Sunday, November 06, 2011

NatGeo's riveting "The Last Days of Osama bin Laden", a film by Peter Bergen

On Sunday, Nov. 6, the National Geographic Channel aired Peter Bergen’s riveting documentary “The Last Days of Osama bin Laden,” one hour, at 9 PM EDT.

Mr. Bergen, well known as the media’s leading terrorism analyst in the days after 9/11 (and author of “Holy War, Inc: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden”, Free Press, 2002), starts the film by visiting bin Laden’s neighbors in Abbottobad. Then, the film reconstructs the raid in more detail than ever before, including all the meetings in the Obama administration leading up to it (starting in December 2010, about the time of the final debates on repealing “don’t ask don’t tell”), and showing members of the administration watching the raid inside the White House the afternoon of May 1, in a small room in the White House, which had been closed suddenly to visitors for the day (a tip-off that something was happening).

Osama bin Laden died in relative poverty. His compound had been set up to be relatively “self-sufficient”, and even had a miniature farm to raise its own food.  However, captured notes after bin Laden’s death still showed very dangerous plans against the US homeland.

The Administration was no more than 65% sure, on circumstantial evidence, that bin Laden had been living in the compound.  Nevertheless, on Friday April 29, Obama made the same decision Eisenhower had once made about D-Day.

The CIA had set up a training base in coastal North Carolina, not far from Fort Bragg, where the Navy Seals team rehearsed the raid.  

The film documents more clearly than most, how the CIA, NSA, and military branches (and their personnel) must work together.  Gen. Petraeus was in charge of the raid, and coordinated it from NATO headquarters in Kabul.

The CIA had, however, set up operatives (local people, or individuals who blend in with the locals) to gain intelligence as to how people had lived in the compound.  Generally, this is how the CIA “hire” ground “agents” for anything; they are “ordinary people” (the issue was also covered in another natGeo film aired tonight,  below).  The NSA had satellite intelligence on the compound and had even measured the length of bin Laden’s shadow, rather like estimating a distant person’s height by trigonometric triangulation.

The link is here.

See TV blog today for related films “Bomb Hunters: Afghanistan” and “CIA Confidential: Pakistan Undercover”.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of White House Situation Room.

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