Navy SEALs Who Captured, Killed Osama Bin Laden Return to United States

Data seized in bin Laden raid arrived at FBI lab before the SEALs' return.

May 4, 2011, 8:25 AM

May 4, 2011 — -- The elite Navy SEAL fighters responsible for capturing and killing Osama bin Laden returned to the United States today. Before their return, a trove of information seized by the SEALS arrived at a FBI laboratory.

The SEALs, members of elite Team Six, arrived at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, D.C., sources told ABC News.

The arrival of the military members comes amid news that President Obama will not release photos of Bin Laden's corpse. Obama administration officials believe the photos could pose a national security risk and endanger Americans living in the United States and abroad.

Watch "KILL SHOT: THE STORY BEHIND BIN LADEN'S DEATH," a special "20/20" Friday at 10 p.m. ET.

A trove of information seized in the 40-minute raid that left Bin Laden dead arrived at an FBI laboratory in Quantico, Va., between Monday night and Tuesday, sources told ABC News. At least five computers, 10 hard drives and more than 100 digital media items, including disks, DVDs and thumb drives, traveled more than 7,000 miles to the FBI facility.

In addition to the digital media and paper documents, the Navy SEALs also took guns and a number of other items from the Abbottabad, Pakistan, compound. Those guns have been checked for fingerprints, which will be run through a huge intelligence database that culls fingerprints from terrorist safe houses and the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan.

DNA evidence was taken from some of the killed and wounded who were guarding Bin Laden.

"We want to know who has been there and where else they may have been," one official said.

Duplicates of this data will be given to a special interagency task force at the CIA's counterterrorism center.

Of all the equipment that the SEALS took into and out of Bin Laden's sprawling compound in Abbottabad, the one thing they didn't have was a tape measure to help in identifying the terrorist. One SEAL was forced to lie down next to the corpse of Bin Laden to approximate his height, sources told ABC News.

Bin Laden appeared to be ready to run at any time with money and phone numbers stitched into his clothes when the SEALs found him on an upper floor of his compound.

Bin Laden's clothing had 500 euros and two phone numbers sewn into it, sources told ABC News. Analysts are tracing those phone numbers and going through each computer seized, running keyword searches using words like "explosives" or "weddings." Weddings is a word often used by al Qaeda to signify a bombing.

"There's a lot we have to go through, some encryption, some coding. It's in another language. It's in Arabic, so there's a lot to go through before we really find out what we have, but remember small pieces of information can be critically important," said Mike Rogers, R-Mich., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

At a briefing on Capitol Hill, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said that some of the information seized has already been reviewed by her agency.

As the material is examined, analysts will look to see if more individuals should be added to the terrorist and no-fly watchlists.

"The material that was seized will be reviewed by an interagency team -- CIA, Justice, other intelligence agencies and other law enforcement agencies are all contributing people and machines. ... As we glean information from that material we will make appropriate determinations about who would be added to the watchlist and no-fly list," said Attorney General Eric Holder at Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing today.

Osama bin Laden Unarmed During Raid

Officials said the No. 1 priority in evaluating the information would be to hunt for sketches and plans for attacks abroad and within the United States that Bin Laden had approved. Second, analysts are hunting for evidence regarding Ayman al-Zawahiri's whereabouts. He is al Qaeda's No. 2 in command and U.S. officials assume that Bin Laden knew where he was and how to contact him.

"It's our best opportunity for new clues about him," one official said.

When the 24 SEALs arrived by helicopter to the sprawling million-dollar compound in Abbottabad, intelligence showed only 60 percent to 80 percent certainty that Bin Laden was in the compound.

"The reality was we could have gone in there and not found Bin Laden at all," said CIA Director Leon Panetta on PBS' Newshour.

The president and top advisers, including Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, watched the action in real time, likely in night vision from a drone aircraft.

Panetta was on a corner of the screen explaining to the president and his team what they were seeing.

Panetta was receiving information from Vice Admiral William McRaven, a former SEAL himself. McRaven was running the operation.

"He is a stud. ... When things were at their tensest, he just got cooler," said one official about McRaven.

Things got tense when one of the Blackhawk helicopters stalled, breaking a rotor on the 18-foot walls of the compound. The SEALs switched to plan B and brought in a Chinook helicopter.

The elite team engaged in a firefight with Bin Laden's two trusted couriers, waking up neighbors.

"I heard gunfire around 1 a.m.," said Syed Riaz Hussein. "It was followed by a huge blast."

The SEALs moved to the third floor of the compound where they found Bin Laden. The 9/11 mastermind was unarmed. His young wife charged at the SEALs and was shot in the leg.

The SEALs worried that Bin Laden might be wearing a suicide vest or have the room booby trapped.

White House spokesman Jay Carney reaffirmed that killing Bin Laden -- even though he was unarmed -- was lawful.

"The team had the authority to kill Osama bin Laden unless he offered to surrender, in which case the team was required to accept his surrender if the team could do so safely. The operation was conducted in a manner fully consistent with the laws of war," said Carney at a press conference today.

Five people died, including Bin Laden's son Khalid. Twelve to 15 others, including women and children, survived the raid. At least two women and two children who survived have been taken to Islamabad.

The first indication for Obama that Bin Laden had been killed came when a Navy SEAL sent back the coded message to Washington that said simply "Geronimo-E KIA."

ABC News' Luis Martinez, Nick Schifrin, Habibullah Khan, Brian Ross and Lisa Jones contributed to this report.

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