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Islamic terrorist Osama bin Laden has superior technology at his disposal than the National Security Agency, the head of the super-secretive spy agency has told an American documentary programme.

Superior technological capabilities helped bin Laden to mastermind the simultaneous 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people, said General Mike Hayden, head of the NSA, during an interview to be broadcast tonight on CBS' 60 Minutes II news show.

"Osama bin Laden has at his disposal the wealth of a $3-trillion-a-year telecommunications industry that he can rely on," Hayden will say in the interview, according to newswire reports. "We are behind the curve in keeping up with the global telecommunications revolution."

There's more in the interview about the NSA's use of legacy technology and the confirmation of a widely-rumoured technology failure early last year, but all this misses the main point.

The idea that the signals intelligence arm of the US (the world's richest country) is behind in innovation involving the latest technology compared to an international pariah living in Afghanistan (one of the world's poorest states) beggars belief.

Isn't this the same agency that always touting its advanced in supercomputers and cryptographic research? Isn't this the NSA that has the sympathetic ear of Congress for its funding requests? Isn't this the super-secretive agency that has for years being using secret alien technology and abducting American citizens, like Scully from the X-files?

OK - the last one is fiction, but so are the protestations by Hayden (who might enjoy a successful career as a deadpan comic). The argument of a technology gap between the NSA and bin Laden has everything to do with the start of a New York trial of suspects in the bombing of the US embassies and an attempt by the NSA to coax further funding from Congress by inflating the cyber-terrorism menace.

It might also be an attempt by the NSA to persuade the IT industry to help keep its systems up to date, which if it pulls it off, will rank as one of the greatest acts of subterfuge in the agency history. You've got to admire its cheek though. ®

Related stories:
US Congress whips up 'cyber menace' again
Militants plan terror in chat rooms shocker
Hackers are terrorists, says UK law

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NSA Chief Says Bin Laden's Technology Is Superior

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