Mapping the hunt for Osama bin Laden

By Laurie Bennett

May 3, 2011 at 9:39am

Sometimes a network is charted by its missing links.

In the morass of Al-Qaeda connections, gathered and catalogued for years in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, a few important gaps stood out.

As The New York Times reports, intense questioning of U.S. operatives - sometimes using brutal methods in secret prisons - led to the the name of a courier. His nom de guerre was Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti.

Yet when the name was mentioned to two two-level people in custody - Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Faraj al-Libi - both said they had never heard of him. (The Associated Press reports that Mohammed said he knew al-Kuwaiti, but that he was not involved in Al-Qaeda.)

The answers seemed unlikely and untrue, raising suspicions among interrogators.

Another, more literal missing link - the lack of telephone or Internet lines to a walled compound in northeast Pakistan - raised more suspicions.

Osama bin Laden, it turned out, was hiding in plain sight but off the grid.

On Sunday, as the CIA and White House watched via a live feed, U.S. special forces descended on the compound. They killed five people, using facial recognition software (and later a DNA match) to confirm that bin Laden was one of them.

In coming months, the intelligence community will be able to fill in more gaps, using the wealth of documents and computer hard drives taken from the compound.

Monitoring Osama bin Laden mission
President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and members of the national security team receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the situation room of the White House. (Official White House photo)
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