Osama bin Laden dead: How the US found him
Years of 'persistent hard work' led US intelligence to a complex about 50 miles northeast of Islamabad, Pakistan, where a 40-minute US special forces strike left Osama bin Laden dead.
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The property was valued at $1 million but had no phone or Internet connection. The courier and his brother had no means of support that could explain the luxury in which they lived.Skip to next paragraph
US intelligence analysts looked at it from every angle, considering who else other than bin Laden could be living there. They conducted red team alternative analyses to check their work, according to intelligence officials.
No single candidate but the storied Al Qaeda leader seemed to fit.
“So the final conclusion, from an intelligence standpoint, was twofold. We had high confidence that a high-value target was being harbored by the brothers on the compound, and we assessed that there was a strong probability that that person was Osama bin Laden,” said a senior US official.
As outlined by administration officials, the intelligence process which led the US to bin Laden was not unusual. It was Manhunt 101 – get one piece of intelligence, use it to find another, and so on, up the trail to the target.
“This is how man-hunting works – whether it is a US Marshal trying to locate a criminal in the US, or US intelligence trying to locate a terrorist on the run. It is painstaking, slow work,” says Mr. Nelson of CSIS, a former member of the National Counterterrorism Center’s Directorate of Strategic Operational Planning.
Last September, the CIA began to work with President Obama to decide a US course of action. By mid-March, the administration decided to “pursue this in an aggressive way,” according to an administration officials.
Weather delayed the attack for a day.
Leon Panetta, current CIA chief and nominee for Secretary of Defense, was in charge of the military team that carried out the operation. When he and his aides heard the news that the raid had been successful and bin Laden positively identified, cheers rang through the room at CIA headquarters, according to the Associated Press.
In a statement, Mr. Panetta praised the “highly complex, innovative, and forward-leaning” clandestine operations that led to a dirt road and a complex housing the most wanted man in the world.
The CIA chief also praised the help provided by the National Security Agency and other branches of US intelligence.
“Persistent hard work produced the results the American people expect of their intelligence service,” he said.
On the other hand, US intelligence did not predict 9/11, nor has it stopped the so-called shoe bomber or other attacks.