The Unites States' premier intelligence agency, the CIA has been granted permission by Pakistan to examine the compound where Osama bin Laden was killed. The CIA will send a forensics team, using sophisticated equipment, to search for al Qaeda materials that might have been hidden inside walls or buried at the site, US officials said.
The CIA will now be able to examine the complex up close as opposed to using satellites, stealth drones and spies operating from a nearby safe house that was shuttered when bin Laden was killed.
US officials said the CIA team will scour the site for information and objects that may have been overlooked by American commandos during the raid or Pakistani security forces who secured the facility in the aftermath. "The assault team was there for only 40 minutes," a US official said.
CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell negotiated access to the Abbottabad site during a trip to Islamabad last week, when he met with the head of Pakistan's main intelligence service, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, officials said.
The agreement is being viewed as a return to normalcy of relations between the CIA and ISI, strained since the American operation to kill bin Laden, and a series of recent ruptures between the CIA and its Pakistani counterpart.
Pakistan has also agreed to allow the CIA to examine materials that Pakistan's security forces have recovered from the compound, officials said. The agency has also asked Pakistan's spy agency, known as the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, for assistance in analyzing some of the records that were seized in the raid and brought to a CIA document exploitation facility in Northern Virginia.
In particular, US officials said that the CIA is seeking help in deciphering references to names of individuals and places. The intelligence gathered from the bin Laden compound is being billed as the the largest stash ever recovered relating to al Qaeda or any other terrorist network.
The data includes dozens of computer storage devices as well as huge piles of notes.
Even so, US officials said they want to be sure that other material has not been overlooked. The CIA plans involve the use of infrared cameras and other devices capable of identifying materials embedded behind walls, inside safes or underground.
One reason why Pakistan may have allowed the CIA access is because of lack of such high grade equipmen.
The agency also has equipment that could be used to recover information that has been burned or otherwise damaged.
The CIA has already been given access to three of bin Laden's wives who were taken into custody by Pakistan after the raid. But officials said none of them has been cooperative with US interrogators or provided meaningful intelligence.