U.S. officials Thursday released a small sampling of the documents captured when U.S. special operations forces killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden last year in Pakistan. Some highlights:
ATTACK AMERICA: Bin Laden wanted al-Qaida to focus on the U.S. and not waste time and resources attacking other enemies such as Britain or trying to overthrow governments in the Muslim world.
“Even though we have the chance to attack the British, we should not waste our effort to do so but concentrate on defeating America, which will lead to defeating the others, God willing,” reads one letter, which scholars believe was written by bin Laden or a top deputy. “We want to cut this tree at the root. The problem is that our strength is limited, so our best way to cut the tree is to concentrate on sawing the trunk of the tree.”
FEAR OF DRONES: The CIA’s unmanned aircraft had al-Qaida looking toward the sky. In one letter, bin Laden suggested getting most of al-Qaida’s members out of Waziristan, the lawless frontier area along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border that has been beset by U.S. drone airstrikes.
“The brothers who can keep a low profile and take the necessary precautions should stay, but move to new houses on a cloudy day” when visibility for U.S. drones is reduced, bin Laden wrote.
He also encouraged al-Qaida’s leaders to stay far from their troops to reduce the likelihood of being killed.
ON THE U.S. MEDIA: Like any public figures, bin Laden and his advisers were mindful of the media. Adam Gadahn, one of bin Laden’s spokesmen, provided a summary of his view of U.S. TV cable news.
“From the professional point of view, they are all on one level except (Fox News) channel which falls into the abyss as you know, and lacks neutrality too,” he wrote.
CNN seemed to be closely collaborating with the U.S. government, but its Arabic version was better, Gadahn wrote.
“I used to think that MSNBC channel may be good and neutral a bit, but it has lately fired two of the most famous journalists — Keith Olbermann and Octavia Nasser the Lebanese — because they released some statements that were open for argument,” wrote Gadahn, an American citizen.
“ABC channel is all right; actually it could be one of the best channels, as far as we are concerned. It is interested in al-Qa’ida issues, particularly the journalist Brian Ross, who is specialized in terrorism,” Gadahn wrote.
Bin Laden himself mentioned CBS as a possible, unbiased network. Gadahn didn’t know enough about it but wrote that the show “60 Minutes” has a good reputation.
“In conclusion, we can say that there is no single channel that we could rely on for our messages,” Gadahn wrote.
AL-QAIDA’S TARNISHED IMAGE: Bin Laden was under pressure to reform al-Qaida’s image. One unidentified confidants wrote a letter to bin Laden saying the terrorist group was losing support in the Muslim world. The letter-writer urged that al-Qaida not conduct operations in the Arabian peninsula, which includes Yemen, even when they are directed against U.S. interests.
“We think that the best places and most effective places for attacking the head of the snake are the locations in which it explicitly got involved militarily, such as Afghanistan and Iraq,” the letter reads. “Concentrating efforts in those areas is better than dispersing them and prevents the harm that could accompany them.”
Attacks inside Muslim countries, the letter-writer says, have hurt many innocent Muslims. Governments have responded swiftly by locking up supporters, cracking down on jihadi finances and even hurting legitimate charities.
“The jihadi stream lost many of its honest and faithful scholars and preachers who defended jihad and adopted it causes,” the letter-writer wrote.