Monday, May 2, 2011

Everything You Wanted To Know About How The U.S. Took Down Osama Bin Laden

With a major event like America's successful operation on killing Osama Bin Laden, its hard to keep up with all the details that are swirling around. 
I've decided to scour the Internet and compile all the news into one place. This article is rich with links so that you can click on an aspect of the story that you would like to learn more about. 
As time goes on, I will update this article with more information. 
But let us begin with the question most people are asking: how did the United States find Osama Bin Laden?
The tip came from a Gitmo detainee:
It started with an unnamed courier.
Senior White House officials said Monday that the trail that led to Osama bin Laden began before 9/11, before the terror attacks that brought bin Laden to prominence. The trail warmed up last fall, when U.S. intelligence discovered an elaborate compound in Pakistan.
"From the time that we first recognized bin Laden as a threat, the U.S. gathered information on people in bin Laden's circle, including his personal couriers," a senior official in the Obama administration said in a background briefing from the White House.
After the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, "detainees gave us information on couriers. One courier in particular had our constant attention. Detainees gave us his nom de guerre, his pseudonym, and also identified this man as one of the few couriers trusted by bin Laden."
In 2007, the U.S. learned the man's name.
In 2009, "we identified areas in Pakistan where the courier and his brother operated. They were very careful, reinforcing belief we were on the right track."
It appears that the man who gave up the courier's code name was a top al-Qaeda agent known as Abu Faraj al-Libbi, who was bin Laden’s “official represenative to others within the organization. Abu Faraj al-Libbi was captured by Pakistan on May 2, 2005.

The name of this unnamed courier, who went by the alias Arshad Khan or Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, came as a result of the controversial enhanced interrogation techniques of al Libbi and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other terrorists. Some of it may have also come from listening in on a terrorist's phone conversation.  

Sometime around August 2010, the courier made his way to a compound in  Pakistani town called Abbottabad, where al-Libi had once lived. The CIA followed the courier until he led them back to Osama's compound. The CIA rented a house near the compound and began to collect intelligence about who was living in that secret mansion: 
The C.I.A. surveillance team in the rented house near Bin Laden’s hide-out took pains to avoid detection not only by the suspected Qaeda operatives they were watching but by Pakistani intelligence and the local police.
Observing from behind mirrored glass, C.I.A. officers used cameras with telephoto lenses and infrared imaging equipment to study the compound, and they used sensitive eavesdropping equipment to try to pick up voices from inside the house and to intercept cellphone calls. A satellite used radar to search for possible escape tunnels.
Still, the spying operation had its limits: the American surveillance team would see a man take regular walks through the compound’s courtyard — they called him “the pacer” — but they were never able to confirm the man was Bin Laden.
After months of observing the compound, the CIA presented the information to Obama and presented the President with some options on how to take down Bin Laden. Apparently President Obama was indecisive on whether or not the U.S. should take out Osama Bin Laden since they were not completely sure he was living there. As a result, the original idea was to bomb the compound but the President nixed that idea because there would have been no actual proof of Osama Bin Laden's death. 
Instead, they decided that they would send special forces in. There was only one objective in this mission: Kill Bin Laden
The Special forces trained for months in a mock set up of the compound  that Osama Bin Laden lived in before they actually flew out to do the mission. You can see where the compound is located on Google Maps. Here’s a Google satellite photo of what may or may not be Osama Bin Laden's compound. You can also see some videos of the compound here.
Despite the fact that they were unsure if Osama Bin Laden was in the compound, they decided go ahead with the raid. 
Special forces descended onto the mansion and began the assault. There are reports that during the raid, Osama Bin Laden was asked to asked to surrender before he was taken down. 
Whether the request was made or not, Osama Bin Laden wasn't going to go down without a fight. Special forces went in and killed the world's most wanted terrorist. However, the special forces operators were unsure that Osama Bin Laden was one of the men they killed until they recovered his body.
The raid on the compound was a complete success. Not only did they kill Bin Laden, but they found a gold mine of information for intelligence analysts to look over. This is the list of items that were taken from the compound:
The haul includes 10 hard drives, five computers and more than 100 storage devices, such as disks, DVDs and thumb drives, a senior U.S. official told CNN. The materials might provide clues on al Qaeda members and potential plots for future attacks.
The commandos also recovered five cell phones, audio and video equipment, "lots" of paper documents and some five guns, including AK-47s and pistols, a U.S. official told CNN homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve.
That wasn't the only thing that the U.S. special forces took from the compound. There is also an interesting report that people were captured during the raid:
"After bursts of fire over 40 minutes, 22 people were killed or captured. One of the dead was Osama bin Laden, done in by a double tap -- boom, boom -- to the left side of his face."
Could it be that one of the people captured in the raid was Osama Bin Laden's wife? There is a press report stating that she was shot in the leg during the raid. Others think it was one of Bin Laden's sons that was taken:
There were conflicting reports about the second person the US forces took along with them. Some Pakistani officials say it was one of Bin Laden’s sons injured by the US commandos and thrown onto a separate military chopper; others say he was killed in the operation and it was only his dead body that they took along. 

It is confirmed that one of bin Laden's son is missing from the compound.

There are conflicting reports that Osama was killed by one shot to the head, one shot to the face and chest and that he was shot twice to the left side of his face under his left eye.  Either way, the U.S. had  gotten their man. Once they killed Osama Bin Laden, DNA test confirmed that it was indeed the man they were looking for. Osama Bin Laden's body was taken on to the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson and was buried in the ocean.
Right now, there is a debate in the White House on whether or not they will release a photo of Osama's death. However, at some point, it will be likely that a photo of his death will be shown to the world to verify that America really did kill this man since a small number of people are starting to be skeptical of whether or not Osama Bin Laden was really killed. Leon Panetta, the Director of the CIA, says that he thinks the photos will be released soon. Moreover, there's a possibility that the helmet cams of the special forces team that went in to take out Bin Laden will be released to the public.
When I first heard that special forces had killed the world's most wanted man, I initially thought it was either Delta Force or Task Force 121. Nope. It was none other than Seal Team 6 that had the honor of taking out Osama Bin Laden. To learn more about Seal Team Six, I highly recommend reading Rouge Warrior by Richard Marcinko. I also recommend reading this article about how lethal our special forces units have become in locating enemies who do not want to be found by the United States.
An interesting fact about the raid is that there are conflicting reports about whether or not Pakistan was aware or informed about the mission. For example, there are reports that Pakistani Intelligence was on site during the mission:
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports, citing a senior Pakistani intelligence official, that members of Pakistan's intelligence service - the ISI - were on site in Abbotabad, Pakistan, during the operation that killed Osama bin Laden.
Yet, that news contradicted by the fact that the Pakistan was kept in the dark about the mission:
But for its own geopolitical—and purely political—reasons Pakistan is likely to continue being as much part of the problem as part of the solution. At least after the Abbottabad shootout, it’s clear the administration isn’t kidding itself. When it got a shot at Bin Laden, it took it. No dithering. No dilatory diplomacy. Secrecy was maintained. The Pakistanis were cut out. And justice was done.
However, it appears that the Pakistanis were cut out of the mission since a senior White House administration official confirmed that Pakistani leaders weren’t briefed until after the attack. And there is good reason why the U.S. didn't tell Pakistan about the raid: Pakistan couldn't be trusted with the information.  Bin Laden was found to have money and some phone numbers sown into his clothing which indicates he was ready to escape at a moment's notice. Perhaps he was prepared in case someone tipped him off that the U.S. was coming for him.
The relationship between Pakistan and the U.S. will be now tense since there are questions of whether or not Pakistan was providing assistance in hiding Osama Bin Laden. Pakistan's President, President Asif Ali Zardari, denies these allegations. However, I think the evidence strongly points to the fact that Pakistan was helping Osama Bin Laden. For example, we now know that a senior Pakistani Army major lived next door to Osama Bin Laden. We also are learning that the local neighborhood children were known to play  inside the compound yard.  Moreover, it appears that the compound was specifically built for Osama Bin Laden in 2005.  Some people think he may have been living in that compound in Abbotabad for as long as three years or as short as six months. According to bin Laden's wife, she was in that house since 2006.
Moreover, there are reports that Pakistan had information that would have led America to Bin Laden but didn't share it with us.
We're also learning that the many people in the U.S. intelligence community not only believe that Pakistan was helping Bin Laden but that Bin Laden's terrorists may have penetrated Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and military for years and came very close to obtaining nuclear weapons
Another interesting question about Pakistan is why didn't they move Osama Bin Laden after another terrorist was picked up three months earlier in Abbottabad?
WSJ reporter Tom Wright notes an amazing coincidence: Arch-terrorist and longtime Bin Laden crony Umar Patek was also captured in Abbottabad three months ago. Here’s a Jakarta Post story on the arrest published just two weeks ago. (Patek is Indonesian and was linked to the Bali bombings in 2002.) Pakistani intel is now claiming, per Wright, that they helped lead the U.S. to Bin Laden via information gleaned from Patek. That seems unlikely — apparently, we’ve known Bin Laden was in Abbottabad for six months or so, and if Pakistan was providing intel on OBL, Obama wouldn’t have waited until after today’s operation to phone Zardari. Still, it’s too startling a coincidence to actually be a coincidence. Did Patek lead us right to Bin Laden’s door by rendezvousing with him? And why didn’t Bin Laden run once Patek was picked up? He must have known by then that either Pakistan or the U.S. was interested in arresting local super-terrorists.
Were the Pakistanis over confident that the U.S. would never come back to Abbottabad to look for Osama Bin Laden? Did they promise Bin Laden that the Americans would not come back and that there was no point in moving him to a new hideout? 

Now that Osama Bin Laden is dead, Ayman al-Zawahri becomes the top candidate for the world's top terror job. Guess who do you think the U.S. will be looking for now:
The JSOC team captured intelligence materials from the compound that might reveal the location of Ayman al-Zawahiri, the organization’s new commander. “That’s where we’re going next,” says one U.S. official involved in planning the operation.
Update: Apparently, the White House is backtracking on some details of about what happened on the raid of Osama's compound and that the new details conflict with one another:
Officials also retreated from claims that one of bin Laden’s wives was killed in the raid and that bin Laden was using her as a human shield before she was shot by U.S. forces.
At a televised White House briefing Monday afternoon, Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan said bin Laden joined in the fight that several residents of the Abbottabad, Pakistan, compound put up against the Navy SEALs during the 40-minute operation.
“He [bin Laden] was engaged in a firefight with those that entered the area of the house he was in. And whether or not he got off any rounds, I quite frankly don’t know,” Brennan said.
At a Pentagon briefing earlier in the day, a senior defense official said bin Laden used a woman as a human shield so he could fire shots. “He was firing behind her,” the official said.
In another background briefing early Monday morning, a senior administration official also said bin Laden put up a fight. “He did resist the assault force. And he was killed in a firefight,” the official said.
However, during a background, off-camera briefing for television reporters later Monday, a senior White House official said bin Laden was not armed when he was killed, apparently by the U.S. raid team.
Another White House official familiar with the TV briefing confirmed the change to POLITICO, adding, “I’m not aware of him having a weapon.”
Apparently the White House still can't get its story straight on whether or not Osama Bin Laden was armed during the raid.  White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that he was unarmed when he was shot yet revised his statement to say that Osama Bin Laden resisted being taken. 
While the White House is busy trying to get its story straight, one of the children who survived the assault on the compound claims that Bin Laden was actually captured alive but shot in the front of the family.
Update: It turns out that the photos of Bin Laden will not be released to the public and the President assures the American people that they are absolutely positive they got him:
“We discussed this internally,” he said. “Keep in mind, we are absolutely certain that this was him. We’ve done DNA sampling and testing. And so there is no doubt that we killed Osama bin Laden.”
“There is no doubt that Osama bin Laden is dead,” he reiterated. “Certainly there is no doubt among al Qaeda members that he is dead. So we don’t think that a photograph in and of itself is going to make any difference.”
“There are going to be some folks who deny it,” he added. “The fact of the matter is, you will not see bin Laden walking on this earth again.”
Personally, I think the President made the right decision not to release the photos. I don't need to see them and neither does anybody else.
Update: There is an intriguing conspiracy theory that Ayman al-Zawahiri may have sold Osama out by intentionally letting the CIA follow the courier to Osama bin Laden since there was an irreconcilable split between bin Laden and al-Zawahiri. Its in interesting theory but is highly highly unlikely that al-Zawahiri would have allowed the U.S. to kill him but would have have had his own followers take him out.

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