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How bin Laden thwarted US electronic surveillance

Prolific emailer used thumb-drive proxy

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Osama bin Laden didn't have a phone or internet connection, but for years he was a prolific user of email who frustrated Western efforts to track him by saving messages to a thumb drive and having them sent from a distant internet cafe, the Associated Press reports.

The process was so tedious that even veteran intelligence officials have marveled at the al-Qaida chief's ability to maintain it for so long, the news service said. Bin Laden would type the messages on a computer that had no connection to the outside world and then instruct a trusted courier to drive to a cafe so they could be emailed. The courier would then save messages addressed to bin Laden to the same drive and bring it back so his boss could read them offline.

US Navy Seals seized roughly 100 flash memory drives when they killed bin Laden at his Abbottabad, Pakistan, compound a week and a half ago. Officials told the AP they “appear to archive the back-and-forth communication between bin Laden and his associates around the world." The cache of messages is so big that the government has enlisted Arabic speakers from around the intelligence community to pore over them.

The AP has more here. ®

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