Tuesday, May 10, 2011

"How to Spot a Terrorist Mastermind"

From Reason:
A number of U.S. officials have expressed skepticism that Osama bin Laden could have been hiding in plain sight for years in Pakistan without the government's knowledge. Abbottabad, where bin Laden was hanging out, is home to three army regiments. The military swings a lot of weight in Pakistan.

Moreover, the Pakistani government is not exactly looking over its shoulder in fear of a stern letter from the ACLU. Freedom House's annual "Freedom in the World" report on Pakistan is filled with terms like "excessive force," "arbitrary detention," "collective punishment for individual crimes," "impunity for human rights abuses," and "extrajudicial killings."

This has led to the widespread assumption that if the Pakistanis were curious as to who was living in the giant compound less than a mile from the Kakul Military Academy, they had means of finding out.
Well, those of ye without sin may cast the first stone. Once the Pakistani news shows get around to interviewing bin Laden's neighbors, no doubt they will say the same sorts of things that Americans say when someone on the block turns out to be a serial killer:

"He was always very quiet and polite."

"He never caused any trouble."

"We're all in shock. That sort of thing just doesn't happen around here."

"Did I think it was weird that he was stockpiling fissile nuclear materials in his garage? Well, maybe, now that you mention it. But hindsight is always 20/20, you know?"

Why would anyone assume spotting a terrorist mastermind is easy, anyway? It's not like spotting a suicide bomber. Your typical suicide bomber gives himself away with a dozen telltale signs: the bulky overcoat, the chanting under the breath, the glassy stare, the hand glued to the detonator in his pocket. And of course the explosion. That's usually the biggest giveaway of all.

A terrorist mastermind, on the other hand, is much harder to spot. So for the benefit of Pakistan's ISI and any other secret police forces out there that aren't sure what to look for, here are some helpful hints.

(1) Check the mailbox. If the name on the plate says Ayman al-Zawahiri, Saif al Adel, Abu Yahya al Libi, or—better write this one down—Sa'ad bin Laden, you might want to post a surveillance team.

(2) Look at the residence. Does it have high walls, security cameras, armed guards, and batteries of surface-to-air missiles? Does it look like the sort of place that would appeal to someone named Tony Montana, Hugh Hefner, or Ted Kennedy? Would news organizations describe it as a "compound"? If so, then it could be a terrorist hideout....MORE