Bin Laden: If Ever We Wanted to Bring ‘Em Back Alive

At Wired’s Danger Room, David Axe and Noah Shactman wrote of Osama bin Laden’s death at the hands of U.S. Special Operations: “Depending on which version is true, Pakistan either had a direct role in the risky, bloody raid … or no role at all.” More to the point:

The crash occurred near the Pakistani Military Academy in Abbottabad, according to the report, highlighting Bin Laden’s long-term proximity to Pakistan government forces — and thus the great extent of his local protection.

In other words, the size of the compound alone meant its inhabitants must have been known to the Pakistani authorities, yet they weren’t the source of the information leading to the attack on the compound.

Meanwhile MSNBC reports: “The U.S. was conducting DNA testing and used facial recognition techniques to help formally identify him, Reuters reported. Results of the DNA tests were expected to be available in the next few days.” From another report: “ABC News just reported that the government used a DNA sample from the brain of a deceased bin Laden sister held by a Boston hospital to match the DNA from bin Laden’s body.”

Which presumably is why the rumor arose that he was killed earlier in the week and the news withheld until the body was identified. Whatever the case, burying bin Laden’s body at sea limits the number of people who saw the dead body. It fuels those who stand ready to make the case he wasn’t really killed perhaps because they think he was/is a CIA asset. Nor did Al-Arabiya TV help when it ran a Photoshopped image superimposing mortal injuries on a photo of bin Laden taken when he was alive.

Meanwhile, for those who fear a bout of blowback, it might be time to duck and cover, if you believe disclosures in the latest WikiLeaks dump. From the International Business Times

Shortly after 9/11, Al Qaeda had warned to set off a “nuclear hellstorm” if Osama bin Laden is ever captured or killed, according to U.S. government documents that were leaked just last month by Wikileaks.

Wikileaks’ files show that al Qaeda’s senior leader Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was detained and interrogated, had spilled the beans that the terrorist group had, indeed, hidden a nuclear bomb in Europe and that it would be detonated if Osama bin Laden is captured or killed.

While this is, no doubt, bravado, it does highlight an opportunity missed. If we were able to bring bin Laden back alive, we might have extracted information from him about his attempts to secure nuclear-weapons — the know-how, the technology, and the fuel. No, of course not through torture — conceivably it might have been something he’d have wanted to brag about.

Sure, coaxing bin Laden out of his compound might have been unrealistic because it would have required rustling up all his wives, children, and grandchildren that could be found, lining them up outside his compound, and threatening to kill them. Naturally, we wouldn’t, but it would have been up to him to call our bluff. From the viewpoint of those concerned with nuclear terrorism, something along those lines might have been worth trying.