Monday, May 2, 2011

Bin Laden Dead – And It Was Live-Tweeted (Updated)

As the details continue to come in, there are several important points (and, at the bottom of this, several unimportant ones) to remember, and a remarkable new one to digest.

- The elimination of Osama Bin Laden was live-tweeted:

Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event).

That, for Sohaib Athar of Abbottabad, Pakistan (@ReallyVirtual) was when it started, around 4 PM Eastern time.

Go away helicopter – before I take out my giant swatter :-/

Closer to 5 PM Eastern:

A huge window shaking bang here in Abbottabad Cantt. I hope its not the start of something nasty :-S

Ear-witness to history. The details begin to come in to Mr. Athar:

the few people online at this time of the night are saying one of the copters was not Pakistani...

Tell me about it.

Since taliban (probably) don't have helicpoters, and since they're saying it was not "ours", so must be a complicated situation #abbottabad

I once left Palm Springs, California, at the exact moment students began to riot during spring break. My astonishment upon learning what I had seen is still fresh in my memory. That must've been nothing compared to Mr. Athar's growing awareness:

Two helicpoters, one down, could actually be the training accident scenario they're saying it was

This next one, about 10 PM Eastern, gives me chills:

Interesting rumors in the otherwise uneventful Abbottabad air today

Once again, all jigsaw puzzle parts are there. Only nobody knows that it's a jigsaw.

Report from a taxi driver: The army has cordoned off the crash area and is conducting door-to-door search in the surrounding

We are now past the time Obama's speech has been announced:

Report from a sweeper: A family also died in the crash, and one of the helicopter riders got away and is now being searched for.

Truer words never tweeted. And then comes this:

RT @ISuckBigTime: Osama Bin Laden killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan.: ISI has confirmed it << Uh oh, there goes the neighborhood :-/

I love this man.

Uh oh, now I'm the guy who liveblogged the Osama raid without knowing it.

Mr. Athar is, for now at least, The Most Interesting Tweeter In The World.

- Mr. Athar's life now begins to resemble Wilmer McLean, on whose property the first major battle (Bull Run) of the Civil War was fought. Athar advises he relocated from Lahore to get "some peace and quiet." This was why McLean left his farm and moved to Appomattox Courthouse, where four years later his house was used for Lee's surrender to Grant.

About 1:40 AM Eastern, Mr. Athar decided to show us Abbottabad.

He accompanies this with sage insight:

People don't use twitter here, hence they don't realize the attention they're getting. Ignorance is bliss.

And a little more humor, at about 2:15 AM Eastern:

Interesting. I didn't think my name would trend on twitter before releasing a couple of rock albums and a few award-winning software...

Have you ever considered hosting a show on Current?

- The President is right to raise security levels at US installations and bases. However, remember the premise of Al-Qaeda is the long-planned, meticulously-choreographed "spectacular." While an attempt at vengeance should not be discounted, it should be pointed out that what we would call in normal-human speak 'a quick turnaround' is not their forte. A terrorist in a hurry is a terrorist who drops the backpack bomb when he gets chased out of the subway. A terrorist in a hurry is a terrorist who lights himself and not his underwear bomb on fire. A terrorist in a hurry is a terrorist who locks his house keys in his car-bomb in Times Square.

- There is no reason to assume Al-Qaeda dries up and blows away. It is in fact plausible to consider that since (as Al-Jazeera pointed out) Bin Laden was no longer even connected to actual terrorist operations, he may prove to be more valuable to terrorists as an inspirational martyr than he was as a perpetual target.

- It is fascinating that after a decade of breaking all of our traditions of spycraft and not torturing so we wouldn't get bad intelligence and not starting wars that don't have anything to do with the matter at hand, it only took two years, three months, and eleven days after reverting to the ordinary old hard slog of human intelligence, the target was eliminated. In fact, based on the skeletal timeline the President gave, the target was located only 19 months after the old rules were restored. Remember: the professionals always say spying and intelligence (military intelligence included) resembles not Ian Fleming's James Bond, but John LeCarre's George Smiley.

- Here's one of those unimportant things. This was the President, via C-SPAN, captured by The New York Observer, during the jokes about bin Laden during The White House Correspondents' Dinner on Saturday Night. The proverbial 1000-word screencap:

- You can say all you want about unity and non-politicization of this event, but that ship sailed – and in the other direction – in 2002 and 2004. The GOP claimed all the credit in the world for anything that happened and anything that didn't. President Obama was attacked before during and after his election for supposedly "weak" national security credentials. In point of fact, as of tonight his national security/counter-terrorism credentials probably jumped to Number 4 on the all-time Presidential list, just behind Lincoln, FDR, and Madison.

- To that end, please join us in saying goodbye to Sarah Palin, whose career ended tonight. She sealed it by tweeting congratulations only to the military. Not a word about Intelligence personnel, and certainly not a word about Obama. Speaking of intelligence, rationalizing the death of Bin Laden under a Democratic president is going to test the limit of hers. Which ain't gonna take long.

- The primary "respectable" meme from the Right will be that this was merely the culmination of the search begun under President Bush. You know: the parallel to the sense that Harry Truman was only a steward completing the World War II tasks of FDR. That's very nice – and certainly those Americans who bravely hunted and searched, no matter who was in charge, deserve our humble thanks right now. But the American hunt for Bin Laden began under President Clinton – as the Republicans were so happy to point out loudly and grotesquely in 2005-06-07 (and the arming of Bin Laden began under President Reagan, by the way, back when we thought he was a good wedge against the Russians in Afghanistan).

- An ugly, and ill-informed, version of the above has appeared in the laughable Washington Times. In point of fact, Mr. Bush personally de-prioritized the hunt for bin Laden said himself he didn't worry about him. There will be a lot of Sour Grapes on the right – it sucks being them right now.

- Lastly, you can't stop them, you can only hope to contain them. This twitpic from ESPN Chicago correspondent Sarah Spain comes from the Fox affiliate in Sacramento. Sigh.

Somebody found an even better image:

This pales, of course, to what the anchor at the Fox station in Washington, WTTG, said – first thing out of his mouth as the President walked away from the podium:

"President Obama speaking from the East Room of the White House, telling the nation and the world: President Obama is in fact dead. It was a U.S.-led strategic (horrified co-anchor mumbles correction) I'm sorry. Osama Bin Laden is dead."