Kabul, May 14: Using intermediaries and inexpensive computer disks, Osama bin Laden managed to send emails while in hiding, without leaving a digital fingerprint for US eavesdroppers to find, it has been revealed. His system was painstakingly slow, but allowed him to become a prolific email writer despite not having internet or phone lines running to his compound.
It also left an extensive archive of email exchanges for the US to scour. The electronic records are revealing thousands of messages and potentially hundreds of email addresses.
Holed up in his walled compound, bin Laden would type a message, then save it using a thumb-sized flash drive. He then passed the flash drive to a trusted courier, who would head for a distant internet cafe.
At that location, the courier would plug the memory drive into a computer, copy bin Laden's message into an email and send it. Reversing the process, the courier would copy any incoming email to the flash drive and return to the compound, where bin Laden would read his messages offline.
It was a slow, toilsome process. And it was so meticulous that even veteran intelligence officials have marvelled at bin Laden's ability to maintain it for so long.
Meanwhile, in the latest sign of the Taliban's rapprochement with at least some bits of the modern world, the group has embraced microblogging.
Their Twitter feed, @alemarahweb, pumps out several messages a day, keeping 224 followers up to date with often highly exaggerated reports of strikes against the ''infidel forces'' and the ''Karzai puppet regime''.
Most messages by the increasingly media-savvy movement are in Pashto, with links to news stories on the elaborate and multilingual website of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, as the Taliban's shadow government likes to style itself.
There is not much lively banter between the ''emirate'' and its Twitter followers, save for a cheerful ''asalam alekum'' sent last week to the Kavkaz Centre, a militant news site covering jihad in the Caucasus.