Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Osama's secret stashes


On May 20, 2015, the ODNI released a sizeable tranche of documents recovered during the raid on the compound used to hide Usama bin Ladin. The release, which followed a rigorous interagency review, aligns with the President’s call for increased transparency–consistent with national security prerogatives–and the 2014 Intelligence Authorization Act, which required the ODNI to conduct a review of the documents for release.

The release contains two sections. The first is a list of non-classified, English-language material found in and around the compound. The second is a selection of now-declassified documents.

The Intelligence Community will be reviewing hundreds more documents in the near future for possible declassification and release. An interagency taskforce under the auspices of the White House and with the agreement of the DNI is reviewing all documents which supported disseminated intelligence cables, as well as other relevant material found around the compound. All documents whose publication will not hurt ongoing operations against al-Qa‘ida or their affiliates will be released.

Now Declassified Material (103 items) [see list onsite]

Publicly Available U.S. Government Documents (75 items) [see list onsite]

English Language Books (39 items) [see list onsite]

[plus Material Published by Violent Extremists and Terror Groups (35 items), Materials Regarding France (19 items), Media Articles  (33 items), Other Religious Documents (11 items), Think Tank and Other Studies (40 items), Software and Technical Manuals (30 items), Other Miscellaneous Documents, and Documents Probably Used by Other Compound Residents (10 items)]
-- from the website of the ODNI
by Ken

As you've undboutedly heard, a veil has begun to be lifted over the stuff Osama bin Laden left behind in his final hideaway in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Suddenly we're privy to a cache of e-mails sent and received and a stash of 39 English-language books he kept.

Who knew we could go to the Web page of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence for dish? I actually find this more interesting than the revelations so far revealed regarding the late Osama bin Laden, revelations that included both assorted documents and the titles of 39 English-language books that formed an odd little library of sorts linked to Osama in the Abbottabad compound to which he was traced and in which he was killed by Navy SEALs.

Note for the record that the ODNI Web page specifies:
This list contains U.S. person information that is being released in accordance with the Fiscal Year 2014 Intelligence Authorization Act (section 309) requirement that the Director of National Intelligence conduct a declassification review of certain items collected during the mission that killed Usama bin Ladin on May 1, 2011, and make publicly available any information declassified as a result of such review.

All publications are unclassified and available commercially or in the public domain.

The U.S. Intelligence Community does not endorse any of the publications on this list.
By now everyone, his brother, and his butcher has had a shot at analyzing Osama's English-language bookshelf for what the titles reveal about, well, goodness-only-knows-what. You can google a dozen or two of those. My favorite theory, though, is provided by Daniel W. Drezner, professor of international politics at Tufts University's Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, in a washingtonpost.com "PostEverything" post, who had a shock of recognition looking at the mini-library and from personal experience recognized "Osama bin Laden, perpetual impoverished grad student."

While acknowledging that "if there is a common theme to his English-language library, it’s great power war and imperial decline" ("that fits both his conspiracy books and his more conventional selections"), he's struck by the "scattershot nature" of the selections.
There were other quality books on empire that bin Laden should have had in his possession given that he was so invested in this topic. Why this odd mix?
And that's when the light bulb lit.
[A]s I perused this mish-mash of conspiracy tomes, quasi-conspiracy tomes, radical texts, mainstream bestsellers, and the occasional hidden gem, it struck me as an off-kilter, but very familiar mix.

And that’s when it hit me: this is the precise collection of books you would find if you went to a used bookstore and bought out the entire international relations section.

Any former graduate student who trolled used bookstores in search of bargains while living off of a modest stipend in the days before Amazon.com knows what I’m talking about. The search for book bargains never ends for impoverished grad students.
And for Professor Drezner, the pieces all fit together: Osama's known "deep frustration with the isolation at his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan" and al-Qaeda's reputation as "a remarkably stingy operation in terms of its expenses and reimbursement procedures."
And he imagines a scene inside the Abbottabad compound beetween Osama and courier Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti:
BIN LADEN: I’m bored. There’s nothing to do here.
AL KUWAITI: So go read a magazine.
BIN LADEN: I’ve read every magazine three times now. Even the porn ones are getting old.
AL KUWAITI: Fine, I’ll go get you some new stuff.
BIN LADEN: No, I need books to study the enemy. Go and fetch me some books on the fading American Empire.
BIN LADEN: But don’t spend too much, OK?
BIN LADEN:  Seriously, nothing from Barnes and Noble. Go to an independent bookstore. Wait, better yet, a used one!
BIN LADEN: And make sure you get a receipt.
AL KUWAITI: Fine!!!!
Actually, I'm so tickled by the professor's nifty theory that I've devoted much more space than I intended to what has been revealed by the DNI. Because I'm more interested in what hasn't been revealed.


This is the most obvious omission. It's conceded that the Big Guy had a porn stash. For some reason, though, the ODNI watchdogs have declined to release any more information about it. Not only is this disappointing for both bin Laden and smut enthusiasts, it misses a prime opportunity to build traffic on the ODNI website. They'll miss all those extra clicks they could have had when they start accepting advertising.

Here's how the Daily Mail reported the smut story:
U.S. officials refuse to release details on the 'extensive' porn collection found in Osama bin Laden's Pakistani bolt-hole, because of the 'nature' of the smut. . . .

While it was widely reported that Navy SEALs recovered a large digital collection of sex videos from the compound when they staged a secret mission to kill bin Laden in 2011, the U.S. government says it is not going to describe or release details on any of the pornographic materials.

'We have no plans to release that at this point in time,' Brian Hale, a spokesman for the DNI, told The Telegraph, 'Due to the nature of the content the decision was made not to release it.'

Officials also refused to describe what kind of porn was kept in the bin Laden household.

Just two weeks after bin Laden was shot dead inside his Abbottabad compound, Reuters reported that pornography was recovered from the property. At the time, the collection was described as 'fairly extensive,' containing many modern videos.

It's estimated that bin Laden lived in the house with about 22 others, so it's unknown whether bin Laden actually watched any of the tapes.

However, the detail painted the al Qaeda leader as a hypocrite, since watching porn clashed with his fundamentalist image. 


My sources, who are unimpeachable and pinky-swear that they didn't just make this up, insist that there was another, even more secret English-language library, which for some reason remains classified. What distinguishes this group, apparently, is that all of these books are inscribe -- though apparently all in variations of the same hand, described as "like a third-grader's, or someone who's not writing in his native script."

For example, the first title on the list, Stephen Raichlen's Barbecue! Bible, is said to be inscribed: "Nobody can dry-rub and slow-roast a slab of mean like the O-man. XOXO, Steve." And The Fountainhead is inscribed: "This is one hot broad, Osama, baby. I'll never forget our long sessions together. Your workout body, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan." And the Martha Stewart volume is inscribed: "In remembrance of our times together in the chicken coop. Yours ever, Martha."

The Barbecue! Bible (Stephen Raichlen)
The Bridges of Madison County (Robert James Waller)
Winston Churchill: The Wit and Wisdom of
Fifty Shades of Grey (E. L. James)
The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
The Gilmore Girls Companion (A. S. Berman)
The Godfather (Mario Puzo)
Going Rogue: An American Life (Sarah Palin)
The Little House Collection Box Set (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
Male Grooming: Fabulous Tips on Looking Great (Ed West)
Leonard Maltin's Movie and Video Guide 1996
The Man Who Owns the News: Inside the Secret World of Rupert Murdoch (Michael Wolff)
Men Are Stupid . . . And They Like Big Boobs: A Woman's Guide to Beauty Through Plastic Surgery (Joan Rivers with Valerie Frankel)
The Metrosexual Man: A Head to Toe Guid to Male Grooming and Manscaping (Gabriel Villa)
The Mill on the Floss (George Eliot)
Rachael Ray's Look + Cook
Remembrance of Things Past (Marcel Proust)
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Coloring Book
Seinfeld Ultimate Episode Guide (Dennis Bjorklund)
Martha Stewart Entertaining
Take My Wife, Please! Henny Youngman's Giant Book of Jokes
Titanic and the Making of James Cameron (Paula Parisi)
The Valley of the Dolls (Jacqueline Susann)
The War for Late Night: When Leno Went Early and Television Went Crazy (Bill Carter)
You Might Be a Redneck If (Jeff Foxworthy)
You: Staying Young: The Owner's Manual for Extending Your Warranty (Michael Roizen and Dr. Oz)



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