Bin Laden “wanted to be a martyr.” U.S. obliged.

May 12, 2011

Today’s special report ”The bin Laden kill plan” is based on interviews with two dozen current and former senior intelligence, White House and State Department officials. It explores the policies and actions of the United States in its 13-year hunt for Osama bin Laden. 

Richard Armitage, who was deputy secretary of state in Bush’s first term, voiced the view that prevailed through two presidencies. “I think we took Osama bin Laden at his word, that he wanted to be a martyr,” Armitage told Reuters.  

The U.S. government, he said, would do all it could to help bin Laden realize that goal.

The real breakthrough that led to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden came from a mysterious CIA detainee, Hassan Ghul, according to our sources.

Multiple U.S. intelligence officials told Reuters the real breakthrough that led to bin Laden came from a mysterious CIA detainee named Hassan Ghul. Ghul, who was not captured until 2004 at the earliest, was not subjected to waterboarding, the CIA’s roughest and most controversial interrogation technique. It had already been phased out by the time he was captured. But two U.S. officials acknowledged he may well have been subjected to other coercive CIA tactics, possibly including stress positions, sleep deprivation and being slammed into a wall. 

It was Ghul, the officials said, who after years of tantalizing hints from other detainees finally provided the information that prompted the CIA to focus intensely on finding Abu Ahmed al Kuwaiti, pseudonym for the courier who would lead them to bin Laden.

Much about Ghul remains obscure, including his nationality. Two U.S. officials told Reuters, however, that at some point the CIA turned him over to authorities in Pakistan. The officials said their understanding is that in 2007, Pakistani authorities released him from custody. The officials said the U.S. government now believes Ghul has once again become a frontline militant fighter.

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