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Tracking Satellites, DNA Analysis & the NSA's Most 'Elite Hackers': Leaked Docs Give More Details on Bin Laden Raid


"...example of counterterrorism cooperation among the U.S. government’s numerous intelligence agencies."

This undated file photo shows al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. (Photo: AP)

Embedded in the so-called "black budget" -- the document breaking down how $52.6 billion was to be used among the nation's intelligence gathering agencies -- are details about the technology teams used to hunt down Osama bin Laden and even confirm his identity with his DNA.

The document leaked to The Washington Post by whistleblower Edward Snowden in the case of the manhunt for the Al Qaeda leader who claimed responsibility for the 9/11 attacks is described by the newspaper as "a singular example of counterterrorism cooperation among the U.S. government’s numerous intelligence agencies."

Osama bin Laden This undated file photo shows al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan.  (AP)

Here's a bit about how the various agencies gathered information that lead up to the raid, according to information found in the document and reported by the Post:

  • National Security Agency: The NSA's Tailored Access Operations group, which the Post calls the agency's "elite hackers" in a separate article, placed “implants” -- tracking devices and software on computers and mobile devices -- to collect information from "persons of interest."

  • Central Intelligence Agency: The CIA used satellites to home in on the exact location of one of these NSA-tracked phones, which led them to Abbottabad, Pakistan, where bin Laden was found and killed in May 2011. In addition, the CIA sneakily collected blood samples from those living at the compound under the guise of a medical team conducting a vaccination effort. The Pakistani doctor involved with this scheme who was convicted of "conspiring against the state" for his involvement had his 33-year prison sentence overturned Thursday and retrial ordered, due to issues found with the initial trial.

  • Defense Intelligence Agency: This agency confirmed bin Laden's identity within eight hours after he was killed through DNA analysis. The Pentagon denied more than a year ago it had any records of these tests in a response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by The Associated Press a day after President Barack Obama announced bin Laden's death.

  • National Reconnaissance Office: The NRO's spy satellites collected 387 high-resolution and infrared images the compound leading up to the the raid. The Post reported this information being “critical to prepare for the mission and contributed to the decision to approve execution,” according to the budget document.

PAKISTAN-US-ATTACK-BINLADEN A Pakistani laborer works at a construction site of a building in Pakistan's hill city of Abbottabad on May 16, 2011, where Osama bin Laden was killed in a US Naval Commandos special operation on May 2. (Getty Images)

Obama Bin Laden This undated image from video seized from the walled compound of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan and released by the U.S. Department of Defense shows a man identified by the U.S. government as bin Laden in front of a television. (AP/Department of Defense, File)

Even with all these efforts, the Post reported intelligence officials telling President Barack Obama before the raid they were only 40 to 60 percent confident that bin Laden was there. Ultimately, they turned out to be right.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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