It was a battle fought using information, rather than just bullets. The greatest challenge the US administration faced in getting to Bin Laden and breaking his global network was the lack of information, not so much the firepower. Now, with Osama bin Laden dead, we can track the steps and count a few of the technological advances that led to him being eventually hunted down. We’ve considered five technologies connected to his death. We considered two in the first part. Here we continue our journey through the last two.
Continued from Part 1…
The US administration has been long preparing for an event like this and had already collected hundreds of blood samples from relatives of Bin Laden. This was to get a definitive DNA match. The face-recognition software used gave a 95% confidence that the body was indeed that of Bin Laden, which is pretty high, especially after the mutilation during the encounter. DNA tests gave a 99.9% certainty of the identity of the body, which basically seals the deal.
It is indeed an ironic twist of fate for those who were reminded of 9/11, since bodies of many victims were identified by using blood samples from close relatives or from hair from the comb used. In any case, the match is definitive.
A 33-year old computer programmer became an instant hit worldwide due to his tweets. Shoaib Athar (@ReallyVirtual) unwittingly live-blogged the operations as he perceived them, having moved to Abbottabad a few days earlier in order to escape the urban bustle, and earned more than 14000 Twitter followers in the process. He started off with an innocent:
Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event).
The first few tweets were laced with jokes, but they grew grim. One of the earliest people to understand that this wasn’t normal, he tweeted:
The few people online at this time of the night are saying one of the copters was not Pakistani.
His definitive 36th tweet said:
Osama Bin Laden killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
Keith Urbanh (@KeithUrbanh), claiming to be the chief-of-staff of Donald Rumsfeld, ex-US defense secretary, tweeted
I’m told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin Laden. Hot damn!
(P.S.: The account no longer seems to exist. A retweet exists, however.)
This came about an hour before President Obama’s official statement.
Facebook already has an Osama Bin Death Videoscam circulating.
It is irony on both ends. The US’s high-tech methods were foiled by the low-tech techniques used by the militants, since cyber tracking or telephonic interception became impossible. However, it was also this same low-tech that blew their cover. US officials triangulated the compound after it looked suspicious because of the lack of any sort of electronic noise, inspite of being a sprawling complex, estimated at a million dollars. There were no cables, or Net connection or any other tractable electronic communication device emissions. The CIA were sure of their targets.