Bin Laden letters reveal plot to kill Obama

Among 17 documents released in the U.S., some indicate al-Qaida leaders are constantly hiding from unmanned U.S. aircraft • Bin Laden also sought the murder of CIA director David Petraeus.

David Baron and The Associated Press
Paranoia: Documents publicized in the U.S. reveal inner thoughts of assassinated al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.


Photo credit: AP


A four-page handwritten document by Osama bin Laden, provided by the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.


Photo credit: AP


Paranoia: Documents publicized in the U.S. reveal inner thoughts of assassinated al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.


Photo credit: AP


Letters found in arch-terrorist Osama bin Laden’s home after he was killed by U.S. special forces in a raid in Pakistan in May 2011 reveal al-Qaida’s desire to recruit more Muslims to its cause, the extent to which groups aligning themselves with al-Qaida should attack the U.S. and al-Qaida’s disappointment with several jihadi groups.


The 17 letters, released to the U.S. media on Thursday, offer a glimpse into the mind of the number one global terrorist just months before he was assassinated. The documents, which date from September 2006 to April 2011, were declassified by U.S. intelligence officials and posted by scholars at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.


White House spokesman Jay Carney said the new documents emerged after a long process of declassification and analysis, and the timing was driven in part by interest surrounding the anniversary of bin Laden’s death.


In one letter, bin Laden suggests changing the name of his organization because „al-Qaida” (which means „the base” in Arabic) no longer invoked enough support throughout the world. One alternative raised was „The organization to free Al-Aqsa,” referring to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, located in the Old City of Jerusalem and considered the third holiest site in Sunni Islam.


In another letter, bin Laden demands that his followers focus on carrying out attacks inside the U.S. rather than on attacks on U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which, he wrote, resulted in the deaths of Muslims as well.


One detail that emerged from the documents released so far is that al-Qaida’s leaders are constantly on the run from unmanned U.S. aircraft and trying to evade detection by CIA spies and National Security Agency eavesdroppers. In one letter, either bin Laden himself or his senior deputy tells the leader of Yemen’s al-Qaida offshoot that, in the face of U.S. power, it is futile to try to establish a government that will offer it safe haven.


„Even though we were able to militarily and economically exhaust and weaken our greatest enemy before and after the eleventh,” the letter says, referring to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, „the enemy continues to possess the ability to topple any state we establish.”


Showing his operatives that he was serious about taking action against the U.S., a letter reveals that bin Laden instructed al-Qaida to set up two teams with the purpose of assassinating U.S. President Barack Obama and CIA director David Petraeus, who at the time was commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan.


The teams planned to shoot down planes carrying Obama and Petraeus over Afghanistan or Pakistan. Bin Laden wrote that killing Obama would put Vice President Joe Biden, who was considered inexperienced, into the position of president and the death of Petraeus would have a significant effect on the outcome of the war in Afghanistan.


Bin Laden instructed his organization not to harm Robert Gates, then U.S. Defense Secretary, Adm. Mike Mullen, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Richard Holbrooke, who was the U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, although the al-Qaida leader did not explain this decision.


In a scathing tirade, bin Laden denounced Faisal Shahzad, a member of al-Qaida who is currently serving a life sentence for trying to detonate a car bomb in Times Square in May 2010. Bin Laden wrote that Shahzad lied when he swore allegiance to the U.S., explaining that this was a form of betrayal that is not permitted in relation to an enemy.


Al-Qaida’s top leader also ranted against Anwar al-Awlaki, who was born in the U.S. and ran the Dar al Hijrah mosque in Virginia until he became the head of al-Qaida’s Arabian Peninsula branch. Bin Laden claimed that a magazine Awlaki published was in bad taste. Awlaki was later killed by U.S. forces in Yemen.


Some letters hinted that bin Laden was not as close to Ayman al-Zawahri, his second in command who became leader of al-Qaida after bin Laden was assassinated, than he was thought to be.


According to the documents, al-Qaida’s relationship with Iran, a point of abiding interest to the U.S. government, was rough. After the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001, some top al-Qaida operatives and their families fled to Iran, where authorities there put them under house arrest. Over the years, Iran has released some, including members of bin Laden’s family. Others remain.


Abd al-Rahman, who became al-Qaida’s No. 2 after bin Laden’s death, complained bitterly about dealing with the Iranians and what he considered their Byzantine methods of negotiating. He also died in a U.S. drone strike.


„The criminals did not send us any letter, nor did they send us a message through any of the brothers,” he wrote of the Iranians. „Such behavior is of course not unusual for them; indeed, it is typical of their mindset and method. They do not wish to appear to be negotiating with us or responding to our pressures.”