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With biometrics and pattern analysis, elite military squad find, kill bin Laden

With biometrics and pattern analysis, elite military squad find, kill bin Laden

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The elite American military squad that successfully killed Osama bin Laden combined biometric and voice-print databases with pattern analysis to find their target.

By now virtually everyone knows that an elite American military squad successfully assassinated extremist Muslim cleric, Al Qaida terrorist and U.S. Public Enemy No. 1 Osama bin Laden.

But a new report in the National Journal reveals the organizational and technological breakthroughs that allowed the Joint Special Operations Command strike to actually succeed.

Way at the bottom of a profile of the team behind the kill, Marc Ambinder reports:

When Gen. Stanley McChrystal became JSOC’s commanding general in 2004, he and his intelligence chief, Maj. Gen. Michael Flynn, set about transforming the way the subordinate units analyze and act on intelligence. [...]

People familiar with the unit suggest that McChrystal and Flynn introduced hardened commandos to basic criminal forensic techniques and then used highly advanced and still-classified technology to transform bits of information into actionable intelligence. One way they did this was to create forward-deployed fusion cells, where JSOC units were paired with intelligence analysts from the NSA and the NGA. Such analysis helped the CIA to establish, with a high degree of probability, that Osama bin Laden and his family were hiding in that particular compound.

These technicians could “exploit and analyze” data obtained from the battlefield instantly, using their access to the government’s various biometric, facial-recognition, and voice-print databases. These cells also used highly advanced surveillance technology and computer-based pattern analysis to layer predictive models of insurgent behavior onto real-time observations.

Ambinder notes that the military has begun to incorporate these techniques across the services. The idea: to improve the way intelligence is gathered, analyzed and utilized.

The Secret Team That Killed bin Laden [National Journal]

Photo: Samuel Morse/U.S. Special Operations Command

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Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure