Australian Counter Terrorism Conference

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


secau Security Research Centre, Edith Cowan University, Perth, Western Australia


Originally published in the Proceedings of the 1st Australian Counter Terrorism Conference, Edith Cowan University, Perth Western Australia, 5th - 7th December, 2011


Shortly after the May 2011 raid by American Special Forces that killed Osama Bin Laden, several of the fascinating clues that the Intelligence Community had used to unlock the puzzle of the Al Qaeda leader’s final whereabouts became public. While much analysis has focused on the centrality of surveillance of a trusted al Qaeda courier to narrow the bin Laden search, this paper offers attention to other compelling clues including the size and composition of bin Laden’s compound, its lack of internet or telephone service, and the peculiar behaviour of its occupants. On the basis of these leads, this paper evaluates methodologies that were proposed for use in the bin Laden search, including micro-level manhunt tactics and macro-level wide area search approaches involving satellite imagery and calculated search areas. Finally, the paper concludes with original proposals—ranging from information technology tools, to organization of analysts, to analytic methodology—designed to aid future such manhunts.