WASHINGTON — The U.S. commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden was guided from space by a fleet of satellites, which aimed dozens of separate 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 was also able to penetrate guarded communications among al-Qaida operatives by tracking calls from mobile phones identified by specific calling patterns, the document shows. Analysts from the Central Intelligence Agency pinpointed the geographic location of one of the phones and tied it to the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where an accumulation of other evidence suggested bin Laden was hiding.
The new disclosures about the hunt for bin Laden are contained in classified documents that detail this year's "black budget" for U.S. intelligence agencies, including the NSA and 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 counter-terrorism cooperation among the U.S. government's numerous intelligence agencies.