Published May 03, 2011
U.S. officials say Al Qaeda chieftain Usama bin Laden would have remained "off the grid" -- electronically and digitally invisible, without phone or Internet connection -- and free to plot more terror attacks if not for a Kuwaiti courier's cell-phone signal.
"I would put it at about 0 percent probability that he was able to stay off-grid and not be captured without some major aid," Bunker told FoxNews.com.
Reports suggest that the only way U.S. military analysts were able to see through bin Laden's anonymous, unplugged existence was a single cell phone call from his courier -- who reportedly turned off his phone and removed the battery after hanging up just to stay off grid.
"Computers can be fooled," he noted, explaining that it's possible to evade detection; to aid his invisibility, bin Laden was living in a facility with neither phone lines nor Internet connections. But what of the years of communication?
"With the amount and number of communications that were coming from bin Laden and his camp for over 10 years, I would say he was sitting high and dry in the womb of some very engaged and important people in the field of intelligence and counter-insurgency," Bunker said.
Before U.S. Navy SEAL Team 6 left the compound in Abottabad, Pakistan, in which bin Laden lurked, they removed what experts call an intelligence treasure trove of information both digital and on paper -- information that included a number of computer hard drives.
"If you believe that bin Laden was not receiving massive governmental aid in staying hidden … you would have to conclude that he was very, very careful about avoiding all signals and electronic communications," Bunker said. It's possible that the master terrorist wasn’t using a computer connected to the Internet or making phone calls, of course.
"But that still makes it very hard to believe," he added.
As the details of the Navy raid emerge, more information about just how "off grid" bin Laden really was should also arrive. Morgan Wright, a cyberterror analyst who has trained the FBI on cybersecurity, noted that part of any current mission is to track down digital forms of intelligence -- just the stuff one living off grid would avoid.
"We have come to rely so much on electronics and data that now part of the mission is to go out and collect this information," Wright told Fox News anchor Jon Scott. He cited the numerous places digital information is stored these days -- "thumb drives, CD-ROMs, SIM cards out of cellphones because you can store data on there" -- and had no doubt bin Laden's fortress would reveal more of these things.
"The challenge is probably going to be sorting through all this stuff. There's going to be so much information, [the struggle will be] getting to the stuff that's of tactical value so you can put it into action right away," he said.
"We're probably going to be able to find out what was on Usama bin Laden's iPod," Wright said.