It wasn’t long after 9/11 when a detainee in one of the CIA’s secret prisons first mentioned the name Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti. That name—plus years of intelligence work—would eventually lead America to Osama bin Laden, the AP reports. The first break came in 2004, when an operative captured in Iraq spilled the beans: al-Kuwaiti was a crucial courier close to then-operational commander Faraj al-Libi. When al-Libi was captured, he denied knowing al-Kuwaiti so vehemently that interrogators took it as confirmation of the courier’s importance.
All this intel came from the CIA’s controversial “black sites,” spies are quick to point out. “We got beat up for it, but those efforts led to this great day,” says one retired officer. Years later, they managed to discover al-Kuwaiti’s real name—Sheikh Abu Ahmed, the New York Times reports. In the middle of last year, Ahmed had a telephone conversation with someone being monitored by US intelligence; it was enough to help intelligence officials locate and watch him. Last July, Pakistani agents working for the CIA spotted him driving in Peshawar, and tracked him for weeks—right back to bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound. (Click for more on the raid, which also killed Osama's heir apparent.)