Bin Laden’s Declassified Documents and the Supposed ‘Affiliates’

Adam Serwer in Mother Jones has a nice sum-up of the highlights from the recent declassification of selected documents from the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan a year ago. The al-Qaeda leader’s internal documents and correspondences include asking for Anwar al-Awlaki’s resume, worrying about affiliate groups killing too many civilians, criticisms of the American media, and some seriously wounding criticisms of Vice President Joe Biden’s leadership capabilities.

Spencer Ackerman writes about the apparent motivation behind the administration’s declassification of the documents:

In an apparent attempt to sow discord within the ranks of al-Qaida’s remaining sympathizers, the U.S. government declassified personal communications from Osama bin Laden showing the terror leader fretting about the bloodthirsty movement he launched.

If al-Qaida affiliates keep killing Muslim civilians, bin Laden wrote to an aide shortly before the Navy SEAL raid that killed him, “they will spoil [things and] alienate the people, who could be won over by enemy after enemy…. Our brothers are making things worse by opening themselves up to evil and hostility!”

At the behest of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point released a declassified, translated version of 17 documents seized in the raid. SEALs left the Abbottabad compound seizing hundreds of bin Laden’s laptops, hard drives, cellphones and flash drives, a collection of thousands of pieces of data that U.S. intelligence officials have often described asa treasure trove of information about al-Qaida. Accordingly, the surprise declassification presents a selective narrative that the U.S. wants in circulation.

It is not difficult to see why. “The focus of his private letters is Muslims’ suffering at the hands of his jihadi ‘brothers.’ He was at pains advising them to abort domestic attacks that cause Muslim civilian casualties and instead focus on the United States, ‘our desired goal,’” the Center’s summary reads. “Bin Ladin’s frustration with regional jihadi groups and his seeming inability to exercise control over their actions and public statements is the most compelling story to be told on the basis of the 17 declassified documents.”

I’m just speculating, but it seems like emphasizing the lack of control al-Qaeda’s leadership had over these other terrorist groups really harms the administration’s primary legal justification for waging a global drone war against “al-Qaeda and its affiliates.” It’s been thoroughly explained elsewhere how loose are these supposed affiliations, but the administration should probably avoid providing more evidence for that if they want to keep illegally killing unidentified groups of people in Yemen, for example.

10 thoughts on “Bin Laden’s Declassified Documents and the Supposed ‘Affiliates’”

  1. …And that's assuming that the "documents" are even real. After-all, they haven't been transparent in the slightest regarding the actual raid we're "told" killed Bin Laden, so why should we believe that these documents are anything but a farce?

      1. Don't provide ANY intelligence @tadasyoyolt to these "UN" **********/………………………*

    1. From the document link:

      A note on translation:

      The quality of the English translation provided to the CTC is not adequate throughout. When the translation was deemed inadequate, quotations cited in this report have either been amended or translated anew by Nelly Lahoud. Furthermore, the conversion of the dating of the letters from the Hijri to the Gregorian calendar is inaccurate in some places. The Appendix provides corrected dates to some of the letters, along with some pointers on how some letters relate to others. For those wishing to conduct their own analysis of the documents, it is highly recommended to refer to the original Arabic documents, not the translations.

      And to the Author John Glaser.. shshh. Every unforced error is blessing. Let them score their own goals.

  2. How many times have we heard an American leader say that we were indiscriminately killing and torturing too many innocent people, which could turn against our cause? The released documents make Osama out as a moral leader, worried about collateral damage and abuse by his troops and affiliates (allies).

    •How many of our leaders are fretting about, “the bloodthirsty movement we have launched against so many innocent peoples?”

    •How many of our leaders have said, “they will spoil [things and] alienate the people, who could be won over by enemy after enemy…. Our brothers are making things worse by opening themselves up to evil and hostility!” He didn´t use the term blowback, but that´s what he said.

    I completely fail to see the advantage in letting these facts out to the public, but thanks anyway.

    1. Manifest Destiny rears its ugly head once again. Those People(tm) are like Us(tm) so naturally they have to be swept aside, dead or alive.

      However, like in so many other modern-day situations where the MD doctrine can be seen, George Custer and Co. might have a few thoughts on reaping the whirlwind.

  3. Without doubt, this latest intelligence bonanza will demonstrate the OBL had plans to kill the president and other of assorted administration officials, blow up the brooklyn Bridge, seize our nuclear arsenal, occupy Palestine after defeating the IDF, print his own currency, and close the more than 700 US military bases worldwide. He would then occupy the throne as king of the universe.
    We will only learn what it is the government wishes us to learn. It is called "framing the narrative."

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