The "blockbuster" allegation from Richard Miniter's new book, Leading From Behind, is that President Obama dithered and vacillated when it came to authorizing the mission that led to the May 2011 death of Osama bin Laden. As Miniter puts it on page 117, rather than acting decisively "it took the president almost two years to make a decision to act" after intelligence agencies identified "bin Laden's hideout in the first few months of the Obama administration." There is, however, a fatal flaw in Miniter's allegation: he's off by a full year. To characterize Obama as having delayed action, Miniter describes intelligence activities that happened in 2010 as having occurred in 2009, leading him to repeatedly contradict his own timeline of events.
Media Matters previously pointed out the significant problems with Miniter's charge that Obama canceled three times the operation to kill Bin Laden -- specifically that on the dates Obama was alleged to have canceled the "mission," there wasn't yet a "mission" to cancel. Miniter's allegations are being treated credulously by conservative media outlets: Miniter appeared on Fox & Friends this morning to promote the book, and his claims about the Bin Laden raid received a New York Post write-up.
According to reported accounts of the hunt for Osama bin Laden, in 2009 and 2010 the intelligence community ramped up its efforts to track down the terrorist leader, leading to a key moment in August 2010 when intelligence officers tracked Bin Laden's courier, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, entering Bin Laden's walled compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. As the New Yorker's deeply reported blow-by-blow of the hunt put it:
In August, 2010, Panetta returned to the White House with better news. C.I.A. analysts believed that they had pinpointed bin Laden's courier, a man in his early thirties named Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti. Kuwaiti drove a white S.U.V. whose spare-tire cover was emblazoned with an image of a white rhino. The C.I.A. began tracking the vehicle. One day, a satellite captured images of the S.U.V. pulling into a large concrete compound in Abbottabad.
For reasons that aren't clear, Miniter describes this moment as happening in 2009:
A single phone call gave al-Kuwaiti away in August 2009.14 It lasted less than a minute, but the spy satellites parked over Pakistan intercepted and recorded the call. It was logged into the National Security Agency's enormous databases. A keyword search alerted intelligence analysts. Soon America's electronic sleuths were tracking al-Kuwaiti through his mobile phone. A technical team mapped the locations of every phone al-Kuwaiti made a call to or received a call from. It showed red dots all over Afghanistan and Pakistan.
A covert ground team eventually spotted al-Kuwaiti himself in the Bilal Town section of Abbottabad, a prosperous enclave north of Pakistan's capital city of Islamabad. He liked to roam the busy streets of Abbottabad in a white sport-utility vehicle, with a distinctive red rhino emblazoned on its spare tire cover. It made him easy to follow.
Within weeks al-Kuwaiti was tracked repeatedly entering and exiting a mysterious walled compound. [Leading from Behind, pp 131-132]