Bin Laden documents published online
WASHINGTON — The United States published several documents online Thursday that it seized during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan last year.
The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point published the papers on its website.
They are among the more than 6,000 documents U.S. Navy SEALs seized during their raid on bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in May 2011.
Among the revelations from that larger batch of documents is that bin Laden worked until his death to organize another massive terrorist attack in the United States, even while steering affiliated groups away from using the terror network’s name so they would not attract as many enemies.
The documents were found on the five computers, dozens of hard drives and more than 100 storage devices, such as thumb drives and discs, confiscated from the compound after bin Laden was killed.
U.S. officials have described the cache as the single largest collection of senior terrorist material ever obtained. It included digital, audio and video files, printed materials, recording devices and handwritten documents.
Michael Birmingham, a spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, would not say this week what percentage of the overall material is being made public, but he did say some documents will remain classified for security and operational reasons.
Others will not be released because they have been determined to be limited in substantive value or are what Birmingham described as “household clutter,” written materials on mundane issues.
CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen had access to some of the materials while researching his new book, “Manhunt: The Ten Year Search for Bin Laden from 9/11 to Abbottabad.”
“The documents paint a portrait of a man who was simultaneously an inveterate micromanager, but was also someone almost delusional in his belief that his organization could still force a change in American foreign policies in the Muslim world if only he could get another big attack” in the United States, Bergen said on CNN.com this week.
The writings also reveal that bin Laden well understood that al Qaeda’s brand name was in deep trouble, in particular, because the group and its affiliates had killed so many civilians.
They also contain advice to the leader of Al-Shabaab not to identify his group as being part of the larger terrorist network so it wouldn’t put off potential financial donors.
“Bin Ladin was frustrated by what he viewed as the incompetence of the affiliates, including their failure to win public support as well as their poorly planned operations that resulted in the deaths of thousands of Muslims,” said Lt. Col. Liam Collins, the Director of the Combating Terrorism Center and one of the authors of a CTC report about the documents.
“In contrast to bin Ladin’s public statements focusing on the corrupt governments in the Muslim world as well as enemies such as the United States, bin Ladin’s private letters lamented at Muslims’ suffering at the hands of his jihadi brothers,” Collins said.
There is so little reference, he said, that nothing could be conclusively gleaned about Pakistan and bin Laden from the trove of papers.
“There are no explicit references to any institutional Pakistani support for al Qaeda or its operatives,” he said.
Credit: Pam Benson and Joe Sterling, CNN.