Details and Curiosities of bin Laden's Capture

The reaction/general discussion thread re: the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden is here, and I wanted to open a separate thread for discussion about the details of the capture.

Reuters reports that a US national security official confirms the mission of the US special forces team was to kill bin Laden: The team "was under orders to kill the al Qaeda mastermind, not capture him, a U.S. national security official told Reuters. 'This was a kill operation,' the official said, making clear there was no desire to try to capture bin Laden alive in Pakistan."

The New York Times reports that bin Laden was located after detainees at Guantánamo gave the pseudonym of one of bin Laden's trusted couriers to US interrogators, and the courier was subsequently "located in a compound 35 miles north of the Pakistani capital."
C.I.A. analysts spent the next several weeks examining satellite photos and intelligence reports to determine who might be living at the compound. A senior administration official said that by September the C.I.A. had decided that there was a "strong possibility" that Bin Laden himself was hiding there.

...Months more of intelligence work would follow before American spies felt highly confident that it was indeed Bin Laden and his family who were hiding there — and before President Obama determined that the intelligence was solid enough to begin planning a mission to go after the Qaeda leader.
Details about that compound, and its location, are very interesting:
Abbottabad is essentially a military cantonment city in Pakistan, in the hills to the north of the capital of Islamabad, in an area where much of the land is controlled or owned by the Pakistan Army and retired army officers. Although the city is technically in what used to be called the Northwest Frontier Province, it lies to the far eastern side of the province and is as close to Pakistani-held Kashmir as it is to the border city of Peshawar. The city is most notable for housing the Pakistan Military Academy, the Pakistan Army's premier training college, equivalent to West Point. Looking at maps and satellite photos on the Web last night, I saw the wide expanse of the Academy not far from where the million-dollar, heavily secured mansion where bin Laden lived was constructed in 2005. The maps I looked at had sections of land nearby marked off as "restricted area," indicating that it was under military control. It stretches credulity to think that a mansion of that scale could have been built and occupied by bin Laden for six years without it coming to the attention of anyone in Pakistan's Army.

The initial circumstantial evidence suggests the opposite is more likely—that bin Laden was effectively being housed under Pakistani state control. Pakistan will deny this, it seems safe to predict, and perhaps no convincing evidence will ever surface to prove the case. ... Outside of the Justice Department, other sections of the United States government will probably underplay any evidence about culpability by the Pakistani state or sections of the state, such as its intelligence service, I.S.I., in sheltering bin Laden.
The Guardian describes the location of the compound so close to the Pakistan military's principal training academy as "a considerable embarrassment for the Pakistan government," but I'm inclined to believe that our "great ally" Pakistan, inside whose borders we've been prosecuting a secret war, knew about bin Laden's compound and the only real question is whether the US government actually knew, too.

I'm not saying they did, but I am saying that if they did, it wouldn't be the first time a cockamamie story of expert intelligence-gathering (which coincidentally gives tacit credibility to the "controversial" interrogation techniques used on the indefinitely detained residents of Gitmo) was invented to justify pulling the trigger (literally and figuratively) on a defense operation at a politically convenient time—like, say, the beginning of an election season where an incumbent president desperately wants to wrest control of the national conversation away adversaries questioning the legitimacy of his office-holding.

No doubt that observation will elicit charges of tinfoil hattery, but the truth always looks like a conspiracy in the context of a history of lies, so I'm never going to be embarrassed by expressing skepticism of Official Stories care of the US Government.

Anyway, on a final note, Glenn Greenwald makes a good point here about the narrative of Muslims as "bloodthirsty fanatics" while discussing the consequences of and responses to the killing of bin Laden.

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