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Declassified Bin Laden material sheds new light on Al Qaeda

May 01, 2012|By Brian Bennett
  • An image from video seized from the walled compound of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan when he was killed a year ago.
An image from video seized from the walled compound of Osama bin Laden in… (U.S. Defense Department…)

WASHINGTON -- Osama bin Laden’s personal notes and letters, which were seized a year ago in the U.S. raid on his compound in Pakistan, show a leader removed from day-to-day operations of the terrorist organization he founded and increasingly frustrated with the new generation of managers who were rising in the ranks.

A declassified selection of the vast trove of material -- large enough, officials say, to fill a college library -- will be published online Thursday by the Combating Terrorism Center, a think tank at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

In correspondence with his senior leaders, Bin Laden lamented the inexperience and poor judgment shown by the rising crop of Al Qaeda leaders. He urged his followers to move out of the tribal areas of Pakistan and to areas that were far from the cameras and missiles of the CIA’s fleet of armed Predator drones, and he said Muslims around the world have “lost their trust” in Al Qaeda, according to U.S. officials who have read the documents.

Bin Laden evaded capture after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by avoiding cellphones and email and relying on a single courier to pass messages between him and the senior leaders of his organization.

Al Qaeda’s leadership even discussed changing the name of the organization because Muslims had come to associate Al Qaeda with bombings at mosques and the killing of Muslims, John O. Brennan, the top counterterrorism advisor to President Obama, said in a speech Monday.

Brennan said the letters proved that the CIA’s aggressive campaign of drone missile strikes had decimated Al Qaeda’s leadership, hurt morale in the ranks and made it harder for Al Qaeda to recruit new members.

“In short, Al Qaeda is losing, badly,” Brennan said. “And Bin Laden knew it. In documents we seized, he confessed to ‘disaster after disaster.’ He even urged his leaders to flee the tribal regions, and go to places, ‘away from aircraft photography and bombardment.’ ”

The release of Bin Laden’s papers comes as Republicans criticized the Obama reelection campaign for using the killing of Bin Laden as a political talking point.

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Original source: Declassified bin Laden material sheds new light on Al Qaeda

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