AMONG the CIA’s stash of documents recovered from Osama bin Laden’s compound was his personal diary. A first look at what’s inside.
The CIA’s release of a vast archive of documents belonging to Osama bin Laden — seized during the raid of his Pakistani compound in May 2011 when he was shot dead by US special forces — has provided a deeper understanding of the mysterious architect of the 9/11 attacks.
But the late-founder of terror network Al-Qaeda’s personal diary is proving quite valuable, revealing previously held secrets surrounding the September 11 attacks in New York in 2001.
Among the 470,000 documents seized that night was bin Laden’s handwritten, 228-page personal journal, containing his “private reflections on the world and Al-Qaeda’s place in it,” according to the Long War Journal’s senior editor, Thomas Joscelyn, who was given exclusive access prior to the public release.
The journal has now been released online along with memos to high ranking Al-Qaeda officials who “helped bin Laden manage his sprawling empire of terror”.
While experts have been furiously trawling through the pages, Josecelyn has shared his insights on the journal’s content.
Joscelyn said it would take years to comb through this “treasure trove” of information.
“There’s a lot to learn, Al-Qaeda has always been misunderstood,” he told news.com.au. “The best way to understand an enemy is to see their inner-thinking and when you have something like this, you can start to understand them better.”
Joscelyn said deciphering the journal has been hard because of bin Laden’s handwriting but he has been receiving help from Arabic translators.
“We don’t know how it was compiled, it’s tough to make out exactly how long he was writing in it.”
The journal is believed to have been purchased in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, a few hours drive from the town of Abbottabad, where bin Laden spent the last five years of his life in hiding with his family.
He was on the property, with his second wife, Khairiah, third wife Seham, fourth wife Amal and his son Khalid, 22, when two US Black Hawk helicopters descended on the property. He was killed shortly after.
In bin Laden’s diary entries, some dating back to the 1980s and others just weeks before his death, he mused over how to inspire Muslims to his ideology. He talked about his own personal history, how he became an ideologue, how he was first attracted to the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology and how he came to become Al-Qaeda’s leader.
“All that to me, to see it in his own hand, to see him discuss it for himself, is important,” Mr Joscelyn said.
It provided compelling insight into the Twin Tower attacks, proving he held a long-term vision of using the United States as a unifying force for jihadists.
“We think he was looking at America [as a target] all the way back in the ’80s,” Joscelyn said. “It’s not something that just popped into his head during the 1990s — he saw America as a foil for his vision.”
Joscelyn explained bin Laden was trying to convert people to his cause by using anti-American sentiment and fusing it with his own ideology.
He thought attacking America would be a unifying force for jihadists against a common enemy.
There appears to be entries written by bin Laden’s son, Khalid, who was killed in the same 2011 raid as his father.
Joscelyn said Al-Qaeda viewed bin Laden as the “reviving sheik”, crediting him for inspiring jihadism as a force in the world once again.
The extremist’s diary entries confirmed he thought about how could sway Muslims to see the world and Islam as he did. His writings have been described as “apocalyptic” and at times “practical”.
Joscelyn said: “He’s trying to get people to accept his version of the religion, his ideology, as THE version.”
Many of the entries cover bin Laden’s life just weeks before his death and his observations of a summer trip during his childhood to “decadent” Britain.
“I got the impression that they were a loose people, and my age didn’t allow me to form a complete picture of life there,” bin Laden wrote. “We went every Sunday to visit Shakespeare’s house. I was not impressed and I saw that they were a society different from ours and that they were a morally loose society.”
Referencing regions including West Africa and South Asia, Mr Jocelyn warned: “Al-Qaeda has adapted and, in some ways, grown, spreading its insurgency footprint in countries where it had little to no capacity for operations in 2001”.