Little-Known Recon Agency Quietly Plays Key Role in bin Laden Bust

Friday, 06 May 2011 03:42 PM

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A government agency so below the radar that even President Barack Obama used to be unaware of its existence was a critical part of the daring raid that killed 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden, the National Journal reports. Among other tasks, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, or NGA, turned reconnaisance data into detailed three-dimensional renderings of the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where bin Laden was hiding.

NGA staff also helped the Joint Special Operations Command run mission simulations, and provided the CIA with a kind of census of the compound by estimating the number of residents inside, and identifying them by gender and height.

The painstaking and highly technological research sounds worthy of a Tom Clancy plot, and by all accounts it helped maximize the chances of the mission’s success. But unlike, say, Navy SEALs Team 6, the analysts at NGA attract little fanfare.

Case in point: During a presidential photo op last spring, Obama encountered some NGA staffers having lunch at a Washington, D.C., burger joint, and asked, “So, what do you do?”

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