In bin Laden Compound, US Watched 'the Pacer'

Bob Woodward fleshes out details of Osama bin Laden takedown
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted May 7, 2011 10:28 AM CDT
Osama bin Laden Takedown: In Abbottabad Compound, US Watched 'the Pacer'
In this May 2, 2011 file photo, taken by a local resident, shows the wreckage of a helicopter in the compound where Osama bin Laden was shot and killed in a firefight with US forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan.   (AP Photo/Mohammad Zubair, File)

(Newser) – A mundane phone call led to the downfall of the world's most elusive terrorist: “I’m back with the people I was with before," Osama bin Laden's courier told a friend as US ears perked up. Bob Woodward fleshes out the takedown in today's Washington Post; among the details:

  • When US officials tracked the courier to bin Laden's compound, they observed a tall man who walked the grounds for an hour or two each day. They dubbed him "the pacer," Woodward notes. "His routine suggested he was not just a shut-in but almost a prisoner."

  • One adviser put the odds that the pacer was bin Laden at 40%: Even so, he said, that's "38% better than we have ever had before.”
  • Bin Laden was known to be taller that 6-foot-4; US intel could only narrow the pacer's height to between 5-foot-8 and 6-foot-8.
  • Navy Vice Adm. William McRaven was given the task of developing a "boots-on-the-ground" plan, and ultimately turned to the SEALs, who are known for quick strikes. The operation became known as the McRaven Plan.
  • A 6-foot SEAL stretched out next to bin Laden's corpse to approximate his height, which was several inches taller. When that got relayed to Obama, he said, “We donated a $60 million helicopter to this operation. Could we not afford to buy a tape measure?”
(Read more Osama bin Laden stories.)

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