Documents Show Bin Laden Raid Guided by Satellites


The Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden was guided by satellites providing minute-by-minute updates, a top-secret U.S. intelligence document indicates.

The satellite fleet aimed dozens of receivers over Pakistan to collect a flood of encrypted communications intelligence, including a cellphone tracked by the National Security Agency and then linked by the CIA to the Abbottabad, Pakistan, compound where bin Laden was hiding, The Washington Post reported, citing a document provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The document is part of classified new disclosures published by the newspaper that detail this year's budget for the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, including the NSA and CIA.

The budget document also indicates satellites operated by the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office -- considered one of the "big five" intelligence agencies, along with the CIA, NSA, Defense Intelligence Agency and National Geospatial Intelligence Agency -- collected 387 high-resolution and infrared images of the Abbottabad compound in the month before the May 2, 2011, raid.

This advance intelligence was "critical to prepare for the mission and contributed to the decision to approve execution," the budget-request document says.

Also playing a role was the NSA's Tailored Access Operations cyberwarfare intelligence-gathering unit, the document indicates.

The unit infiltrates computer systems operated by individuals or groups viewed by the NSA as hostile to the United States.

In the bin Laden hunt, Tailored Access Operations secretly installed spyware and tracking devices on cellphones used by al-Qaida operatives and other "persons of interest," the document says.

Additionally, the Air Force flew an advanced stealth RQ-170 Sentinel drone for the CIA over Pakistan to eavesdrop on electronic transmissions, the Post said.

The CIA also recruited a Pakistani doctor and other public-health workers to try to get blood samples from people living in the Abbottabad compound in a fake vaccination program to identify any bin Laden relatives, hoping to determine if bin Laden was in the building.

The doctor, Shakil Afridi, did not manage to confirm bin Laden's presence in the house, U.S. officials have said.

That uncertainty, even with all the exceptional technology, led to debate within the Obama administration about whether to order the SEAL raid.

Eight hours after the raid, a DIA forensic intelligence laboratory in Afghanistan analyzed DNA from bin Laden's corpse and "provided a conclusive match" confirming his identity, the leaked document cited by the Post says.

The Pentagon said in March 2012 it had no record of these tests.

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