It was the most complex and expensive manhunt in American history. Over the course of two decades, three presidential administrations, countless deaths and billions of dollars, the world’s most wanted criminal somehow remained elusive. Then, on the evening of May 1, 2011, President Barack Obama announced to the world: “Justice has been done.” Just hours earlier, U.S. Special Forces conducted a top-secret mission to storm a house on the outskirts of Abbottabad, Pakistan, killing Osama bin Laden and four others with no loss of American lives.
Now for the first time comes the full, inside story of the manhunt, told by the men and women who dedicated much of their lives to this mission impossible. Years before the tragic events of 9/11, many in government understood the threat bin Laden and Al Qaeda posed to the United States and worked frantically to uncover their secrets. “Terrorism consumes you,” says Pat D’Amuro, former assistant director for the FBI’s counter-terrorism unit. “You don’t see your family, you miss birthdays, you miss holidays. If you don’t let it consume you, it’ll destroy you.”
Through the eyes of hunters like D’Amuro, THE HUNT FOR BIN LADEN reveals the epic rise and fall of the world’s most notorious terrorist, from his start as a mujahidin fighter in Afghanistan to his declaration of war on America and the stream of vicious attacks around the world that made him a household name. The special also offers new details into earlier attempts to capture or kill bin Laden, including “Operation Infinite Reach,” the Clinton administration’s 1993 bombing of training camps in Afghanistan that missed him by only two hours. There was also the infamous failure at Tora Bora, when Afghan forces and a small group of U.S Special Forces had bin Laden cornered in a mountain cave, only to let him slip away.
Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda presented a historic challenge for a superpower accustomed to defending itself against nation states. THE HUNT FOR BIN LADEN tells a story of political caution, missed opportunities, shifting agendas and growing tension between intelligence chiefs, presidents and the military as America wavered between two approaches: treating terrorism as a crime to be investigated or a war to be fought with all the necessary tools. September 11 settled the matter, but it would be 10 long years before its mastermind was brought to justice. THE HUNT FOR BIN LADEN puts viewers inside the room with President Barack Obama and his advisors for the pulse-pounding moments leading up to the message from Pakistan: “Geronimo EKIA.” Osama Bin Laden, enemy killed in action.
THE HUNT FOR BIN LADEN is produced by Brook Lapping Productions for Smithsonian Channel in association with ITV. Executive Producers are Brian Lapping and Kate Botting. The Director is Leslie Woodhead and Producer is Talya Tibbon. Executive Producers for Smithsonian Channel are David Royle and Charles Poe.