CIA kept eye on bin Laden from nearby safe house

Osama bin Laden (Reuters)

Extensive surveillance of Osama bin Laden’s hideout from a nearby CIA safe house in Abbottabad led to his killing in a Navy SEAL operation, U.S. officials said, a revelation likely to further embarrass Pakistan’s spy agency and strain ties.

The U.S. officials, quoted by the Washington Post, said the safe house was the base for intelligence gathering that began after bin Laden’s compound was discovered last August, and which was so exhaustive the CIA asked Congress to reallocate tens of millions of dollars to fund it.

“The CIA’s job was to find and fix,” the Post quoted one U.S. official as saying, using special forces terminology for locating a target. “The intelligence work was as complete as it was going to be, and it was the military’s turn to finish the target.”

U.S. officials told the New York Times that intelligence gathered from computer files and documents seized at his compound showed bin Laden had for years orchestrated al Qaeda attacks from the Pakistani town, and may have been planning a strike on the U.S. rail sector this year, the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

One U.S. official said there was no indication from the intelligence that further plans were drawn up for the railway plot or that steps were taken to carry it out. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said it had no information of an imminent threat.

The fact bin Laden was found in a garrison town — his compound was not far from a major military academy — has embarrassed Pakistan and the covert raid by U.S. commandos has angered its military.

On Thursday, the Pakistan army threatened to halt counter-terrorism cooperation with the United States if it conducted another, similar unilateral strike.

A major Islamist party in Pakistan, Jamaat-e-Islami, called for mass protests on Friday against what it called a violation of sovereignty by the U.S. raid. It also urged the government to end support for U.S. battles against militants.

A senior Pakistani security official also charged that U.S. troops had killed the unarmed al Qaeda leader in “cold blood”.

The criticism from Pakistan is likely to fray a relationship that Washington deems vital to defeating al Qaeda and winning its war in neighboring Afghanistan.

A U.S. acknowledgment that bin Laden was unarmed when shot in the head — as well as the sea burial of his body, a rare practice in Islam — have also drawn criticism in the Arab world and Europe, where some have warned of a backlash.

Few Americans appear to have any qualms about how bin Laden was killed, and on Thursday, scores of people cheered President Barack Obama during a visit to New York’s Ground Zero, site of the twin towers al Qaeda leveled on September 11, 2001, to comfort a city still scarred by attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.

Obama said the killing of bin Laden “sent a message around the world, but also sent a message here back home, that when we say we will never forget, we mean what we say.

FRAYED TIES

Friction between Washington and Pakistan has focused on the role of Pakistan’s top security service, the ISI or Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate.

Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir denied Pakistani forces or the ISI aided al Qaeda. “The critique of the ISI is not only unwarranted, it cannot be validated,” he said.

Lobbyists for Pakistan in Washington have launched an intense campaign on Capitol Hill to counter accusations that Islamabad deliberately gave refuge to bin Laden.

But many Americans are questioning how the al Qaeda leader could live for years in a Pakistani town teeming with military personnel, 50 km (31 miles) from the capital Islamabad. Two U.S. lawmakers have also complained about the billions in U.S. civilian and military aid to impoverished Pakistan.

Seeking to repair ties, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in Rome on Thursday that Washington was still anxious to maintain its alliance with Islamabad.

The Pakistani army and spy agency have supplied intelligence to the United States, arrested al Qaeda figures and taken on militants in areas bordering Afghanistan.

“It is not always an easy relationship,” Clinton said. “But, on the other hand, it is a productive one for both our countries and we are going to continue to cooperate between our governments, our militaries, our law-enforcement agencies.”

Pakistan’s army, facing rare criticism at home over the U.S. operation, warned the United States it would risk this cooperation if it conducted another assault.

Chief of Staff General Ashfaq Kayani “made it clear that any similar action violating the sovereignty of Pakistan will warrant a review on the level of military/intelligence cooperation with the United States”, the army said.

It was unclear if such attacks included drone strikes which the U.S. military regularly conducts against militants along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan. Pakistan has denied harboring any members of al Qaeda.

The army also said it would conduct an investigation into failures by its intelligence to detect the world’s most wanted man in its own backyard.

CIA SURVEILLANCE

The CIA had spent several months monitoring bin Laden’s hideout, watching and photographing residents and visitors from a rented house nearby, according to U.S. officials quoted in the New York Times and Washington Post.

Observing from behind mirrored glass, CIA officers used cameras with telephoto lenses and infrared imaging equipment to study the compound, and they used sensitive eavesdropping equipment to try to pick up voices from inside the house and to intercept cellphone calls, the New York Times said. A satellite used radar to search for possible escape tunnels.

The U.S. administration has refused to be drawn on details on the raid, but, in a further sign of fractious relations between the allies, senior Pakistani security officials told Reuters that U.S. accounts had been misleading.

In Washington, people familiar with the latest U.S. government reporting on the raid told Reuters on Thursday that only one of four principal targets shot to death by U.S. commandos was involved in any hostile fire.

As the elite Navy SEALs moved in on a guest house inside bin Laden’s compound, they were met with fire and shot a man in the guest house. He proved to be Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, an al Qaeda courier U.S. intelligence agencies had long been tracking.

The commandos then entered the main residence, where they killed another courier and a son of bin Laden, the sources said. They finally shot and killed the al Qaeda leader in a top-floor room after having earlier fired at him as he poked his head out of a door or over a balcony.

U.S. officials originally spoke of a 40-minute firefight. The White House has blamed the “fog of war” for the changing accounts.

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

14 Responses to "CIA kept eye on bin Laden from nearby safe house"

  1. Jeffrey King  May 6, 2011 at 11:28 am

    Doug, did you listen to Panetta the other day? I did and if he wasn’t lying, someone must be. Why are the references in this article simply US officials?

    Considering Panetta’s former and new position, shouldn’t we the people expect to believe what he said? Apparently not unless the unidentified sources are identified.

    It’s also astonishing that I haven’t read or hear a single statement about local Pakistani reaction during the 40 minutes of the action on the ground.

    “Oh, it’s just those guys, we’ll bitch about it later.”

  2. Jeffrey King  May 6, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    The biggest new war is against people paying attention. The primary weapon is to ridicule doubters.

    For those of you that didn’t see it, or read about it;

    http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/terrorism/jan-june11/panetta_05-03.html

    Please help me reconcile this info from the top dog in comparison to anything said since.

    Where are the US officials that should have a problem with this?

  3. woody188  May 6, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    It’s looking more and more like a dirty assassination of unarmed people in their home. It’s not even proven that it was Bin Laden. What if they assassinated some innocent people and did this burial at sea and refuse to release any evidence as it would show they assassinated an innocent person?

    It took a whistle-blower to release the video footage of the helicopter gunning down unarmed children to get the military to even admit they were at the scene. The military was in complete denial until that moment. Do you expect any different from the Commander-in-Chief?

    Isn’t this exactly why assassination is illegal?

    When is it OK for the President to ignore US and international law?

    • woody188  May 6, 2011 at 2:53 pm

      FYI, watch the supposed rail strike planning be used as an excuse to expand TSA/DHS presence to all rail traffic.

      • Carl Nemo  May 6, 2011 at 4:26 pm

        Some complex …huh?! They must have paid the Germans to build it. It’s material from the “Guns of Navarone” . A great fantasy illustration for sure with none other than “Timmy the Brave” (deceased) shoring up ‘Reichsmarschall Rumsfeld’s’ histrionics on OBL’s lair; ie., all lying sob’s to the core.

        Then again, we best be careful here with all these ‘doubting comments’ or soon the we’ll get the…’it’s time to move on’ or the thread will be closed order…no?

        Carl Nemo **==

        • woody188  May 6, 2011 at 11:45 pm

          Hind sight being 20/20, it’s important to note that if you fell for the cave complex propaganda and you still trust your government, you might be part of the problem.

          • Carl Nemo  May 7, 2011 at 1:09 pm

            What’s really really fascinating is that Pakistani intelligence in debriefing one of OBL’s wives learns that they’ve lived in the house since 2006. Your supplied link from 2007 featuring the Rumsfelt/Russert interview with the graphics suppport showing a highly sophisicated complex was patently b.s., but served a purpose to keep the U.S. populace stoked in fear while the MIC and their Congressional facilitators were grinning ear to ear as they continue/d to bleed us dry in Iraq and Afghanistan. The beat goes on…! / : |

            http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42926798/ns/world_news-death_of_bin_laden/t/bin-laden-wife-i-didnt-leave-hideout-years/

            Pakistan is our ally in the ‘war on terror’…no? Bullsh*t…!

            Carl Nemo **==

          • Carl Nemo  May 7, 2011 at 1:38 pm

            I vaguely remember that interview from back then Woody. Even then I thought it was ludicrous because at that time I thought who would have constructed them, surely not the arabs or people of those regions? Generally they contract Germans, French, Russians and now the Chinese to do alot of their construction work. Bin Laden’s family has ties to construction, but they surely wouldn’t help their rogue family member construct such spendy hideouts. We would have also detected such construction via satellite surveillance imaging post the Tora Bora SOCOM insertion that failed to nail OBL. These massive, sophisitcated cave hideouts would have been constructed beforehand.

            All it does confirm is that there’s very little we can trust coming from our government especially when it comes to statistics concerning unemployment, inflation and other key numbers that will somehow attest that we are recovering as nation when effect we are flat broke and still don’t have an annual budget nailed down. We’ve got leaks in all major compartments, but the Captain of this seemingly Titanic redux scenario on a national scale is more interested in his ‘ratings’.

            What the little people don’t realize as that all these gutless varmints we have at the helm have free passes to the national bunker when the balloon goes up while the rest will be left outside to fend for themselves. When there’s rioting and blood running the streets they’ll be sipping their latte’s, watching first run movies and eating the best with a ten years supply of such while the great culling begins as a function of their profligacy and malfeasance while in office. Congress and our Executive leadership have no honor or committment to be honest with the American people.

            From birth certificates to OBL’s sanction we’re being played. It’s simply high theater to steer people in order to insure ‘dear leaders’ incumbency.

            Seemingly they could have nailed Osama some time ago, but saved him for the right ‘political moment’. It’s awfully close to the ‘alleged’ live birth certificate release. Then again…he’s risin’ in the polls…! / : |

            Carl Nemo **==

        • woody188  May 7, 2011 at 11:59 pm

          The post with the link to the Tim Russert/Don Rumsfeld cave complex interview has magically disappeared.

          • Carl Nemo  May 8, 2011 at 12:03 am

            Interesting…very interesting indeed. It must be a ‘spoof clip’ and came from an unapproved or unauthorized source…no? / : |

            Carl Nemo **==

            • Carl Nemo  May 8, 2011 at 12:13 am

              It’s easy to find on the www. I won’t be so crass to repost it, since the owner or someone decided to remove your link reference for some reason. Possibly it makes our government look bad in a seeming moment of ‘triumph over evil’…no?

              Folks can relocate the article by simply searching on Google using the following line:

              Donald Rumsfeld/Tim Russert interview about Bin Laden’s Cave Fortresses

              It’s available on the first page of the search listings. In light of what’s happened, it’s really a ‘hoot’. : ))

              Carl Nemo **==

              • Doug Thompson  May 8, 2011 at 8:07 am

                Of course, the adult thing to do when a comment disappears would be to contact me via email and ask “what happened?” But I suppose finding out the facts would destroy all this fun opportunity of imagining some grand conspiracy to stifle all the wild-eyed conspiracy theories that seem to make some of you so happy.

                This web site uses a number of spam filtering techniques to deal with posts. Most kick in automatically. For example, when Akismet scans comments and finds links to fringe web sites like “What Really Happens” it removes them without me or anyone else on the CHB staff knowing.

                If a link takes longer than 30 seconds to load it causes a slowdown in site performance and our monitoring software will delete a comment with a link to a consistently slow-loading web site to avoid problems for other readings who are simply trying to read one of our stories. This happens often with links to YouTube because that service often has performance problems.

                Sorry to poke holes in all your conspiracy fantasies children but the facts are far less sinister than your illusions. When I read some of the conspiracy crap posted here I don’t know whether to laugh or puke. I suppose I’m going to have to put a stop to it because such childish fantasies have no place in a real world.

                • Carl Nemo  May 8, 2011 at 12:08 pm

                  In this case there is no long-standing conspiracy involved. It was simply a link posted by Woody showing an interview between Don Rumsfeld and Tim Russert in 2007 alleging with serious import that these elaborate underground facilities existed.

                  Now in 2011, OBL is finally eliminated and it’s found out from one of his wives that they’ve been at this complex since 2006; ie., evidently a fairly simple transition from being on the run from the Tora Bora Cave complex to a comfortable life in a Pakistani enclave surrounded by its military and security forces. Of course we pay Pakistan dearly to provide support on ‘our war’ against terrorism; ie., our tax dollars, yours too Doug Thompson.

                  Our intel community costs this nation a serious amount of money annually, but seemingly they are cranking out an inferior intel product from preventing 9/11 to ultimately apprehending the mad man and his henchmen that perpretrated the tragedy.

                  So I believe that was the point of Woody’s link post and my followup comparative analysis as a function of dates.

                  Like it or not, conspiracy or not, we’re being played by our government and the derivative fallout is the finanacial destruction of this nation along with financial crimes in high places that definitely have true conspirators involved from the Fed, Treasury to the boardrooms of Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan et al.

                  Sir, you are welcome to puke anytime you please of over the rail of our sinking vessel and way of life, once known as the USS America. / : |

                  Carl Nemo **==

                  • frank verismo  May 9, 2011 at 6:42 pm

                    I stopped puking and started laughing the moment it became clear that the biggest conspiracy peddlers were in fact our own governments. They do this because they have to.

                    It is the financial power, not the political power that holds the reins. The object has for decades been the imposition of a single political-economic system on the entire globe. The storefront, by necessity, is dressed with smiling, well-groomed salesmen as the bodies are disposed of in the back room.

                    The evidence for this is everywhere we look. It could hardly be more blatant. The ship will only stop sinking when this most basic point is grasped.

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