For several years, the FBI, CIA and security services around the world have monitored the internet and worldwide e-mail networks, in an unsuccessful search for communications passed by Osama Bin Laden to his international terrorist network. When he was tracked down and killed it was in a house with no internet connection, leaving law enforcement agencies puzzled. Now, with the discovery of hundreds of envelopes, pads of Basildon Bond notepaper, a box of ballpoint pens and, most damning of all, sheets of postage stamps at his secret headquarters, they believe he has been cleverly using the Post Office to keep in touch all this time.
While law enforcement agencies were on a 24-hour schedule, reading thousands of e-mails and visiting suspicious websites in the hope that Bin Laden would make a foolish slip and reveal his location, he was apparently writing instructions by hand, addressing envelopes personally and giving the letters to a trusted courier who put them in the post box at the end of the street. This devilishly clever ruse allowed him to direct operations for much longer and to much greater effect than the FBI imagined, said a spokesman today, who denied persistent rumours that Bin Laden's return address had also been written in the top left-hand corners of the envelopes.