Schneier on Security
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May 5, 2011
Exactly how did they confirm it was Bin Laden's body?
Officials compared the DNA of the person killed at the Abbottabad compound with the bin Laden "family DNA" to determine that the 9/11 mastermind had in fact been killed, a senior administration official said.
It was not clear how many different family members' samples were compared or whose DNA was used.
Also to identify bin Laden, a visual ID was made. There were photo comparisons and other facial recognition used to identify him, the official said. A second official said that in addition to DNA, there was full biometric analysis of facial and body features.
EDITED TO ADD (5/5): A better article.
Posted on May 5, 2011 at 12:52 PM
• 83 Comments
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Ultimately, I think the only authentication that matters is this: Al Qaeda hasn't claimed that he's still alive. If he were still breathing, he would have issued a press release.
re David's comment, yup that's what sealed it for me. To hear confirmation from both ends of the deal is pretty convincing.
On Monday there was not just silence from the terrorists but chatter along the lines of, "we didn't believe it at first but our friends are telling us it's true". No one with any skin in the game is denying it. That's about as iron clad as it gets.
Al Qaeda can't claim he's still alive, because he died in 2002 in Tora Bora. Unless the dialysis treatments are pretty amazing in those Afghan caves.
Assuming bin Laden is dead, how do we know there's not some Al Qaeda member sitting on a video tape, having been instructed to sit on it until he hasn't heard from bin Laden's courier for a set amount of time? Or several members, each with a video and they're instructed to release the videos in succession? He may be dead, but his organization can still make him appear to be alive.
Hopefully not though.
Such a series of video tapes could exist, but if there was no way to verify the dates on which they were recorded, they would be useless.
If he, indeed, did survive, the only rational strategy to affirm his survival would be to record a video or audio tape in which he references some current event that occurred after May 1.
I was in London City Airport and I saw him putting on makeup in the mens toilets.
I think I saw him chatting with Elvis and Michael Jackson at a cafe inside Wal-Mart.
Well actually not really (in case anyone believed me).
But a question about announcements from Al Qaeda: when did we last hear from that group? No, I do not miss them...more like curious on whether they got disbanded some time ago.
Or the newspaper are "asked" to keep silent about a message sent by Al Qaeda (who have heard about the end of the fire in Russia, months ago ? The end of the Fukushima nuclear plant troubles ? No media talked about it in France, at least... have you ?),
Or the US government tried to trigger an answer: either US has killed him with airstrikes and he's dead long ago so killing him another time publicly is a way to allow us to celebrate his death, or he is not dead, they will claim it, and this is a chance to know where he really is (just like using a stick on a body to see if the victim is dead)
Either way, only US officials have talked about the corpse. This is of no value. And the photos were faked... have you checked if the DNA story is not faked too ?
Experts from different countries should have checked the corpse and DNA sample to unveil any political subterfuge. Now, with the corpse in the ocean, there is no chance.
The US government just acted like a killer throwing his wife's corpse in the middle of the lake... at another scale: the bigger the killer/country, the bigger the lake, i suppose.
For me, it's basic manipulation, just like the story about "Flight manual for dummies" books, written in Arab right after the 9/11.
some current event like the death of osama
"but if there was no way to verify the dates on which they were recorded, they would be useless"
Useless to whom? If you don't trust the US but you do trust bin Laden, are you going to believe a government you don't trust, or unverifiable tapes claiming he's still alive? They could be used for propaganda.
If Osama wasn't actually killed and the body/evidence was faked, what would the US government gain? It seems too much of a risk to lie about this.
If the US was caught lying about this, wouldn't we be the political laughingstock of the world? While it could be argued that there is some value to say that he has finally been killed - whether true or false -, it doesn't seem like the benefits would outweigh the potential problems.
What I find more disturbing is that they didn't bother identifying him until after they killed him.
I think he was adressed by name before dying, reportedly.
Len: you would be surprised about what's hidden in those caves. Just ask Bond, James.
As far as genetic testing goes, if Osama had any siblings from the same mother, the mitochondrial DNA would be identical, except for minor mutations.
Tupac: dead - but still workin'!
As others have said, the silence of those who would be very eager to prove he is still alive is a good confirmation that they got the right guy.
As to all the theories floating around that he really died/was killed/is in prison years ago, but the US just laid down a big propoganda operation for a PR campaign, I would ask "To what end"? If the US killed or arrested him years ago, I'm sure Bush would have been as happy as Obama was to announce it. Of course, for every conspiracy theory saying he was already dead, you have another one saying he's still alive, so maybe they're offsetting.
@Adam H - There are a subset of people who won't believe it's 12:00 noon if you show them 3 watches, 2 clocks, and can hear Big Ben chiming. The problem with conspiracy theorists is that they can create a new reality that is a never-ending rabbit hole of unlikely possibilities that are impossible to totally refute. Some skepticism is certainly healthy in this world, but really...
So, a person whose pure existence (let alone importance) was quite disputable throughout his supposed life has now died under even more disputable circumstances without any available evidence (and someone saying "we have got evidence" is quite useless if we can't verify it).
See, if I where the "mastermind" of an international terroristic network, the very one event to trigger every one of my network's participants to set off whatever they have planned, would be my death. So the next few weeks will tell us, whether bin Laden and Al Quaeda are what we were told since 2001. I don't think that a decentralized terroristic group will stop working because it's "mastermind" gets killed ...
So "cui bono"? Over here in Germany some terrorism-laws have to be prolonged within the next few weeks (though we already, by "pure coincidence" of course, had our own terroristic "threat" last week). There might be some similar "need" for terroristic threats in other parts of the world. Decide for yourself.
Am I the only one to whom all this feels like a page out of a (very bad) compendium on "how to create conspiracies"? If you took this story as a plot to hollywood, they would laugh at you. It's all even less believable than their weirdest film-stories.
I'm afraid all the genetic testing in the world will be, with the best will in that same world, inconclusive -- if it is not done by an independent, objective party.
DNA from mother and 3 brothers indicated "virtually 100%" match.
@Len: Guess all those videos he released to his followers for the past decade or so were pretty good fakes then, huh?
I think he's probably dead, but I can think of a plausible case of why he might still be alive:
The U.S. captured him and faked his death, so that they could interrogate him while the intel is still fresh, and so that Al Qaeda would not assume that their secret plans, or details of their communication infrastructure have been compromised.
This has the added benefit of not having to deal with the whole military trial vs. criminal trial debate, as you can always kill him later (once you are done interrogating) since everyone believes he is dead anyway.
First, what body? Perhaps we should begin with authenticating politicians' claims.
Second, if facial recognition was used, as claimed, then the man was clearly arrested before being executed. Recall that it is claimed he was shot to the face (the claimed reason for not releasing photos). I doubt one can perform facial recognition during a raid, nor after the subject is shot to the face. In other words, according to the administration's own statements, bin Laden was either executed after arrest, or they are lying. Likely, neither possibility will offend the Obama- and death-worshiping American public.
Third, now that Tim Osman has been neutralized/brought in, I don't suppose Obama will revoke his executive orders on CIA extra-judicial executions? Or does he still need those for the next dozen bogey men in this never-ending 'war' on a philosophical idea?
For those of you can still think, keep in mind al-Awlaki sipping coffee at the Pentagon, and the ADL chief's felon grandson (convicted of beating up Muslims) playing dress-up in Shia (which al Qaeda consider heretics/turncoats) cleric costumes and speaking with a fake Arab-English accent despite growing up in the States.
Finally, our old side-channel friend: timing. Why now? Consider that Wikileaks just revealed that the US knew of bin Laden's claimed location (a mansion right beside Pakistan's West Point) from interrogating his courier since at least "mid-2003." So what happened between mid-2003 and mid-2011? Other than the continuing/expanding wars and the continuing/expanding ignorance of the frothing American public...
PS: Be afraid, nukes buried under cities. LOL
The best way to confirm would be to talk to the SEALS that participated in the raid to see what they think about it. From what I heard, they weren't even told before the mission who "Geronimo" was, but quickly figured it out (I'm sure) after they spotted OBL. Conspiracies are hard to keep quiet, and it would be doubtful that operators on the ground would be "in on it." However, we will likely never hear from any of them.
That said, the US govt. has been known to put out fake videos of OBL claiming it was indeed OBL when any idiot can see that it's not. The "confession" tape is the best example (the guy was a cheap look alike with a completely different nose and I am surprised they actually think we're all that stupid). However, that doesn't mean I think OBL is imaginary (a la Emmanuel Goldstein), it's just I don't really know what to think. I am sure the SEALS killed somebody, the question is who?
Even mainstream non-conspiracy news sources have noted that killing him and burying him the same day is very, uh, strange. Couldn't they have kept him around for 3-4 days and then performed the burial ceremony?
I don't really mind them not releasing the photo, as photographs are not evidence in this day and age of photoshop. There's no way to prove their authenticity. Better evidence would be to allow independent labs to have access to the body in order to extract their own DNA samples.
I don't see any upside for al Queda to say anything either way about OBL's current status. The man has been in hiding for years.
If it turns out he is alive, what better way to ensure that people stop looking for him than to encourage the belief that he is, in fact, dead?
And if he is dead there is a power vacuum at the top, which indicates an organizational weakness.
Nope. There is no reason for al Queda to say anything.
@David "If he were still breathing, he would have issued a press release."
Also, there is the logical possibility that they killed someone else or no one at all.
Intelligence sources already say that there is a Bin Laden tape that is in the pipes that was made before he was killed but hasn't made it public yet...
@Bob There is nothing in the facial recognition claims in the first article that indicates a timeline.
Therefore, when you claim that "the man was clearly arrested before being executed", you're just making stuff up.
Your claim that facial recognition wouldn't work on someone who was shot in the face is just as bogus. It's not like they shot him in the face with a shotgun, which would have obliterated his face. The man was shot with a bullet, a bullet to the face can leave a remarkably small entry wound, and facial recognition software can easily handle facial differences of that scale.
Several hundred billion dollars, hundreds of thousands of troops, two invasions, and ten years is what it took to get that one guy? What are they bragging about?
The kicker would have been to record one or several messages referencing likely events that have not occured. His references were always a little vague anyway so it would fit if he referenced that "nature has struck the great satan, just as surely as we will strike again". then his followers just wait for an event that fits the reference and release the video. It would seem very relevant.
They could even have him reference an as yet unexecuted terrorist strike, and then after they do it, release a video of him praising its success in detail.
That, combined with a few other tidbits (e.g. a message to his key followers, which would be intercepted), would be rock solid evidence.
it would so work.
The publicized "timeline" for the DNA testing is non-credible.
Normal DNA testing takes days or weeks.
It can be done in slightly less than 24 hours ... only if highly sophisticated laboratory equipment & highly skilled technicians are readily available.
But the White House made the TV announcement (positive DNA + sea burial) less than 12 hours after the SEAL raiders lifted off from the OBL compound. Were the SEAL helicopters carrying delicate DNA lab equipment & technicians (?) -- not enough time to do accurate DNA tests, even in that scenario... or even if that stuff had somehow been pre-positioned in eastern Afghanistan (very unlikely).
Also, how did the body get to the Arabian Sea (over 1,000 miles away from the OBL compound) in less than 12 hours (and without flying thru Pakistan airspace).
That's physically impossible under the scenario publicized by the White House.
Somethin's fishy besides OBL.
> the only rational strategy to affirm his survival would be to record a video
> or audio tape in which he references some current event that occurred after May 1.
Expect a message from Osama to be released on December 22, 2012:
"The infidels thought the world would end yesterday, but they were wrong. The days are now getting longer..."
The same way the helicopters got to the OBL house without flying through Pakistan airspace.
Obviously they did fly the helicopters through Pakistan airspace, why should the jet to the sea be any different?
Those troops and invasions are about more than just catching this one guy.
And yeah, it took 10 years but they kept at it. They said they would get him and eventually, finally, they did. "Bragging" might be too strong a word but a lot of people are definitely happy about that.
As others have observed, it takes a lot of organizational discipline to sustain an operation like this over such a long period of time, across changes of government, reorganizations of the agencies involved, and so on. The details might never become public, but all the analysts, intelligence operatives, etc. who toiled away in secret for years and years to track this guy down deserve some praise IMO. And then when he had to make the hard call, President Obama made that call and sent in elite American soldiers to finish the job, and now its done. I'd call that a success all around.
Assassinating people we really dislike may not be effective in the big-picture, strategic sense. But for global terrorists I still think its worthwhile, because frankly I think people like bin Laden who are directly involved in mass-murder and terrorism, they deserve what's coming to them. I've always been in favor of killing off terrorists whenever the opportunity presents itself. I don't want to have to share a planet with them.
I would like to know why they dumped the body in the ocean... That's the thing about this that gives conspiracy theorists a leg to stand on.
Pakistan has custody of the other occupants of the house (with perhaps one unidentified exception, according to some reports). If the other occupants were saying it was not OBL, then Pakistan would be trumpeting that fact to the world. They're not. Proof enough for me.
And as Moms Mabley said, "My mother taught me never to say anything about the dead, unless it's good. He's dead. Good!"
I think I should clarify my comment above a bit. I'm not saying that everyone with the "terrorist" label slapped on them deserves to be killed or is worth the moral price of killing. Some dude who tries to light his shoes on fire on a plane, or ignite explosives stuffed in his underwear... okay, thats bad, but we should just treat that like any serious crime (arrest him, put him on trial and throw him in jail -- don't freak out and pour hundreds of billions of dollars into airport security theatre).
But I also believe there is a line that you can't cross if you want to coexist with the rest of civilization. A Palestinian terrorist group called Black September crossed it during the 1972 Summer Olympics when they took Israeli athletes hostage and murdered them.
Someone like Osama bin Laden is about as far across that line as you can get. He masterminded the biggest terrorist incident of all time, killing thousands of people, traumatizing countless others, and destroying billions of dollars worth of property. He publically claimed responsibility for the 9/11 attacks. A person like that is the very enemy of civilization. You can't let something like that stand. Evil has to be opposed.
What I've heard is that Islamic burial customs require the burial rites to take place as soon as possible (within 24 hours). The body is bathed, enshrouded in a white cloth, there's a funeral prayer, and they bury the deceased with the head toward Mecca. To disrespect those customs might have inflamed anti-American sentiment among some muslims (or at any rate, it certainly wouldn't have done them any good from a PR perspective). They probably planned for that contingency as part of the operation.
Burying him at sea avoided two thorny problems. (1) Finding a country willing to accept to have such a notorious person buried on their land, and on such short notice. e.g. Burying him in Pakistan right after violating their airspace and conducting a military operation on their land, would have caused a stellar diplomatic mess. And (2) Burying him anywhere on land might give other extremists a sort of shrine to rally around. Burying him at sea denies them that opportunity.
It's strange that they would throw away such a valuable intelligence source so lightly.
I wouldn't be surprised if he's actually sitting in a cell with electrodes attached in uncomfortable locations.
The signature is valid but the death certificate was self-signed?
SEALs are by rep skilled in combat and physically tough...
Couldn't capture an old man with - we are told - many disabilities?
A trial would have resolved a multitude of questions...
Just maybe - those in charge don't want all those questioned asked and answered?
He's dead, but how was he killed?
The official story is that he was shot above the eye, blowing away part of the front of his skull.
But entry wounds are not like that. A bullet just leaves a small hole where it goes in.
Exit wounds are always bigger. It sounds as though he was shot in the back of the head, and the bullet emerged near his eye.
Amazing amount of nonsense in the posts here.
"the silence of those who would be very eager to prove he is still alive is a good confirmation that they got the right guy. "
Hardly. As someone pointed out, if bin Laden has been dead for years, they can hardly claim he's alive now just to prove Obama wrong without admitting they lied before - in which case why should anyone believe them now.
The entire operation could have been conducted to hit some bin Laden double (or just some other dude) just to shake up Al Qaeda and smoke him out (if he IS still alive) or confirm his death (if he isn't.)
The operation could have been done merely to provide PR value for Obama after the CIA determined once and for all that Obama WAS killed in 2003 by Mullah Omar, as Benazir Bhutto claimed. Do a raid, shoot some dude no one can identify, dump the body, claim whatever you want.
Read my lips: Without an independently analyzed body, we can NOT know what actually happened. No amount of interrogating SEALS, or official government statements by either the US or Pakistan can establish anything, because the sources are ALL suspect by definition.
The person above claiming Pakistan would be trumpeting it, uh, why, exactly? Pakistan has no desire to be celebrating Osama being alive. They're already allegedly embarrassed because he was so close to the capital, despite the fact, as I've said repeatedly here, that it is common knowledge in the intelligence community that certain ISI members have always known where he is.
"He publically claimed responsibility for the 9/11 attacks."
In fact, there is no proof whatsoever that he did so. A variety of taped audio messages that are asserted to be by him allegedly say so. But there are specific messages also asserted to be by him where he explicitly disavowed being directly connected to 9/11. See the Wikipedia article for references: :http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Responsibility_for_the_September_11_attacks#Osama_bin_Laden_statements_after_9.2F11
"A person like that is the very enemy of civilization."
But George Bush, who invaded Iraq on a worthless pretext (and who intended to invade Afghanistan even before 9/11 for a pipeline), which resulted in a million deaths, four million persons displaced, thousands of US casualties, and an astronomical cost to the US taxpayer, is not?
"To disrespect those customs might have inflamed anti-American sentiment among some muslims (or at any rate, it certainly wouldn't have done them any good from a PR perspective). They probably planned for that contingency as part of the operation."
Bull crap. The US invades Muslim countries, supports Israeli oppression of Palestinians, etc., etc. and we're supposed to be worried about not burying the "enemy of civilization" according to Muslim rites? You might wanna reconsider that notion.
Burial at sea to avoid a shrine? How about bring the body back, showing it to those who can positively identify him because they've met him (plenty of people can), certify the cause of death as in every other case, cremate him and dispose of the ashes in the ocean? Same end, different process which would provide PROOF of the event.
Or just send the body back to the family. Again, are you really suggesting Obama gives a rat's ass about Muslim funeral rites? It's idiotic.
Bottom line: All we have is a story which is made suspect by the simple fact that there is no body and also by the fact that, as fusion says above, we are told a heavily armed team of SEALS couldn't capture one infirm old man alive.
Those two facts ALONE establish the story is ruminant evacuation and therefore we do NOT know what happened or WHY. Period.
Oh, man, I hate it when a long post I make here just disappears...
Oops. there it is! :-) Got a slow database update there, Bruce! Not optimizing your MySQL? :-)
It makes no difference between Bin Laden is dead or not.
The only good thing about his death is revenche.
The death of Bin Laden won't stop the terror, the only thing which can do this is freedom and peace, not war, especially not 'war on terror'.
Well if he is still alive he should be grateful for the US for making it considerably easier for him to to travel around and conduct his business. Maybe they even took his name off the no-fly list so he can make that Florida trip he was planning.
Actually he didn't die in Tora Bora he lacked dialysis treatment. According to former white house employee Steve Pieczenik he suffered from Marfan syndrome and died because of that sometime in the winter 2001/2002. The kidney problems was a complication of the Marfan syndrome.
If that is true that means the whole assasination thing, and even the war on terrorism, is nothing more than political theatre.
@Bob:Recall that it is claimed he was shot to the face (the claimed reason for not releasing photos). I doubt one can perform facial recognition during a raid, nor after the subject is shot to the face.
One can perform facial recognition after the subject is shot in the face. It depends on how messy the shot is, right? Well, I don't know if you've seen a variety of gunshot wounds (feel free to tell us the answer) but there are a number of issues here including
1. Where in the face someone was shot, and
2. Whether the face sustained the entry or exit wound.
Easy one first: bin Laden's face sustained the ENTRY wound. Entry wounds are (usually) not very messy and the closer the shot, the less messy the wound. A shot from the same room counts as "very close."
Location of shot: humans are best at identifying others from features around the eyes and mouth. (Frex, Gene Roddenbury didn't allow aliens to have different eyes or mouths, because he didn't want them to be too alien, but the special effects guys could change cheeks, ears, eyebrows, and foreheads all they wanted.) In bin Laden's case, he wore a long beard so we didn't really see his mouth anyway. So the only sort of shot that would make him unrecognizable is one near the eyes. Even a forehead shot would leave the rest of the face recognizable.
I'm not going to get into the issues of bullet caliber; no one's going to use a shotgun or a crew-served weapon for close-in combat.
@ Richard Steven Hack at May 5, 2011 11:59 PM
Best summary of the problems with the narrative yet.
The desire "not to offend Muslims" is a bit rich after Gaza, depleted uranium use, Fallujah, etc etc etc.
Were these Navy Seals or the Keystone Kops? The number one enemy of the US is killed outright instead of taken alive for questioning? Apart from the dubious legality of the action, it is just downright stupid.
And no video feed of the whole proceedings? That "situation room" photo of Obama et al and Hillary looking aghast looks pretty damn stupid if they were looking at a blank screen.
It's as though they went out of their way to fan the conspiracies. Not a good idea when the world is on the edge of a cliff already.
Amazing how the US media are generally cock-a-hoop about this whilst the foreign press are either dubious, less than gleeful, or concentrating on the ever-changing story elements.
And what building 7 indeed...
The US government and military have zero credibility in my eyes. None. Cf the Guardian's (and others') articles on the Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman scandals.
"Osama, is that you?"
@Evilkiru: 'The man was shot with a bullet, a bullet to the face can leave a remarkably small entry wound, and facial recognition software can easily handle facial differences of that scale.'
Then why are the pictures too gruesome to show the world? Fishy
Some interesting discussions here - yet there is a lot of dipping in and out of conspiracy theories.
Personally, I think every government in the world has zero credibility. All will lie, cheat or trick if they think it helps their cause. I dont actually think this is a bad thing in itself, its just the way the universe is.
In the defence of the SEALs, once you get people with guns to assault a building, lots of people will die. The reality is that things happen much to fast and the trained reaction of military people is to "eliminate targets" and this was most certainly not a hostage rescue situation. Whatever the motivations, the SEALs will have gone into the assault on the basis that every single person in there was able and willing to kill them, so their thoughts will have been far from capturing people.
This is not calling them "keystone cops" by a long shot. It is not an insult on their professionalism. Soldiers (and SEALs) have been drilled for years on end to kill the enemy. Dont be surprised when they do. If you want someone taken alive use something else - HRT for example.
I agree with Harry, a little at least. Visual identification can be done after a headshot but just as often people will do it before they fire. I suspect most, if not all, members of the US military have seen OBLs face more than their own. There is even a good chance that they saw who he was and decided he deserved to die, so shot him.
While morally dubious (and a potential loss of intelligence value) is this surprising? Look at the public applause at the death of this old man - I suspect that 80%+ of Americans would have shot him on sight, so we shouldnt ask the SEALs to be any different there.
If they really wanted him alive, they should have sent something like the Royal Netherlands Marines in....
To enhance his myth as invincible. 'Beat the Soviets, Attacked and hurt the American's and the collective powers of the west who cannot kill me despite their best efforts.'
The biggest mistake the US made was to declare war on him.
The second biggest was, after declaring war to fail to find and make an end to him.
Can't trust reports. Reports are not real.
Reporters weren't there. Information comes out in bits and is frequently wrong. Some work to a easy and conveinent narrative that they build facts around and leave other relevant facts off (and in the age of Fox some reporters are happy to 'fill in' any gaps.) Retractions, if made, are released weeks later in small print and sotovoice.
Gov't spokespeople weren't there
Only the people there (and any recording device) were there.
too fast on the post key...
finally it comes down to what evidence is there?
Can it be interogated?
Is it impeachable?
What chain of custody was established to preserve the integrity of photo/vid and DNA and other samples.
What witnesses were deposed? (and being a reporter talking to a little girl who just saw her father murdered is probably not a reliable witness.)
@RSHs points are well stated in this regard.
Without this - What we'll get is;
official high level summary reports that will satisfy the large majority 80-90%;
a bit of speculation from professional paranoids and rabble rousers.
"If they really wanted him alive, they should have sent something like the Royal Netherlands Marines in...."
I love a good sense of humour
"If they really wanted him alive, they should have sent something like the Royal Netherlands Marines in"
Hmm. In which case the most likely scenario would have been that they would have crashed 3 out of 4 helicopters, got caught in their own cross-fire and ending up abducting the wrong guy.
I agree with you that comparing SEALs to Keystone Cops shows very poor understanding of their trade and professionalism. IMHO there are only two explanations that make sense: either they had explicit orders to terminate target at the first sign of resisting arrest, or all of this is just part of a cover-up story for the fact that indeed he was taken and still is alive.
Whereas I am still leaning towards the latter, the former cannot be precluded from a purely operational point of view. The compound was very close to a Pakistani military academy, plus there was always a risk that somehow they could have been tipped off. Most military personnel is also shown full videos of absolutely horrible beheadings by AQ as to remind them that falling into the hands of the enemy is ill-advised. Even seasoned and cold-blooded professionals at that point are not inclined to take any chances at all and will want to get out of there as soon as possible.
With regards to the face shot, everything just depends on the ammunition caliber and the angle he was shot from. A couple of years ago, I was shown pictures by an undisclosed source of coalition combat soldiers, dead and alive, whose face was partially or totally shot of during their service in Iraq and it caused me nightmares for days. This is indeed the kind of stuff you don't want the show the world at the risk of nobody wanting to send a son, daughter or spouse to war ever again.
On a related sidenote, it would seem that AQ management is now indeed confirming the death of OBL: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/06/... .
Nothing to gain, everything to lose. OBL pops up in a video going "neener neener" at the US Government. Good laugh for some, egg in the face for others.
How could he possibly be alive at this point? The SEAL team left behind survivors, including his wife who was wounded in the leg and was *in the room with OBL when the SEAL team shot him in the face*. There are photos of the room with the big blood smear all over the floor. They took out his corpse and left the survivors behind for the Pakistanis to interview.
These conspiracy theories sound ridiculous because they require the complicity of numerous third parties over which the U.S. government has no control. The survivors, the interviewers, military / ISI people... none of them have U.S. interests at heart.
The next Al-Qaeda/Taliban/Turrrst super-villain is sooo much better than OBL.
The Mossad has been training this American kid named Adam Pearlman for the job. He is the grandson of the late ADL board member Carl Pearlman. His show biz name is "Yahiye Gadahn".
In addition to being the all-purpose existential, eternal enemy to justify Microsoft and GE military contracts, he will be a TRAITOR. Vince McMahon could not design a better Emmanual Goldstein.
You patriotic warriors are really gonna get some extremely satisfying hate out of this guy's YouTube videos! It's gonna be great.
As to the Web announcement: and who authenticated that? SITE. You know who SITE is? An Israeli front.
And who authenticated the Web post in the first place? Al Qaeda's ISP? I think not.
Not to mention that if bin Laden either were dead ten years ago or still alive, Al Qaeda would have every reason to support the Obama narrative that he's now dead. It covers them either way.
"These conspiracy theories sound ridiculous because they require the complicity of numerous third parties over which the U.S. government has no control. The survivors, the interviewers, military / ISI people... none of them have U.S. interests at heart."
No they do not. This whole operation could have been done with almost no one in the loop including the SEALS. In fact, the word is the SEALS did NOT initially know who they were after - although they almost certainly guessed.
And none of the people cited - reporters, survivors, and especially Pakistani personnel - either needed to know, necessarily knew, or necessarily would have any reason to state otherwise if they did know. That is all presumption.
By the way, IF the SEALS were NOT told who they were after initially, as has been claimed, that was one guaranteed way to get bin Laden killed! And since bin Laden was obviously far more valuable alive than dead, that ALONE suggests that the intent was to kill him from the start. Which in itself means the US did NOT want the intelligence and PR value of having bin Laden alive, but had ulterior motives for wanting him dead.
The quick disposal of the body also totally proves the story is bogus as stated.
The only proper way to have handled this was to 1) inform the SEALS who they were after and give strict orders that he was not to be killed unless they were in danger of letting him escape, and 2) retrieve the body if they DID kill him, 3) transport it to the US, 4) identify the body with CERTAINTY and certify the death, 5) either cremate and dump the ashes in the ocean, or return the body to the family.
NONE of this was done. Which means one of two things: 1) the government was incredibly incompetent, or 2) the government is lying.
Period. End of story. You can't escape the logic here.
Iranian Press TV points this out:
"CIA Director Leon Panetta stated on Thursday that there was a 25-minute video blackout during the raid on the fortified compound owned by the al-Qaeda chief and that the US President Barack Obama and his national security aides had little knowledge of what was happening during the 38 minutes of the US special forces' operation on Pakistani soil, the Daily Telegraph reported."
NO video footage of the actual takedown! Convenient! And of course they use that to explain that it was the SEALS decision to kill bin Laden, not the President's. Of course, we can't ask the SEALS about that, can we?
This gets more total BS by the minute.
Eric Brill over at Raceforiran.com makes the following point:
"From Yahoo News:
'Intelligence officials had known about the house for years, but they always suspected that bin Laden would be surrounded by heavily armed security guards. Nobody patrolled the compound in Abbottabad.'
Just in case you might have concluded that the US spooks who finally found bin Laden were brighter than you’d given them credit for. If you were hiding out from the CIA, would you surround your hide-out with “heavily armed security guards” visible to curious neighbors who just might wonder who or what those “heavily armed security guards” were guarding?"
Good point from Eric.
I also notice that the alleged "firefight" might not have been as much as alleged, since not one SEAL got injured. Which indicates it was mostly an execution operation - everyone who looked like a possible combatant was killed - including bin Laden. No heavily armed opposition at all even close to bin Laden himself. Suspicious considering that in previous years bin Laden traveled with a contingent of Sudanese military in trucks loaded with anti-aircraft guns. If I was bin Laden, I definitely would have had capable bodyguards with serious guns in the next room at least, to keep out the riff-raff if not SEALS.
Whoever this guy was who ended up dead, he was likely not bin Laden.
I just can't wrap my head around RSH's theory here.
If the U.S. claims they've killed bin Laden, and that claim is shown somehow to be false, they would become the HUGE laughingstock of the world. Why would they ever, ever risk that?
Possibility 1: The guy the SEALs killed really was bin Laden. The CIA watches the place for months, is pretty sure he's in there. President Obama makes the decision, SEALs go in (on some sort of modified stealth Black Hawks that are apparently a big secret, one of which crashes during the operation and has to be destroyed), they shoot him in the face, seize a bunch of computer stuff and fly away with the body. They leave behind survivors for the Pakistanis to interrogate. This is the story they've been telling.
Possibility 2: Bin Laden died years ago in a CIA torture chamber or Afghani cave or something. This operation was FAKED. In that case: (1) If the fake is uncovered somehow its a HUGE loss of face for the U.S. and (2) Why the hell would they risk this? What could possibly be important enough to distract people from, to sacrifice a state-of-the-art stealth helicopter, invade the airspace of a foreign country, reveal active CIA operations being carried out in that country, and probably 10 other kinds of blowback we haven't seen yet?
Possibility 3: Bin Laden is still alive but the CIA has him locked up somewhere. Ridiculous for the same reasons as Possibility 2, plus the extra worry that he might someday escape or otherwise be discovered.
Possibility 4: Bin Laden is still alive and at large. Even more ridiculous, he would just make a video proving he's alive and reap a huge PR shitstorm and make the U.S. government look like total morons all in one shot.
In short, maybe the U.S. government has taken a few liberties with some of the details of the story. But I can't imagine why they would ever CLAIM to have killed him if they didn't believe it to be true. The potential downsides for the U.S. govt are just too huge if the truth gets out. They certainly wouldn't shoot one of his wives in the leg and leave her there for the Pakistanis to interrogate if they intended to claim that some fake guy they planted was Osama bin Laden. What if she consistently told her interrogators that the man was someone else entirely? How would that ever possibly stay a secret? Remember, if she's not a CIA plant then they have to release her back into society at some point. If she *is* a CIA plant then she has to tell a totally convincing tale of many years of marriage to OBL even under a prolonged interrogation. If she slips up or the interrogators decide to torture her or something, and the truth comes out, then the U.S. gets major egg on face.
Anyway, I enjoy all the speculation here. But some of the "inescapable logic" presented in this thread is anything but. Just ask yourself: if they wanted to mount a FAKE operation to convince people they'd killed bin Laden, how would they do it to make sure the secret didn't get out? They'd need to establish the compound, find people to populate it with, find a suitable "fake bin Laden" to shoot in the face.
I can't imagine them then trying to find family members to live there with the "fake bin Laden" who would then tell an utterly convincing story to Pakistani investigators. Its just too implausible.
@Richard Steven Hack:
"And none of the people cited - reporters, survivors, and especially Pakistani personnel - either needed to know, necessarily knew, or necessarily would have any reason to state otherwise if they did know. That is all presumption."
This in particular, makes no sense. You're claiming the U.S. went ahead with this operation knowing that ALL of those people would know inconvenient things and counting on ALL of them to keep quiet? If Pakistan found out the raid didn't really target bin Laden, they would be angrily saying so.
But for me, the key thing is the survivors.
If the dead guy wasn't really Osama bin Laden, then any survivors who were going to be left behind to be interviewed by non-US-goverment people would either have to be incredibly well-prepared plants (which seems far too risky for the US to attempt) or they would have to honestly believe that they were the wife and children of Osama bin Laden (which is just preposterous).
According to this article, Pakistani officials say that one of the surviving wives of bin Laden in their custody since the raid has told the investigators that they lived in that compound since 2005, and in a small village named Chak Shah Mohammad for two and a half years before that.
There's a lot of other interesting stuff in that article. It basically alleges that he wouldn't be living so close to Abbottabad unless the local police and ISI knew about it.
>Mr. Keller questioned why Bin Laden would live in Abbottabad, unless he had some
>assurance of protection or patronage from military or intelligence officers. “At best,
>it was willful blindness on the part of the ISI,” Mr. Keller said. “Willful blindness is
>a survival mechanism in Pakistan.”
For all the keyboard commanders wondering why the SEAL team ended up with a kill instead of a capture: how, exactly, would the SEAL team know that OBL hadn't booby-trapped the house with explosives?
As long as they identified him before they shot him who really cares.
Thank g8d the USA has finally given the finger to a decrepped international consultation process of despot states and the foreign offices of monarchies.
So OBL had no security around him? Only 1 guy fired off any shots? No boobie traps? No escape doors or tunnels? No suicide vest as he was supposed to have had? Door to his bedroom was unlocked. His wife charged at soldiers.
BTW, helicopters flew in without being detected and flew out.
ok. Something is odd here.
About saying that USA would be laughinstock if it was fake: it is a funny argument. They have most definitely killed some "Osama bin Laden" about five times. After "gaining full control of Um-Kassr" five times in seven days, you can kill Osama as many times as you want, it won't hurt.
Also, killing Osama bin Laden is somewhat useless in improving actual security. US goverment has said that at some time security system for Osama bin Laden included having a few people who look very much like him. For anyone with remote chance of becoming Al-Qaeda style terrorist, DNA tests are useless because they were performed by the US government, and video tapes of look-alikes are as good as the original thing.
I've addressed all of Moo's concerns in my various posts, so no need to recap them there. He simply ignores my facts and repeats the already discredited straw man arguments.
"how, exactly, would the SEAL team know that OBL hadn't booby-trapped the house with explosives?"
First of all, since the government apparently doesn't want to say what "threatening move" the alleged bin Laden made, we can't say whether that could be interpreted as moving for an explosives detonator.
Secondly, that's irrelevant. The goal should have been to capture bin Laden alive AT ANY COST short of allowing him to escape. Which means the SEALS would have had to dismiss any threat to themselves that did not clearly threaten the complete failure of the mission. It's not like US soldiers aren't told to go in harm's way on a daily basis. Unless Navy SEALS are now professional cowards.
While explosives certainly would be a possibility, it should be obvious that if bin Laden had easy access to a detonator in his bedroom or wherever he was, clearly he would have used it long before the SEALS breached his quarters. If you as a SEAL made it into his bedroom and his wife is attacking you, I think it's pretty clear there aren't any explosives around.
This isn't a James Bond movie.
And even if there were, the fact remains: if you can shoot him accurately enough to kill him and thus prevent him from detonating explosives, you can shoot him accurately enough to NOT kill him and STILL prevent him from detonating explosives. And forget the "bomb vest" nonsense, that would have been immediately detectible. No one wears a bomb vest to bed.
Finally, the bottom line remains the convenient disposal of the body. There was NO logical or defensible reason to do that in the manner it was done UNLESS the US government did NOT want that body seen by anyone except those involved in the operation.
I am saying that there is something wrong here. The most likely explanation to me personally is that bin Laden was dead years ago and this operation is nothing more than a PR stunt.
As I've explained before, if you control the operation and you dispose of the alleged body in the manner it was done, there is NO WAY to disprove what Obama says. No matter WHAT the Pakistanis, the survivors, or anyone else says, it can and is being dismissed as "conspiracy theory". There is no way the US can be a "laughingstock" because this operation is exposed because there is no way to expose it without a body. It's that simple.
Romphotog: Exactly. No bodyguards. I grant you there's no way he would want heavily armed guards around the compound to draw attention to himself, but no serious security IN his quarters? No security AT ALL? Really? He trusts ALL his associates that much? I wouldn't.
And yes, the helicopter situation is strange as well - either there WAS complicity with the Pakistani government or the Pakistani government is REALLY bad at detecting US choppers on their territory. And we know the Pakistanis have fired on US choppers on their territory in the past.
The story just does not hold water from a logical standpoint. But as I say, we can never prove otherwise because there is no body.
One other thing (or two) just occurred to me.
First, how many of you know bin Laden's wives? How many people in the West knew bin Laden personally? A few. How many knew his wives? Muslim women don't hang out with Westerners in their homes without the husband present. This is a Salafi Muslim, remember.
So how does anyone know who these people are? By definition they're connected to Al Qaeda is all we know. How do we know they aren't plants of the same ilk as whoever this guy that got shot was?
Second, if you ARE bin Laden's wife and kids, and he died years ago, you've been told by Al Qaeda to keep up the pretense that he's alive because that's what Al Qaeda was doing.
And if now the US government is claiming he's dead, you're going to go along because a) it's true, and b) it covers Al Qaeda for lying all along and Al Qaeda is going to tell you to keep doing it if you know what's good for you.
Finally, now we have a bunch of alleged "home videos" of bin Laden. I won't even dignify that one with a response except to say the provenance is utterly unproven.
Bottom line again: They allegedly killed the most important terrorist intelligence asset in twenty years and then dumped the body so no one could confirm it.
That's all you need to know. Everything else is just window dressing.
"I've addressed all of Moo's concerns in my various posts, so no need to recap them there. He simply ignores my facts and repeats the already discredited straw man arguments."
Already discredited in your head, maybe. Apparently I'm not the only one here who ignores facts and repeats strawman arguments.
Anyway, you believe whatever you want to believe and I'll stick to what Occam's Razor is telling me: There is no remotely plausible reason for the U.S. to mount the operation like this except to actually try and kill bin Laden. Trying that was risky enough (and they did it knowing full well it might cause more problems between the U.S. and Pakistan). I just can't see them doing this for any other goal than to actually try and capture or kill bin Laden. I don't know whether "capture" was even part of the mission; capturing him might have been inconvenient because of his past ties to the CIA, so I expect they just wanted him dead.
If the actual goal was something else, the operation would have been different. The body being dumped may be too neat for you, but the women and kids left behind to tell the story is too messy for me.
Now that the main event is over, of course there will be a lot of posturing and power politics and all that crap. Maybe the "home videos" are some part of that, trying to score some more cheap points with American voters after the really expensive ones they gained from the raid.
More on the "home videos" - not a lot of people are buying it.
Hoax: White House Claims 4-Year-Old Bin Laden Video Is New Footage
And from the Washington Post article referenced in the above:
"The agency actually did make a video purporting to show Osama bin Laden and his cronies sitting around a campfire swigging bottles of liquor and savoring their conquests with boys, one of the former CIA officers recalled, chuckling at the memory. The actors were drawn from “some of us darker-skinned employees,” he said."
Moo: "and they did it knowing full well it might cause more problems between the U.S. and Pakistan)."
As I've suggested, one reason the raid might have been done is precisely to make it hard on the Pakistanis, who have recently been kicking out CIA personnel and demanding the drone strikes stop. Relations between the US and Pakistan are at their worst in years. This raid may have been done precisely to stimulate that or to teach the Pakistanis a lesson.
There are those who believe the US is trying to gin up a war with Pakistan over the alleged support for the Taliban and Al Qaeda as an excuse to get hold of Pakistan's nuclear weapons (or just to start another war at the taxpayer's expense.) Certainly Obama has ramped up US attacks on Pakistan soil (although Bush was on that track as well toward the end of his term.)
This operation might very well contribute to that end - or at the very least be intended to force the Pakistanis to increase their cooperation with the US in order to offset the public suspicion that they were harboring bin Laden. One would expect the Pakistanis to be more vocal about this if it were not true, however. On the other hand, if it IS true that they were harboring bin Laden, it would explain some things.
One thing it would NOT explain, however, is why the CIA was unable to get to bin Laden, regardless of any such "harboring". The alleged method they used to find bin Laden could have been done years ago - it's not rocket science to find someone who HAD to know where bin Laden was by definition and then watch him until bin Laden's whereabouts was revealed. It was considered well known that some members of the Pakistani ISI knew where bin Laden was (assuming he was alive or dead).
But now, just in the last six months or whatever, they finally pull it off?
Not buying it.
Another thing it would not explain is why the body was dumped. No matter what anyone claims, there was ZERO reason to dump the body that quickly - unless there was something wrong about the whole operation.
If the government wants to admit that the reason they killed bin Laden and dumped the body is that they didn't want bin Laden revealing past secrets, it would have made their case a lot stronger that it happened as they claimed. But that clearly leaves them open to being called both incompetent and stupid and indifferent to US national security since they wasted a major counter-terrorism intelligence asset.
Or if they want to claim, "Oh, we really were stupid to dump the body because we never thought anyone would doubt us", then fine.
If you want to believe that, fine. I can go along with that. All I'm saying is that the story AS TOLD makes no sense. They either need to modify the story to address those two points: WHY bin Laden was killed over being taken alive, and WHY the body was dumped despite all the reasons not to - or they're lying. It's that simple.
And so far they've done nothing to address either point except lame justifications about "threatening moves" and "not wanting a shrine" - which are both complete bullcrap and everyone knows it.
Now they're just waiting for the media to move on to another story so the whole thing can be brushed under the rug until the 2012 elections when Obama will be touting his "great success in eliminating bin Laden" over whatever lame the Republicans nominate.
"the women and kids left behind to tell the story is too messy for me."
I've addressed that. Neither you nor anyone else even know WHO those women and kids are or what they are prepared to say or why. That's not evidence, that's supposition. And if you really believe they're going to stand up and say, "Yes, the whole operation was a fraud, my husband died X years ago", you're being naive. Not to mention that whatever they said, it would simply be dismissed by the US government and the media and everyone except us "conspiracy mongers".
Again, the story AS TOLD is bullcrap. You have to believe one of the following: 1) bin Laden was not killed because he was already dead; or 2) bin Laden was killed and the government lied about WHY bin Laden was killed; or 3) bin Laden wasn't even involved. It has to be one of those three options because the logic doesn't add up otherwise.
Re the lack of Pakistani air force response - this sounds like some serious CYA on the part of the Pakistani Air Force chief.
He's basically claiming that despite repeated US aircraft incursions into Pakistani air space in the past, none of the radars facing west were turned on because "it's too expensive". Right...
Pakistan: Radars were inactive, not jammed: air chief
Needless to say, the Iranians, who aren't subject to US media influence, aren't buying it either:
'Bin Laden Dead Long Before USA Raid'
Iran's intelligence minister says the country has reliable information that former head of the al-Qaeda terrorist group Osama bin Laden died of disease some time ago.
“We have accurate information that bin Laden died of illness some time ago,” Heidar Moslehi told reporters on the sidelines of a Cabinet meeting on Sunday.
He questioned Washington's claim that bin Laden was killed by American troops in a hiding compound in Pakistan on May 1.
“If the US military and intelligence apparatus have really arrested or killed bin Laden, why don't they show him (his dead body) why have they thrown his corpse into the sea?” Moslehi asked.
“When we apprehended former Jundallah ringleader Abdul Malik Rigi, we showed him and also aired his interview,” ISNA quoted the intelligence chief as saying.
By releasing such false news, he said, the White House seeks to overshadow regional awakening.
Moslehi said US officials resort to such PR campaigns to divert attention from their domestic problems as well as their “fragile” economic situation.
US President Barack Obama claimed that Osama bin Laden was killed by US forces on May 1 in a hiding compound in Pakistan.
A US official later announced that bin Laden's body was abruptly buried at sea, falsely boasting that his hasty burial was in accordance with the Islamic law, requiring burial within 24 hours of death.
However, burial at sea is not an Islamic practice and Islam does not have a timeframe for burial.
US officials also claimed their decision for a sea burial was made because no country would accept bin Laden's remains, without elaborating on which countries were actually contacted on the matter.
Analysts, however, have raised serious questions as to why US officials did not allow for the application of a DNA test to officially confirm the identity of the corpse before its hasty burial.
It strikes me that the hallmark of the conspiracy theory is that one source of information is assumed to be much, much, more trustworthy than every other source.
Normally for a conspiracy theory this is based on a person who agrees with the theorists ideas and opposes the evil Government propaganda machine. That someone can find the Iranian media as more trustworthy than anyone else is very interesting. Its not like they have an axe to grind in this, is it?
That said, I find I do agree with RSH on a few topics.
If they thought OBL would have had the house wired and a detonator in his pocket, they would (or at least should) have carried out the attack differently. If he was going to go to those lengths, then surely a deadman-switch or detonators in the hands of others would have been an equal risk.
I also think the rapid disposal of the body is a bit of an odd thing - however, I dont for one second doubt that this is down to poor advice. Government agencies and officials are traditionally quite inept (which undermines most conspiracy theories) and it wouldnt surprise me if they had simply been given the wrong advice about Islamic burial laws. Stranger things have happened.
Equally, it wouldnt even surprise me if the Pakistanis didnt know OBL was living there. I cant imagine they put much effort into trying to find him living in the open.
"The alleged method they used to find bin Laden could have been done years ago - it's not rocket science to find someone who HAD to know where bin Laden was by definition and then watch him until bin Laden's whereabouts was revealed."
No, it isnt rocket science but it *is* time consuming. No intelligence / investigation work is rocket science but it always requires a lot of time to sift through data to find things.
Easy != quick.
"But now, just in the last six months or whatever, they finally pull it off?"
There is always going to be a 'just in the last six months' - now is not a special time. If it had happened in six months time you would be saying the same thing. If it happened six months ago you would say the same thing.
Wow, enough hot air in here to invade Normandy all over again with dirigibles.
Thanks for giving me a great preview on all the insanely stupid theories we'll no doubt be seeing homemade documentaries about for decades to come!!!
To those of you that thought it better to stick to rational thought and known facts, also thanks! Nothing makes conspiracy theories more amusing than the truth.
If only the nutters would put as much effort into getting their brains to work again, maybe we could start solving the contemporary problems that _aren't_ imaginary, instead of arguing endlessly about the mysteries we have already solved. (Wow, for a second there I could've sworn I was talking about organized religion....)
This article confirms my guess that the burial of Osama bin Laden at sea was a pre-planned part of the operation.
"In revealing additional details about planning for the mission, senior officials also said that two teams of specialists were on standby: One to bury Bin Laden if he was killed, and a second composed of lawyers, interrogators and translators in case he was captured alive."
Article also says President Obama insisted that the mission have enough manpower to fight their way out if they were engaged by Pakistani forces (police or military). “Their instructions were to avoid any confrontation if at all possible. But if they had to return fire to get out, they were authorized to do it.”
Wow, this is interesting too...
"The US and Pakistan struck a secret deal almost a decade ago permitting a US operation against Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil similar to last week's raid that killed the al-Qaida leader, the Guardian has learned. ...
Under its terms, Pakistan would allow US forces to conduct a unilateral raid inside Pakistan in search of Bin Laden, his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the al-Qaida No3. Afterwards, both sides agreed, Pakistan would vociferously protest the incursion."
Found a great quote by a poli-sci professor, Dr. Mark Esalaco on may 2: http://www.flyernews.com/articles/id/6840
"The message of 9/11 is that America cannot be defeated," he said. "Al Qaida and groups like that can kill Americans, but they cannot kill America. Only we can do that."
Schneier.com is a personal website. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of BT.