In a world in which anybody with a computer can peer into anyone else’s yard, the long-term fugitive feels like a throwback to an era of pigeon post and pith helmets.

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In a world in which anybody with a computer can peer into anyone else’s yard, the long-term fugitive feels like a throwback to an era of pigeon post and pith helmets. However, Osama bin Laden’s long evasion of America’s formidable reach demonstrates just how easy it can be, given the right connections and requisite chutzpah, to hide from the world.

The primary lesson bin Laden seems to have learned is the efficacy of hiding in plain sight – in his case, hilariously, in a middle-class neighbourhood near a military academy. He had, perhaps, heeded the undignified extraction of Saddam Hussein from a short stay in a literal hole in the ground. He would also have known of his fellow former Khartoumian, Carlos the Jackal, who overestimated the goodwill of his hosts (Sudan gave him up to France). And it is not fanciful to suspect that bin Laden also learnt from another famous ducker of justice’s crook, former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic.

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