Newly released documents seized in the 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden's compound show bin Laden had ordered al-Qaida to assassinate President Barack Obama or General David Petraeus. NBC's Jim Miklaszewski reports.
In letters from his hideout in Pakistan written in the five years before his death, Osama bin Laden fretted about dysfunction among the far-flung affiliate organizations in his terrorist network, according to documents seized during the U.S. military’s raid on his compound that that were released on Thursday.
Seventeen declassified letters seized in last year's raid on bin Laden's compound by U.S. Navy SEALs were posted online Thursday by the U.S. Army's Combating Terrorism Center, accompanying its analysis of their contents titled, "Letters from Abbottabad: Bin Ladin Sidelined?" The letters -- 175 pages in Arabic -- probably represent only a small fraction of materials taken from the compound, the center’s distinguished chair, retired Gen. John Abizaid, said in a note published with the translations.
U.S. intelligence analysts have spent countless hours poring over the vast stash of computerized and paper data seized during the raid that killed bin Laden, as NBC News’ Jim Miklaszewski and Robert Windrem reported earlier this week.
The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point has published the declassified documents that offer a fresh look inside the mind of Osama bin Laden. NBC's Bob Windrem and Roger Cressey discuss.
But the letters released Thursday, which were written between September 2006 and April 2011, add new nuances to the previous reports.
Among other things, they show the al-Qaida founder was troubled by the actions of other Islamist groups that aligned themselves with his terrorist network.
As Associated Press reporter Kimberly Dozier puts it:
The documents show dark days for al-Qaida and its hunkered-down leader after years of attacks by the United States and what bin Laden saw as bumbling within his own organization and its terrorist allies.
The so-called affiliate organizations – including al-Qaida in Iraq, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula; the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (Student Movement of Pakistan); and the Somalia-based Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen – were of particular concern to bin Laden.
In the words of the report’s authors:
Rather than a source of strength, bin Ladin was burdened by what he viewed as the incompetence of the “affiliates,” including their lack of political acumen to win public support, their media campaigns and their poorly planned operations which resulted in the unnecessary deaths of thousands of Muslims.
"I plan to release a statement that we are starting a new phase to correct (the mistakes) we made," bin Laden wrote in 2010. "In doing so, we shall reclaim, God willing, the trust of a large segment of those who lost their trust in the jihadis."
Nothing in the papers points directly to al-Qaida sympathizers in Pakistan's government. Bin Laden described "trusted Pakistani brothers" but didn't identify any Pakistani government or military officials who might have been aware of or complicit in his hiding in Abbottabad.
The letters also indicate that American Adam Gadahn played a much greater role in al-Qaida than has been acknowledged by U.S. authorities, who have often dismissed him as a propagandist and spokesman. In fact, Gadahn appeared to act as an adviser to bin Laden and in one letter urged that al-Qaida disassociate itself from al-Qaida in Iraq.
One letter also outlined Gadahn’s views of U.S. news organizations as part of a discussion of how al-Qaida might go about publicizing the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the U.S.
He indicated a particular dislike of Fox News, writing, “Let her die in her anger”; said MSNBC-TV appeared to be “good and neutral a bit,” while complaining about the firing of Keith Olbermann; said CNN appeared to be aligned with the U.S. government but was better in its Arabic reports; and made flattering comments about CBS and ABC.
NBC News senior investigative producer Robert Windrem contributed to this report.
More world news from msnbc.com and NBC News:
- Blind activist Chen Guangcheng: 'I want to leave China on Hillary Clinton's plane'
- 'A little fixing up'? Philippines hides slum behind wall ahead of poverty conference
- Sarkozy fails to floor Hollande in France election television debate
- Has Britain's Prime Minister Cameron lost his gloss? Voters issue their verdict
- Catholic priest: I've been secretly married for a year
- Five years on, parents of missing Madeleine McCann cling to hope
- Bold move as Syria leader makes time for chess