So it turns out a simple phone call led U.S. intelligence agents to Osama Bin Laden's hideout. But the tale of the trusted Bin Laden courier who made that call goes back to hard intelligence work that began nearly 10 years.
According to an Associated Press report, Bin Laden knew he was public enemy number one so he did not tell anyone, even senior al-Qaeda commanders, where he was. But he still needed to get his messages through, so he had couriers -- men he trusted with his life.
Shortly after September 11, several terror suspects told interrogators about an important courier who was known as Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti who was believed to be close to Bin Laden. Even Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, al-Qaeda's former number three man, confirmed knowing al-Kuwaiti. But he said he had nothing to do with al-Qaeda.
In 2004, top al-Qaeda operative Hassan Ghul was captured. He told the CIA that al-Kuwaiti was a courier and was crucial to the organization. Ghul said he was particularly close to Faraj al-Libi, who replaced Mohammed as al-Qaeda's operational commander.
"Hassan Ghul was the linchpin," a U.S. official said.
The AP writes:
Finally, in May 2005, al-Libi was captured. Under CIA interrogation, al-Libi admitted that when he was promoted to succeed Mohammed, he received the word through a courier. But he made up a name for the courier and denied knowing al-Kuwaiti, a denial that was so adamant and unbelievable that the CIA took it as confirmation that he and Mohammed were protecting the courier. It only reinforced the idea that al-Kuwaiti was very important to al-Qaida.
Intelligence agents knew if they could find al-Kuwaiti, they would find bin Laden.
The eventually learned his real name -- Sheikh Abu Ahmed. But still, they could not locate him.
However, last year Ahmed made the mistake of having a telephone conversation with someone -- a conversation that was being monitored by U.S. intelligence, according to an American official. Ahmed was not with Bin Laden at the time, but it was enough to locate Ahmed and follow him.
In August 2010, agents followed him to the compound in Abbottabad where al-Libi had once lived. They immediately suspected Bin Laden was now a resident of the large house, but it took many months to confirm that. And once it was confirmed, the Navy Seals did the rest.
Ahmed the courier was among those killed in the raid. It is unknown if he was able to deliver the final message to his boss: It was all my fault.