Osama bin Laden, once the most wanted man in the world, moved freely from town to town in Pakistan and was once riding in a car stopped for speeding only to be let go, according to a leaked report from an internal Pakistani government investigation.
The 366-page report accuses the country's leadership of "gross incompetence."
The Abbottabad Commission report, obtained by Al Jazeera, dismisses the notion that bin Laden was holed up in hiding during his nearly ten years in hiding in Pakistan. Interrogations of bin Laden's wives and family revealed the man behind the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks went into public and simply disguised himself by shaving his head and wearing a cowboy hat.
In Abbottabad, Pakistan, the former al Qaeda head was able to construct a massive compound where he fathered two children with one of his three wives. The compound is where he was killed by U.S. Navy Seals during a May 2, 2011 raid.
The report concludes that bin Laden's death and the Pakistani response was a result of "complacency, ignorance, negligence, incompetence irresponsibility and possibly worse at various levels inside and outside the government."
In testimony showing how close the mastermind came to authorities who were supposed to be looking for him, "Maryam" — the wife of one of bin Laden's most trusted aides — recalled how his car was stopped by Pakistani police in the Swat region.
"Once when they were all ... on a visit to the bazaar they were stopped for speeding by a policeman," the report says. "But her (Maryam's) husband quickly settled the matter with the policeman and they drove on."
And in a bit of ironic farce, the report states that bin Laden's wives told investigators that to avoid detection from the sky, he took to wearing a cowboy hat when moving about his Abbottabad compound.
U.S. officials acknowledge there had to be some breakdown in the Pakistani law enforcement for the terrorist to go undetected in the country for so long, but also note there is no evidence that provided protection or knew the whereabouts of bin Laden.
The report was ordered after bin Laden's death and has yet to be officially published. According to Al Jazeera the report states that the reason the investigation was commissioned was likely an attempt for the Pakistani government to distance itself from responsibility.
The report was likely "a reluctant response to an overwhelming public and parliamentary demand," according to the commission.
The investigation also accuses the U.S. of acting in an "illegal manner" when they conducted the raid.
Other findings by the commission reveal that bin Laden arrived in Pakistan in the spring or summer of 2002, and spent a period of time in the city of Haripur before moving to Abbottabad with his family in August of 2005. The full extent of where he lived in Pakistan is not known.
It is believed bin Laden crossed from Pakistan into Afghanistan's cavernous Tora Bora region at some point in 2002, a period when U.S. forces were hunting him there, according to the commission's findings. He also is believed to have met with 9/11 alleged mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in Swat in early 2003, according to the report.
Also on Monday the Associated Press reported that the admiral who overseas special operations ordered files about the raid to be removed from Defense Department computers and moved to the CIA in an apparent attempt to keep them secret.
The CIA responded in a statement that it is "absolutely false" the records were moved to avoid legal requirements governing the public disclosure of government documents.
Reuters contributed to this report
First published July 8 2013, 7:42 PM