Bin Laden is just a Google search away
I’m not sure why critics say that the government isn’t serious about the war on terror. We are spending $128 billion this year in Iraq and Afghanistan in a proactive effort to fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here.
It goes without saying that the most important thing is to get Osama bin Laden, hence our stepped up presence in Afghanistan. And just to prove how serious we are about getting him, last week the State Department released an updated image of what bin Laden might look like today. The picture shows an older, grayer version of the al-Qaeda leader, with a shorter beard.
The FBI noted that it had used “cutting edge” technology to develop the image. Unfortunately, it turns out that “cutting edge” means a web browser, Google Images and panorama stitching software. On Saturday, the agency made the embarrassing admission that its forensic artist found an image of a Spanish politician and merged it with a decade-old bin Laden picture and presto – now we know what we're looking for! Obviously, you have to account for potential changes in beard and hair, so if you see someone who looks vaguely Spanish or Arab or both, with short or long hair, a short or long beard, maybe fifty-ish, give a holler.
This leads to a number of questions. First of all, where does one apply to be a forensic artist for the FBI? I’m less interested for myself than for my 11-year-old daughter, who is really good at Google Images searches and Photoshop.
Second, if we are going to dummy up a random guy and call him bin Laden, can we try to find someone other than an elected official who has been outspoken about U.S. policies? Honestly, this is very North Korea of us; around the world, people are shaking their heads and wondering how stupid we think they are.
But most important, if we are going to send 100,000 young people into Afghanistan to fight on our behalf, can our intelligence apparatus throw just the tiniest bit of additional resources into a serious bin Laden effort?
Many of us voted for the new president partially out of disgust that the old president got us into two wars without demonstrating much interest in going after bin Laden. I’m unenthusiastic about the efficacy of the current Afghanistan surge, and frankly it’s hard to get fully on board when the FBI and State Department are so unbelievably ham-handed about the person who started the war in the first place.
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