ABC reports Osama ID'd with DNA from dead sister's brain, but hospital denies


Here's an odd twist in the Osama kill story: According to various reports, when bin Laden was shot dead by Navy SEALs, US operatives had DNA samples from his family members ready with which to ID the corpse. ABC News reported that the DNA came from the brain of bin Laden's sister, who was said to have died of cancer at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. But that hospital denies that his sister was there, or that the FBI requested any remains.

Let the conspiracy theories and/or zombie analysis bloom.

More in The Phoenix. Related: WBUR, CBS Boston. (via Steve Silberman)


  1. If he’s NOT dead, then the US will quickly have egg ALL over their face when he does his first news announcement. Huge victory for the terrorists. Let the conspiracy theorists work around THAT one!

    1. He prerecorded all of his messages before they were released to the world anyways, since obviously a live broadcast isn’t hard to triangulate/trace.

      It certainly makes sense that he’d set aside a couple “I’m not dead” videos to sow confusion and keep his pawns inspired in the event of his death.

      That said, I’d really like to see a photo of the corpse after all these years of waiting for him to be found, and this is coming from someone who always avoids looking at photos of casualties.

  2. And *that* ladies and germs is what the republicans needed to slam the president again. And keep denying, along with global warming, science and education.

  3. We’re not at the tech level of GATACA yet. DNA matching still takes big machines and many hours. It’s not something you can do in the field. ID was done on site using photos, and he was personally identified by one of his wives who was in the compound. The DNA test are most likely being done right now. There are close relatives of Osama living in the US, who have no love lost for the terrorist. Easier to get a cheek swab from one of them, than getting brain matter from a hospital.

    1. Small machines, this size of a toaster, pretty sure they could fit one on any ocean going craft—takes a couple of hours–this could have been completed in the time Obama was prepping his speech last night.

      As for the denial—lawyers—on staff at major hospitals—breach of ethics, privacy policy etc.

    2. Actually, according to a friend of mine that teaches forensic DNA…stuff… said that if everything is in place, an initial result can be obtained in about two hours. Quoted from the email to me:

      “Usual police work is not of high priority, unless “OJ type” case or something like that, pushing the system which is back-logged. There is actually a priority list demanded by legislation to do certain crimes first where evidence is available (i.e rape kits) and crimes where it is likely to be solved. What you really are asking, how long under best conditions can a DNA profile be obtained from say “brain” tissue of Osama’s daughter matched to his own remains. Most likely 2 types of tests will be done. Mitochondrial DNA typing to show his daughter (assuming it is his daughter) shares half his DNA. If his MtDNA matches half his daughters MtDNA, that is pretty probative for an identity, but in this case, more probably done. Incidentally same way they identified Qusay and Uday Hussein’s sons. If they have any personal effects known to be used by OBL (toothbrush, comb etc) they could match his DNA with those items using what is called STR typing(that is how they did alot of WTC victims, personal effects provided by family). In those cases and cases done by Law Enforcement there is a database of profiles already in the system, so it is a little different then trying to ID OBL, where there may not be any known profiles of him on record, although Im sure the CIA has his DNA obtained somehow or other. Then if the remains match the known samples, its a “match”. So, now that we have an idea what tests the US Army/CIA Command is using, how long does it take, to rush an answer. It actually will take longer to ship the samples to a lab in the US from Islamabad, then to do the tests! I think they probably had some CID Army forensics teams do that in Afghanistan or close by, otherwise send it to Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory, same place they ID remains of WW2/Vietnam/Korea military remains brought home.

      Im still avoiding the direct answer, it can take as short as 2 hrs to get a profile from DNA extracted from a sample, when it is rushed. Put it another way, give me the stuff, and a lab, and I can do it 2 hrs. The long delays you read about in doing DNA in the Criminal Justice system are not due to the technology, but the back-log of the cases waiting to be done and red tape getting the samples from A to B and then testing in the lab.”

      1. I don’t know about your expertise on the rest of the post, but you completely screwed up the MtDNA explanation. All mitochondria in a fetus come from the egg (large cell w all the inner workings), not the sperm (small cell with pretty much just DNA and a way to power a tail). Hence there is no “matching half” of MtDNA. Also, they spoke about a sister, not a daughter. Assuming they did have MtDNA from a sister then that should match his perfectly. However, his daughter’s MtDNA would be completely different, matching the mother’s only.

        1. I have no expertise in the subject, but the friend whose email I quoted from knows enough to teach at a large university in a center of the biotech industry. The email exchange was late at night, so if you’re correct (and a quick check indicates you are), I’ll chalk any mistake up a long hectic day.

  4. Im not an expert on this, but aren’t medical records kept private? Therefore, the hospital is denying that his sister was there for patient privacy. Right?

    1. Therefore, the hospital is denying that his sister was there for patient privacy. Right?

      Lying would be a highly unusual interpretation of how to deal with privacy issues.

  5. Undoubtedly Osama will live forever in the minds of those who have reason to wish this was a fake. I see no reason to disbelieve the whole story, any more than reason to disbelieve the moon landing. What I am convicted of unshakably is that this will change nothing. The US military industrial complex (not the President, not Congress) still decides when and if we go to war. They still pick interminable conflicts with no exit strategy and no object that when gained our troops can come home. They still keep our military out there defending their international profit centers at the cost or our blood, treasure and reputation (I wanted to say conscience, but why fantasize?)

  6. In my mind’s eye i can see full-screen HD images of US Navy SEALS flying in and shooting everyting that moves and then doing an on-the-fly DNA analysis(from a covertly aquired brain sample)whilst still in the strike zone – dangerously deep in bandit country (er,i mean Pakistan of course). I’m sure it speaks to all the Tom Clancy/Richard K. Morgan readers out there. The subsequent hospital denials just add more *depth* to the story. However, if i were of a more conspiritorial frame of mind…

  7. So what’s the conspiracy evolved to now?

    The lizard people*, who really run the government, blew up the towers and blamed Emmanuel Goldstein. (All old news)

    Fast forward to the present and Obama is demanding Osama and to appease him** the lizards get some of their men*** to shoot up a house and kill someone who they’ve previously gotten the DNA of. They then dump the body at sea to make sure an autopsy can never show he’s just some random guy.****

    Obama can shout mission accomplished and all we needed was the destruction of a few civil liberties***** and thousands of towel heads, but no one cares about them.

    Now we can focus all our attention on the new cold war****** against the west’s primary supplier of EVERYTHING.

    Or have I got that all wrong? Are the lizards are actually cockroaches?

    *Koch, Sachs, Haliburton

    **And other dangerous radicals and agitators calling for an end to the War On Terra and the capture of the man claimed to be behind the attacks. It’s almost as if these loose lipped prototerrorists don’t understand lizard’s money is at stake?!?!

    ***”Their men” as in the entire US army… and industrial might… and you… and me… basically you do their bidding who ever you are, especially so if you were Osama Bin Laden… :(

    ****Worked for Elvis, no one questions his death, ever…

    *****The lizard’s natural enemy

    ******Which will require a government firewall and monitoring of all speech, in case you leak secrets or vote independent******.

    *******Independent is code for Terrorist, see if you move the I in independent to the prefrontal cortex of your brain the resulting stroke will make you suggestible enough to believe even that makes sense.

    1. Don’t forget that the only reason Bin Laden was killed was to distract attention away from the birthers.

      1. Obama loves the birthers. The more conspiracy nuts the better.. serious voters on both sides think those guys are all idiots. (There are a lot of them, but when have there ever not been a lot of idiots in this country?)

        The more nuts on the Republican side, the better the Democratic side looks.

  8. Did not the first special report say……..he was killed a few days ago and this was not released until the DNA evidence was comfirmed? Either I have lost it or…. I was watching with my dauther and she heard the same thing now that info is no where and conflicting stories everywhere.. anyone hear that on ABC news before the official announcement?

    1. Anon, I heard the same report and today was thinking I was hallucinating. I heard it was days ago that’s is why, when I heard dna testing had been done, I wAs thinking that would be feasible. And how far was the boat from the compound?? Therscgot to be pictures. Something fishy.

  9. I think Obma is being very smart, letting the hotheads hotheadedly run their mouths, and then giving them exactly what they have talked themselves out of believing possible.

  10. ok i’m gonna repeat this joke until it gets a laugh…

    So, bin Laden was in Abbottabad, and there are still more top terrorists out there. My question: HAS ANYONE CHECKED COSTELLOBAD???

  11. I’m not buying the sleeping-with-the-fishes-story anyway.

    Someone is letting the conspiracy theories bloom, watches the media go bonkers over it, and after two weeks, a perfectly conserved corpse will be unwrapped which (of course) had to be stashed away in a secret location under the presidents desk, to make sure nobody’s going to steal it.
    Obama will emerge as the cool guy he desperately needs to be, critics and conspiracy theorist will be down for the count, certificategate will be off the table and media will have a field day selling extras, all that thanks to Big O, thy president.

    But all just if he is as clever as he is trying to look.

  12. Since parts have been removed, I would like to add that my last post is (of course) just a wild theory!

  13. i don’t know where the DNA story came from but there is no evidence the hospital denied.

  14. From what I can determine (in my ignorance and from the not-always-accurate interweb) it takes 2-3 days to get reliable results from the 13 tests – and that’s if you have a sample from the subject. I don’t know how easy/quick it is to get a match from a family member.

    But that aside – where did they do the analysis so quickly? In the helicopter? On the boat?

  15. I guess I must be a conspiracy nut, but I’ve been saying that Osama is dead for probably five years now. However, when I see a photo of his dead body, or video, or ANYTHING, I might be inclined to accept that he was killed yesterday.

    But I don’t just take someones word for something extraordinary, regardless if it’s a schizophrenic in the street or the President of the USA. A little proof goes a long way.

  16. “But that hospital denies that his sister was there, or that the FBI requested any remains.”

    There’s a slight difference from that and

    “UPDATE: Sue McGreevey, Mass Gen spokeswoman, says she’s received a lot of inquiries and hasn’t been able to “turn up any evidence” within the hospital that a bin Laden sister was ever there, or that the FBI ever requested access to any human remains.”

  17. On May 1, shortly before the official announcement, George Stephanopoulos on ABC News reported that Osama bin Laden was “likely killed in northwest Pakistan several days ago.” Brian Ross elaborated, “That’s right. Several days ago there was an attack. Most recently there have been killed about 20 to 25 suspected al-Qaeda figures, and according to one intelligence source he was among those killed. This was several days ago. It is likely they have done a DNA match at this time, before they would make such an announcement.”

    1. The were guessing. They guessed wrong. The time of the attack is pretty certain, especially with the as-it-happened twitter from an eye witness of the copters landing, plus the *live* pictures of the compound in flames from local TV.

  18. According to the BBC website the raid took place at approximately 20:00 GMT on sunday evening, so it definately wasnt 2-3 days ago! Bin Laden cant have been dead for years as someone mentioned due to several tapes which included comments on up to date events. This isn’t like Sadam where he’s got doubles all over the shop, the question remains whether he is infact dead now.

  19. DNA as compared to Osama’s dead sister’s brain at best confirms relation, not that it was Osama Bin Laden.

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