Today the Director of National Intelligence declassified and posted on the DNI web site 103 documents that were recovered during the raid on Osama bin Laden’s Pakistan compound, along with a variety of other materials. Among those other items is a list of 39 books in English that were found at the compound.
Let’s start with the books. While there are some legitimate works of history, the list is heavy on far-left critiques of America and the West: Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance and Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies by Noam Chomsky; Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions since World War II by William Blum; America’s “War on Terrorism” by Michel Chossudovsky; Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins; The Best Democracy Money Can Buy by Greg Palast, and the like.
Bin Laden also was fond of conspiracy theories, including–weirdly–“truther” theories about 9/11. Thus, his library included New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions about the Bush Administration and 9/11 by David Ray Griffin.
While I haven’t read all of them, the small number of declassified documents are not generally of great interest. News reports suggest that there may be some bombshells in the bin Laden trove, but those are yet to come. But collectively (e.g., from reports like this one) you get a sense of the difficulties that al Qaeda faces: communications are difficult due to electronic surveillance, newcomers aren’t getting adequate training, the flow of money is impeded, drone strikes are devastating, “brothers” are constantly being arrested or killed.
One is also struck by the mundane tone with which bin Laden and his associates go about the business of mass murder. This report, whose author and date are not identified, contains some interesting features. It talks about sending terrorists to Russia and Great Britain:
First goal: I confess that we have not succeeded in meeting the first goal, due to many reasons. First of them was bad luck and God wasn’t on our side; we had sent a number of the brothers to Britain and Russia and Europe to be prepared and ready to work before the end of the year, some of them were with us before, but they had left and came back to us and travelled again and they are Russia (exploding the gas line or the American Embassy), Britain (a number of targets, depending on what our brothers will determine what will be suitable (TN: of targets) that can fit what materials are available. …
But the other brothers are new and we had rushed to send them very quickly, before their security was exposed or their residency documents expired, and we had trained them as much as we could in a short period of time (like, for example, the brother who came to us and as soon as he came the Mas’ud battle started, and had stayed two months, he spent one month on the road and waiting and had siege with us for two when we gave him an academic explosive course and travelled back before his residency expired, and we have not heard from him since he left, because it is very hard to communicate with him from our end and the strong wiretapping from his side.
The author frankly acknowledges al Qaeda’s limited resources:
Execution: One of the big problems that we are facing, even if we have all that it required to reach our goal, is when the brother is unable to carry out the operation because of the lack of the required tools (materials, weapons); therefore, we have to think of a new way to obtain these tools or invent new ways of execution.
If we would like to implement what we have discussed above, first thing we have to face is establishing a complete organization, which we cannot to because the lack of finance and required cadres, and I think our job is executive work which has to belong to us. That is why we have thought to open an office for ourselves in Iran, to receive whoever comes to join us or someone traveling, but we have backed off this idea because it will be very expensive.
The reference to Iran is intriguing.
The people who had spent a long time with us in the jihad battlefield, they are very well trained and prepared, but the new personnel whom we quickly deploy, we are trying to prepare them according to the available time and condition, and if there is another group that is willing to stay for 6 months, then it will be possible to give them more courses or to enter Afghanistan for more training.
The author identifies both communications and transportation as significant problems for al Qaeda:
Communications: Thank God that we had a secure method to communicate with our brothers whom we sent and we are still working to develop these methods. We are trying to be diversified in the method of communications and not use just one method, as well as use a coding program and decrease the amount of communications; trying not to send any messages from Pakistan as often as we can.
Transportation is a big problem and for that reason we are trying to open several offices in different places, for example, in the near future we will send brothers to Somalia to run the business from Somalia and we have been trying to open another office in Turkey, but we unable to find the suitable brother for this office, and we had sent a brother to Iraq but he has not arrived yet.
This is rather pathetic: the terrorists are no longer able to watch television news:
We used to have an office to watch the news but it got bombed. Since then, we stopped watching the news; therefore, we are satisfied with listening to the radio and with what we receive from the media, in addition to some programs that belong to our work that were prepared by some friend from Pakistan. But watching TV news channels to know new ideas and enemy’s tactics and his tricks, also to follow up on the international situation and discover the weak points, I think it is very important to our work; but it is very dangerous.
The author has ideas about how to work around the logistical limitations the organization faces:
Execution: we have tried to solve this issue with several ways:
1- Manufacturing the materials from raw/primary materials, such as chlorate from salt.
2- Transport the materials overseas by smuggling, after changing their shapes and camouflaging them.
3- To make the brothers use new methods like using house knifes, Gas or Gasoline or diesel tanks, and other means, such as airplanes, trains, cars as killing tools.
The author’s al Qaeda group had been assigned to attack Denmark and Jews. His report concludes with those items:
Finally, in regards to targeting Denmark and Jews as per the orders, the situation is as follows:
– Denmark: we had sent a European group formed of 3 brothers a long time ago to carry out an operation in Denmark and the targets were American, but we lost our communication with them. But we heard that they had been captured but we’re not sure; in addition, we have another brother who has been in jihad for long time.
– Jews: To be informed on who we had sent previously, and who had the capability to work in putting the Jews first (TN: he made the Jews his priority) on his list; also, we have been cooperating with two groups who are working in the same fields and there is progress and we are asking God to help.
All in all, it is an interesting peek behind the curtain. Reading these files makes me feel very good about the money we have spent and the efforts we have made to go after these miserable bastards.