Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Osama bin Laden: High Priest of Terror

The Age of Social Media Collides With Terrorism

Sohaib Athar
Sohaib Athar
It had been nearly 10 years since the 9-11 attacks, and much had changed. The news media itself had undergone a transformation. With the advent of Twitter and Facebook, information leaked before it was official, and the bin Laden story was no different. Before it was true, it was a rumor on Twitter, and it only made the Obama's address even more anticipated.

At 10:25 p.m, Eastern time, CNN's Steve Brusk wrote on his Twitter account that a national security briefing was imminent. At nearly the same moment, Keith Urbahn, the Chief of Staff for former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, using his Twitter moniker @keithurbahn, wrote: "I'm told by a reputable person they have killed Osama bin Laden."

The news was quickly confirmed by several news organizations—and just as quickly retweeted: Jill Scott, a CBS News reporter wrote, "House Intelligence committee aide confirms that Osama bin Laden is dead. U.S. has the body."

Dramatization of raid helocopters landing
Dramatization of raid helocopters landing
Meanwhile, two men in Pakistan were unknowingly live Tweeting the invasion. One, Sohaib Athar (@ReallyVirtual) wrote about the helicopter crash in real time. He wrote: "A huge window shaking bang here in Abbottabad Cantt. I hope it's not the start of something nasty :-S."

Athar didn't know the explosions and helicopters he was hearing nearby were the first news of the bin Laden attack until he woke up the next morning and details began to emerge.

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