On a 2008 episode of “Real Time with Bill Maher,” Christiane Amanpour said that she was told by a source that bin Laden was in “a villa, a nice comfortable villa.” Unfortunately, the “This Week” anchor, who at the time was the chief international correspondent at CNN, wasn’t able to say more because comedian Gary Shandling and host Bill Maher kept interrupting.
When Maher jokingly asked if the villa was in Cabo, Amanpour said it was “in Pakistan. Not a cave.” Thanks a lot, Gary and Bill, for totally ruining our chances of finding out anything more.
Amanpour, though, was not the only one who had some trace of bin Laden’s whereabouts. A 2009 paper authored by a UCLA geographer, his colleague and a class of undergraduates didn’t pinpoint bin Laden’s exact location — but they got close. NPR reports that Thomas Gillespie, the man who led the study, told them the study found “bin Laden would be in Pakistan, in a city, and not too far from the border with Afghanistan and that nation's Tora Bora mountains — where he had last been seen, in 2001.” Though the study picked Parachinar, Pakistan with a 98 percent likelihood as bin Laden’s hideout spot; Abbottabad, Pakistan fell within a 88.9 percent likelihood.
Gillespie criticized bin Laden’s choice of lodgings to USA Today, saying he “was surprised [Bin Laden] went with the super-compound. Seems like a really bad choice. Not a good way to hide out.” Again, we missed an opportunity: Gillespie told NPR no one in the military or government ever tried to contact him.
St. Petersburg Times reporter Meg Laughlin claims she and photographer Carl Juste saw bin Laden in Islamabad, Pakistan while on assignment for the Miami Herald in 2002:
“As the car stopped in traffic, Carl yelled, ‘Look! There’s Osama bin Laden!’
We couldn't believe our eyes. There, in front of us was the most wanted man in the world, the face on countless posters offering a reward of $25 million for information on his whereabouts. There was no mistaking him. Towering over the men with him, he was lanky with olive skin and that scraggly long beard, those sad brown eyes and that splayed nose.
The three of us began screaming, ‘It’s Osama bin Laden! Osama bin Laden!’”
Laughlin said they called their international editor in Washington, D.C. with the news, but were told that U.S. intelligence made their claim seem unlikely.
I’m not saying that it’s the fault of Gary Shandling, Bill Maher, editors in Washington, the military or the government that it took a decade to root out bin Laden. But...
Know any other missed opportunities? Let us know in the comments!