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Defense / NATIONAL SECURITY

Bin Laden Journal Reveals Future Planning, Possible Targets

photo of Michael Hirsh
May 11, 2011

A personal journal taken from Osama bin Laden’s compound contains handwritten notes that are believed to be the terror chieftain’s thoughts about future operations and possible targets, along with “musings on al-Qaida,” a U.S. official said on Wednesday.


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The official, part of a U.S. national security team reviewing the huge trove of material taken from the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan during the May 1 mission that killed bin Laden, spoke to National Journal about the document on condition of anonymity. The official cautioned that while U.S. authorities have not yet confirmed it was bin Laden’s diary, “the assumption is that it was.”

 

The journal does not include personal reflections about the al-Qaida leader’s life, the official added. “There doesn’t seem to be anything in there like, ‘I had trouble with one of my wives today.’” It was mainly professional observations about al-Qaida aims and future operations and targets, the official said.

At the same time, it is clear from the journal and other material recovered that bin Laden was still actively involved in operational planning and “this was not the rambling of an old retired jihadi. There were concrete ideas for the way forward, that he also put into correspondence with other al-Qaida leaders.”

Although U.S. officials say bin Laden was still involved in running the organization and may have planned specific acts of future terror, such as derailing a U.S. train, little evidence has turned up that his ideas had been put into motion.

The Associated Press reported on Wednesday that as al-Qaida was becoming fragmented, bin Laden encouraged his followers to target smaller cities, hit trains, and maximize American deaths.

Bin Laden was aware of U.S. counterterrosim efforts, and collaborated with al-Qaida offshoots, such as al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

Citing U.S. officials, the AP reported that bin Laden wrote that smaller attacks were not effective, and that another attack on the scale of September 11 would be needed to force the United States out of the Arab world.

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