WASHINGTON — For some time, a few members of Congress have known that intelligence operatives were watching a mysterious compound a few dozen miles outside Islamabad, Pakistan.
The operatives had gleaned certain details from "enhanced interrogation" of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other high-value terrorism suspects - information that in turn led them to couriers frequently visiting the compound, said U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Those led to more questions.
"It was really the frequency with which those couriers visited.... It was the way they acted," Burr said Monday in a conversation with reporters.
"When you look at a picture of terrorist activities around the world, you look for anomalies, and that was certainly an anomaly that was a suggestion there was reason to look forward," the Winston-Salem Republican said.
Burr would not say exactly what the Intelligence Committee knew ahead of time, though he told reporters that committee members receive confidential briefings on Pakistan about once a month.
There have been tensions between the United States and Pakistan about whether the country is doing enough to root out terrorists even as it receives U.S. aid.
U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick, a Charlotte Republican, sits on the House Intelligence Committee and has warned about the potential for terrorists to find safe harbor in Pakistan. Myrick, who is chairwoman of a panel on terrorism and human intelligence gathering, declined an interview request Monday.
U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, a Greensboro Democrat and member of the Armed Services Committee, has visited Pakistan twice and said the U.S. has "strong relationships" with the country.
On Friday, her subcommittee will hold a closed hearing about work the special operations forces are doing in the region.
Navy special operations forces conducted the operation that killed bin Laden. But the Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg manages special operations for the military, and Hagan said Monday she expected to be briefed more fully about JSOC's role in the mission.
Burr said the most striking clue so far available about how bin Laden was hunted appears in the secret Guantanamo assessment file of Abu Faraj al-Libi, a Libyan detainee who was named as al-Qaida's third most senior leader when he was captured in May 2005.
The assessment was one of more than 750 obtained by the WikiLeaks website and given to McClatchy and other media organizations.
"The information that we used to find the couriers, which is eventually information that led us to this compound, and the success of the mission yesterday, was a direct result of enhanced interrogations," Burr said.
The name of bin Laden's designated courier, //Maulawi Abd// al-Khaliq Jan, appears to have come from al-Libi during 2005 and 2006 interrogations. Al-Libi was in CIA custody from shortly after his capture until he was transferred with 13 other "high-value detainees" to Guantanamo in September 2006.
Burr wouldn't say which interrogation techniques might have been used to get the information that eventually contributed to Sunday's raid, but he said the U.S. might need to consider revisiting the efficacy of such techniques in the future.
"It may not pay off instantaneously, but it will give us the ability to fill in dots we haven't been able to connect," Burr said.
McClatchy's Tom Lasseter contributed to this report.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-383-0012