Osama Used Unsophisticated Communication Method

By: Mel Joelle

It has been about a week since the raid on Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Pakistan. So what have we learned other than the fact that it took almost ten years for the United States to find a man hiding in plain sight? We now know for sure that he had been there for quite some time, his wives are okay and that Pakistan didn’t know about the raid beforehand. We also know that Osama bin Laden used some very elementary electronic messaging techniques to evade U.S. intelligence officials. For almost a decade, the U.S. has been using all the resources, technology and intelligence available to discover the whereabouts and activities of the leader of the Islamic militant group, Al-Qaeda.

To escape capture while still having great influence over Al-Qaeda, Osama used a system that involved significant trust in one or more couriers. To send information to his terrorist underlings, bin Laden would compose messages on a computer without an internet connection. He would then save the message on a flash USB flash drive. His trusted courier would then go to a spot with internet access, let’s say the Pakistani version of McDonalds or Starbucks, and use their free Wi-Fi. Using the message on the flash drive, the couriers would send an email to up to a hundred or so Al-Qaeda members.

The raid on the compound with no telephone or internet access revealed a lot about the thoughts of bin Laden because of all the files that were retrieved. Several flash drives were collected by the Navy SEALs, which the U.S. government is now translating and dissecting. The measure of bin Laden’s communications with Al-Qaeda was surprising given that they all went undetected. The intelligence community in Pakistan and the U.S. failed to figure out bin Laden’s communications strategy for several years. All I keep thinking about is how this was allowed to happen for so long.

It is inconceivable to me that it took this long to become suspicious about a million dollar mansion with no internet or telephone service. A house where residents burned their trash and were completely secluded from the rest of the neighborhood with a barb-wired wall should have been a red flag long before information was given about a possible courier from a Guantanamo Bay detainee. Even with the capture and death of the most wanted man in the world, there has to be some level of embarrassment in the U.S. intelligence community due to the simplicity of the clues.

In light of the Taliban’s recent terrorist attack on Pakistani citizens in which eighty people were killed, I can only wonder what will be next. The Taliban is claiming that the double suicide bombing was done in retaliation to the slaying of bin Laden. The notion is that the Pakistani government is responsible for failing to thwart the raid that lead to Osama’s death. The Taliban is only linked to Al-Qaeda–imagine what Al-Qaeda is cooking up. The United States and other countries have to step up their game.

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