In Zero Dark Thirty, surveillance of the compound where the courier lives shows that there are two men and three women. The CIA analysts discuss that there must be a third man living there, guessing that that man must be Osama bin Laden:

George: If there are three females, there ought to be three males. Observant Muslim women either live with parents or with their husbands. We think there's a third family living in the house.
National Security Advisor: So this third male that you've identified as possibly being bin Laden [...]

How can this work if Polygyny is allowed and practised in Islam? Even the movie contradicts itself later: During the attack on the compound, several more women are seen, and the credits list four wives for Osama bin Laden. How could they know that the courier didn't have two wives, for example?

2 Answers 2


The CIA along with the NGA was able to generate 3D representations of the entire compound. By constant observations they even correctly deduced the number of people, gender and their occupation. The construction of the house and the fact that no one other than the courier mr al - kuwaiti went outside implies that the compound is indeed a hideout for some fugitive.

They understood that inspite of the wonderful weather outside everyone got out together in the inner courtyard to have fun a certain individual always remained under the shade never venturing out into the open. The unusual behaviour of the mystery person coupled with the apparent closedness of the compound gives the identity of the person as a high value target.

This coupled with the notion that polygamy is no longer islamic and that the family is observant muslim seals laden's identity. Hats off to the CIA...


Polygamy is no longer widely practiced or accepted within Islam (see this). As for the excess women, I thought it was obvious they were maids and servants.

I thought the most convincing evidence presented in the movie was that there was an unusually tall, thin, bearded male who wandered around apparently without any responsibilities.

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    There was no evidence in the movie about a tall/thin/bearded male. Bin Laden is never seen in the movie before the final assault (neither by the audience nor by the characters in the movie). Also, the "excess women" definitely were his wives (he had four, so Polygyny was/is certainly still practiced, but then again, Osama bin Laden wasn't your average Muslim), and they are credited as such in the movie. Commented Jun 12, 2013 at 9:16

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