U.S. President Barack Obama portrayed the anniversary of the death of Osama bin Laden as a time for reflection Monday and pushed back on criticism the White House was using the occasion for "excessive celebration."
During a news conference with visiting Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, Obama was asked whether his Republican presidential rival Mitt Romney would have made the same decision in targeting the al-Qaeda leader. Without mentioning Romney by name, Obama recommended looking at people's previous statements on the issue.
The American public will soon be able to read some of Osama bin Laden's last written or typed words.
White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan says some of the declassified documents — including the terrorist leader's hand-written diary and correspondence with affiliates — will be posted online this week. The documents were gathered by Navy SEALs when they killed bin Laden in his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 2 last year.
The United States is safer following the killings of bin Laden and other key leaders al-Qaeda leaders, Brennan said. He quoted bin Laden himself, who wrote that the group would not survive with its experienced chiefs being removed faster than he could replace them.
Obama's re-election team has seized on something Romney said in 2007 — that it was not worth moving heaven and earth to go after one person. On Monday, Romney said he "of course" would have ordered bin Laden killed had the decision been his to make.
"I said that I'd go after bin Laden if we had a clear shot at him and I did," Obama told reporters. "If there are others who have said one thing and now suggest they'd do something else, then I'd go ahead and let them explain it."
Obama is heralding the anniversary in an NBC television news special Wednesday that includes an interview in the White House Situation Room where he and aides watched the raid on bin Laden's compound. His campaign also drew attention to bin Laden's death in a video that featured former president Bill Clinton applauding Obama's decision to go after bin Laden in Pakistan.
Obama rejected the suggestion the White House was making too much of the anniversary.
"I hardly think you've seen any excessive celebration taking place here," he told reporters. "I think that people, the American people, rightly remember what we as a country accomplished in bringing to justice somebody who killed over 3,000 of our citizens."