One year ago today, on May 1, 2011, Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs in a daring raid on his compound near Islamabad, Pakistan. Through thousands of documents seized during the assault—many of them slated to be declassified later this week—we've learned a lot about the terror leader since his death.
He wanted to kill President Obama
According to the trove of documents uncovered by U.S. forces, bin Laden "regularly ordered his subordinates to plan new attacks, including assassinations of President Barack Obama and Gen. David Petraeus," NBC News reported.
According to the Washington Post, bin Laden wanted to kill Obama, in part, because he felt Vice President Joe Biden was "unprepared" to step in as commander in chief. Bin Laden's planned assassination of Obama involved hijacking Air Force One, the Post said.
"Obama is the head of infidelity and killing him automatically will make Biden take over the presidency," Bin Laden wrote in a message to one of his top lieutenants, the paper said. "Biden is totally unprepared for that post, which will lead the U.S. into a crisis." And all of this, despite an "increasingly limited cadre of operatives capable of carrying out such attacks."
He fantasized about blowing up oil tankers
In 2010, bin Laden wanted to hijack oil tankers and blow them up at sea, "creating explosions he hoped would rattle the world's economy and send oil prices skyrocketing," U.S. officials said shortly after his killing. While they concluded it was merely a "fantasy," the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security nonetheless issued warnings to commercial oil companies.
He was a hoarder
According to NBC chief pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski, Navy SEALs who carried out the raid on his Abbottabad compound recovered "five computers, 10 hard drives and more than 100 storage devices—DVDs, discs and thumb drives—that included between 10,000 and 15,000 documents and between 15,000 to 25,000 videos" inside. But a lot of them were duplicates, and many amounted to home videos, documenting "life around the compound ... chickens and cows, rabbits and dogs."
He had an 'extensive' porn collection
In the fallout following bin Laden's death, it was revealed that the terror leader had a stash of pornography in his hideout in Abbottabad when Navy SEALs killed him. U.S. officials told Reuters the pornography recovered in bin Laden's compound consisted "of modern, electronically recorded video" and was "fairly extensive."
"The officials said they were not yet sure precisely where in the compound the pornography was discovered or who had been viewing it," Reuters said, noting that the compound had been cut off from access to Internet and Wi-Fi networks. "It is unclear how compound residents would have acquired the pornography."
He liked to watch himself
A video released by the Obama administration confiscated from the compound during the raid "showed bin Laden watching pictures of himself on a TV screen," Reuters reported, "indicating that the compound was equipped with video playback equipment."
He felt threatened by the Arab spring
An administration official told NBC News that Bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri—his right-hand man—saw the early 2011 uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa as a "danger" for the future of al-Qaida. "Governments that bin Laden and his followers had given up on overturning were 'toppling,' but 'the demonstrators were not expressing support for al-Qaida at all" and "not using al-Qaida themes," the official said.
He was largely isolated, and flailing
"What you get is that bin Laden would come up with an idea but it was a very broad aspirational idea," the official told NBC. "And then he'd turn it over to somebody and there was always some sort of disconnect." Bin Laden's subordinates would then have to explain how difficult his terror ideas would be to carry out, the official said.
By the end of 2010, the official added, "there was certainly a sense of loss in terms of the senior leaders that perished, a sense that the midlevel cadre had been decimated."
He was 'delusional'
Peter Bergen, CNN's national security analyst and author of "Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden," says the al-Qaida head had become "delusional"--a result of living in near-isolation. "He was out of touch after six years basically living in probably two rooms of his house," Bergen told Newsmax.com. "He's calling for attacks on America. The people in al-Qaida were saying, 'Well, you know, that's all very well, but we just don't have the resources to do that.' He was pushing for things that just weren't very plausible."
He was so depressed, he wanted to rename al-Qaida
Hunkered down in his Abbottabad compound, bin Laden anguished as al-Qaida suffered "disaster after disaster," encouraged its operatives to flee to areas "away from aircraft photography and bombardment" and even thought about changing the name of his notorious international terrorist network, John Brennan, Obama's top counterterrorism adviser, said on Monday.
Bin Laden worried about recruiting terrorist talent as U.S. strikes killed some of his veterans, and "agreed that 'a large portion' of Muslims around the world 'have lost their trust' in al-Qaida," Brennan said. "So damaged is al-Qaida's image that bin Laden even considered changing its name." Why? "As bin Laden said himself, U.S. officials have largely stopped using the phrase 'the war on terror' in the context of not wanting to provoke Muslims."
"In short, Al Qaeda [was] losing, badly," Brennan said. "And Bin Laden knew it."
He was nonetheless the last word on terror
Ultimately, everything went through Osama bin Laden, the official told NBC, in part because of his charisma: "He weighed in on a lot of issues. They tended to seek his guidance on a lot of things and clearly would wait until he got back to them."
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