Operation Neptune Spear: 7 Sizzling Secrets About the Bin Laden Mission

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.

Counter-Strike

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.

Operation Neptune Spear: 7 Sizzling Secrets About the Bin Laden Mission

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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.

Counter-Strike

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.

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4. 900 White House photos finally released in 2023

Despite the death of Osama bin Laden in 2011, the White House held off on releasing hundreds of government photographs from that evening revealing key moments inside the White House during the raid on bin Laden’s compound, including then-President Barack Obama calling world leaders to break the news. The Washington Post obtained more than 900 photos taken by official White House photographers in an FOI request and published 23 of them in 2023.

5.  Last words of the World's Most Wanted Man

Bin Laden’s fourth wife, Amal, spoke about the moments leading up to the death of the 9/11 mastermind during the US commando operation. The family said they heard bin Laden shout to his son, "Come up!" Amal, in an interview with the Sunday Times, said that as Navy Seals entered the compound, bin Laden turned to his son and uttered his last words: "Don’t turn on the light."


6. Cairo was part of the team

Cairo, a bomb-sniffing dog, was one of the warriors who helped capture bin Laden. Cairo graduated from a class of military dogs as a ‘one percenter’, a dog with exceptional athletic ability and a tireless work ethic. During the Pakistan operation, Cairo’s job was to sniff out bombs or insurgents and guard the team while they gathered intel. Cairo didn’t receive a Silver Star for gallantry, but President Barack Obama did meet Cairo at Fort Campbell, Kentucky where the 160th Airborne is based. Obama, referring to him as the ‘famous Cairo’, patted him instead.

7. The CIA-Zero Dark Thirty Cooperation Was Questioned

CIA officers worked closely with filmmakers Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal as they made Zero Dark Thirty about the hunt for Osama bin Laden - so closely, that Boal was invited to a dinner where CIA director Leon Panetta reportedly asked Boal to alert the Agency if he traveled to Afghanistan. Boal followed up with a call. The CIA also played a huge role in the film script. The details were included in 100 pages of CIA documents obtained by VICE News. The CIA and FBI have long been involved in Hollywood, but the unusually close relationship with Bolen raised eyebrows and questions about whether the Agency disclosed classified Information and whether there were ethics violations.

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