The Strategic Considerations In The Choice Of Osama's Safe House

Tyler Durden's picture

Curious why Osama Bin Laden lived where he did? Stratfor Vice President of Intelligence Fred Burton examines the strengths and weaknesses of bin Laden’s safe-house and discusses how the al Qaeda leader was able to hide for so many years in a populated urban area.

This members-only video is embedded with express permission of STRATFOR. STRATFOR's report on Who the U.S. Will Target Next

Transcript of the video from Stratfor

Above the Tearline: Osama bin Laden's Safe-House

In this week’s Above the Tearline, we’re going to talk about terrorist safe houses and how Osama bin Laden hid in plain sight for many, many years.

Al Qaeda has a long history of utilizing secure and trustworthy logistical channels to assist them with communications, operational security, safe houses and transportation. We have seen one report that the house that Osama bin Laden was hiding in had been utilized in the past to safe haven a previous al Qaeda high-value target. Therefore, that location would fit the intelligence collection requirement to look for safe houses that have been used before.

The choice of the urban environment to safe haven Osama bin Laden is a sound one from a security perspective. You have the advantage of an established community, a neighborhood watch system that you can call in to play, children, animals that could sound the early alert if outsiders move in for surveillance or arrest purposes. If you contrast that with a rural environment, it’s easier for counterterrorism teams to move into a rural environment that would be secluded because your neighborhood system is not in play that could provide that early warning system that something’s afoot.

One of the other aspects that benefits the urban environment is a safe house in that kind of community is the inability to come in and set up a surveillance observation post. The reason you can’t is you are going to call attention to yourself as an outsider based upon the fact that most of these environments are very much community-based and the presence of individuals that show up out of the blue is going to raise the hue and cry for everybody in the neighborhood to be asking questions.

When you’re selecting a safe house, you want to have the ability to control the geography. You own the public safety apparatus, you have a system in place that’s going to alert you to outsiders. But it appears to me that this safe house was chosen for a specific reason and one could certainly suspect that the area was controlled by al Qaeda.

The Above the Tearline aspect in this case is two-pronged. The first is the compromised safe house. This was a location allegedly used before. If so, that’s a fatal error but it tracks with previous al Qaeda methodology of using trusted communications and logistic channels. More importantly, the human error failure here, meaning a courier, a communications node was compromised and that individual ultimately led Western intelligence, specifically the CIA, to that specific safe house. Those two variables, the compromised safe house and the compromised courier, led to Osama bin Laden’s demise.

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goldfish1's picture

Who buys this shiite?

Smu the Wonderhorse's picture

He was a Sunni, of course. But funny stuff nonetheless!

DocLogo's picture

I'd believe the official story more if the safe house was in foreclosure.

chumbawamba's picture

Seriously.  This is like Star Trek fans filling in all the details of the Star Trek universe, including where Captain Kirk slept, what his favorite pajamas were, how warm he commanded Computer to make his nighttime milk, etc.

Next, we'll learn what Osama billof Lading's Xbox Live screen name and what his high score on Call of Duty was, along with his internet browsing history and the favorite channels programmed on his remote.

I am Chumbawamba.

trav7777's picture

2 details not mentioned in the article....1 is it was close to the capital and ISI and lots of military folks.

2 is that it was close to the capital and ISI and lots of military folks.

fries_with_that's picture

Great question - no-one sane buys it. Tyler - this ZH website has to be one of the best on the web. If you are intent on making it THE best please research this nonsense. Bin Laden has been dead for years! Please research this with an open mind. But thanks for the website ZH - much appreciated.

goldfish1's picture

Bin Laden has been dead for years!

Irrelevant to the euphoria.

Ted Celeste's picture

Sad but true.  ZH is still the best website out there but posting this Stratfor nonsense is embarassing.  OBL has been dead a long time.

scratch_and_sniff's picture

How the f*** would you know?, what a windbag...if you want to hear yourself talk then buy a DAT recorder and stick it on a loop.

bankonzhongguo's picture

"Geronimo" was not hiding.

He was hidden (by ISI and "retired" Pakistani military-intelligence). 

If you even believe the current narrative.

If you were hiding from the FBI, what resources would you need to score a private doctor, mail order bride, a ton of friends, lots of pet rabbits and build 3 story compound within 700 meters of the entrance to the FBI Academy?

For this guy to be purportedly in this area is no different than the numerous CIA and FBI "safe houses" that populate the sleepy suburbs of McLean, Falls Church, Great Falls and Vienna Virgina.

Regardless of when and how (if) UBL went off to paradise, it is clear that a major schism between the US and Pakistan has been created and will be further exploited - threats of Pakistani loose nukes to invade our underwear, or more GWOT.  Going forward, the US will be funding various "anti-Muslim" groups in India to otherwise foment more regional distrust and work on the chronic and fanatical paranoia contained in Pakistani perception of Kashmir.

Your tax dollars at work.

Meanwhile, 1 in 7 Amerikan debt prisoners are now getting Food Stamps.

Where are the bankster prosecutions Obama/Holder?

patb's picture

" you want to have the ability to control the geography. You own the public safety apparatus, you have a system in place that’s going to alert you to outsiders. But it appears to me that this safe house was chosen for a specific reason and one could certainly suspect that the area was controlled by al Qaeda."

The area was controlled by the ISI. The Taliban is a ISI subsidiary,  and AL-Q was definitely in bed with ISI.

The ISI knew he was there, and, was controlling the flow to his safe house.

Hugh G Rection's picture



What, you won't release pictures and he was dumped in the ocean right away? Well I guess we can all take the gubbermints word for it.


They should have done this with JFKs corpse, then they wouldnt have had to fix the autopsy.  Maybe examination of a body thats been on ice since 02 would ruin a wonderful story...


Who is going to be boogeyman #1 now??? 

Smu the Wonderhorse's picture

And how have the newly installed Duke and Duchess of Cambridge been able to "hide" in plain sight in their cottage at Anglesey for several years? No reporters, etc. bother them there. Simple: the people there like them and are happy to cooperate in their privacy.

Diogenes's picture

The CIA has been looking for them for 10 years and not been able to find them, now you give them away.

Segestan's picture

What kind of ' Leader' hides in a safe house? Perhaps he should have lead his troops onto the battle field, like a warrior,  instead of die like a lamb. I mean he was going down one way or another.

writingsonthewall's picture

...what you mean like Bush 'lead his troops into war' - oh wait, I forgot, he didn't, he cowered like a lamb.


In fact - if I recall old Bush baby sat and listened to a class of chidren when he was told "sir - America is under attack" - when even the least patriotic American would have jumped up and headed off to do something about it.


Lets not make comparisons between the 'brave leaders' who send their subjects into war but don't attend themselves - I don't think this has really happened since George Washington (the highest ranked military president) - so people in glass houses really shouldn't throw stones.

NOTW777's picture

so much koolaid this early in the day?

disabledvet's picture

i need a woman.  why do you always have to go out and get one of those, too?

Segestan's picture

Stop twisting words.... I never wrote about bush. Same would apply to Bush except he never hide himself nor was he a warrior. Osama was purported to be a warrior.

Gert_B_Frobe's picture

Yes, perhaps Obambi could have gone along on the raid.

"Sorry Sir, your ride is toast and this transport is full. Don't worry, we'll come back for you."

Segestan's picture

Actually that is Exactly what Obama should have done. Just Imagine history if Mohammad did what Osama had done... hide. If you have an agenda dont respond to my post.

NonAggressionPrinciple's picture

if we are talking rational arguments here: the guy, as sick as he was, was no chicken hawk.  he sacraficed a life of sweet luxury when he fought on the front lines as a mujahadeen against the russians and then took on the US empire.  His chances of being hunted and killed were high....


Piece of shit murderer: yes

Coward: no (although crazy religious wackjob)




disabledvet's picture

"i didn't do it" and "if you're gonna dream, dream big!"

trav7777's picture

murderer?  You mean like Harry Truman?

HeadintheGame's picture

uh, dunno; kinda think King George would've referred to Sam Adams, Paul Revere and those 500 American boys who wasted all of those Brits at the North Bridge in Concord with the shot(s) heard round the world as terrorists too.  Simply depends on your perspective.

DaveyJones's picture

what kind of democratic champion of freedom executes political enemies for claimed crimes without any proof, trial or procedure except for information gained through torture  

oh, that's right, we're in a war against terrorism with no boundaries, rules, limits or end

terrorism has always existed but the "war" began curiously around the time, place and people drenched in peak oil

blindman's picture

he hid in plain sight because he was dead in a freezer
for the last 9 years.

NotApplicable's picture

With an Al-CIA-duh controlled dummy managed by the ISI from the nearby military academy ready to take the fall.

blindman's picture

Dr. Steve Pieczenik: Bin Laden, The Oswald Like Patsy Died 10 Years Ago! 1/7
here the doctor throws it down !

trav7777's picture

look...the ISI and CIA are not friends.  The ISI is the real terrorist organization behind 911, the Taliban, and Mumbai, along with others.  The taliban was and is merely their foreign policy arm in the manner that Hezbollah serves as Iran's proxy

Raynja's picture

High walls with barbed wire and multiple gates. They claim he was unarmed and he had no security. Was this a safe house or a prison.

disabledvet's picture

"he's been defrosted" now "here come the pics."

mspgrandi's picture

if Friitzl has kept for 18 years 7 people in a basement... i really dont see how hard can it be for Obama to remain hidden in a house for a few years....It s not that Pakistani police was going there to knock the door every day....

disabledvet's picture

Had a slight mis-read at first.  Thought it said "Obama"--I did take note "no former Presidents are joining our current President on his visit to the 9/11 site."  It has been said by downhill skiiers "it is the loneliest of competitions."

magpie's picture

Lots of freudian slips going around these days.

I too was awakened on monday to the news that Americans were celebrating on the street and greeted Obama's[sic] demise.

NonAggressionPrinciple's picture

I have to believe that something happened where they wanted him dead all of a sudden. 10 years is still too much to believe for 3 reasons:


1.  in a land of midgets, not too tough to find a guy thats 6'4" to 6'6"

2. diabetic that constantly needs insulin in rural pakistan

3. they did let him go in late 2001

bpj's picture

If Eric Rudolph could stay on the lam for 5 years in Georgia, then 10 years aint no big thang in Pakistan.


WeeWilly's picture

BPJ, Rudolph was in the NC mountains...

NOTW777's picture

wonder who holds the paper BAC or Chase.  could he get the note?

lsbumblebee's picture

The best place to hide is in a crappy Hollywood movie.

bpj's picture

Let the CIA release info that one of the computers was just chalked full of gay sex movies, and then sit back and watch the fun began.

10kby2k's picture

Check out his 29 year old shield (wife). She's for sale.

Greenhead's picture

One commentator made the point that he was being held there.  A kind of house arrest if you will.  Considering we were sending $3 billion a year to Pakistan to help with the search, I'm pretty sure they wanted to make sure the gig lasted as long as possible.

trav7777's picture

yes I believe it is likely that Pakistan was harboring him, perhaps shielding him as well

Mr. Poon's picture

No discussion of the sweeping vistas?  The recently landscaped yard?  The granite countertops that Mrs. bin Laden insisted on having installed?  The neighborhood whose housing prices haven't gone down in the last 20 years?  I can't believe Stratfor pretends this is a discussion of why bin Laden picked the house, when they haven't so much as mentioned the extraordinarily spacious walk-in closets!