Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Treasure trove of data seized from bin Laden's mansion.

From Irish Times:
US INTELLIGENCE officers have discovered unpublished statements from Osama bin Laden amid “a treasure trove” of computer hard drives, CDs, DVDs and papers seized from his safe house in Pakistan, an American government official claimed yesterday.

They believe they may also have found communications between al-Qaeda lieutenants and bin Laden which could reveal information about potential targets, strategic guidance of the terror network, and the whereabouts of its leadership and operatives.

US Navy Seals who raided the Abbottabad compound on Sunday and shot bin Laden and two others dead took away a range of “removable media” such as computer disks. The US government believes some of the hardware could have been used to get messages to and from bin Laden in the absence of an internet or phone link to the hideaway, a two-hour drive from Islamabad, the official said.

White House counter-terrorism chief John Brennan, in a briefing yesterday, said: “What we’re most interested in is seeing if we can get any insight into any terrorist plot that might be under way so that we can take the measures to stop any type of attack planning. Secondly, we’re trying to look and see whether or not there are leads to other individuals within the organisation, or insights into their capabilities.”

An urgent priority will be to find any evidence of attacks which bin Laden might have ordered in the event of his death, according to British sources familiar with the find. “The data could also help to clarify just how candid the Pakistanis have been about the knowledge of his movements,” a UK source said.

Another central question which the cache may help answer is the whereabouts of Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s deputy leader, and the extent to which bin Laden continued to communicate with the outside world on both strategy and operations.

The US official familiar with the intelligence operation stressed the process of analysing documents was at an early stage, and would not say yet whether the bin Laden statements found were written or recorded on audio or video, or how recent they were – except to say they had not been seen before.

Video taken after the raid inside the house appeared to show broken computers in one room which had been stripped of hard drives. The discovery of the cache is being treated as a coup in intelligence circles, which could prove to be a vital reference document on al-Qaeda for years to come.

It is understood British computer forensics experts are on standby to help sift through what one US official described to the US news website as “the motherlode of intelligence”.

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