One of the reasons U.S. Navy SEALs were able to so skillfully execute the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound last year was a CIA training facility in North Carolina that mirrored the architecture of bin Laden's actual compound in Pakistan. In 2011, during those crucial months that SEAL Team Six trained there, it was one of the most secretive facilities on U.S. soil. Now, for the first time, the facility has been revealed on Bing's satellite map service during a phase when it was under construction. Peekaboo:
That's an aerial shot of Harvey Point Defense Testing, a CIA training facility in North Carolina. It was taken on February 15, 2011. Look familiar? Here's a shot of Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, shortly after the May 2011 raid.
It's a fascinating discovery and it's all thanks to the eagle-eyed folks over at Cryptome.com, who identified the compound this morning after reading the book No Easy Day by former SEAL Team Six member Matt Bissonnette. In multiple passages in the book, Bissonnette mentions training for the raid in North Carolina. "This training exercise down in North Carolina sounded like another bad mission. But I wouldn’t know until Monday," Bissonnette writes in the book. From there, the folks over at Cryptome apparently pored over acres of satellite imagery of CIA facilities in North Carolina. Below is a view of the larger CIA center with the mock-up circled in red:
But here's where this gets really interesting. What happens when you view the same training facility at the same coordinates on Google Maps instead of Bing?
Poof! Vanished! It's gone:
Apparently, just like the real-life compound in Pakistan, the CIA's mock-up compound has also been destroyed. Anybody know why? (It's an open question.) The other thing we can divine from this is that Bing apparently has less up-to-date maps than Google. But in this case, that's quite a valuable feature!
Update: We asked the CIA about the rationale for demolishing the mock-up. Specifically, if there was any thought of preserving it for its historical significance. The CIA declined to comment. We suppose the structure was deemed no longer operationally useful.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.