We caught and shot Osama bin Laden in a rundown, decrepit compound, lacking any electronic contact with the outside world. But in 2001, the Times of London (and the Pentagon) thought he was living in a comic villain's super fortress.
The absurd graphic, birthed from rumours stacked upon rumours originating with a former Russian soldier, placed Osama inside a bunker that would make Lex Luther blush. The thing, tunnelled as deep as the World Trade Center was built high, looks like a super duper hideaway I would have drawn up with magic marker as an eight-year-old: secret exits, booby traps, missile launcher caches, all deep enough in a mountainside to withstand bombardment and massive enough to hold 1000 men. So, yes, bad enough that the press' imagination ran wild with visions of Osama's MTV Cribs-worthy terror mansion. But even worse - it got a cosign from the US Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumseld, who on Meet the Press, frothed at the mouth with Osama-huntin' excitement.
When prompted by show host Tim Russert, who described:
A ventilation system to allow people to breathe and to carry on. An arms and ammunition depot. And you can see here the exits leading into it and the entrances large enough to drive trucks and cars and even tanks. And it's own hydroelectric power to help keep lights on, even computer systems and telephone systems.
Rumsfeld replied, "Oh, you bet. This is serious business. And there's not one of those. There are many of those. And they have been used very effectively."
Well, no, there weren't. This never existed, and it's hard to imagine how anyone could have been sucked into this fantasy vortex of terrorist haute architecture. Osama wasn't in a "mountain fortress" in Afghanistan - he was in a shithole house that looked like a Motel 6 after being hit by a neutron bomb strike and an underpaid decorator.
But even without the mystical mountain fortress, right above ground, it still took us a decade to find him. [via Brainiac]