On Sunday, May 1, President Barack Obama announced the long hunt for one of the world’s most-wanted men was over-a U.S. operation in Pakistan had resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden.

But this operation may have never happened, much less been conducted successfully, if it wasn’t for the work of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). According to a senior NGA analyst, who spoke to POB on condition of anonymity, the U.S. intelligence community did not know the exact location of bin Laden’s suspected hideout until the NGA was able to find it.

“Geospatial [intelligence] really became a very significant part [of the mission] actually,” the analyst says, adding that the information the NGA produced was “certainly critical to the operation.”

Though the NGA had participated in the United States’ hunt for bin Laden for many years, the analyst says the agency most recently became in involved in the late summer and early fall of 2010. At that time, the NGA took intelligence gathered from other agencies, including the CIA and National Security Agency, and began to search for the location where bin Laden was suspected to be hiding.
The NGA complemented its partner agencies’ work with geospatial intelligence that included imagery, analysis and modeling, using what the analyst describes as a “complex mix” of both commercial and proprietary technologies. With this work, the analyst says they were able to provide precision geo-coordinates for the facility.
“We were able to take circumstantial evidence and help the decision makers make the most informed decisions with what we had available,” the analyst says. “When folks see something, they begin to believe it … they begin to understand it.”
In the months leading up to the May 1 raid, the analyst says the NGA continued to exchange information between the agencies involved and provide a greater level of understanding of their intelligence. According to the analyst, the NGA both embedded staff with their partner agencies and had virtual contact with the mission.

Though the successful operation to find bin Laden was a significant milestone for both the United States and the NGA, the analyst says it’s merely a very public example of the geospatial intelligence work they do behind the scenes all the time. “It’s a great opportunity to get out in the open and show what we’re able to do,” the analyst says.

Letitia A. Long, director of the NGA, says the agency was honored to be public servants participating in this operation.

“I am extremely proud of the work that NGA men and women have done that led directly to this outcome,” Long said. “Their [geospatial intelligence] was critical to helping the intelligence community pinpoint bin Laden’s compound.”
According to the analyst, it was certainly a proud day for what the NGA was able to accomplish.

“The fact that we were able to contribute to such a successful outcome is truly satisfying,” the analyst said.