Former CIA director John Brennan describes the 'white-knuckled' moments before Osama bin Laden was killed

John Brennan, the former director of the CIA, told Business Insider that participating in planning the raid that killed former Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was one of his proudest moments at the agency post-9/11.

Brennan was then-President Barack Obama's assistant for counterterrorism at the time of Operation Neptune Spear, which took place in May 2011, and he worked closely with the CIA and Special Forces.

Brennan said that the 72-hour period of time that he was in the Situation Room as the mission was carried out "was quite, quite intense as we went up to the point of bin Laden's takedown."

He added that the "minutes seemed like hours, it went on and on, and even after we knew that it seemed like the raid was successful, waiting for our forces ... to get out of Pakistani airspace safely ... it was white knuckles, because you always want to be able to succeed in your mission but you also want to make sure that the people who are undertaking these great risks and doing it are going to come home safely."

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Osama bin Laden
UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1754: Osama bin Laden born March 10, 1957. member of the prominent Saudi bin Laden family and the founder of the Islamic extremist organization al-Qaeda, best known for the September 11 attacks on the United States and numerous other mass-casualty attacks against civilian and military targets. (Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images)
AFGHANISTAN - MAY 26: (JAPAN OUT)(VIDEO CAPTURE) This image taken from a collection of videotapes obtained by CNN shows Saudi terrorist suspect Osama bin Laden at a press conference May 26, 1998 in Afghanistan. The tape showing this image was included in a large collection of videotapes obtained by CNN from a secret location in Afghanistan. Although it can not be positively verified that the tapes were created by the al Qaeda terrorist network the tapes do show dramatic and sometimes repulsive images of poison gas experiments on dogs, instructions on making TNT and weapons training by men speaking Arabic. (Photo by CNN via Getty Images)
AFGHANISTAN - MAY 26: (JAPAN OUT)(VIDEO CAPTURE) This image taken from a collection of videotapes obtained by CNN shows Saudi terrorist suspect Osama bin Laden and his unidentified body guards watching a rocket propelled grenade fly overhead on May 26, 1998 in Afghanistan. The tape showing this image was included in a large collection of videotapes obtained by CNN from a secret location in Afghanistan. Although it can not be positively verified that the tapes were created by the al Qaeda terrorist network the tapes do show dramatic and sometimes repulsive images of poison gas experiments on dogs, instructions on making TNT and weapons training by men speaking Arabic. (Photo by CNN via Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - JUNE: A screengrab released on 1998 showing Osama Bin Laden, renegade fundamentalist Saudi millionaire said to be initiator of the bombings of US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. (Photo by WTN PICS/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, UNITED STATES: US President George W. Bush (C) answers questions from the media as US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice (L) and US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (R) look on during a meeting with military leaders at the Pentagon 17 September, 2001. The President said that the United States wants Saudi-born suspected terror mastermind Osama bin Laden brought to justice 'dead or alive'. AFP PHOTO/Paul J. Richards (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
PAKISTAN - SEPTEMBER 16: Daily life In Quetta, Pakistan On September 16, 2001 - Pakistanis Police in the streets of Quetta, a city located 200kms from Bin Laden's secret HQ, in Afghanistan. (Photo by Pool AVENTURIER/GLADIEU/STEVENS/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
PAKISTAN - SEPTEMBER 16: Daily life In Quetta, Pakistan On September 16, 2001 - Afghans of Quetta reading Bin Laden-related news in local newspaper. (Photo by Pool AVENTURIER/GLADIEU/STEVENS/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
PAKISTAN - SEPTEMBER 17: Osama Bin Laden posters sold in bookshops In Quetta, Pakistan On September 17, 2001. (Photo by Pool AVENTURIER/GLADIEU/STEVENS/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
PAKISTAN - SEPTEMBER 17: Osama Bin Laden posters sold in bookshops In Quetta, Pakistan On September 17, 2001. (Photo by Pool AVENTURIER/GLADIEU/STEVENS/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
394642 01: People hold 'No War' signs at a peace rally September 19, 2001 in Islamabad, Pakistan. Sporadic protests were small but police stopped all rallies in the capitol city saying they were against the law. In other areas of Pakistan protesters burned American flags and supported Osama bin Laden as they demonstrated against an expected U.S. attack on Afghanistan. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)
394704 03: (SYDSVENSKA DAGBLADET OUT) Youths supporting Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban movement look at a newspaper cover of Bin Laden September 20, 2001 outside Jamia Islamia mosque in central Rawalpindi, Pakistan about 15 kilometers outside Islamabad. Most of the youths attend Sipah-e Sahaba, a religious school in the area known for educating future Taliban members. (Photo by Per-Anders Pettersson/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 11: President George W. Bush speaks to reporters during his first prime-time news conference since taking office in the East Room of the White House. Bush said that he doesn't know whether Osama Bin Laden is dead or alive, but offered to halt the war in Afghanistan if the Taliban turns over 'the evil one' and fellow 'parasites that hide in their country.' (Photo by Harry Hamburg/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, UNITED STATES: New York Yankee fans hold up an anti-Osama bin Laden sign during the American League Division Series game one between the Oakland Athletics and the Yankees 10 October, 2001, at Yankee Stadium in New York. The Athletics won the game 5-3. AFP PHOTO/Timothy CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
395648 09: Sikhs attend a community service to remember victims of terrorist attacks, October 10, 2001 in Santa Ana, CA. Although Sikhs are not Muslims and come from India, they have been targeted in recent hate crimes because the men wear turbans and beards similar to terrorist suspect Osama bin Laden. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
395589 11: (FILE PHOTO) Osama bin Laden sits in front of a map in this undated still frame from a recruitment video for his extremist Al-Qaida network. (Photo by Al Rai Al Aam/Feature Story News/Getty Images)
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The raid was carried out by the elite SEAL Team Six after the US received intelligence that bin Laden was hiding out at his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Brennan told Business Insider that although there were many other proud moments he would like to talk about, he can't do so because "what is typical about the agency is that the successes are ones that you cannot tout and you don't see on the front pages."

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SEE ALSO: Former CIA Director John Brennan reveals what it takes to join the agency and how he rose through the ranks to tackle top-secret missions for multiple presidents

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