The New York TimesThe New York Times

How the CIA Tracked the Leader of Al-Qaida

By Julian E. Barnes and Eric Schmitt

03 Aug 2022 · 6 min read

Editor's Note

This NYT piece details how the CIA tracked Ayman al-Zawahri for years before finally executing him in a way that didn't cause any collateral damage.

Intelligence officers made a crucial discovery this spring after tracking Ayman al-Zawahri, the leader of al-Qaida, to Kabul, Afghanistan: He liked to read alone on the balcony of his safe house early in the morning.

Analysts search for that kind of pattern-of-life intelligence, any habit the CIA can exploit. In al-Zawahri’s case, his long balcony visits gave the agency an opportunity for a clear missile shot that could avoid collateral damage.

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