The bin Laden News Trove

PUBLISHED: May 9, 2011

The news nuggets just keep on coming in the Osama bin Laden story, even as we wait patiently for the movie and the inevitable HBO documentary. For instance, we learned that the most wanted man in the world apparently dyed his beard – not as a disguise, but to look better on YouTube.

We also discovered that bad guys live in "compounds," while good guys tend to live on "estates." During O.J. Simpson's murder trial, you’ll recall, prosecutors termed his California home a “compound.” In bin Laden's case, The New York Times was so confused by housing terminology that it reported he was found in a "mansion."

At least the paper’s managing editor Jill Abramson made the right call the night of the raid and deemed that The Times should not refer to the dead guy as “Mr. bin Laden.”

At the Defense Department, a senior briefing officer, in what may be the greatest understatement in military history, described bin Laden as “a senior terrorist.”

There was much debate about whether photos were needed to prove bin Laden was really dead. Comedian Rush Limbaugh had a great line when he quipped that only Donald Trump could get President Obama to release the (long form) photos.

Meanwhile, Seth Meyers of “Saturday Night Live” pointed out: Obama is the first black American who ever needed to convince people that he actually killed someone.

Sarah Palin continued her march to complete irrelevancy by Tweeting that the photos should be released to avoid “pussyfooting.”

Funny how the photo debate flipped. First it was argued that the photos were necessary to prove bin Laden was, in fact, dead. But then al-Qaida conceded his demise. So, within hours the Photo Lobby insisted that the real purpose of displaying the images was to remind other terrorists what it looks like to be dead.

One photo that helps neither side was released by Reuters, showing a dead occupant of bin Laden's compound lying next to a green plastic water pistol.

Another photo, the image of Obama's team in the Situation Room, was gripping because of the way Hillary Clinton is seen with her hand to her face, as if reacting to the video screen. A few days later Clinton disclosed that she has nasty "spring allergies" and was covering a cough.

During the raid, a Navy SEAL was asked to stretch out next to bin Laden’s body to determine if the dead man was 6-foot-4. This prompted President Obama to remark, “We spent $20 million on the helicopter. We couldn’t afford a measuring tape?”

The most popular word in the bin Laden story turns out to be “trove.” Apparently that’s the only term to describe all the stuff that was confiscated and, according to the DOD (Department of Defense), is being studied by a trove of abbreviation-loving agencies, including: the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), DHS (Department of Homeland Security), DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency), FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), NCTC (National Counterterrorism Center), NGA (National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency), and NSA (National Security Agency).

Everyone had a wisecrack. A Tweeter named Dana Arikane suggested, "They should have captured bin Laden alive and made him continually go through airport security for the rest of his life."

David Letterman noted, “Well, the good news is that bin Laden lived long enough to see the Royal Wedding.”

If you ask me, it’s too bad bin Laden’s body couldn’t have been saved for scientific study. There may be no other person, dead or alive, who can provide clues about what it’s like to go without the Internet for five straight years.

(c) Peter Funt. This column was originally distributed by the Cagle Syndicate.

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