Article Entry

05 May 2011


Bin Laden News Round Up: GEOINT is ‘Center of Gravity for Mission Success’

Added by Category: Daily Intelligence Brief, General

It is not very often that the Intelligence Community takes out the FBI’s most wanted fugitive with the instrumental help of the GEOINT sector. So, we are taking full advantage of this occasion by providing you with another post about GEOINT and the assignation of Bin Laden. And, we are not the only ones taking notice. We have pulled together all the key stories about the role of GEOINT in this mission for you. And, as one faithful reader commented on yesterday’s post: “Geography is the science of everything! GEOINT is the center of gravity for mission success! Bravo NGA!” We could have not said it any better. Read on and be sure to tune into our Friday’s Food for Thought post tomorrow.

Low-Profile Agency Shines in Wake of Bin Laden Mission
One of the critical agencies involved in taking down Osama bin Laden was the little-known National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which created images of bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. NGA’s maps and images were used to create models of the compound, including a reproduction of the structure that Navy SEALs used for training. NGA also tracked the use of electricity in the area. A senior analyst at NGA told Federal Times the agency used the National Reconnaissance Office’s spy satellites to take detailed images of the compound. The analyst, who spoke to Federal Times anonymously, said NGA worked with the CIA, National Security Agency and Defense Department to provide SEAL Team Six as much information as possible on what they could expect to find behind the compound’s 12- to 18-foot walls. Read the full Federal Times story here.

NGA Chief Touts Role in Bin Laden Killing
The U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) played a key role in the planning of the May 2 raid in Pakistan that killed terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, the agency’s top official announced May 2. NGA employees, who specialize in mapping and imagery intelligence, had been working behind the scenes for more than a decade to locate the United States’ most wanted criminal, NGA Director Letitia Long said in a statement provided to Space News. Working alongside the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency, NGA provided imagery, geospatial and targeting analysis, and modeling support to plan the mission, she said. Read the full Space News story here.

CIA Used Satellites To Prep For Bin Laden Raid
It was last August when the CIA first homed in on the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan where Osama bin Laden was ultimately found and killed. In the months leading up to that raid, the CIA and Pentagon used an array of satellite technology and imagery to learn more about that compound and who might be inside. Melissa Block speaks with John Pike, director of, about satellites and imagery used before and during the Osama bin Laden campaign. Check out the full NPR story here.

Bin Laden Tracked Down by National Geospatial Intelligence Workers in St. Louis
Federal workers at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which has operations in St. Louis, helped track down terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden. For more than a decade, the agency, which is based in Bethesda, Md., but has an office in Arnold, has worked behind the scenes — using imagery, map-based intelligence and geospatial information — to hunt down bin Laden. Read the full St. Louis Business Journal story here.

Satellites Made Osama Bin Laden Raid Possible
Intelligence officials and a top secret U.S. military strike team called upon a fleet of navigation, communications and imaging satellites in the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan. With President Barack Obama and his national security team following events from the White House, a group of elite U.S. Navy special forces operators rode helicopters Sunday night to the sprawling compound occupied by Osama bin Laden, killing the wanted terrorist and taking custody of his body. Situated in Abbottabad, a city just outside the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, the compound was surrounded by walls up to 18 feet high and topped with razor wire. Its existence and location were confirmed in August 2010 after years of questioning detainees and tracking couriers U.S. intelligence officials believed were linked to bin Laden. Read the full SpaceFlightNoe post here.

With Drones and Satellites, U.S. Zeroed in on Bin Laden
The chain of intelligence that led U.S. operatives to Osama Bin Laden on Monday reportedly began with a tip from a detainee at the notorious American prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. That tip led the CIA to one of Bin Laden’s trusted couriers — and then to the Al-Qaeda leader himself. Fundamentally, it was a success of human intelligence, or HUMINT. But air- and space-based sensors apparently played a vital role in helping corroborate the HUMINT and providing the assault team a detailed view of bin Laden’s compound — likely right up to the minute of the raid. There’s still much to be learned about how the hunt for bin Laden unfolded — and much of what we think we know today could turn out to be wrong. CIA director Leon Panetta hinted at the importance of overhead imagery in his post-attack statement, however. He praised the Agency’s “partners” at places like the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, or NGA, which specializes in exploiting pictures taken from space and from the sky. Read the full Wired Danger Room post here.

How A 2008 Geography Class Used Satellites To Find Osama Bin Laden…Sort Of
In the days since Osama bin Laden’s death, people have scrambled to find the true story behind the team and process that located his compound in the city of Abbottabad. How was bin Laden able to evade searchers for so long, why did he choose Abbottabad and how did U.S. forces eventually find him? The full picture will likely never be revealed. Still, people are searching for answers, and that search has turned up some interesting stories. Perhaps the most interesting (to me, at least, as a former geography major) comes from UCLA, where a 2008 college class carried out a project that used biogeographic theory to locate bin Laden – or so the headlines would have you believe. Read the full Forbes blog post here.

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  1. TK wrote: 9 May 2011

    It’s also safe to say that GEOINT is never NOT involved in every operation.

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