After the relentless pounding of Tora Bora caves and tunnels and hiding space by a massive American assault, US military personnel went to body after body punching a special device into the various cadavers found to do field-based testing of the DNA of the remains of those found against the held and known DNA of Osama bin Laden.
Years after, many Defense Department, CIA and other national security intelligence practitioners thought that bin Laden, who needed dialysis support, was dead -- that there was no way that he could have survived all these years without surfacing or being exposed by informants.
Tonight, we now know he is dead. President Obama is about to report on this. We know very few details at the time of this writing -- but we know that he was alive until a week ago, while many thought he was dead years ago.
My colleague and friend Peter Bergen, who interviewed bin Laden in 1997, will no doubt have much to say about bin Laden's death -- which does matter but which does not necessarily mean that al Qaeda affiliates and look alike outfits will give up their nefarious endeavors.
Updates below... Update 12:00 AM EST: Obama Delivers: Checks off the Bin Laden Box...
President Barack Obama just spoke to the nation and world and reported on his role in making the decision to act on intelligence that Osama bin Laden had been found in Pakistan.
He took action. US intelligence operatives moved on bin Laden a week ago. Obama said, "Justice has been done".
The President of the United States has checked off the box in bringing Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda to justice -- and probably assured his reelection in 2012.
Update 11:40 PM EST: According to sources in the US intelligence community, bin Laden was near/in Islamabad, Pakistan.
He was with family in a compound.
Leads from Pakistan ISI -- that's right -- ISI, led US forces and intel to the site.
The US used its own sources to confirm and "received clearance to strike from Pakistan."
According to my source, "US direct action with strong assist and support from Pakistan" killed Osama bin Laden.
Update 11:25 PM EST: Military sources have told me that Osama bin Laden was killed about one week ago in a drone strike. This seems to be something some are raising doubts about -- but both stories are out.
DNA testing has been conducted this past week.
US military bases are now at Force Protection level "Bravo".
Bases overseas are at Force Protection level "Charlie".
Usual level is "Alpha".
Bravo apparently means full i.d. checks, armor evident, machine guns on sight, etc.
Charlie is much more severe. Heavy artillery on hand. Thorough checks of everyone.
***Update: At the time of my writing the above, my sources in the military and CIA shared the background statement above that ISI participated in supporting the Navy Seals action. It seems increasingly clear that this is not true, or at least the truth is murky. I'll leave the original posting up as this was what I was told by an informed source (and confirmed by another) who may in retrospect have either been misinformed, or working to spin a story perhaps, or ultimately accurate. I have to admit to doubts about this claim now given what we are learning. Thanks to those of you who have commented.
Best, Steve Clemons