WASHINGTON / NEW YORK: The US commando raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad was guided from space by a fleet of satellites, The Washington Post and Time magazine reported on Friday.
The satellites remained focused on Pakistan for some time even after the Al Qaeda leader was killed.
The disclosures about the US hunt for Osama bin Laden are contained in classified documents the Post received from Edward Snowden, former official of the US National Security Agency. The documents detail the fiscal 2013 “black budget” for US intelligence agencies, including the NSA and the CIA.
According to these documents, the NSA also penetrated guarded communications among Al Qaeda operatives by tracking calls from mobile phones identified by specific calling patterns.
Analysts from the CIA pinpointed the geographic location of one of the phones and linked it to the compound in Abbottabad where other evidence suggested Bin Laden was hiding.
Eight hours after the raid, a forensic intelligence laboratory run by the US Defence Intelligence Agency in Afghanistan analysed DNA from Osama bin Laden’s corpse and “provided a conclusive match” confirming his identity.
Satellites operated by the US National Reconnaissance Office performed more than 387 “collects” of high-resolution and infrared images of the Abbottabad compound in the month before the raid. This intelligence was “critical to prepare for the mission and contributed to the decision to approve execution”, a document revealed.
A cell within the NSA, known as the Tailored Access Operations, also played a key role in the hunt for Bin Laden. The “implants” enabled the NSA to collect intelligence from mobile phones that were used by Al Qaeda operatives and other “persons of interest” in the hunt.
The Post, however, pointed out that despite their technological prowess; US spy agencies were unable to identify Osama bin Laden with confidence inside the Abbottabad compound. By the time Mr Obama ordered a team of Navy SEALs to storm the site in May 2011, US officials told the president that, according to their best guesses, the odds that Osama bin Laden was present were 40 per cent to 60 per cent.