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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The real breakthrough that led to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden came from a mysterious CIA detainee, Hassan Ghul, according to a Reuters special report published on Thursday.
Based on interviews with two dozen current and former senior intelligence, White House and State Department officials, the special report explores the policies and actions of the United States in its 13-year hunt for bin Laden.
According to the report, it was Ghul who after years of tantalizing hints from other detainees finally provided the information that prompted the CIA to focus intensely on finding Abu Ahmed al Kuwaiti, pseudonym for the courier who would lead them to bin Laden.
Two U.S. officials told Reuters the U.S. government believes Ghul was released by Pakistani authorities in 2007 and has once again become a frontline militant.
Bin Laden was long believed to be holed up in rugged mountain areas, but was found hiding in plain sight in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
President Barack Obama's decision not to notify Pakistan before the raid was in keeping with a greater willingness by Obama and his team to "push the envelope" in relations with Islamabad, according to a former Bush aide.
A key legal authority under which the raid was launched remains a September 17, 2001, presidential directive by former President George W. Bush that authorized the CIA to capture or kill top terrorism suspects.
Raid planners expected bin Laden would be killed, but they also had a vaguer contingency plan about what to do if he were captured, officials said.
Reporting by Caren Bohan, Mark Hosenball, Tabassum Zakaria, Missy Ryan and Warren Strobel; Editing by Claudia Parsons