Follow the real estate.
That's a liberal misappropriation of the usual cliched instruction that investigators should "follow the money." But it's nonetheless an apt idea in light of the fact that at the end of a 10-year manhunt, it was Osama bin Laden's $1 million house that gave him away.
Authorities found out that bin Laden was living in "a large home" within a "secured compound in an affluent suburb" of Islamabad, Pakistan, called Abbottabad, a town about 35 miles north of the city, according to a transcript of a midnight White House press conference with unidentified senior officials.
The compound first attracted the attention of U.S. intelligence agencies because one of bin Laden's personal couriers and his brother were discovered to be operating in the local area. It then took some time to find out their specific place of residence.
"When we saw the compound where the brothers lived, we were shocked by what we saw -- an extraordinarily unique compound," an official said. "The compound sits on a large plot of land in an area that was relatively secluded when it was built. It is roughly eight times larger than the other homes in the area."
Built in 2005, the compound has 12- to 18-foot walls topped with barbed wire and internal walls that section off different portions to provide extra privacy. Access is restricted by two security gates. The main structure is a three-story building with few windows facing the outside world. A third-floor terrace has a seven-foot privacy wall. All that, but no wired telephone or Internet service.
"Intelligence analysts concluded that this compound was custom-built to hide someone of significance ... the location and the design (were) perfectly consistent with what our experts expected bin Laden’s hideout to look like," an official said.
That's an impressive piece of property, not all like the dank cave or spartan tent so often associated with a typical terrorist's residence.
An irreverent wit might wonder whether bin Laden paid cash or took out a mortgage.
Follow me on Twitter: @marciegeff