Washington, Jul 3: After al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden has successfully evaded arrest for the past seven years, US intelligence officials have begun admitting that it's really a difficult task to catch him dead or alive.
Reacting to the recent reports that the US had the authority to launch attacks on Osama bin Laden, if traced in Pakistan's tribal areas, from across the Afghanistan border even without getting a clearance from Islamabad, a US intelligence official said: "It is one thing to have Pakistan's permission to shoot bin Laden on sight. It is another to find him. It's a needle in a haystack."
Even as Washington still harbors suspicions about Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence agency (ISI), which helped establish pro-al Qaeda Taliban rule in Afghanistan, according to US intelligence officials, it had become difficult to catch Osama because over the years he had changed his modus operandi and mode of communication.
The reasons often cited by US intelligence officials are -- He stopped communicating on radios and telephones to avoid being intercepted by the National Security Agency; he is protected by militant leaders whose tribes have been infiltrated by al Qaeda operatives who impose a no-talk discipline; the CIA has been unable to penetrate this tribal ring of security to find a spy who might disclose his location; and bin Laden moves frequently amid the FATA's vast, rugged terrain.
But, in the words of White House spokesperson Dana Perino, US has had a lot of success in reaching up to the second and third level leadership of al Qaeda. "I would say to you in the last seven years there has been a lot of success in terms of finding that second- and third-level al Qaeda guy. And we have been able to prevent attacks so far. But one of the things that we're up against is that we have a very determined enemy. They hide in caves, they respect no uniform, they are in a very treacherous geographic area that's very hard to get into," washingtontimes.com quoted her as saying.
The NSA installed a network of electronic boxes in the Afghan mountains to absorb communications from the FATA, which has helped the CIA in identifying militant hide-outs and training bases, but the network has not picked up bin Laden's voice.