Senior U.S. officials said Monday, May 2, 2011 that Osama bin Laden's body was put aboard the USS Carl Vinson
and then placed into the North Arabian Sea for burial
and then placed into the North Arabian Sea for burial
Troops aboard the USS Carl Vinson sent the washed and weighted body of Osama bin Laden to the bottom of the North Arabian Sea Monday, ending the nearly decade-long pursuit of America's most wanted enemy.
Bin Laden was buried at sea because no country would accept his remains, said a senior Defense Department official at a Pentagon press briefing.
"The body was placed in a weighted bag. A military officer read prepared religious remarks, which were translated into Arabic by a native speaker," the official said.
Some news reports suggested U.S. officials wanted to deny bin Laden a traditional burial to prevent the site from becoming holy ground for followers who view him as a martyr.
A sea burial may not necessarily prevent that from happening.
By coincidence, the May-June issue of Pathfinder magazine, the in-house publication of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, has an article on how the agency assists the Navy-Marine Corps Mortuary Affairs Office in recording sea burial locations on nautical charts, pinpointing location and time of burial.
In 1996 the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency began honoring this tradition by using NGA-distinctive talents: technology and data.
In partnership with the U.S. Navy, NGA provides a unique version of its hydrographic maps of the coastlines and oceans: burial at sea charts.
The charts mark the location of the deceased service member’s burial at sea and include information about the ship providing the service and the deceased’s service record.
The charts provide a one- of-a-kind memorial for families.
“Families have always praised the charts; many have them framed and placed on the wall with the deceased’s picture and the shadow box with the burial flag,” said Robert Culling- ford, Burial at Sea Coordinator for the Mid-Atlantic Region Naval Medical Center, Portsmouth, Va.
“The charts NGA provides are a great contribution to the Navy’s Burial at Sea program and assist the families with closure in their time of loss,” added Cullingford.
The charts are presented to the families of those who select burial at sea for their funeral arrangements and meet one of the following criteria:
- Honorably discharged veterans;
- U.S. civilian Marine personnel of Military Sea-lift Command;
- or Citizens the Chief of Naval Operations determines eligible by virtue of notable service or other contributions
Capabilities included scanning, enhancing and reducing full-size hydrographic charts, as well as customization and printing.
Previously available technology required an hour to load and scan one large-format hydrographic chart on huge tangent drum scanners.
Adobe PhotoShop® software was used to enhance the product, and 3M Scotchprint® graphic software was used to reduce the size during printing on the old electro-static printers.
Analysts manually added information about the deceased, along with Navy and ship seals, after printing.
Today a library of digital hydrographic charts and ship seals from various vessels, as well as high-end geographic information workstations and plotters, have further streamlined the creation of these charts as compared to earlier practices.
Navy personnel perform the burial at sea ceremony during deployments.
The captain slows the ship to minimum speed at a select location, and the officer of the deck calls all hands to bury the deceased.
The flag is lowered to half-mast, and the crew stands at parade rest in preparation for the service.
The honor guard drapes the coffin with the American flag and carries it to a stand on deck.
The ceremony includes military and religious portions based on the deceased’s request.
After the ceremony, the firing party presents arms, and the burial party removes the flag from the coffin as it slides gently into the ocean.
For cremated remains, the burial party places an urn in the sea or scatters the ashes in the wind.
The firing party then fires three volleys, and the bugler plays taps.
The ceremony ends with the folding of the flag, and the ship resumes course.
The Navy informs family members of the time and location of the burial and provides photos of the ceremony.
NGA receives requests for Burial at Sea Charts for approximately 40-50 deceased personnel per month between the two RRS sites at Norfolk Naval Base, Norfolk, Va., and Hickam Air Force Base, Honolulu, Hawaii.
After receiving the burial coordinates from the ship’s commanding officer, RRS analysts in Norfolk and Honolulu note the location on the chart and mark it with a picture of the American flag or a red cross.
They add the time and date of the burial, the name of the deceased, his or her service and rank, and the Navy and ship seals in the margin of the chart.
The RSS analyst provides prints and mails up to three copies of the chart to the Naval Ministry Group for delivery to the families.
Susan Meisner, an agency spokeswoman, on Monday said she could not say at this time whether the system was used to record the location of bin Laden's burial.
She said the appearance of the Pathfinder article and the burial of bin Laden at sea was a coincidence.
"The article has been in the works for the past eight months," she said.
The magazine has other items of interest potentially relevant to the search for and death of the world's most notorious terrorist.
Federal investments in commercial technology have resulted in a suite of products to share geospatial intelligence that could have been used to locate the compound used by bin Laden in Pakistan, where he was killed in a Sunday raid by Navy SEALs and CIA special operatives.
Letitia Long, director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, wrote that the intelligence community's venture capital firm In-Q-Tel helped jump-start development of Keyhole software, which was acquired by Google and rebranded as Google Earth in 2004.
The magazine, published Monday, said that Google Earth has become the standard for portrayal of Web-based geospatial data for the intelligence community and the Defense Department.
Long said another In-Q-Tel investment that helps the agency in its missions is Perspective Pixel, which helps view, analyze and annotate geospatially referenced datasets and integrate them with third-party applications, including Google Earth.
Long also said an In-Q-Tel investment in a company called iMove has helped the agency, its analysts and customers with security and surveillance systems.