The tale of how the CIA found bin Laden would appear to be a lot more complicated than the media has been suggesting. That they picked up his trail due to NSA interception of a phone call made by one of his couriers is almost certainly correct. But consider what the subsequent steps would have to be: the courier’s location and appearance would have to be determined and then he would have to be followed surreptitiously for a period of time to learn where the bin Laden safehouse might be located. As the courier was no doubt alert to any signs of a “tail” this would be exceedingly difficult to do. As few or no CIA case officers could possibly blend in in Pakistan enough to carry out a surveillance the job would have to be done by local people. And how do you get the local people? You either recruit them yourself – problematical if you want to maintain security – or you have the local intelligence service provide them. In either case you run the risk of employing a double who is keeping the Pakistani government fully informed on what you are up to. Assuming all goes well and you have your target in Abbotabad, you then want to set up an observation post. As before, American case officers would not fit in very well, so you are again required to rely on local people. Again, there is the problem of how you acquire them and how you lease the apartment and how you get all of your equipment into the place without drawing attention in a military town.
When you put it all together, I would have to believe that the Pakistan intelligence service ISI was involved, in spite of denials. CIA could not pull off an operation like this completely unilaterally, though, in this case, I think the Agency would have carefully concealed the true identity of the target from the Pakistanis, which would not be so difficult to do as it is now clear that there were a lot of operations going on in a lot of places in the days and months before the arrest of Ray Davis for killing the two Pakistanis on motorbikes in Lahore.
There has been a lot of nonsense coming out of the White House on the whole bin Laden affair, including multiple changes in the story of exactly what happened. The Administration clearly wants to squeeze every ounce of possible political gain out of the killing. I am intrigued by the latest spin that bin Laden was still very much in charge of his terror empire. As he had no real time communications and was using couriers the control must have been more philosophical than actual. Plus most terrorism experts would agree that his al-Qaeda brand has been pretty much franchised out with little or no central planning or control. When was the last time that there was a terrorist attack attributed to him or his immediate associates? It would seem to me that the White House is intent on proving contrary to fact that bin Laden was still the leading terrorist mastermind, both to justify shooting him and also to magnify the success narrative for the president.