News / USA

Informant's Tip was Crucial to bin Laden Operation, Says Analyst

Pakistan army troops remove canvas screens from outside a house, where al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was caught and killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan, May 3, 2011
Pakistan army troops remove canvas screens from outside a house, where al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was caught and killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan, May 3, 2011
Greg Flakus

One man with a unique perspective on the killing of Osama bin Laden and other counterterrorism efforts is Fred Burton, an analyst with the Texas-based private global security analysis firm STRATFOR.  

Crucial information sources

According to early accounts of the U.S. military raid in Pakistan that resulted in the death of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, U.S. intelligence agents were able to track him down through years of analyzing information gathered from various sources, including interrogations of other terrorists who were in custody.  But information about the compound where bin Laden was living might have been provided by sources on the ground.

Intelligence analyst Fred Burton says he believes the key to the bin Laden operation's success was a human asset, a person or persons in Pakistan who provided information to the U.S. intelligence agents.

"Obviously, it was a beautiful counterterrorism operation," said Burton.  "But in essence, the human asset that assisted in leading the counterterrorism team to the location is the real brilliance in this operation."

Money for info

Fred Burton began tracking terrorists in the mid-1980s when he worked with the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service, before going to work for STRATFOR in 1998.  He says offering money for information on Osama bin Laden might have been crucial.

"I ran the Rewards for Justice program, which is the $20 million for bin Laden," Burton noted.  "So there is no doubt that the individual who assisted in this matter has become a very wealthy man."

Burton says that if a person did assist U.S. intelligence in finding Osama bin Laden, that person and his or her family most likely have already been transported out of Pakistan to a safe location, where they have assumed new identities.

Raw intelligence

Having spent years working with other agents sifting through raw intelligence data for clues, Burton says fresh information gathered in raids like the one Sunday in Pakistan can be critically important in the war on terror.

"It has been my experience in these kinds of operations that you are going to have a tremendous amount of documents, papers, cell phones, possibly satellite phones, if not even a laptop that has been picked up," added Burton.

He says information gathered at the site in Pakistan where bin Laden was killed could lead to more U.S. military anti-terror operations.

Hiding in plain sight

For years, terrorism experts and international authorities had spoken of Osama bin Laden as a man on the run, living in caves and remote villages in the mountains of Afghanistan or in Pakistan's remote tribal regions.  So it came as a surprise to many when he was located in a city in the heart of Pakistan, but not to Fred Burton.

"He was hiding in plain sight in an urban-like environment," added Burton.  "Other al-Qaida high-value targets have been captured in the same way.   So it does not surprise me that he was picked up in that environment.  He has probably been there for a long time."

Fred Burton has authored two books about his work in tracking down terrorists, Ghost:  Confessions of a Counterterrorism Agent and Chasing Shadows: A Special Agent's Lifelong Hunt to Bring a Cold War Assassin to Justice.

You May Like

800-Pound Man Determined to Slim Down

Man says he was kicked out of hospital for ordering pizza; wants to be an actor More

Australia Prepares to Resettle 12,000 Syrian Refugees

Preference will be given to refugees from persecuted minorities, and the first group is expected to arrive before late December More

S. African Miners Seek Class Action Suit Against Gold Mines

The estimated 100,000 say say they contracted the lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis in the mines More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs