Without internet, phone, Osama depended on couriers: NYT

American intelligence analysts are beginning to pore over a huge trove of computer files, storage devices and cellphones that the US commandos recovered from the Abbottabad compound, the New York Times reported.

The US released five videos Saturday. Osama bin Laden was killed in a top secret covert operation by US Navy SEALS in Abbottabad Monday.

The officials said they did not know when the video of the Al Qaeda chief watching himself on television had been recorded, but since there is a brief image of President Barack Obama appearing on the screen, it could have been made in the Abbottabad house sometime after January 2009 when Obama became president.

According to the daily, American officials assume that during the last five years bin Laden recorded about a half a dozen audio messages a year from inside the house. The messages were meant for dissemination to the outside world.

To avoid detection, bin Laden had no internet, e-mail or phone lines that he could use to send them. The audio files were evidently stored on a CD or tiny thumb drive and passed from courier to courier until they reached As Sahab, Al Qaeda’s media arm. There they would usually be combined with still images of bin Laden, subtitled translations, quotations from the Koran and other embellishments. The finished product would be uploaded to jihadist web forums and occasionally delivered to Al Jazeera or other broadcasters, the NYT said.

The messages are the only glimpse the world had of bin Laden’s thinking while he lived inside the compound.

It is not known if he had a radio in the house, but his son Omar, who lived with him in Afghanistan until 1999, described his father as constantly listening to the BBC.
Congressional officials said they were struck by how bin Laden’s low-profile, low-tech lifestyle in Abbottabad protected him, but it might have also hastened his death. Senator Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, said that the lack of a large entourage at the compound was obviously intended to attract as little attention as possible.
“If you had 25 18-year-olds with guns, then not only would the CIA notice, but so would the Pakistani military,” Reed said.

But he said he was also struck that bin Laden was not prepared for the kind of attack the commandos carried out. “There was no escape route, no tunnels, not even false rooms in the house in which to hide,” he said. “It makes you wonder: at what point did that extra degree of vigilance he had get dulled by routine?” 

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