The early-morning raid that killed Osama bin Laden was, according to CIA Director Leon Panetta, “the culmination of intense and tireless efforts on the part of many dedicated agency officers.” Panetta also thanked the “strike team, whose great skill and courage brought our nation this historic triumph.”
But it’s unclear who was on the strike team — the 25 people aboard two specially modified Army helicopters. Most of the “trigger-pullers” were, apparently, Navy commandos from the famed SEAL Team Six.
At the “pointy end” — a Beltway euphemism for combat — the operation targeting bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, looked overwhelmingly military. But the months-long process of gathering intelligence and planning had a CIA flavor.
Indeed, President Barack Obama described it as agency-led. The intelligence community pinpointed bin Laden’s location. Panetta monitored the raid in real time from Langley. The assault team may have included CIA operatives. Senior administration officials called it a “team effort.”
But did the CIA have people on the ground in Abbottabad? It’s not an academic question. Exactly who was on the strike force that killed bin Laden has major policy implications.