand during his speech, though microphones picked up his congratulation to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta as he entered the House chamber Tuesday night. Obama pointed his index finger to Panetta and said, "Good job tonight. Good job." Panetta smiled broadly.
Unknown to those watching the speech, Obama had learned shortly before that the operation to rescue American aid worker Jessica Buchanan and another hostage had been successful. Immediately after the speech, Obama returned to the White House to inform Buchanan's father that she was safe and "on her way home," according to a White House statement.
It was a dramatic bookend to the pomp and ceremony of one of Washington's most elaborate rituals - the State of the Union. The president did not mention the operation during his address to Congress and the nation, though he did refer to another successful military operation - the May 2011 killing of bin Laden in Pakistan by Navy SEAL Team 6.
"One of my proudest possessions is the flag that the SEAL Team took with them on the mission to get bin Laden," Obama said in his speech.
Tuesday's hostage rescue in Somalia was carried out by the same SEAL unit that carried out the bin Laden operation, two U.S. officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the operation. The unit is the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, also known as SEAL Team 6. The members of the unit who carried out the rescue operation were not the same personnel as those who killed bin Laden, the U.S. officials said.