Inside the Beltway: Keith Urbahn’s moment

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A subculture has emerged around the first anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden, which is Tuesday. To politicize, or not to politicize? That is the question.

Chief White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan insists the White House has not politicized the events, despite the “warrior president” mantle bestowed upon President Obama in a New York Times Op-Ed by CNN security analyst Peter Bergen, also the director of National Security Studies at the New America Foundation. Then there’s a snappy new video and bumper sticker from Mr. Obama’s re-election campaign and a recent speech by Vice President Joseph R. Biden that frames the president as a gutsy hero.

But at long last, someone gets some ironclad credit for breaking the news of bin Laden’s death. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology claim victory for Keith Urbahn, an aide to former Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld as the first person to break the news — on Twitter. His tweet heard ‘round the world 10:24 p.m. ET on May 1, 2011: “So I’m told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin Laden. Hot damn.”

The researchers made their pronouncement after studying 600,000 tweets that emerged from the social media site from that terse missive, confirming the “widely held belief” that Mr. Urbahn was the original point man. CBS News followed with its own verification eight minutes later, then there was a deluge. Tweets were sent at 5,000 per second; the news went viral once such celebrities as Steve Martin and Kim Kardashian picked up on it. Credibility still counts, perhaps.

“We believe Twitter was so quick to trust the rumors because of who sent the first few tweets. They came from reputable sources,” says lead researcher Mengdie Hu.

BIN LADEN‘S “HOME MOVIES”

It’s also time for Osama Bin Laden, the sequel. Details from still classified intelligence from the U.S. Special Forces raid on the bin Laden hide-out will be revealed in “Secrets of Bin Laden’s Lair” on the Discovery Channel on Tuesday with help from NBC Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski and other network personnel — plus several hundred analysts and linguists who pored over video clips, computer hard drives and documents.

“There could very well be active al Qaeda plots in the works as we speak,” Mr. Miklaszewski observes, though not all of the videos were “sinister terrorist material,” apparently.

“It was not a group of instructional videos, for example, on how to make an [improvised explosive device]. It was not video of targets. Instead, it was things like video of daily life around the compound, a lot of videos of chickens, of cows, of rabbits, of dogs,” says Bob Windrem, an NBC investigative producer. “It’s bin Laden’s home movies. That’s the easiest way to describe it.”

BUMPER PATROL

“If you don’t stand for anything, you will fall for everything.”

- Bumper sticker spotted in Brewster, N.Y.

THE BIPARTISAN CREATOR

“How Should Christians Vote?” asks Tony Evans, pastor of the 9,000-member Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, and a popular radio evangelist. He has answered his own question with a book of the same name, available Tuesday from Moody Publisher.

“To walk into a voting booth and simply pull a lever because that is what your friends do, that is what your family does, or that is how you have always voted will be to neglect one of the greatest responsibilities you have, which is to cast a vote for the values of the kingdom of God,” The minister says, adding that his book will also lend insights for political observers trying to “understand” Christian voters.

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