Once U.S. had located the compound where the courier lived, they put it under surveillance and noticed that every day a tall man emerged from the main house and walked for an hour around the courtyard. Imagery indicated that the man was between 5'8" and 6'5", but the photos were not good enough to make a positive identification. They were images from satellites and not drones, since location was too risky to deploy the unmanned aircraft.
By mid-February, intelligence from multiple sources was clear enough that Mr. Obama wanted to "pursue an aggressive course of action," a senior administration official said. Over the next two and a half months, Mr. Obama led five meetings of the National Security Council focused solely on whether bin Laden was in that compound and, if so, how to get him, the official said.
U.S. counterterrorism officials considered bombing the place, an option that was discarded by the White House as too risky, particularly if it turned out bin Laden was not there.
Instead, Obama signed an order on Friday for the team of SEALs to chopper onto the compound under the cover of darkness.