SEAL Team Six descended under the cover of night in Abbottabad, Pakistan facing helicopter troubles and fierce resistance to confront the world's most wanted terrorist.
President Barack Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden on live television on May 1, 2011, in Washington, D.C.: The al-Qaeda founder who masterminded the 9/11 attacks that killed 3,000 people was dead.
Since the 2011 raid, many details of Operation Neptune Spear have emerged. Here are seven sizzling secrets you likely don’t know about the US mission.
1. The US used AI to analyze intel found in the compound
Navy SEALS found everything from al-Qaeda emails to Disney films, books, and flash drives - including bin Laden’s diary and thoughts on the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings. The raid also unearthed video games like Counter-Strike, where players team up to fend off counterterrorism efforts. Intelligence officers analyzed their findings with AI to discover future al-Qaida plans and delve into the terrorist organization's operations. Years ago it took two hours for AI to analyze tens of billions of pieces of relevant data from the raid. Today's AI could perform the same analysis in milliseconds. The US isn't revealing what they discovered about al-Qaeda operations, but said AI enabled analysts to find what they're looking for and revealed intelligence they didn't know they were looking for that was both relevant and important.
2. There's doubt about whether the raid went down as reported
While US officials say they found bin Laden by tracking his courier, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh accused the White House of lying in his London Review of Books article in 2015. Hersh claims bin Laden wasn't ‘hiding’ when Navy Seals found him. Instead, Hersh alleges Pakistan's spy agency ISI held bin Laden as a prisoner and an officer tipped the US to bin Laden's whereabouts in exchange for a $25m bounty. Hersh also said there was no firefight as “the ISI guards had gone". Critics note that Hersh’s story is primarily based on a single anonymous source.
3. Snowden leak points to bin Laden DNA test
A US military lab in Afghanistan analyzed DNA to confirm bin Laden’s identity after he was killed by a Navy commando team, according to NSA files leaked by Edward Snowden. Snowden’s files indicated that a forensic intelligence laboratory run by the Defense Intelligence Agency performed DNA testing, The Guardian reported, saying tests "provided a conclusive match". The Pentagon denied having any records of the tests when asked earlier by AP.