- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 6, 2001

Osama bin Laden is not emitting any electronic signals that would give away his location in Afghanistan and has had only limited communications with supporters through handwritten notes, U.S. officials say.
Since his orchestrated September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon, bin Laden has stayed on the run, moving from cave to cave hide-out, sometimes more than once in one day, said officials, quoting intelligence reports.
U.S. sensors have not picked up any communications by bin Laden or top leaders in his al Qaeda terrorist group, which has several thousand members.
The officials say "limited" communication from bin Laden has been through handwritten notes. The CIA, which President Bush has authorized to kill bin Laden, is trying to trace the note chain back to bin Laden with little success. On-the-ground reports of his exact location often prove to be outdated or bogus.
"We know he's using hand-carried notes," said one military official.
A CIA-operated Predator drone captured bin Laden on videotape last spring as he stood in one of his terrorist camps.
But he disappeared shortly before September 11 and has not been seen since, officials said.
Bin Laden typically traveled in vehicle convoys, protected by about 40 elite al Qaeda soldiers.
"He will not let a non-Arab approach him," said one U.S. official.
But some officials believe that today he travels by horseback so he will not attract the attention of U.S. spy assets.
Asked during the weekend about the hunt for bin Laden, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said tips "always tend to be retrospective, not prospective."
"He is fully aware, I'm sure, that the world would like to see more of him in person and have an opportunity to locate him. But he is careful, as are all the senior leaders in al Qaeda. They've been spending a lot of time in caves and tunnels and moving frequently, and I think that the reports are probably as much wrong as right, from time to time, but they are always late."
The Pentagon in recent weeks has increased targeting of Afghanistan's large network of caves, the preferred redoubts of bin Laden and al Qaeda both in hiding war materiel and themselves.
Gen. Tommy Franks, the overall U.S. commander of the Afghanistan air and special-operations campaign, disclosed that one reason for hitting caves is to remove future hiding places.
Asked by ABC whether he was close to catching bin Laden, Gen. Franks said, "Afghanistan's a big country. There are lots and lots of places to go. I think last week, the president talked a little bit about attacking caves, tunnels and this sort of thing. So what we intend to do is we intend to limit his opportunity to move about."
Asked whether he had the authority to strike bin Laden, Gen. Franks answered, "I do. [Mr. Bush] has given me the authority. Yes."
Mr. Bush has said he wants the former Saudi citizen "dead or alive." But senior officials told The Washington Times that there is a private consensus in the administration that capturing bin Laden alive would present the government with major problems. They include having to divulge intelligence sources and methods at a trial and providing security for the world's most-wanted man.
Gen. Franks has gone after underground complexes with two principal weapons: the GBU-28, a 5,000-pound "bunker-buster" bomb guided by lasers and carried by the F-15E fighter, and a satellite-directed version, GBU-37, dropped by Air Force heavy bombers. The bombs bore deep inside a cave or bunker before exploding.
U.S. special-operations sources say the onset of winter will facilitate the search for bin Laden and the Taliban.
The soldiers say cave entrances will emit a much stronger heat signature for commandos on the ground and fighter-bombers at 10,000 feet.
Some Pentagon officials harbor a faint hope that bin Laden is already dead, killed by one of the "bunker busters" directed at known cave residences.
But the Taliban says he and their group's supreme leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, are still alive.
"We do believe that they do use [caves]," Rear Adm. John Stufflebeem told reporters at the Pentagon yesterday.
"We use all-source intelligence to try to refine where they're at, either as individuals who may be there, or as storage facilities. And when we feel comfortable that we have a known facility or we suspect that it has been used, then we strike it."


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