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Well done Human Intelligence -HUMINT- resulted in the killing of Osama bin Laden.


The succesful U.S. effort to find Osama bin Laden is the triumph of Human Intelligence HUMINT and an immediate consequence of CIA´s controversial interrogation techniques and the creation of the U.S. National Clandestine Service.

After September 11th, many U.S. intel experts concluded that until then the intelligence community in Washington relied to much in electronic surveillance and signals intelligence, weakening the “old fashioned” human intelligence. The experts agreed in the need of starting again with good old fashioned intel, by recruiting agents, interrogating bad guys, etc.. All these efforts after some years of patient work gave good results: the elimination of the terror mastermind Osama bin Laden.

Here are the facts.

The elimination of Osama in Abbottabad hinged almost entirely on the hunt for a single man: a courier who had been trusted by bin Laden for years.

The search for that courier began exactly six years ago, officials said to The Washington Post, with the arrest of a senior al-Qaeda operative by Pakistani Special Forces.

The name of this terrorist was Abu Faraj al-Libi and he was taken into pakistani custody on May 2, 2005, and turned over to the CIA.

Two years earlier,  Faraj al-Libi had been designated Osama bin Laden’s “official messenger” to others within the terrorist organization in Pakistan.  His capture allowed agents to garner some critical intelligence and, eventually, begin unraveling bin Laden’s courier network.

Abu Faraj al-Libi informed the CIA interrogators that Bin Laden  strictly avoided phone or e-mail communications, because of fears that they would be intercepted. Instead, bin Laden relied exclusively on couriers, a system that enabled him to avoid detection for nearly a decade since Sept. 11, 2001.

Tracking al-Qaeda’s messengers therefore became CIA´s key activity.  Detainees in U.S. custody “flagged for the CIA certain individuals who might have been providing direct support to bin Laden,” a senior administration official said.

There was one individual in particular.

The CIA finally spotted an al-Qaeda courier that had been identified by detainees as “both a protege of Khalid Sheikh Mohamed and a trusted assistant of al-Libi,” the official said.

“Detainees also identified this man as one of the few al-Qaeda couriers trusted by bin Laden, indicated he might be living with or protecting Osama bin Laden,” the official said.

Ultimately the courier was tracked down at the compound where bin Laden was killed.

U.S. officials said to the press that two of the three men killed at the compound in addition to bin Laden were working for him as couriers.

“We’ve been staring at the compound for months trying to figure out for sure whether we had enough to go with,” one official told reporters after the raid. Operatives have “been working this target for years, years, years. They finally found the guy who led to the guy who led to the guy who led to the guy, and this is it.” READ MORE HERE.

About Human Intelligence HUMINT.

HUMINT is the oldest intelligence discipline and the one that is most often written about in the media. The CIA is the primary collector of HUMINT.  Many observers have argued that inadequate HUMINT has been a systemic problem and contributed to the inability to gain prior knowledge of the 9/11 plots. Today HUMINT efforts reflect the need to seek information from terrorists or narcotics traffickers who do not appear at embassy social gatherings. That means to get the hands dirty and start asking the bad guys. In the case of bin Laden, HUMINT was especially important as Osama avoided any activity that could be gathered electronically.

The U.S. Intelligence Reform and terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 stated the Sense of the U.S. Congress the need of an increased emphasis on and greater resources applied to enhancing the depth and breadth of human intelligence capabilities. In October 2005 the National Clandestine Service was established at CIA to undertake and coordinate HUMINT operations by CIA and other U.S. intel agencies.