How Bin Laden Emailed Without Internet: Sneakernet-To-The-Home

from the well,-that's-one-way-to-do-things dept

There have been plenty of reports about how the compound where Bin Laden apparently lived for the past few years had no phone or internet connections (and, in fact, that was part of what tipped US intelligence off to who was in there). However, at the same time, it was known that Al Qaeda regularly used email to communicate, leading some to assume that Bin Laden wasn't as involved. However, new reports from the technology seized at the compound apparently show that Bin Laden was a regular emailer, he just used a human courier to act as the "last mile" between his computer and the network in order to avoid detection:
Holed up in his walled compound in northeast Pakistan with no phone or Internet capabilities, bin Laden would type a message on his computer without an Internet connection, then save it using a thumb-sized flash drive. He then passed the flash drive to a trusted courier, who would head for a distant Internet cafe.

At that location, the courier would plug the memory drive into a computer, copy bin Laden's message into an email and send it. Reversing the process, the courier would copy any incoming email to the flash drive and return to the compound, where bin Laden would read his messages offline.
Of course, this also means that the emails were stored, meaning that US officials now have a bunch of email info. What's interesting is that the AP article suggests this means the feds will now issue a ton of National Security Letters to get info on those accounts. What I'm wondering is why use NSLs in this situation, when it shouldn't be difficult at all to get a full warrant from a court? It seems that they would have plenty of info to get a warrant. So why use NSLs?

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 May 2011 @ 8:01am

    Re: Re: Re: treasure trove?

    Assuming AES-256 doesn't have a "backdoor," how trivial would it be for OBL to use a freely available program like TrueCrypt? I find it really hard to believe that OBL would have been that arrogant or stupid to not use a nominally secure encryption method on his communications. Maybe I give them too much credit but I find it hard to believe the "treasure trove" is as truly valuable as the feds would have the people believe.

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