Today's Pentagon briefing on how the U.S. almost caught al-Qaida No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri raises issues about the whereabouts of other wanted al-Qaida members, as do Zacarias Moussaoui's comments today at his sentencing.
Here's what the U.S. government thinks they know about Osama bin Laden, Zawahiri and al-Qaida's leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi:
1. Bin Laden is believed to be staying put, rather than moving constantly. The belief is that he spends his time in one location and not with an entourage that would attract attention. He is believed to travel with at least one of his four wives, a Yemeni woman he married in 2001 when she was 17, younger than several of his older children.
2. Bin Laden's security is provided mainly by Uzbek and Chechen fighters who form rings of protection.
3. Zawahiri, on the other hand, does move, mostly in Pakistan. He and Bin Laden have not traveled together since mid-2003 for security reasons. Prior to that they did. Obviously, the U.S. has tried to kill him on more than one occasion, as he has admitted.
4. Next level people [like former No. 3 Abu Faraj al-Libi] operate mainly in Pakistan. In choosing locations, they look for friendly compounds within a few miles of the Afghan border. They prefer locations with multiple access [mountain passes] to the border. They often travel with their families.
5. The top officials move mainly on foot and on motorcycles, even mopeds, rather than convoys of vehicles which can attract attention and show up on JSTARS radars. (Prior to 9/11, Bin Laden traveled in a Mitsubishi Pajero. The next level guys used Toyota pickups.)
6. Zarqawi, more often than not, travels alone and on mopeds.
7. They communicate through a network of couriers carrying electronic media, specifically "thumb drives," the tiny, inexpensive, cigarette lighter-sized hard drives that can contain more than a gigabyte of data -- documents, audio, video, etc. -- and can easily be slipped into a pocket during an embrace.