Osama bin Laden was out of touch with the younger generation of al-Qaida commanders, and they often didn't follow his advice during the years he was in hiding in northern Pakistan, U.S. and Pakistani officials now say.
Contradicting the assertions of some American officials that bin Laden was running a "command and control" center from the walled compound in Ab-bottabad, officials say that bin Laden clearly wasn't in control of al-Qaida, though he was trying to remain involved or at least influential.
"He was like the cranky old uncle that people weren't listening to," said a U.S. official, who had been briefed on the evidence collected from the Ab-bottabad compound and who spoke only on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. "The younger guys had never worked directly with him. They did not take everything he said as right."
Nearly two months after U.S. Navy SEALs killed bin Laden in the early morning May 2 raid on his hideout, a more detailed picture is emerging of how the world's most-wanted fugitive lived out his final years secreted in the walled compound in this town in the Himalayan foothills, where neighbors still deny ever having an inkling that he was there.
New details uncovered by McClatchy Newspapers included purchase and sales of gold jewelry by the bin Laden household, possibly as a way to raise money. The household that included at least nine women and twice that many children also consumed far less electricity and gas than neighboring households, a sign of bin Laden's legendary frugality or an indication that the terrorist leader simply had run out of money and was living as cheaply as he could.
The data provided no "smoking gun" that Pakistani intelligence or other Pakistani officials knew of bin Laden's presence in the house. Records from seized computers also lend credence to long-held beliefs that Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden's longtime deputy who was named al-Qaida's leader earlier this month, had been much more involved and important than bin Laden to the group's operations in the last several years.
"He wanted to stay involved," the U.S. official said of bin Laden. "He was corresponding with a lot of senior [al-Qaida] people, correcting perceptions, giving advice. He remained important as a symbol, sending out instructions, giving spiritual guidance."
The emerging picture of bin Laden's final years suggests he may have escaped detection by leaving as small a footprint as possible in the town.
Construction of the 12,400-square-foot house where he was found cost the equivalent of $100,800, according to the contractor, and the land on which it sits was assembled for about $48,000, according to records reviewed by McClatchy -- making it far from the million-dollar mansion that U.S. officials initially reported.
The house, completed in 2005, had 10 rooms.
It was designed as a multifamily residence, with four separate gas connections and four separate hookups for electricity.
That arrangement was in keeping with the way bin Laden had lived in Saudi Arabia and Sudan, where his wives lived in separate apartments with their children within a larger family complex.