As America celebrates the stellar work by U.S. intelligence officers who found Osama bin Laden and the SEALs who took him out, let's also consider the mind-bending role technology plays in our now always-connected world.
Sohaib Athar is a 33-year-old Pakistani technology consultant who moved to Abbottabad when he decided to take "a break from the rat race by hiding in the mountains with his laptops." He also spends a lot of time on Twitter where he uses the account @ReallyVirtual.
Yesterday, Athar took to his twitter account to complain about a helicopter hovering overhead:
He reports an explosion:
There are rumors about a helicopter crash nearby:
Sohaib starts to wonder about his quiet life in the mountains:
A few hours later, he finally learns what all the noise was about:
Granted, Osama wasn't hiding in a mountain cave completely cut off from the world, but it's a shock to realize he was living down the street from a couple of guys who post to Twitter all day long. In English.
We also have to realize that there's probably no such thing as a secret military operation in a place that has a cellphone signal. While we only know about Athar and Shah's observations because someone went back and searched Twitter after the fact, the truth is that everyone will soon enough have the processing horsepower for enterprising programmers to write software that can mine those tweets in real time.
Which leads us to offer even more credit to U.S. forces: they managed to carry out a deadly mission with zero collateral damage while surrounded by Tweeters complaining about the noise.