The U.S. commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden was guided from space by a fleet of satellites, which aimed dozens of receivers over Pakistan to collect a torrent of electronic and signals intelligence as the mission unfolded, according to a top-secret U.S. intelligence document.
The National Security Agency also was able to penetrate guarded communications among al-Qaeda operatives by tracking calls from mobile phones identified by specific calling patterns, the document shows. Analysts from the CIA pinpointed the geographic location of one of the phones and linked it to the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where other evidence suggested bin Laden was hiding.
The disclosures about the hunt for the elusive founder of al-Qaeda are contained in classified documents that detail the fiscal 2013 “black budget” for U.S. intelligence agencies, including the NSA and the CIA. The documents, provided to The Washington Post by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, make only brief references to the bin Laden operation. But the mission is portrayed as a singular example of counterterrorism cooperation among the U.S. government’s numerous intelligence agencies.