The walk-on who hunted down bin Laden

The Associated Press last week profiled a man who it would not identify and simply called him John, his middle name. John might have been one of the most important figures in the hunt for Osama bin Laden. He is the longtime CIA analyst who led the effort to put together the clues that led to the discovery of bin Laden in his hideout and also watched the raid unfold from inside the White House situation room with President Barack Obama.

John was also a former Division I walk-on basketball player, according to the story.

He'd always been persistent. In college, he walked on to a Division I basketball team and hustled his way into a rotation full of scholarship players.

The CIA offered to promote him and move him somewhere else. John wanted to keep the bin Laden file.

The New York Observer reported Tuesday that it too has discovered John's identity and added these details on his basketball past.

A few web searches turned up details of the man’s personal life. In college, he'd played basketball. No superstar by any means -- he was mostly a practice player -- he'd been aggressive enough to catch the eye of the team's coach, who later spoke glowingly of John's unusual shooting style.


Senior counterintelligence figures who have worked closely with him describe an extraordinarily modest man, soft-spoken and eager to remain clear of any limelight, the kind of guy who’s at his desk by 6 a.m. and whose primary hobbies are coaching his kids’ various sports teams and shooting hoops with the other men at his local parish -- though he has yet to play with the president.


Those close to him were hard-pressed to come up with quirks or personal details. However, they all said he's an effective manager, if his style is a little hokey at times. He offers up the same platitude to the kids he coaches that he employs with the analysts who work under him: "There’s no 'I' in team."

The Associated Press agreed to the CIA's request not to publish John's full name because he could face retribution, but some details in the story might have been too revealing. His photo might have already been uncovered due to his reported presence in the Situation Room, and the New York Observer was apparently able to learn his identity afterward and able to speak with sources close to John in exchange for not publishing his full name.

The attention isn't good news for John since according to the Washington Post, he has now been placed under cover by the CIA.

A U.S. official said that the decision was driven by information about possible efforts by al-Qaeda to seek revenge for the U.S. raid that ended with the death of bin Laden at a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in May.

"We know from very recent intelligence that al-Qaeda is interested in finding U.S. counterterrorism officials tied to the CIA's aggressive counterterrorism operations," a U.S. official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence matters. "Surely the vast majority of Americans understand why this individual needs to be protected."

John helped take down bin Laden, and now terrorists could be after him. The New York Observer even reported that "John's heart sank" after the AP story hit the wires. So for anyone in the college basketball community who knows a guy with a funky jump shot whose middle name is John and hasn't been returning calls lately, think good thoughts.