Osama Bin Laden is evading detection by not using modern telecoms equipment, the US intelligence services have told the press. "He switched off a lot of communications technologies," a US intelligence spokesman said. "Now it is other people talking for him. In an innocuous conversation, you can't pick that out."
Osama is so cunning, we are told, that he is now using human messengers and family members to deliver instructions. "This isn't low-tech," a former NSA consultant has been quoted as saying. "You'd have to really call it no-tech."
Apparently, until this week, they knew just where he was by tracking his satellite phone and they traced his organisation by checking out Internet traffic and email.
Now hang on a second. Are these the same intelligence agencies that have clearly failed to infiltrate Osama bin Laden's organisation and that were caught completely unawares when the greatest terrorist attack in history happened right on their own doorstep?
Only last week, we were being told that increased surveillance - taps on all ISPs and a backdoor in encryption systems - was the only way to stop people like this. Now, seven days later, when hundreds of special forces personnel are crawling around Afghanistan looking for the man, we're told that all this technology and the billions spent on it are obsolete because he's turned his phone off. That we are blind as a mole.
In fact, a mole is exactly what the West needs at the moment. Most companies have learnt that modern computer technology is nothing more than a tool - a useful tool, mind - and that it's knowledge and expertise among your staff that really cuts it. It would seem the intelligence services are not quite up to speed. ®
We've had the journalist from AP that wrote the original story onto us. D Ian Hopper is annoyed that we didn't credit the story - of which we are guilty, although we didn't know it was him that wrote it.
He also informs us that the source is a retired intelligence operative and that bin Laden's change of tack happened years ago and not last week.
It seems as though we have been caught up in the current obsession of rewriting stories to make it seem immediate to current events. Serves us right for not checking other journalists' stories.