Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Bin Laden Raid Documents Released

     A BBC journalist looking at the website           

US officials have released documents found at Osama Bin Laden's secret compound in Pakistan during a raid in 2011. The documents are now available on a US government website.
Special operators killed the al-Qaeda chief during that operation and recovered the documents that officials have branded Bin Laden's Bookshelf.
As well as Arabic correspondence, there are English language books by Bob Woodward and Noam Chomsky, and others on economic and military theory. More documents may yet be released.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) said a "rigorous" review had taken place before the documents were released.

People gathering outside of the safe house
The documents were recovered at this house in Abbottabad, Pakistan

They say you can tell a lot about a person from their bookshelf. But what can we tell about the leader of al-Qaeda from his? Firstly, he wanted to know his enemy - he seems to have read plenty on America including bestsellers like Obama's Wars by Bob Woodward.
Unsurprisingly, he also seemed to favour books which were critical of American power such as by Noam Chomsky or Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins which recounted the author's claims of American companies exploiting the developing world.
There's also an element of trying to learn his opponents' weaknesses and vulnerabilities - retired British colonel John Hughes-Wilson's book on military intelligence blunders makes an appearance as do books on guerrilla warfare.
There also some books which perhaps suggest a bit of wish fulfilment - The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers by Paul Kennedy for instance. Also on the list is Imperial Hubris by Michael Scheuer - the CIA analyst who first ran the unit dedicated to tracking Osama Bin Laden back in the middle 90s and also, rather oddly, a book entitled A Brief Guide to Understanding Islam.
Another letter mocks President George W Bush's War on Terror, with Bin Laden writing that it had not created stability in Iraq or Afghanistan. No date is included on the translation provided on the US government website.
There is also section entitled Materials Regarding France, which includes a number of academic reports and articles about the France's military, politics and economy. Also included is a document described as a "suicide prevention guide", several English language books including Bob Woodward's Obama's Wars, several maps, and a few video game guides.
Also on the list was Checking Iran's Nuclear Ambitions by Patrick Clawson. When asked by the BBC about his feelings when he heard, Mr Clawson replied sarcastically: "Wonderful, I am glad it is read in such high circles."
Among the documents appears to be an application to join the ranks of al-Qaeda, including questions about hobbies and a willingness to be a martyr.

Printouts of the documents laying on a wood table
Many of the documents on the US government website were in the form of English language translations, as seen in these printout

The documents are being released in the wake of President Obama's calls for greater transparency, said Jeffrey Anchukaitis, a spokesman for the ODNI.
"The intelligence community will be reviewing hundreds more documents in the near future for possible declassification and release," he said.
Some of the material that has been included in the trove was previously declassified for use in federal prosecutions. In 2012, some documents recovered in the raid were released by the research wing of the US military academy, West Point.

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