Bin Laden may have gone low-tech

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – If Osama bin Laden is directing plans for an attack on the United States – as Washington intelligence officials suspect – his instructions are likely coming out of the craggy mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan on the back of a donkey or under the shawl of a villager.

After the arrests of several top lieutenants, bin Laden and his right hand man, Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahri, have learned their lessons well, Pakistani intelligence officials and international terrorism experts say. They don’t use satellite or cell phones, don’t trust anyone outside their innermost circle and never come up for air.

Messages from the men likely pass through the hands of numerous couriers, most of whom have no idea where they originated, before they are sent aso e-mails or conveyed by phone to other militants.

“If bin Laden wants to convey something, he gives a letter to someone in his circle, who takes it a certain distance and then hands it to someone else, and then someone else until it reaches its final destination. Nobody knows who the letter is from except the first person, who is one of bin Laden’s most trusted men,” said a senior Pakistani intelligence official.

The Bush administration believes plans for a terror attack are being directed by the most senior levels of the al-Qaida leadership, including bin Laden, a U.S. intelligence official said in July.

How much input the top men have is open to question, but a Pakistani government official said several captured al-Qaida men have told authorities they received instructions from bin Laden.

“Probably he is alive, and some al-Qaida suspects captured in Pakistan have talked about receiving verbal messages from him through different channels,” he said .

The American and Pakistani officials spoke on condition of anonymity.

There has been no confirmation of bin Laden and al-Zawahri’s whereabouts since they slipped away during a U.S.-Afghan assault on their mountain hideouts in Tora Bora in late 2001, but they are believed to be hiding in the mountains along Pakistan-Afghanistan border, protected by deeply conservative tribesmen who share their beliefs.

With the exception of about a half-dozen audiotaped messages the CIA has authenticated as being his voice, there has been virtually no sign of bin Laden since shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. That silence has lent him almost a mythic quality, especially among his followers, but officials say he is still very real, and very dangerous.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Marysville
1 pedestrian dead after car crash on I-5 south of Marysville

Around 5 p.m., a car crashed into a pedestrian along I-5. Investigators believed a man had parked on the shoulder to refuel.

FILE - A person walks near the Legislative Building, Wednesday, April 21, 2021, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. Washington's redistricting commission failed to meet its deadline and on Tuesday, Nov. 16, kicked the job of creating new political maps to the state Supreme Court. The bipartisan commission had a deadline of 11:59 p.m. Monday to approve new boundaries for congressional and legislative districts following the 2020 census. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Do Snohomish County lawmakers want a 2020 presidential rematch?

The Herald contacted seven Republican legislators representing parts of Snohomish County about their primary choice. Five did not respond.

A man walks by Pfizer headquarters, Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, in New York. Pfizer will spend about $43 billion to buy Seagen and broaden its reach into cancer treatments, the pharmaceutical giant said. (AP Photo / Mark Lennihan, File)
Pfizer backs out of Everett manufacturing plant after $43B Seagen deal

Pfizer finalized the acquisition of the Bothell-based cancer drug developer in December.

Photo provided by 
Economic Alliance
Economic Alliance presented one of the Washington Rising Stem Awards to Katie Larios, a senior at Mountlake Terrace High School.
Mountlake Terrace High School senior wins state STEM award

Katie Larios was honored at an Economic Alliance gathering: “A champion for other young women of color in STEM.”

A view of one of the potential locations of the new Aquasox stadium on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024 in Everett, Washington. The site sits between Hewitt Avenue, Broadway, Pacific Avenue and the railroad. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
20 businesses could be demolished for downtown Everett stadium

Some business owners say the city didn’t tell them of plans for a new AquaSox stadium that could displace their businesses.

Kathy Purviance-Snow poses for a photo in her computer lab at Snohomish High School on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024, in Snohomish, WA. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
To ban or embrace ChatGPT? Local teachers fight AI with AI — or don’t

“It has fundamentally changed my teaching in really stressful and exciting ways,” an EvCC teacher said. At all levels of education, ChatGPT poses a tricky question.

In this Feb. 5, 2018, file photo a Boeing 737 MAX 7 is displayed during a debut for employees and media of the new jet in Renton, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
FAA gives Boeing 90 days to develop plan to fix quality, safety issues

The agency’s ultimatum comes a day after a meeting with CEO Dave Calhoun and other top Boeing officials in Washington, D.C.

Flowers for slain trooper Chris Gadd begin to collect outside Washington State Patrol District 7 Headquarters on Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Marysville, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Police: Lynnwood man smoked marijuana before crashing into trooper

Chris Gadd, 27, was stopped along southbound I-5 when he was hit and killed early Saturday. Troopers suspect the driver was impaired.

Madi Humphries, 9, Rose Austin, 13, and Eirene Ritting, 8, on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024 in Bothell, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
No grades, no teachers: Inside a Bothell school run by student vote

Each day at The Clearwater School, 60 students choose their own lessons. It’s one vote per person, whether you’re staff or student.

SonShine Preschool inside First Baptist Church Monroe is pictured Friday, March 1, 2024, in Monroe, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
SonShine preschool in Monroe to close at the end of the year

The preschool, operated by First Baptist Church, served kids for 25 years. School leadership did not explain the reason behind the closure.

Two troopers place a photo of slain Washington State Patrol trooper Chris Gadd outside WSP District 7 Headquarters about twelve hours after Gadd was struck and killed in a collision on southbound I-5 about a mile from the headquarters on Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Marysville, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
State trooper killed, 1 arrested in crash on I-5 near Marysville

Authorities said Trooper Chris Gadd had been stopped along the freeway around 3 a.m. near 136th Street NE. A Lynnwood driver, 32, was arrested.

Providence Hospital in Everett at sunset Monday night on December 11, 2017. Officials Providence St. Joseph Health Ascension Health reportedly are discussing a merger that would create a chain of hospitals, including Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, plus clinics and medical care centers in 26 states spanning both coasts. (Kevin Clark / The Daily Herald)
Following lawsuit, Providence commits to improved care for Deaf patients

Three patients from Snohomish County sued Providence in 2022 for alleged Americans with Disabilities Act violations.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.