Osama bin Laden outlined his thinking for mounting attacks with mass casualties and playing U.S. politicians off one another in a handwritten journal, letters and other documents recovered by the Navy SEALs who killed the al-Qaeda leader, a U.S. official said.
Bin Laden used the journal, which is between 10 and 20 pages long, to brainstorm ideas about making attacks more deadly and choosing specific targets, such as trains, the official said. The terrorist group’s leader then detailed his thoughts in correspondence to al-Qaeda affiliates and allies around the world, the official said.
The official, lacking authorization to discuss the documents publicly, spoke yesterday on condition of anonymity. The Associated Press earlier reported on the journal.
The portrait emerging from the documents shows that bin Laden was more involved in daily operations than U.S. national security leaders had suspected.
The journal was among a vast store of documents and equipment, including computer hard drives and portable thumb drives, seized by the SEALs during the raid on the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in which bin Laden was shot and killed earlier this month.
In some documents, bin Laden talks about the importance of an attack resulting in mass casualties and wonders how many Americans would need to be killed before the U.S. removed troops from Muslim countries.
In dozens of letters, bin Laden helps with operational planning, including a plot uncovered in Europe last year, the official said. Bin Laden also shares his thoughts on who should or shouldn’t be appointed leaders of al-Qaeda affiliates, the official said.
U.S. intelligence experts and other specialists from 10 government agencies are combing through the material and still quantifying and cataloging the haul, which may produce more hand-written accounts, a second U.S. official said.
The U.S. already has shared certain potential threat information with foreign partners, this official said, declining to specify which countries or organizations or how many.
In addition, the U.S. has female interrogators on standby to interview bin Laden’s widows as soon as they get the access that Pakistan has promised, the official said. The commandos conducting the raid left behind three wives of bin Laden and nine children, whom Pakistani authorities took into custody when they arrived on the scene.
The U.S. last week issued an alert to law enforcement officials based on an item in bin Laden’s notebook that described a plot in February 2010 to attack U.S. trains, a third U.S. official said.
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