NEW YORK — Federal authorities used DNA from “multiple family members” and facial recognition technology to identify the body of Osama bin Laden, according to court papers filed Friday that formally dropped terrorism charges against the slain al-Qaida leader.
The papers detail the CIA’s painstaking efforts to make sure the man killed May 2 during a Navy SEALs raid of his compound in Pakistan was indeed bin Laden.
After the raid, U.S. forces collected DNA from bin Laden’s body and took it to a base in Afghanistan, said a statement signed by a top U.S. counterterrorism official, Deputy Assistant Attorney General George Z. Toscas.
CIA personnel there compared it “with a comprehensive DNA profile derived from DNA collected from multiple members of bin Laden’s family,” the statement said. “These tests confirmed that the sample [from the raid] genetically matched the derived comprehensive DNA profile for Osama bin Laden.”
It added: “The possibility of a mistaken identification is approximately one in 11.8 quadrillion.”
The CIA used the facial recognition technology to compare old photos of bin Laden to photos of his body, the papers said, and concluded “with high confidence that the deceased individual was bin Laden.”
The document also makes a passing reference to a “significant quantity” of terrorist network material recovered at the hideout, including “correspondence between Osama bin Laden and other senior al-Qaida leaders that concerns a range of al-Qaida issues.”
The papers filed in federal court in Manhattan officially ended a case that began with hopes of seeing bin Laden brought to justice in a civilian court.
A grand jury voted to indict the al-Qaida leader in June 1998 on charges he supported the ambush that left 18 American soldiers dead in Somalia in 1993. The indictment was originally filed under seal but was made public later that year.
The indictment was later revised to charge bin Laden in the dual bombings of two American embassies in East Africa that killed 224 on Aug. 7, 1998, and in the suicide attack on the USS Cole in 2000. None of the charges involved the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Also named as a defendant was Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian eye doctor and longtime bin Laden deputy who has become al-Qaida’s new leader.
The charges included conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals, conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction against U.S. nationals and conspiracy to damage and destroy U.S. property.
Around the time the charges were first filed, the CIA’s bin Laden unit was pursuing a plan to use Afghan operatives to capture bin Laden and hand him over for trial either in the United States or in an Arab country, according to the 9/11 Commission.
This week, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan signed off on a request made by federal prosecutors to dismiss the charges — a formality when defendants under indictment die.