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Bin Laden's (Fictional) Mountain Fortress

Posted by Josh Rothman  May 5, 2011 10:54 PM

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Over at political discussion website Democratic Underground, user NNN0LHI has descended into the depths of the internet, unearthing a gem of an article from the on-the-whole-incomprehensible website of Edward Jay Epstein ("To enhance its labyrinthical concept, " the home page explains, "it contains no site map"). Epstein's piece on "The Lair of Bin Laden" is a real blast from the past. Check out, for instance, this amazing graphic from the Times of London, published in 2001 and depicting the Qaeda leader's presumed "mountain fortress":

Epstein writes:

The story [about an underground lair] probably reached its high point on NBC's Meet The Press on December 2nd when Tim Russert, the host of the program, provided Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld with the artist's rendering of bin Laden's fortress. The interview proceeded:

Russert: The Times of London did a graphic, which I want to put on the screen for you and our viewers. This is it. This is a fortress. This is very much a complex, multi-tiered, bedrooms and offices on the top, as you can see, secret exits on the side and on the bottom, cut deep to avoid thermal detection so when our planes fly to try to determine if any human beings are in there, it's built so deeply down and embedded in the mountain and the rock it's hard to detect. And over here, valleys guarded, as you can see, by some Taliban soldiers. 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. It's a very sophisticated operation.

Rumsfeld: 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. And I might add, Afghanistan is not the only country that has gone underground. Any number of countries have gone underground. The tunneling equipment that exists today is very powerful. It's dual use. It's available across the globe. And people have recognized the advantages of using underground protection for themselves.

You can read the whole transcript here at the Department of Defense. As we now know -- the reality was far less glamorous.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
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