Soon after coming to office, President Obama made it clear that killing or capturing Osama bin Laden was one of his highest national security priorities.
But it wasn't until last summer that intelligence officials caught a break in their pursuit.
In September 2010, the CIA presented Obama with a set of assessments that indicated bin Laden could be hiding in a compound in northwest Pakistan. Starting in mid-March, the president convened at least nine National Security Council meetings to discuss the intelligence suggesting bin Laden may be hiding out virtually in plain sight.
The CIA developed its theory through leads from individuals in bin Laden's inner circle and other captured fighters following September 11. Intelligence officials were repeatedly told about one courier working for bin Laden as someone that America's most wanted man deeply trusted.
The detainees provided U.S. officials the courier's nickname and identified him as a protégé of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and a trusted assistant of Abu Faraj al-Libbi, once al-Qaida's third-highest-ranking official. (He was captured in 2005.)
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The president finally gave the order for the operation to pursue bin Laden on Friday morning--just before he departed for Alabama to visit areas ravaged by last week's tornadoes, a senior administration official said.