Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Osama bin Laden: High Priest of Terror

The Raid

The raid on bin Laden's property.
The raid on bin Laden's property.
In the wee hours of the Pakistani morning, around 2 p.m. Eastern time, a team of as many as 79 commandos from U.S. special operations forces entered the three-story building. Inside, there were 22 residents, among them bin Laden and members of his family, including his son, his wife and his trusted couriers.

The raid was conducted entirely in secret. The Pakistani government was not alerted. The raid, which according to an unnamed senior White House administration official lasted 40 minutes, included the use of up to four helicopters. When one of the helicopters suffered mechanical failures, the team blew it up rather than allow it to be used or found by potential combatants. In addition to bin Laden, three other men were killed. The White House official stated that it was believed that among the dead were bin Laden's son, and the two couriers. Bin Laden's identity was confirmed through facial recognition software and DNA testing which established a 99.9% match.

Meanwhile, thousands of miles away, Obama, Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Chief of Staff Bill Daley and John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security, among several others, were in the White House situation room watching and listening to a remote live feed of the attack.

Observation of raid from White House.
Observation of raid from White House.
C.I.A. Director Leon Panetta explained what was happening via satellite in Langley, Va. Though it is not clear how much of the action the administration could see—there were periods when the feed went dark—they could see that one of the helicopters had failed. Said Brennan: "It was probably one of the most anxiety-filled periods of time, I think, in the lives of the people who were assembled here yesterday. The minutes passed like days, and the President was very concerned about the security of our personnel."

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