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Bin Laden's heir, HR policy and more: Details from the Osama files

US intelligence agencies declassified on Wednesday more than 100 documents seized in the 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden's Pakistani compound that ended the al Qaeda's leader's life. Here are the key revelations.

world Updated: May 21, 2015 18:24 IST

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US intelligence agencies declassifiedon Wednesday more than 100 documents seized in the 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden's Pakistani compound that ended the al Qaeda's leader's life.

"Today the ODNI (Office of the Director of National Intelligence) released a sizeable tranche of documents recovered during the raid," Jeff Anchukaitis, spokesperson for the ODNI, said.

Here are the key revelations:

Son as heir

The 22-year-old would-be-jihadist wrote to his reclusive father to say he was itching to join the fight. Hamza trained with explosives and embraced the terror network that killed 3,000 Americans in the September 11, 2001 attacks.

But young Hamza was no run-of-the-mill jihadist recruit. He was the favourite son of 9/11 mastermind bin Laden, who was grooming him to take over as al Qaeda's leader, according to US intelligence officials.

"Bin Laden at the time of his death had...planned to bring his son Hamza to his Abbottabad compound to groom him as a successor," a senior intelligence analyst told AFP.

Hamza had not seen his fugitive father in eight years, and described the "pain of separation" he felt at age 13 and his hopes of a reunion as a young man of 22.

"You bid us farewell and we left, and it was as if we pulled out our livers and left them there," he wrote.

After Hamza's release from house arrest, top al Qaeda lieutenant Atiyah Abd al-Rahman wrote to Bin Laden on April 5, 2011, one month before his death, detailing three possible ways to shepherd Hamza to his father.

The "least dangerous option" was sending him through Pakistan's Baluchistan province, which borders Iran, to the teeming port city of Karachi, Abd al-Rahman said, writing under the pseudonym Mahmud.

Meanwhile, Abd al-Rahman arranged for Hamza "to attend a course on explosives," he wrote.

Al Qaeda's hiring policy

"Please enter the required information accurately and truthfully. Write clearly and legibly. Name, age, marital status. Do you wish to execute a suicide operation?"

Al Qaeda's application form starts like that of any large enterprise, but leads recruits quickly to a darker place: "Who should we contact in case you become a martyr?"

Qaeda's internal planning memos paint a picture of the jihadist leader operating almost as the director of human resources at a struggling multinational.

"One of the specialties we need that we should not overlook is the science of administration," reads one lengthy memo, calling for a professional training programme.

The document calls for motivated young volunteers with deep religious convictions, but also with qualifications in science, engineering and office management.

Bin Laden called for select individuals to be trained at al Qaeda safe houses in Pakistan over a period of months before being sent to launch attacks in the West.

"A person has to be pious and patient," a planning memo insists, paying tribute to the discretion of the operatives who carried out the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi.

"Any person we notice who displays boredom, does not finish the tasks assigned to him and gets mad quickly, we have to remove him from external work. In Kenya the brothers stayed inside the house for nine months."

Bin Laden says he does not need to know the details of the "external work" -- al Qaeda's term for attacks on Western targets outside the battlefield -- for security reasons.

"But when the external work was delayed, I found myself forced to contribute to the matter," he complains, in one of several mentions of his own secrecy concerns.

The bind al Qaeda found itself in was that its experienced jihadists, battle-hardened in Afghanistan, were often known to enemy intelligence agencies and lacked travel papers.

Young recruits with the skills and documents to infiltrate the West lacked the patience and training for the war ahead.

Bin Laden's answer is couched in surprisingly managerial language: "We need a development and planning department."

Al Qaeda planned to deputise a key lieutenant to pool jihadist research and best practices at a centre of excellence, to ensure that the new wave of attackers are effective.

"We will send some of the brothers who are bright ... to study at universities," the memo says, promising to create a generation of mujahideen computer engineers, business administrators and political scientists.

Chemists, of course, are in demand, "for manufacturing explosives, which is something we have a dire need for."

But media and communications specialists are also important as Bin Laden planned a public relations campaign to mark the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks -- a date he did not live to see.

Spectacular attack

Hunkered down in his Pakistani compound, Bin Laden pleaded with his followers to stay focused on attacking the United States instead of being dragged into Muslim infighting.

"The focus should be on killing and fighting the American people and their representatives," Bin Laden wrote in one of the newly revealed documents.

The documents also show that a top al Qaeda leader crowed about the 26/11 Mumbai terror strikes as a "heroic" suicide attack and called the German Bakery blast in Pune a "beautiful huge bombing", in one of the documents seized from Bin Laden's hideout in Abbottabad.

Abu-Salih al Somali, the Qaeda leader, boasted about the attacks in India in a document titled 'Terror Franchise, The Unstoppable Assassin, Techs (sic) Vital role for its success'.

Al Qaeda's branch in Iraq, which would later morph into the Islamic State group -- and which now increasingly overshadows al Qaeda -- also comes up in the documents.

Bin Laden and his then deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, receive a scathing rebuke in a letter from some Iraqi supporters, who demand they denounce the bloodletting in Iraq.

The Jihad and Reform Front warns Bin Laden that God will hold him to account "for blessing the work done by the al Qaeda in Iraq organisation without disavowing the scandals that are committed in your name."

"If you still can, then this is your last chance to remedy the Jihad breakdown that is about to take place in Iraq, that is mostly caused by your followers," said the letter dated May 22, 2007.

Bin Laden's bookshelf

Bin Laden's English language reading list included numerous books by conspiracy theorists and an inordinate number on France, suggesting he may have planned to strike the country's economy, US officials said.

His "bookshelf" included titles by US journalist Bob Woodward and linguist and leftist Noam Chomsky as well as a history of the French economy and an unpublished manuscript of a study called "Did France Cause the Great Depression?"

Jeffrey Anchukaitis, spokesperson for the US director of national intelligence's office, said Bin Laden "appears to have been interested in attacking the economy of France in the hope that an economic collapse there would trigger one in the US or the rest of the Western world."

US intelligence analysts were not surprised Bin Laden was interested in attacking the economies of west, but Anchukaitis said "it was surprising that he asked for so many books on France".

The list, which was posted on the ODNI's website, also included texts on France's military health services, defense industry and "water profile."

About half of the books on the reading list, promote various conspiracies -- including books questioning the official account that Bin Laden's al Qaeda carried out the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.

The list included conspiracy theorist David Ray Griffin's "The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions About the Bush Administration and 9/11" and "The Secrets of the Federal Reserve" by Eustace Mullins, known as a denier of the Holocaust.

The release of the reading list coincided with the declassification of more than 100 documents found at Bin Laden's hideout, which came after Congress ordered the spy agencies to release more of the material that was seized in the Navy SEAL raid.

Fear of surveillance

Low-hanging clouds over the Pakistani mountains might protect you from a prying US drone, but what if a spy has injected a microscopic bug in your wife's clothes?

Bin Laden's last years at his final hideout were haunted by his accurate hunch that he was hunted by a remorseless and technologically advanced foe.

As he tried to gather his family around him in his Abbottabad compound, he issued ever more detailed instructions as to how they were to avoid leading US agents to him.

According to a declassified letter, Bin Laden warned one of his wives travelling from Iran to rejoin him to take special care.

"Before Um Hamza arrives here, it is necessary for her to leave everything behind, including clothes, books, everything that she had in Iran... Everything that a needle might possibly penetrate," Bin Laden wrote, in a letter dated September 26, 2010.

"Some chips have been lately developed for eavesdropping, so small they could easily be hidden inside a syringe," he said, according to the CIA's own translation.

In other letters, Bin Laden tries to explain to his sometimes reluctant lieutenants why security is paramount, even when it makes running a global jihadist operation harder.

"Concerning using the Internet for correspondence, it is OK for general messages, but the secrecy of the mujahideen does not allow its usage, and couriers are the only way," he wrote.

Pakistani intelligence links

One document dated July 2010 addressed to "Abu Abdullah," which is one of bin Laden's assumed names, from Mahmud indicated links between al Qaeda and Pakistan's intelligence services, which Pakistan has repeatedly denied.

It said that after al Qaeda leaked information that it was planning "large-scale destructive operations in Pakistan," but had then "halted the operations in an attempt to calm the situation and absorb the pressure from the Americans," Pakistani intelligence "began sending people to us."

"They sent messages to us via some of the Pakistani Jihadist groups that they are comfortable with. ... One of their messengers came to us conveying a message for us from the intelligence leadership ... saying that they wanted to talk to us as Al Qaeda."
Mahmud asks bin Laden whether the "Pakistanis are serious or are they just playing with us?"

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence said the release of the documents followed a rigorous review by U.S. government agencies as required by the 2014 Intelligence Authorization Act.

The documents can be read

Read:Documents seized from Osama's Pak hideout call 26/11 attacks 'heroic', Pune blast 'beautiful'

First Published: May 21, 2015 12:09 IST

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