From satellites and drone aircraft keeping watch on Osama bin Laden’s compound, to the SEAL team cameras that transmitted video to the White House Situation Room where President Barack Obama and his national security team watched the operation as it occurred, video was a major component in the hunt for the world’s most wanted terrorist.
While White House officials will not discuss specifics about the equipment used to transmit images from bin Laden’s compound—located in Abbottabad, Pakistan—it is standard operating procedure for Navy SEAL teams, like that which conducted the raid, to be equipped with cameras on their helmets. Those cameras transmitted sound and video to the SEAL operation center, which in turn fed those images to the White House.
However, long before the May 1 attack, military and intelligence officials placed the compound under intense satellite and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) scrutiny. It is not known how many images of the compound were recorded, but officials have said those images were transformed into “actionable intelligence” using “highly advanced and still-classified technology.” In other words, they were used to determine how likely bin Laden was inside the compound. In addition, those images were used to develop the replica of bin Laden’s compound the SEALs used to practice the raid.
Once the decision was made to go forward with the operation, four MH-60 helicopters took off from Ghazi Air Base in Pakistan. In addition to the SEALs, the helicopters contained tactical signals, intelligence collectors, and highly classified hyperspectral imagers.
When bin Laden was killed—reports say he was shot three times, including a skull destroying headshot—the troops on the ground had to confirm that the body was bin Laden’s. A woman at the compound identified the dead man as bin Laden, but the SEALs also used facial recognition software. In addition, according to various reports, the military has advanced handheld biometric units, called “Secure Electronic Enrollment Kit,” (SEEK II), which were probably used on site to identify bin Laden. The devices, can take facial scans, fingerprints and iris scans, and transmit that data to the military database to test against existing FBI records.