As you would expect, Osama Bin Laden kept messages to friends and family reasonably secure. However transmissions between his bodyguards and their families were not subjected to the same level of scrutiny. The fact that he stayed in such a high profile house was unusual however. Anyone with the slightest bit of curiosity would wonder about the purpose of a compound with 12 foot concrete walls and barbed wire. It is to be expected that he would have the cooperation of local military and intelligence elites, rebels have a very difficult time operating unless they stack the deck in their favor by allying with neighboring forces. Their lack of technological sophistication is also pretty standard, many documents have been captured unecrypted from insurgents because they don’t understand that encryption is very difficult to impossible to break if done properly.
Satellite phone calls that Osama bin Laden’s bodyguard made from July to August last year are believed to have helped US forces hunt down the Al Qaeda leader in the Pakistani compound where he was killed early Monday, according to local Pakistani intelligence sources.
US intelligence agencies tracked the Kuwaiti bodyguard’s calls from the compound to Al Qaeda associates in the cities of Kohat and Charsada in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, a narrative that was corroborated by several sources.
American intelligence officials discovered the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden by tracking one of his couriers. Information was collected from Guantánamo Bay detainees, who gave intelligence officers the courier’s pseudonym and said that he was a protégé of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. In 2007, U.S. officials discovered the courier’s real name and, in 2009, that he lived in Abbottābad, Pakistan. Using satellite photos and intelligence reports, the CIA surmised the inhabitants of the mansion. In September, the CIA concluded that the compound was “custom built to hide someone of significance” and that bin Laden’s residence there was very likely. Officials surmised that he was living there with his youngest wife.
Built in 2005, the three-story mansion was located in a compound about 4 km (2.5 mi.) northeast of the center of Abbottabad. While the compound was assessed by US officials at a value of USD 1 million, local real-estate agents assess the property value at USD 250 thousand. On a lot about eight times the size of nearby houses, it was surrounded by 12- to 18-foot (3.7-5.5 m) concrete walls topped with barbed wire. There were two security gates and the third-floor balcony had a seven-foot-high (2.1 m) privacy wall. There was no Internet or telephone service coming into the compound. Its residents burned their trash, unlike their neighbors, who simply set it out for collection. The compound is located (34°10′09″N 73°14′33″E) and 1.3 km (0.8 mi.) southwest of the closest point of the sprawling Pakistan Military Academy. President Obama met with his national security advisors on March 14, 2011, in the first of five security meetings over six weeks. On April 29, at 8:20 a.m., Obama convened with Thomas Donilon, John O. Brennan, and other security advisers in the Diplomatic Room, where he authorized a raid of the Abbottābad compound. The government of Pakistan was not informed of this decision.
US Intelligence services contacted a Pakistani physician through the US NGO Save The Children, to help them set up a fake vaccination program that would allow them to collect DNA to identify the people inside of the compound. This lead to him being arrested and sentenced to 33 years for Treason, supposedly for links to a local tribal terrorist organization:
To identify the occupants of the compound, the CIA worked with doctor Shakil Afridi to organize a fake vaccination program. Nurses gained entry to the residence to vaccinate the children and extract DNA, which could be compared to a sample from his sister, who died in Boston in 2010. It’s not clear if the DNA was ever obtained.
Colleagues at Jamrud Hospital in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber tribal were suspicious of Dr. Shakeel Afridi’s, the hospital’s chief surgeon, absences which he explained as “business” to attend to in Abbottabad. Dr Afridi was accused of having taken a half-dozen World Health Organization cooler boxes without authorization. The containers are for inoculation campaigns, but no immunization drives were underway in Abbottabad or the Khyber agency.
Pakistani investigators said in a July 2012 report that Afridi met 25 times with “foreign secret agents, received instructions and provided sensitive information to them.” According to Pakistani reports, Afridi told investigators that the charity Save the Children helped facilitate his meeting with U.S. intelligence agents although the charity denies the charge. The report alleges that Save the Children’s Pakistan director introduced Afridi to a western woman in Islamabad and that Afridi and the woman met regularly afterwards.