California science class was 89% sure of Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts – in 2009

Alan Abramowitz of Emory University passes along this gem from Science Magazine:

Could Osama bin Laden have been found faster if the CIA had followed the advice of ecosystem geographers from the University of California, Los Angeles? Probably not, but the predictions of UCLA geographer Thomas Gillespie, who, along with colleague John Agnew and a class of undergraduates, authored a 2009 paper predicting the terrorist’s whereabouts, were none too shabby.

According to a probabilistic model they created, there was an 88.9% chance that bin Laden was hiding out in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where he was killed last night. And they correctly predicted that he would be in a large town, not a cave.

The bin Laden tracking idea began as a project in an undergraduate class on remote sensing that Gillespie, whose expertise is using remote sensing data from satellites to study ecosystems, taught in 2009. Based on information from satellites and other remote sensing systems, and reports on his movements since his last known location, the students created a probabilistic model of where he was likely to be.

Their prediction of a town was based on a geographical theory called “island biogeography”: basically, that a species on a large island is much less likely to go extinct following a catastrophic event than a species on a small one.

Read the original 2009 article here.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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67 comments Add your comment

Jon Lester

May 3rd, 2011
11:25 am

I doubt if the study was disregarded, considering that it was last summer when they first connected the courier guy to the compound.

Aquagirl

May 3rd, 2011
11:36 am

Conservative backlash against “Left-coast eggheads” in 3…2…1….

GaBlue

May 3rd, 2011
12:01 pm

Aquagirl,

Twenty minutes and still no backlash? Hmmm… Maybe the conservotrons are busy helping Trump find Biggie and Tupac! HAHAHA!

Booger Fling

May 3rd, 2011
12:04 pm

It wouldn’t have mattered if Osama was sleeping in the Whitehouse. They had him in their sights a couple years ago and were ordered to stand down. Fast forward to present day and team Democrat is struggling against team Republican. They needed something to get back in balance. Killing the boogeyman would surely accomplish such. All in an attempt to fuel the left-right paradigm. Anything to keep America DIVIDED…

UNITED we stand.. DIVIDED we fall.

Michael

May 3rd, 2011
12:16 pm

Hahaha — booger alleges October Surprise in May! With no votes pending. Hahaha.

GaBlue

May 3rd, 2011
12:18 pm

Booger Flinger,

Actually, you’re partly right. The stand-down order came in 2002 when OBL was in Tora Bora, and keeping Americans divided was only part of that administration’s goal. The other part of the goal, (which they also met successfully), was to empty our treasury into the pockets of the few, the chosen, the well-connected “defense contractors” in Iraq. THAT mission was accomplished years ago, so give props where props are due — to the previous administration.

Centrist

May 3rd, 2011
12:37 pm

We knew of a very high value target last August which Pakistan may have pretended not to know about, and it took until May to take it out?

How many Americans and military personnel well left at risk (and military killed) by allowing this known command center to continue to operate? The hand-wringing staffs got the right result – but waited entirely too long.

What are you smoking

May 3rd, 2011
1:00 pm

GaBlue, Actually it goes back evern further to 1993, when Slick Willy Clinton had the opportunity to capture or kill bin Laden and possiblty disrupt the terror network that included two of the 9/11 hijackers. I guess the money just went to the Clinton and their Whitewater friends.

WOW

May 3rd, 2011
1:02 pm

“According to a probabilistic model they created, there was an 80.9% chance that bin Laden was hiding out in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where he was killed last night. And they correctly predicted that he would be in a large town, not a cave.”

Cool, get them to start predicting lotto numbers.

WOW

May 3rd, 2011
1:03 pm

“Conservative backlash against “Left-coast eggheads” in 3…2…1….”

Aquasquirrel makes an unintelligent and lame comeback in 3…2….1….

WOW

May 3rd, 2011
1:03 pm

“Maybe the conservotrons are busy helping Trump find Biggie and Tupac!”

Tupac and Biggie were Democrats.

Look back to the 80's

May 3rd, 2011
1:09 pm

Go back to the 80’s and you will find that Ollie North identified OBL as a real threat to the US. The inventer of the Internet (Al Gore) ridiculed him saying that he had never heard of OBL and did not understand why Ollie North was afraid of him. Do you understand now “Oh God of Ecology and the Greenhouse Effect”?

naksuthin

May 3rd, 2011
1:17 pm

The hunt for Osama Bin Laden officially came to an end in 2005 when the CIA disbanded the special unit that had been assigned to track down Osama Ben Ladin for ten years
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/04/washington/04intel.html

GaBlue

May 3rd, 2011
1:29 pm

What are you smoking,

Bad real estate in Arkansas? Is THAT what you got, Mr. Zinger? The shallowness of your revisionist history is lame. The Clinton Admin took the Al Qaida threat seriously. Where is Ramzi Yousef now? Oh yeah, captured and convicted. The 98 strike missed OBL by mere hours. Was the CIA’s intell — on which the order was based — off by mere hours, or did the ol’ buds of the Bush clan intentionally mislead? We’ll never know. (So don’t pretend that somehow YOU do…) The outgoing Clinton Admin practically stood on their heads, blue in the face, shouting to the incoming Bush admin that OBL was an imminent threat. Who ignored the Aug 6 memo? Whose admin whisked the Saudi royals out of the country on 9/12 in secret w/no interrogations while the rest of us were grounded? Whose family did business with OBL’s family? Who said capturing OBL was just not a top priority anymore? Whose pockets got lined from Iraq? Get some new lies and bullshoot neo-con propaganda. Nobody believes that lame crap anymore.

Sean

May 3rd, 2011
1:30 pm

The linked article actually doesn’t mention Abbotabad at all, much less say that there was an 80.9% chance that bin Laden was there. It actually concludes that he was in Parachinar, which is 300 miles to the east… in the mountainous border region where *everyone* assumed he was. And he wasn’t.

Did anyone else bother to read the linked article?

WOW

May 3rd, 2011
1:35 pm

“The Clinton Admin took the Al Qaida threat seriously.”

Yeah, we were only bombed four times under Clinton.

Nemesis

May 3rd, 2011
1:35 pm

They have had a pretty good idea where he was hiding since 2007. But it was felt that upsetting our Allies and cutting off our supply lines through Pakistan was not worth the Political risk. Let’s Celebrate today because the backlash will unbelievable. If not tomorrow than extremely soon. BTW how many of you realize that that raid was a declaration of war against Pakistan?. So much for getting out of there as soon as we thought.

Last Man Standing

May 3rd, 2011
1:37 pm

I find it amusing that Hussein didn’t get a better poll after the demise of bin Laden. The answer is simple: nothing has changed except that bin Laden is now “sleeping with the fishes”. The economy, unemployment, the national debt, the deficit, ObamaCare and illegal aliens are still here.

The job done by intelliegence people, the military and particularly the SEALs was excellent. Congratulations to them on a job very well done.

Today: Good-bye Osama
2012: Good-bye Obama

Last Man Standing

May 3rd, 2011
1:41 pm

GaBlue:

“The Clinton Admin took the Al Qaida threat seriously.”

Obviously your attempt at humor?

deegee

May 3rd, 2011
1:44 pm

After the events of the last 48 hours, how can anyone that refers to our President as “Hussein” be taken seriously?

Last Man Standing

May 3rd, 2011
1:46 pm

Last Man Standing

May 3rd, 2011
1:52 pm

What was it dimocrats called Navy SEAL teams? Oh, yeah, I remember! They used to call them “Dick Cheney’s assasination teams”. Funny how things are so fluid among the dimocrats and lefties, isn’t it?

WOW

May 3rd, 2011
1:55 pm

“how can anyone that refers to our President as “Hussein” be taken seriously?”

That’s his name, doodoo.

Bill Orvis White

May 3rd, 2011
1:56 pm

Give 100 percent thanks to the honorable President George W. Bush who stared down the jihadists wherever they existed. Thanks to Pres. GW Bush, the world has rid itself of Saddam Hussein, his partner-in-crime Usama bin Laden and soon, Col. Moammar Khadaffy Duck. Bubba Clinton had his pants down when Usama was making his plans and Saddam was extinguishing the Kurds. Thus, the worst terrorist attack on American soil just so happened on President GW Bush’s watch because of the previous administration screwing around. Pres. GW Bush handled the 9-11 attacks with dignity and class. The rightful president along with his sharp vice president, sec def, brilliant natl secy advisor and secy of state became committed to the rightful War on Terror and Bush Doctrine. Sunday’s capture is pure evidence of that rightful philosophy and dedication. Hussein Obama, Nanny Pelosi, Billary Clinton, Bawney Frank, Harry Reid and other jihadist-loving fools tried to tear down the rightful Bush Doctrine. They all failed. The Bush Doctrine prevailed and that’s why we got Usama. Unfortunately, we don’t have a strong president like Mr. Cheney could have been so I’m sorry to report that there will be a bigger attack on U.S. soil due to Hussein Obama’s careless attitude towards the War on Terror and Bush Doctrine.

Amen,
Bill

no longer Republican

May 3rd, 2011
2:02 pm

Last Man…I CANNOT WAIT to vote for President Obama again in 2012 – then come on one of these blogs and read your whining some more! It is going to be so gratifying! Who is going to beat Obama? The mormon? The hillbilly preacher? Newt? – not a chance! Rethugs have to come up with somebody else because none of their present field could best the president.

liz

May 3rd, 2011
2:04 pm

I read the article and they did not target where he was – so is anyone reading the entire article?

WOW

May 3rd, 2011
2:13 pm

“Who is going to beat Obama? ”

Obama’s poll numbers are in the low 40s. No president has ever been re-elected with 8% unemployment or higher.

Keep gloating because it will be funny to watch and read your asinine comment about how you will move to Canada.

Correction

May 3rd, 2011
2:13 pm

Jim, might want to go back and edit. The folks at Science Magazine have corrected their story. The article never mentions the city where he was found and killed. It predicted another city 286 km away.

Jim S.

May 3rd, 2011
2:14 pm

Bad news for partisan hacks, good news for America. It was vitally important to find and eliminate Bin Laden. While there have been many mistakes and sometimes a lack of focus, there also were important efforts undertaken by three administrations to track this guy down. These collective efforts resulted in the successful operation that took place the other day. The vast majority of Americans are proud that this moment has come to pass and certainly want a break from partisan bickering on this subject, if not many others.

Let’s thank and be proud of all who made this success possible.

Last Man Standing

May 3rd, 2011
2:23 pm

no longer Republican:

First, your name should reflect something of your true self. I would suggest you change it to “never was Republican”. Second, after the election of 2012, you will desappear and resurface under a new identity. Hussein is riding hard for a fall, and you’ll go down with him.

DannyX

May 3rd, 2011
2:24 pm

Big deal, California wastes money on stuff like science and technology.

What is important is having a good running backs coach. Of course there is no use having a good running backs coach if you don’t have a good wide receivers coach.

California can have their Google, Apple, HP, Dell, blah, blah, blah, and all the others.

We’ll keep our $200,000 a year running backs. Our $200,000 a year wide receivers coach may one day lead our team to victory.

Woof, woof!

WOW

May 3rd, 2011
2:28 pm

“Big deal, California wastes money on stuff like science and technology.”

They also waste money on banning Happy Meals, circumcisions, welfare projects, etc.

DannyX

May 3rd, 2011
2:47 pm

This just in….

According to a probabilistic model created by the University of Georgia there is an 88.9% chance that Star Jones will win Donald Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice!

Muley powers

May 3rd, 2011
2:55 pm

Wasn’t this the same group who said Jimmy Hoffa was in Peckerwood?

Last Man Standing

May 3rd, 2011
3:22 pm

DannyX:

“We’ll keep our $200,000 a year running backs. Our $200,000 a year wide receivers coach may one day lead our team to victory”

Are they still using the Athens-Clarke County Jail yard for a practice field?

joe

May 3rd, 2011
3:25 pm

I will save all your blue and red state opiners some time:

Bush: Sucked
Obama: Sucks
2012: Can’t get here fast enough

mike

May 3rd, 2011
3:44 pm

Interesting no matter what the President does, there are going to be those goobers who just refuse to give him any credit. It must be very hard for them to get up everyday and see that black man leading this country. I wonder what they are teaching their kids or what they pray about when they go to church. Either way isn’t it a shame. I am glad they are part of someone else’s family. Must be a miserable life to live with those thoughts everyday.

JS

May 3rd, 2011
4:04 pm

As commented, original Gillespie article cited doesn’t mention Abbottabad, and this was because the original Science article was wrong, but has now been corrected. Interesting work, but estimating someone is within a 300 km radius of their last known whereabouts isn’t exactly pinpointing his location. The city idea and other characteristics were interesting, and obviously may have been very useful predictions.

Peter

May 3rd, 2011
4:05 pm

The Bush Doctrine……. Spend as much money as possible and give it all to the rich.

Please Bush started a war based on nothing, and ended up bankrupting the USA.

Ryan

May 3rd, 2011
4:19 pm

Here’s my analogy:

Fredi Gonzalez (Obama) was brought in to manage the Braves after Bobby Cox (Bush) retired. Now, if the Braves win the World Series this year, are fans going to say it was because of the culture of Bobby Cox? Sure, many of the players are the same (policies) and the ultimate goal to win the World Series is the same (find & kill terrorists including Bin Laden), but Bobby Cox isn’t the one managing the dugout anymore. He’s not calling the plays or filling out the line-up card every night. Bush had as much to do with Bin Laden’s killing as Bobby Cox will have to do with our 2011 World Series victory.

You crazy conservatives will hate Obama regardless of what he does (much like I despised Bush, regardless of what he did). I’m a young person, and my priorities are different than many of you old, cranky retirees. I want jobs for my demographic, infrastructure so I can drive to work without fear of the road destroying my tires or the bridge I drive over every day to collapse, science advancements and social equality. There are things more important than money, which you conservatives worship like a God.

Brad

May 3rd, 2011
4:22 pm

This may be the worst science reporting I have ever seen!
The paper says that there is an 89% chance that he is within 300km of his last known position.

That is over 27,000 square miles which happens to contain Abottabad.

mike

May 3rd, 2011
4:24 pm

Everyone should read the original paper. Alan Abramowitz of Emory University did not or he just lied to us.

I Wonder

May 3rd, 2011
4:28 pm

if Sister Sarah would have known who to assign this task to? Yeah, right!

Bush probably could have found OBL if he wasn’t too busy forcing people to throw shoes at him.

McCain, well he would have heard about the success of the mission the next day. Grandpa would have been nodding off when the troops stormed the compound. Oh that is if he had had the cajones to make the call.

tired

May 3rd, 2011
4:29 pm

Jim Galloway and AJC folks, don’t you ever get tired of seeing the comments of every single article and blog post hijacked by name-calling and mudslinging? It only takes a small number of people acting like sugar-hyped 8-year-olds to make it impossible for anyone else to have an on-topic discussion. Thanks to those who actually read the linked article and commented on it. AJC, please bring us some aggressive forum moderation. We’d like the rest of the world to think Atlantans are capable of carrying on a sensible (if high-pitched) conversation, even if we actually aren’t.

SpaceyG on Twitter

May 3rd, 2011
4:59 pm

That’s kinda *wow*. Even *wow*-ier would be if I actually read the whole paper, fascinating as it is.

charles

May 3rd, 2011
5:08 pm

As entertaining as these comments are, as a few others have commented the article did not correctly predict his location at all. Interesting how good most of you are at talking and not reading irregardless of left/right.

Ben

May 3rd, 2011
5:29 pm

To Jim Galloway: did you even read the paper you are reporting on? It makes no mention of Abbottobad, and in fact concludes that Osama bin Laden was most likely hiding in Kurram, one the FATA districts, which borders Afghanistan. Abbottobad is far outside both Kurram in particular and the FATA regions in general.

Si se Puede!

May 3rd, 2011
5:33 pm

First he shuts Guantanamo, next he pulls troops out of Iraq and now he brings OBL to justice. How sweet it is!

If that war monger McCain were in office, he’d be dropping bombs all over the muslim world without any Congressional approval. He’d probably be fighting shadow wars in Yemen & Pakistan. Basically anything Haliburton tells him.

This is change we can believe in!

Kaygeeone

May 3rd, 2011
6:05 pm

Si se Puede, you are a moron! First: Guantanamo is STILL OPEN! Second: America STILL has troops in IRAQ! And Third: Obama DIDN’T do sh it, NAVY SEALS DID! Oh isn’t the U.S currently bombing Lybia, which is a rag head nation…WITHOUT Congressional approval. Yemen SHOULD be bombed in return for the U.S.S. Cole! Pakistan SHOULD be bombed for housing the Muslim dog! If you believe in Hussein Obama to change anything it just means I was right with my opening statement, YOU ARE A MORON.

Real American

May 3rd, 2011
6:14 pm

The neocons and their teasuckers are so upset over this. Hilarious.