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[TACTICAL] OBL safehouse intelligence ** note OBL's key roles

Released on 2012-03-06 17:00 GMT

Email-ID 1548887
Date 2011-06-28 17:02:33
(U) Bin Laden's written words show that counterterrorist officials
worldwide underestimated how key he remained to running the
organization, shattering the conventional thinking that he had been
reduced through isolation to being an inspirational figurehead, US
officials said in May. His personal, handwritten journal and his massive
collection of computer files show he helped plan every recent major al
Qaeda threat the United States is aware of, including plots in Europe
last year that had travelers and embassies on high alert, two officials
said. So far, no new plots have been uncovered in bin Laden's writings,
but intelligence officials say it will take weeks, if not months, to go
through them. They described the intelligence to The Associated Press
only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk
publicly about what was found in bin Laden's hideout.
(U) The records show bin Laden was communicating from his walled
compound in Pakistan with al Qaeda's offshoots, including the Yemen
branch, which has emerged as the leading threat to the United States. US
officials have not shared any specific evidence yet that he was directly
behind the attempted Christmas Day 2009 bombing of a Detroit-bound
airliner or the nearly successful attack on cargo planes heading for
Chicago and Philadelphia, but it's now clear that they bear some of bin
Laden's hallmarks.
(U) He was well aware of US counterterrorist defenses and schooled his
followers how to work around them, the messages to his followers show.
Don't limit attacks to New York City, he said in his writings. Consider
other areas such as Los Angeles or smaller cities. Spread out the
targets. In one particularly macabre bit of mathematics, bin Laden's
writings show him musing over just how many Americans he must kill to
force the United States to withdraw from the Arab world. He concludes
that the smaller, scattered attacks since the 9/11 attacks had not been
enough. He tells his disciples that only a body count of thousands,
something on the scale of 9/11, would shift US policy. He also schemed
about ways to sow political dissent in Washington and play political
figures against one another, officials said.
(U) The communications were in missives sent via plug-in computer
storage devices called flash drives. The devices were ferried to bin
Laden's compound by couriers, a process that is slow but exceptionally
difficult to track. Intelligence officials have not identified any new
planned targets or plots in their initial analysis of the 100 or so
flash drives and five computers that Navy SEALs hauled away. In early
May, the FBI and Homeland Security Department warned law enforcement
officials nationwide to be on alert for possible attacks against trains,
though officials said there was no specific plot.
(U) Officials have not yet seen any indication that bin Laden had the
ability to coordinate timing of attacks across the various al Qaeda
affiliates in Pakistan, Yemen, Algeria, Iraq and Somalia. It is also
unclear from bin Laden's documents how much the affiliate groups
followed his guidance. The Yemen group, for instance, has embraced the
smaller-scale attacks that bin Laden's writings indicate he regarded as
unsuccessful. The Yemen branch had already surpassed his central
operation as al Qaeda's leading fundraising, propaganda and operational arm.
(U) Al Qaeda has not named bin Laden's successor, but all indications
point to his No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahri. The question is whether
al-Zawahri, or anyone, has the ability to keep so many disparate groups
under the al Qaeda banner. The groups in Somalia and Algeria, for
instance, have very different goals focused on local grievances. Without
bin Laden to serve as their shepherd, it's possible al Qaeda will
further fragment.
(U) British officials said the Americans had shared some information
with them about the bin Laden cache, but they said they had been shown
nothing concrete yet to indicate bin Laden's helped directly plan recent
terror attacks or plans in Britain — including a European plot last year
involving the threat of a Mumbai-style shooting spree in a capital. They
spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss matters of intelligence. One
British official said counterterror authorities had not been tracking
bin Laden like they had other terrorists deemed more directly involved
in operations.