On November 1, the CIA released to the public nearly 470,000 additional files recovered in the May 2011 raid on Usama Bin Ladin’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. CIA Director Mike Pompeo authorized the release in the interest of transparency and to enhance public understanding of al-Qa‘ida and its former leader. The files released today are available at: https://www.cia.gov/library/abbottabad-compound/
Today’s release builds on prior releases of materials from the Abbottabad collection by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). In keeping with the 2014 Intelligence Authorization Act, which required ODNI to conduct a review of the documents for release, ODNI previously released documents from the collection on May 20, 2015, March 1, 2016, and January 19, 2017 after an interagency review spearheaded by CIA. These previously-released materials are available at https://www.dni.gov/index.php/features/bin-laden-s-bookshelf.
“Today’s release of recovered al-Qa‘ida letters, videos, audio files and other materials provides the opportunity for the American people to gain further insights into the plans and workings of this terrorist organization,” said CIA Director Pompeo. “CIA will continue to seek opportunities to share information with the American people consistent with our obligation to protect national security.”
The material contains audio, document, image, video and software operating system files. The material is posted in the original Arabic and in as close to the original form as possible, modified only so the files cannot be edited. Among other things, this release includes:
- Usama Bin Ladin’s personal journal and more than 18,000 document files.
- Approximately 79,000 audio and image files, which include practice reels for public speeches, audio correspondence, and imagery gathered or generated by al-Qa‘ida for a variety of purposes.
- More than 10,000 video files, which include a video of Hamza Bin Ladin as a young adult, al-Qa‘ida “home videos,” draft videos or statements by Usama Bin Ladin, and jihadist propaganda.
These materials, like those in previous releases, provide insights into the origins of fissures that exist today between al-Qa‘ida and ISIS; as well as strategic, doctrinal and religious disagreements within al-Qa‘ida and its allies; and hardships that al-Qa‘ida faced at the time of Bin Ladin’s death. Other themes in the materials include:
- Al-Qa‘ida’s preparations to commemorate the tenth anniversary of 9/11 and the group’s attempts to promulgate its message through Western media.
- Al-Qa‘ida’s efforts to exploit the Arab Awakening for its benefit and that of the global jihad.
- Bin Ladin’s efforts to maintain unity within the group and among its affiliates, despite disagreements over tactics and doctrine.
- Al-Qa‘ida’s efforts to rehabilitate its tarnished image among Muslims due its mistakes and negative media portrayals.