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How US agents will exploit left overs from Bin Laden raid

Mark Urban | 19:48 UK time, Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Forty minutes of violence in Abbottabad brought the secret war between US counter-terrorist forces and militant Islam briefly and explosively into view.

But now the conflict returns to the shadows. The direction of travel, as the players exited the public stage tells us quite a bit about the next moves in this campaign.

In the first place there is the question of "sensitive site exploitation", as the experts call it. What exactly, or who was removed from the compound? Along with the door kickers or assault team of US Navy Seals, there would have been military and CIA people tasked with picking up anything of interest they could find as the gun fire ebbed.

Papers, mobile phones, computers, memory devices, and even the "pocket litter" of those found inside the house will all have been swept up.

When the Americans swooped on the rubble of the bombed house where they had run Abu Musab al Zarqawi to ground in June 2006, the sensitive site exploitation triggered dozens of additional raids.

In recent years, the CIA has become practised at entering the ruins of houses hit by its drones in order to sweep them for information. It has used its own Pakistani surveillance team as well as Americans to perform these searches, often working with very little time.

Might Monday's haul lead the Americans to Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's deputy? It is highly likely that the two men were in some sort of contact, although they would have been extremely careful about it.

People in Inter-Services Intelligence - the ISI or Pakistani military intelligence - have told a BBC colleague that the Americans took one living person away from the compound on their helicopters.

They speculated that this might be a surviving Bin Laden son. If true, this capture could itself prove of major importance.

Of course, as the US seeks to capitalise on the intelligence finds from its raid, the question of Pakistani co-operation and access will loom all the more important.

Those who know the secret world suggest that while politicians may not chose to make too much of an issue of possible ISI knowledge of who was resident in Abbottabad, the spooks are likely to use the suspicion of possible complicity or incompetence by the Pakistani agency as a way of keeping the pressure up on them to help.

In truth, the Pakistanis have had to live with the fact that the CIA has gained considerable power to operate independently in their country.

After the arrest earlier this year of CIA contractor Raymond Davis in Lahore, after he allegedly shot dead two men, the Pakistani authorities had tried to limit the agency's freedom of action.

However, as the Bin Laden raid showed, the CIA retained considerable autonomy. Its personnel, contractors, and Afghan auxiliaries operating in Pakistan and the Afghan border region may amount to thousands.

It operates the Reaper drones used to hit militants in the Tribal Areas from Pakistani air bases, and its air wing moves its people around the region independently of the US military or any government.

The most likely explanation for how the American helicopter assault force reportedly refuelled at a Pakistani air base on way to its target is simple that movements of US aircraft in the night across Pakistan have become so commonplace that procedures are in places to prevent this causing incidents.

So as the CIA and ISI survey the scene, their mutual suspicion has, if anything been reinforced. The Americans have the advantage for the time being, but few in Pakistan will have relished what happened in Abbottabad, and the friction caused may prove to be the biggest obstacle to exploiting the leads gained in the raid.


  • Comment number 1.


    On UK TV we have 'Police - Stop - Action' and other similar voyeuristic viewing, and I could not help being reminded of it, seeing the room full of American 'observers' - including Magic Obama - enjoying the show.

    As mission creep is de rigueur in all areas (porn, violence, horror etc) it is, surely, only a matter of time before we will be 'there' when Johnnie Foreigner is dismembered, disembowelled and beheaded in one balletic boom.

    Get the pizza and beer in.

  • Comment number 2.

    Everybody needs to watch Alex Jones program today he has some serious guests saying some serious stuff.

  • Comment number 3.

    AJ is talking to this guy:-

    And he is taking the whole 9/11 and Osama story to pieces right now at this time .

  • Comment number 4.

  • Comment number 5.

    The mission seems to have been a well planned slick operation, SEAL team six must now be considered the US's premier CT unit, Delta must be envious!.
    I personally take with a "pinch of salt" the claim that the seals where allowed to capture Bin Laden, it's much more likely it was a "Executive Action" mission.
    No doubt that some intelligence will be collected from the site, but Bin Laden's probably no longer that important most terrorist actions seem to be linked with Yemen. i expect they will try to stage some major outrage as a reprisal, the coming months will be a tense time.

  • Comment number 6.

    I don't really follow this stuff seriously so this thread by Mark Urban is pretty informative in that it highlights the parallel world that that CIA has setup in Pakistan, presumably due to the unreliability of the locals i.e. the ISI.

    Money, dollars can buy lots of information and co-operation in a poverty stricken country such as Pakistan.

    The ISI should be sensible and come in from the cold.

  • Comment number 7.

  • Comment number 8.

    #7 - The significance of that interview has to be realised. He is clearly aligned with the US military and must have had the go head from bigwigs with-in the military machine; the finger is clearly pointed at the bankers and Obama admin incompetence and its coming from a high place of power.

  • Comment number 9.

    We were told that the premises had no phone or internet why the recovery of computers etc?

  • Comment number 10.

    museV @ 9

    The hard-drives, USB sticks, any other portable media and paperwork, including whatever was found in the pockets of 'interested parties' will all have been collected for analysis from the Bin Laden property.

    Having computers not physically connected to the outside world is a measure that is sometimes taken to up the level of security and is more common than you'd think.

    For example, computers that generate digital 'keys' are not usually physically connected to anything else and the generated keys are only ever transferred 'one-way' via a portable media such as a USB stick.

    This collected treasure trove of information from the Bin Laden operation is another reason why the complex was not simply flattened via a drone strike, although there was a significant risk, as actually occurred when one of the helicopters failed, hence the Plan B, more choppers on standby.

    In this case, quite unlike politics, tactical military lessons truly have been learnt from previous failures.

  • Comment number 11.

    this the third time we have had a change of 'story' from the White House, it's a case of try this one and if they buy it leave it...obviously we haven't 'bought it'

  • Comment number 12.

    The assassination was always in the shadows.
    As you yourself ask: "What exactly, or who was removed from the compound?...Papers, mobile phones, computers, memory devices, and even the 'pocket litter' of those found inside the house will all have been swept up.
    The Americans will do what the elite does best - lie, deceive, mislead...!
    ISI speculated that a survivor was taken in the raid - maybe in Laden son. If true, this capture could itself prove of major importance, if not true, it will become true under American propaganda, which will enable them to justify other assassinations.
    After all, there will be torture (likely at Guantanamo).
    Americans will likely present ISI as incompetent if not complicit in the hiding of this so-called Bin Laden who cannot be Bin Laden since Bin Laden died in Tora Bora December, 2001 and was buried there in accordance with Wahhabi traditions.
    It's not true that the Pakistanis have had to live with the fact that the CIA has gained considerable power to operate independently in their country. The Pakistanis can turn to other more and more friendly countries in the region like Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and of course, the big mother Russia.
    The Bin Laden raid shows, that the CIA has almost complete autonomy and under General Petraeus, it will only get worse.
    It would seem to give the Americans most liberty to drop their "Reaper drones", causing vast collateral damage like depleted uranium in the soil, birth defects as well as dead bodies and wounded survivors.
    I agree that as the CIA and ISI survey the scene, their mutual suspicion has, if anything been reinforced. This like many operations the Americans carry out will raise suspicions/questions, especially because most in the Muslim world know that Bin Laden is already dead. This recent "courageous" operation was a farce, and the Americans are planning to use the propaganda for some covert and dirty action.

  • Comment number 13.

    stevie @ 11

    Best take the advice of one of the US Navy SEALs from back at base in the USA, he said he would talk to the people who had been on the operation and then he would know what happened.

    The rest of us, if we are that interested, simply get a view that is filtered and spun through a media and/or political prism.

    As long as you can understand that, then all will be well.

    In other words, only those on the actual operation know and even they will probably disagree as to exactly what happened and when, as, for example, any policeman will tell you after interviewing witnesses who saw the same event from different physical positions (and personal perspectives).

  • Comment number 14.

    It has begun: After Killing "Bin Laden", US questions (grills) Pakistan.
    The United States warned it would probe how Osama bin Laden managed to live in Pakistan. The United States says DNA tests had proven conclusively that the man shot dead by US special forces was indeed Bin Laden.
    That DNA proof was done rather quickly, don't you think? How was it done, against what samples? Was it done between the shooting and the transportation to the helicopter, between the helicopter & the ship, as the body slipped into the ocean?
    "We got him," US President Barack Obama lauded. CIA chief Leon Panetta confirmed "Geronimo" was now "EKIA": Enemy Killed in Action. Of 5 people killed in the raid, Geronimo was identified as the tall & bearded, and shot evidently BEFORE the so-called DNA testing.
    What happened to the one prisoner taken, the one alleged to be Bin Laden's son?
    John Brennan said it was "inconceivable" that bin Laden did not enjoy a support network in Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation allied uneasily to the US.
    Of course Bin Laden has been dead ten years so I doubt that he was supported by any country.
    The mood among some US turned angry &ugly, demanding to know how bin Laden lived peacefully in a country that receives billions of dollars of US aid. Abbottabad is the Pakistani equivalent of the West Point and Sandhurst military academies.
    But in Pakistan anti-US feelings run deep; conspiracy theories proliferate. Not everyone is believing the US version, or even that the man killed was Bin Laden.
    The the US have thrown the body to the sea! No way to confirm the man's identity, no way to duplicate the so-called DNA testing, no way to provide a proper Islamic burial. No way this happened the way Obama says it did!
    We need a more transparent "truther" moment.

  • Comment number 15.

    Wow, amazing how much can be achieved when Playstation Online goes down.

  • Comment number 16.

    Will CIA/ISI suspicion not be creatively harnesses to look at how the bin Ladens managed to survive there and who the courier saw and so on and also to look at the intelligence the ISI provided?

    I believe it was them that said bin Laden was on a dialysis machine - true or false in the end?

    Surely the two end of the rope are now grasped as we know where bin Laden was and what the ISI were saying and analysis of mistakes, double agents, misinformation and disinformation may lead quickly to to the flushing of ISI rogue cells - and in the event of the ISI actually having knowingly sheltered bin Laden they will have to assume that the US is still holding back on what it knows and what it will know from cd's and so on gathered at the site and will be in a very precarious position with regard to the democratic government.

    I assume they have been watching the comings and goings from the site by satellite and/or spies and that, for instance, if visitors came from the nearby military academy and/or LET actvists visited this will also be revealing.

    Will bin Ladens large personal fortune (that still existed I believe) now be lost to al Qaeda and will this push them closer to the Afghan Talibs who get money from drugs?

  • Comment number 17.


    Would I be right in thinking that left handedness is detectable - EVEN IN A CORPSE?
    But a bit harder establish when under water - and unlocatable.

    As for DNA 'matching' doesn't it just show lineage - not where you fall on the family tree?

  • Comment number 18.

    'How US agents will exploit left overs from Bin Laden raid'

    Blimey, for a moment I thought Nigella was going to get flown in for a low-waste post-event soiree.

  • Comment number 19.


    Chris Patten showed how new he is to the BBC. He said to Paxman: "You could not create the BBC today". He clearly has no idea that the BBC is the EPITOME OF CUTTING-EDGE, EDGY! It is subject to CONTINUOUS CREATION GOING FORWARD. New camera tricks, new sound intrusion, new photoshopping, new studio fittings, and new walls by the minute. It's your ALL NEW BBC Mr Patten. It just keeps on getting newer. A triumph of 'style' over substance.

    I have seen the future and it hurts.

  • Comment number 20.

    I don't know what the American commandos took away from the scene; I don't believe the American reports.
    What I do know is that Pakistan got slapped in the face, and after an initial period of shock, has pulled itself together.
    Several Pakistani lawyers protested against the US operation. Addressing the protesters, the leading lawyers said that they condemn terrorism but cannot accept violations to their sovereignty. Who do the Americans think they are?
    During a parliamentary session, the lawmakers also slammed US drone attacks in the country, adding that the US military has violated Pakistan's territorial integrity by droning and now - launching an attack well inside the country to allegedly kill bin Laden.
    The Whitehouse is all over itself in doublespeak - contradictory stories. One of the contradictions includes comments that bin Laden was unarmed but put up resistance. With what, his fists?
    Most believe American Special Forces could have arrested the al-Qaeda leader without having to kill him; this would have meant a trial, and likely a trial would have exposed too much truth, especially if the wrong man was killed.
    Additionally, questions have been raised as to why bin Laden's body was so abruptly and arbitrarily thrown at sea soon after his death. How can anything be confirmed from Davy Jones' locker?
    A US official claimed bin Laden's body was 'buried at sea,' falsely boasting that his hasty burial was in accordance with Islamic law, requiring burial within 24 hours of death. However, burial at sea is not an Islamic practice and never has been.
    It likely had more to do with getting rid of the evidence.

  • Comment number 21.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 22.

    Any way they want. A dead man (no longer how long dead) cannot refute, cannot deny, cannot laugh out loud at the hypocrisy.
    As for the Americans, they have gotten what they essentially wanted: big trouble afoot against Pakistan.
    Pakistan Air Force has assured the government that no foreign air power will be allowed to violate the Pakistani air space in future and if ordered, the PAF can shoot down the US drones.
    (Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman has accepted the responsibility of air-surveillance failure. He said the American helicopters were not detected because the radars deployed on the western borders were not active on May 2.)
    Many questions are now being asked: about the capability of Pakistan Army and Air Force. Tension between Pakistan the two escalated further with yet another drone attack in the tribal area. The PAF clearly told the government that the radar was down because it just did not conceive that the west would strike urban areas of Pakistan from Afghanistan.
    Radars need overhauling after three years and they cannot work after nine years. Due to the expensive nature of high-level radars, Pakistan Air Force does not use these machines 24 hours on western borders and the Americans knew this.
    The PAF has received 3 Airborne Warning & Control System (AWACS) planes from Sweden (one more will come in June). China has provided one ZDK-03 Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEWC) plane with 3 additional to come by year-end. These will protect the whole of Pakistan 24/7. In the meanwhile, PAF activated all radars deployed on the western borders after the May 2 incident, which means that foreign forces present in Afghanistan will now be considered as a threat to the integrity of Pakistan.
    Pakistan has seen the enemy, and it is American.
    The Pakistan Army, we lost 3,500 soldiers in the war against terror.
    Indeed the Americans have humiliated Pakistan.
    When questioned about the drone attack in North Waziristan on Friday, the a Pakistani Military Officer stated: We can stop the drones. Just let the political government allow us and we will not disappoint.
    Pakistan: “Let them come again from the west or even from the east and the world will see our real action.”
    And this is what I Believe the United States wanted: Get Pakistan riled, humiliate her, and make her a target for invasion and takeover. Let us get her nukes! Let us leave her devastated.

  • Comment number 23.

    “I have seen the future and it hurts.”


    I hope up there ahead, when they’re using them what was more valuable than the body, there’ll still be a place on the BBC to sit and have a pint and a long conversation about it.

  • Comment number 24.

    It's really not very exploitable if you xamine what you have.
    Maybe the new tape, recorded shortly before Bin Laden's death, will be better - more accurate.
    But for now, we only have the 5 videos from Bin Laden's shabby hole and thes appear amateurish, shockingly amateurish. Is the United States so broke that it cannot hire better falsifiers?
    Dyeing hair with pure black dye is haram (punishable) because; the prophet said so. The "law" is applicable to men and women.
    The most reported newly released tape shows him huddled in a blanket in a dilapidated looking room, watching himself on what can only be described as a small TV placed on an old, broken desk. Apparently without an elecetricity.
    Was this the million dollar compound?
    Back to the beard: it's white, not black las in the other newly released videos. In fact, he looks much younger than in 2001, suggesting images even earlier.
    These poor Obama persons cannot seem to get their details straight.
    A decade ago, Bin Laden was very ill from kidney failure, diabetes, and by some accounts hepatitis C affecting his liver, was hospitalized in Pakistan and Dubai. He died mid-December 2001. So, who did the Americans assassinate and to whom belong these wives and children?
    Most noted: Bin Laden's alleged December 2001 “confession” video clearly accepting responsibility for 9/11 was FAKE. (February 2006, Duke University Bin Laden expert. Professor Bruce Lawrence called it a bad hoax.) The professor said that everyone knew it was fabricated. In fact, the difference between the real and fake Bin Laden is "weighty" - the fake was well-nourished, the real was bone-thin and sickly.
    These videos are CIA and in fact not very good. But then, Americans are gullible.
    The CIA made one showing Osama Bin Laden sitting around a campfire with friends, swigging bottles of liquor and savoring their conquests. Since when would a good Sunni Muslim sit around swigging liquor.
    To the DNA: You cannot, CANNOT take a tissue sample from twice-shot-in-the head corpse in Pakistan, extract the DNA, prepare the DNA for matching, match in twelve little hours; in fact, you could not transport the sample to all the places you would need to go within 12 little hours. There's no DNA proof that the corpse dumped at sea was Bin Laden.
    The White House has behaved irresponsibly, illegally, secretively and by God, someone needs to hold them to accountable. Shame on President Obama and all his co-conspirators! Americans must ask themselves why this charade%

  • Comment number 25.

    I don't believe, as gullible as the American public generally is, that there is much room left for additional exploitation We started with computer files and oodles of information which have somehow come own to a hand-written journal full of brief notes - ideas the alleged Bin Laden may have had.
    For some unknown reasons, the United States has not taken advantage of the opportunity afforded them by the Pakistani Government to interview the relatives of the man that the Americans assassinated. Why would they not be keen...unless the United States knows it got the wrong man?
    Meanwhile, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani will undertake a four-day visit to People’s Republic of China against the backdrop of Abbottabad CIA-led operation claiming to have killed Osama bin Laden. The American, Western & Indian media have unleashed a smear campaign against Pakistan Army and the National Security Agency (ISI) as if they had known about Bin Laden and were complicit in hiding him.
    In the midst of all this nonsense have arisen 3 voices of sanity: China, Russia and Iran. All have pledged their support for Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. These 3 are mega-powers; Pakistan has made powerful friends.
    At present, especially after the recent visit of Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, Islamabad could proudly claim that Pakistan-China relations are at their highest. Political and defence ties have developed, as well as the expansion of economic relations during 2010.
    I feel that the United States' "Osama" mission may proof the biggest mistake the Obama Administration has made thus far, causing unparalleled blow-back.

  • Comment number 26.

    Now the Obama Administration is DEMANDING the identities of some of the top Pakistani intelligence operatives as it allegedly tries to determine whether any of them had contact with Osama bin Laden.
    Pakistan is baulking.
    Here we go again with these so-called "unnamed US officials" expressing their deep frustration with the Pakistani military/intelligence for their refusal to identify members of the Inter-Services Intelligence, who may known about OBL.
    US officials (?) DEMANDED information on what is known as the ISI’s directorate.
    Pakistan has chosen words of caution as well as calls for completely severing diplomatic ties with the US.
    Personally, I find it absolutely incredible that Kayani and Pasha actually knew that Bin Laden was in Pakistan,” (referring to Pakistan’s Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and the ISI Director-General Lt-Gen Ahmad Shuja Pasha).
    Brigadier (ret'd) Mahmoud Shah, a Peshawar-based retired security official spoke best for me when he said: “If they (Americans) continue to treat us like this, we should pull out of the alliance with them…We should recall our ambassador from Washington and send theirs out.” Good idea!
    It's time to take bold action. Pakistan needs to tell the Americans to take thre measly millions (not BILLIONS) in support and leave Pakistan, including the drones.
    Very likely terrorism, except American-sponsored terrorism, would decline in Pakistan dramatically. Who needs friends like the US, which is going broke anyway. Turn your face eastward, Pakistan. Turn your face to China, and see how the Americans take that!

  • Comment number 27.

    The International Criminal Court will probably issue an arrest warrant for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi by the end of May. At least, ICC prosecutor Luis Ocampo said that he had submitted a report to ICC judges on May 4 requesting an arrest warrant but is waiting for the court to either approve the warrant or request more information. The UN Security Council voted unanimously on February 26 to ask the ICC to investigate human rights crimes in the uprising against Gaddafi, which began earlier that month. This seems to apply to both sides - rebels/NATO and b) Gaddafi.
    Meanwhile, NTC chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil visited David Cameron, who called the opposition the "legitimate political interlocutor in Libya and Britain's primary partner there". Excuse me? Was there a Libyan election that I missed?
    Meanwhile the United States has pledged $53 million worth of aid for the rebels.
    Meanwhile, Gaddafi appeared on state television for the first time in almost two weeks, a brief show - followed shortly by early morning NATO strikes that targeted his personal command and control compound in the Bab al-Aziziya area. But the west is not trying to kill Gaddafi, right? How does the west translate: "It's time for Gaddafi to go"?
    Meanwhile in Tripoli, a Government Spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim denied the opposition claims of success: "This is nonsense! We control the airport and we also control the sea port.''
    NATO took command of operations over Libya on March 31. Since then, NATO has carried out more than 2,400 air strikes, but I've heard not one civilian has been wounded; oh wait, what I actually heard was NATO is not apologizing for any civilian hurt.
    When and if Gaddafi faces the ICC, will the NATO participants be beside him in the dock?
    If not, why not?
    Of the two NATO/rebels and Gaddafi, I have to believe NATO/rebels are the more guilty of civilian casualties.

  • Comment number 28.

    Better question:
    With what money will the United States exploit the result of all her latest subterfuge & propaganda. This will, of course, be the AfPak War, and this war will cost big in time and money. Wherever will the US get this money (when her printing presses stop).
    Pakistan is angry. Pakistan has cause.
    Pakistan's relations with the US are not just bent but broken.
    Do you think that Pakistan believes for on second that Osama bin Laden was killed on May 2 in a top-secret operation involving a small team of US Special Forces in Abbottabad? I mean who could possibly believe this: the orchestration, the planning, the propaganda were plain and simply: stupid!
    US lawmakers themselves say that that it defies logic that bin Laden was able to hide in plain sight without some level of official Pakistani knowledge or complicity. So, what does this mean, except an accusation against Pakistan for complicity?
    In short, Pakistan has lost its trust in the United States.
    Pakistan is using this as a blatant, world-wide example of how quickly Americans can turn on any country when the purpose of that country has been served.
    Pakistan is insulted by the lack of respect to her sovereignty. How would you feel if someone came onto UK soil and carried out a similar strike, yet David Cameron knew nothing about it.
    Pakistan is revisit its policy with the United States of America. No other options for Pakistan? Hogwash!
    In accordance with the wishes of the people of Pakistan, Pakistan can turn her face east towards China; she can turn her face north towards Russia. She can do a lot more than the Americans think she can.
    AfPak - Obama wanted it. Obama is going to get it!

  • Comment number 29.

    Pakistan has options, but the Americans have none: The US needs its AfPak War, its Afghanistan/Pakistan Oil corridor.
    In addition to China and Russia, Iran's Deputy Interior Minister for Security Affairs Ali Abdullahi has met with Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik. Reason: the discussion of security between Iran and Pakistan.
    Iran wants, Pakistan wants: “the precise and complete implementation” of security pacts between the two countries. Other issues: action against terrorism, narcotics, human trafficking, border control & money laundering.
    There will also be an Iranian-Pakistani Security Commission to be headed by the security deputies of the interior ministers of both countries.
    So, this is another offshoot of American stupidity. Lines are being built in concrete as tough, as uncrossable as the Israeli wall that imprisons the Palestinians. It seems to me that Pakistan is building friends. Can we say the same for the duplicity, hypocrisy and back-stabbing of the United States?


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