Fear of tech helped betray bin Laden

In a high-tech world where just about anyone who can afford it has a telephone or an Internet connection, Osama bin Laden's decision to shun the communications tools helped contribute to his demise.

Despite years of speculation that the Al-Qaeda leader may be living in rough conditions along the Pakistan-Afghan border, he turned up in a well-appointed villa in a military cantonment town north of the Pakistani capital Islamabad.

But the mansion in Abbottabad where the 9/11 mastermind was killed by US Navy Seals on Sunday did not have telephone or Internet service, according to US officials, presumably to prevent detection through electronic eavesdropping.

The absence of the basic tools of modern communications in a luxury home was cited by US officials as precisely one of the things that aroused their suspicion that the building was being used to house the Al-Qaeda leader.

Briefing reporters on the intelligence that led to the raid on bin Laden's hideout, a senior US administration official who requested anonymity said it was "noteworthy" that "the property is valued at approximately $1 million but has no telephone or Internet service connected to it."

"Everything we saw -- the extremely elaborate operational security... and the location and the design of the compound itself was perfectly consistent with what our experts expected bin Laden's hideout to look like," the official said.

"Intelligence analysts concluded that this compound was custom built to hide someone of significance."

While bin Laden was betrayed in part by his decision not to equip the villa with something as simple as a telephone, the United States on the other hand deployed some of its most sophisticated high-tech assets to track him down.

The Pentagon on Monday released a series of satellite photographs of the bin Laden hideout and a diagram of the premises which included such details as the precise heights of the various walls surrounding the complex.

Central Intelligence Agency director Leon Panetta specifically cited the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) and the National Security Agency in a message to CIA employees marking bin Laden's death.

The NGA is the US government's main mapping agency responsible for satellite and other imagery while the NSA is its super-secret electronic eavesdropper, tasked with monitoring and intercepting communications around the world.

"We applied the full range of our capabilities, collecting intelligence through both human and technical means and subjecting it to the most rigorous analysis by our government's leading experts on bin Laden and his organisation," Panetta said.

US officials said what initially led them to the compound was discovering the identity of a man known to have served as a courier for bin Laden.

From there, US intelligence analysts were able to "build a body of evidence that suggested, circumstantially, that bin Laden was at that compound," said John Brennan, US President Barack Obama's anti-terror advisor.

That included the curious lack of telephone or Internet service.

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