Osama Bin Laden, mastermind of the September 11 attacks, is dead. Technology played a crucial role in locating the al-Qaida leader and spreading the news of his death, even allowing US President Barack Obama to watch Bin Laden's final gunfight live over the Internet.
Technology played a massive part in the raid itself, from the monitored phone call that suggested Bin Laden's whereabouts to the satellite images that confirmed it, the night vision equipment worn by the Navy SEAL teams that carried out the raid and the cameras that streamed the raid to the White House in real-time. After Bin Laden was killed, the news spread around the world in mere moments thanks to the Internet.
The photo above shows Obama watching the raid with members of the national security team in the Situation Room of the White House on Sunday. Clustered around the presidential HP laptops are assorted security and intelligence top bods, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
POTUS and senior White House staff watched the raid from the helmet cameras of soldiers on the ground in Pakistan, streamed over the Internet via a secure military broadband system. The ArcLight mobile broadband system is made by ViaSat and offers a a 14GHz uplink and downlinks between 11 and 13GHz. It's packed with security measures that allow any local Web connection to be made secure for high-bandwidth streaming anywhere in the world, including the White House situation room.
Another person with a first-hand view of proceedings was Pakistani blogger Sohaib Athar, who lives in Abbottabad "taking a break from the rat race by hiding in the mountains with his laptops". Tweeting as ReallyVirtual, Athar posted that he had heard a 4-5 minute gunfight and a helicopter crash, starting with "A huge window shaking bang here in Abbottabad Cantt. I hope its not the start of something nasty :-S".
The news first went public on Twitter too, when Keith Urbahn, who works for former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, tweeted "So I'm told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin Laden. Hot damn." US national news networks interrupted TV programmes, while Facebook and Twitter lit up with reactions to the news, as shown in this graph released by Twitter.
As always, no-one is quicker to react than scammers. The online security wonks at Sophos warn that malicious links are popping up on Facebook with names such as "SHOCKING NEW video of OSAMA BIN LADENS DEATH!!" or "Exclusive BANNED VDEIO footage of Osama Bin Laden being killed!!!"
As always, don't click on a link unless you know and trust where it's going, and avoid sensationalist links like these. We're willing to bet that even in his £600,000 Pakistan hideout, Bin Laden was bothered by spam. Maybe next time, the Special Forces should ask some spammers where the world's most wanted man is hiding.
That's a timely reminder not to believe -- or retweet -- everything you read. Thousands of tweeters have also been suckered by an alleged quote by Martin Luther King: "I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy." As compassionate as the sentiment is, reporters are struggling to find evidence that Martin Luther King ever uttered the viral words.
What with the royal wedding and Bin Laden's death, it's been a momentous bank holiday weekend. Here's to another one in just a few weeks.