Don’t close the book on the Osama bin Laden’s documents

For years, Thomas Joscelyn and I have argued for the intelligence community to declassify nearly all of Osama bin Laden’s files that were seized when the al Qaeda emir was killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan in 2011. Yesterday, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence patted itself on the back as it released 98 additional documents and declared it was “Closing the Book on bin Laden.”

At The Weekly Standard, Tom argues that the book should remain open, as the release of 620 items in a cache of more than one million documents and files is merely a drop in the bucket. Tom’s article is excerpted below, but please take a minute to read the whole thing:

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released 98 additional items from Osama bin Laden’s compound today. If the ODNI has its way, then these files will be the last the American people see for some time. The accompanying announcement is titled, “Closing the Book on bin Laden: Intelligence Community Releases Final Abbottabad Documents.” The ODNI says today’s release “marks the end of a two-and-a-half-year effort to declassify several hundred documents recovered” during the Abbottabad raid.

But the total number of files released thus far, including today’s document dump, is just a drop in the bucket compared to what was found in the al Qaeda master’s compound. And if the public and the media care about transparency, then they should push to see more.

As THE WEEKLY STANDARD has reported in the past, more than 1 million documents and files were recovered in Abbottabad. Some of the documents (e.g. blanks, duplicates, scans of publicly available media, etc.) are basically worthless. But many thousands more illuminate how al Qaeda has operated.

On May 8, 2011, Tom Donilon, who was then President Obama’s National Security Adviser, explained that bin Laden’s documents and files would fill a “small college library.” Donilon elaborated further that the recovered intelligence demonstrated Osama bin Laden’s active role. At the time of his death, the al Qaeda founder oversaw a cohesive international network, receiving updates from around the globe on a regular basis.

In 2012, the Washington Post reported that U.S. officials “described the complete collection of bin Laden material as the largest cache of terrorism files ever obtained, with about 100 flash drives and DVDs as well as five computer hard drives, piles of paper and a handwritten journal kept by the al-Qaeda chief.”

To date, the ODNI has released or listed just 620 “items” found in bin Laden’s home. Only 314 of these are “declassified material.”

That is an insignificant fraction of the total collection.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Lance Cordill says:

    Funny, I thought that Osama boy has been dead since 2002?

  • Pete Speer says:

    Fully concur. Respectfully suggest the corpus be transferred to the Hoover Institute for curating, declassifcating, and translation.

    I believe that a large named donor could be found to fund and endow this continuing enterprise.

  • Arjuna says:

    Releasing it all completely contradicts the official USG notion (Big Lie) that OBL was chased, hunted and looking over his shoulder when he led AQ through its most challenging time ’02-11). He was in fact, sheltered and protected in an ISI safe house called Waziristan House next to Pakistan’s West Point. America looked the other way if the jihadists weren’t coming after US. Huuuge strategic mistake; one we may not recover from. Bin Laden played chess while we chased the Boogeyman du jour (Saddam, Iran, Assad, Gaddafi). He led AQ for ten years after 9/11!! Zawahiri is showing the same strategic patience from the same location (safe house in PK). We hit the external operations people, but the local support remains. Finger in the dike, anyone?

  • Arjuna says:

    They are playing the long game (which folks like Brennan and Morell admit means generations of war, an American loss if there ever was one) and Hamza is threatening more than five years daddy’s death that we haven’t seen the “official” response.
    This from a group that is larger than ever worldwide and which has had its HQ in a country with many nuclear facilities and materials for over a decade, and sympathizers in that country’s military and intelligence.
    “Your father was very pleased with your letter, he wishes to meet you to gain from his experience, he prepared for you lot of work.”
    Abbottabad was just one move in a long game.

  • Arjuna says:

    Flynn agrees with LWJ. Good sign. CIA is clueless in PK (ISI runs TB and AQ) and actively engaged w Saudi in all manner of anti-Shia mischief. No wonder Brennan’s boys (e.g. Rainbow Shapiro) love to trash Flynn. Per Jeff Stein:
    Flynn “hates the CIA,” says a high-profile Republican who knows him well. He has suspected the CIA … of minimizing Osama Bin Laden’s role as leader of al-Qaeda, said this person.
    Bull’s eye, general! CIA have been lying about AQ ever since they helped establish it in the 1980s. America’s gulf allies (SA, UAE) are AQ’s owners and America’s South Asian allies (Pak) are AQ’s protectors. Time for some tough love, terrorists.

  • Ken says:

    May 2, 2011 was the date t hat OBL was taken out.
    A simple web search turned that up.

  • Truthful James says:

    For those who wish a primer on the CIA failures (operating out of Pakistan) in Afghanistan, I suggest reading Steve Coll’s “Ghost Wars” and disregard the Tom Hanks movie.

    After the Russiand marched north and left the Afghan Communist leader to his own devices, the Paks passed money received from our friends in Riyadh and the Gulf States to bin Laden. Our Christians in Action sponsored a different leader, who was competing with aQ, He was, surprise, assassinated, leaving the field to the Pakistani ISI.

  • Truthful James says:

    “Pit-nicking” aside, what is needed is a secure entity like the Hoover, which I suggested before. None of this scat of the CIA erasing the blackboard.

  • Ghost420 says:

    It’s an Open Secret that ISI was keeping Osama bin Laden in their safe house. Not only that there were a lot of people going and coming in that compound who were government officials. They do not want to embarrass their Pakistani friends specially the one they give billions of dollars to. And that is why they’re trying to close the book. As American taxpayer I want to know the truth. Where my money went.


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