Documents reveal bin Laden plots

March 18, 2012


— Before his death, Osama bin Laden boldly commanded his network to organize special cells in Afghanistan and Pakistan to attack the aircraft of President Barack Obama and Gen. David Petraeus.

“The reason for concentrating on them,” the al-Qaida leader explained to his top lieutenant, “is that Obama is the head of infidelity and killing him automatically will make (Vice President Joe) Biden take over the presidency. ... Biden is totally unprepared for that post, which will lead the U.S. into a crisis. As for Petraeus, he is the man of the hour ... and killing him would alter the war’s path” in Afghanistan.

Administration officials said Friday the Obama-Petraeus plot was never a serious threat.

The scheme was described in one of the documents taken from bin Laden’s compound by U.S. forces on May 2, the night he was killed. I was given an exclusive look at some of these remarkable documents by a senior administration official. They have been declassified and will be available soon to the public in their original Arabic texts and translations.

The man bin Laden hoped would carry out the attacks on Obama and Petraeus was the Pakistani terrorist Ilyas Kashmiri. “Please ask brother Ilyas to send me the steps he has taken into that work,” bin Laden wrote to his top lieutenant, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman. A month after bin Laden’s death, Kashmiri was killed in a U.S. drone attack.

Bin Laden’s plot to target Obama was probably bluster, since al-Qaida apparently lacked the weapons to shoot down U.S. aircraft. But it’s a chilling reminder that even when he was embattled and in hiding, bin Laden still dreamed of pulling off another spectacular terrorist attack against the United States.

The terrorist leader urged in a 48-page directive to Atiyah to focus “every effort that could be spent on attacks in America,” instead of operations within Muslim nations. He told Atiyah to “ask the brothers in all regions if they have a brother ... who can operate in the U.S. (He should be able to) live there, or it should be easy for him to travel there.”

U.S. analysts don’t see evidence that these plots have materialized. “The organization lacks the ability to plan, organize and execute complex, catastrophic attacks, but the threat persists,” says a senior administration analyst who has carefully reviewed the documents.

The bin Laden who emerges from these communications is a terrorist CEO in an isolated compound, brooding that his organization has ruined its reputation by killing too many Muslims in its jihad against America. He writes of the many departed “brothers” who have been lost to U.S. drone attacks. But he’s far from the battlefield himself in his hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where he seems to spend considerable time watching television.

Bin Laden’s biggest concern was al-Qaida’s media image among Muslims. He worried that it was so tarnished that, in a draft letter probably intended for Atiyah, he argued the organization should find a new name.

The al-Qaida brand had become a problem, bin Laden explained, because Obama administration officials “have largely stopped using the phrase ‘the war on terror’ in the context of not wanting to provoke Muslims,” and instead promoted a war against al-Qaida.

Bin Laden ruminated about “mistakes” and “miscalculations” by affiliates in Iraq and elsewhere that had killed Muslims, even in mosques. He told Atiyah to warn every emir, or regional leader, to avoid these “unnecessary civilian casualties,” which were hurting the organization.

It would be better to concentrate on attacking the U.S. homeland. This led to sharp disagreements with his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who favored easier and more opportunistic attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and other areas.

Bin Laden and his aides hoped for big terrorist operations to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001. They also had elaborate media plans. Adam Gadahn, a U.S.-born media adviser, even recommended to his boss what would be the best television outlets for a bin Laden anniversary video.

“It should be sent for example to ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN, and maybe PBS and VOA. As for Fox News let her die in her anger,” Gadahn wrote. At another point, he said of the networks: “From a 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.”

What an unintended boost for Fox, which can now boast that it is al-Qaida’s least favorite network.

— David Ignatius is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.    


cato_the_elder 6 years, 2 months ago

"What an unintended boost for Fox, which can now boast that it is al-Qaida’s least favorite network."

Written by one of the most repugnant of Obama's leftist stooges currently plying his trade at WaPo. Not the worst, but close.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 2 months ago

I'm reminded of the ranting and raving of Adolf Hitler in the years 1943 - 1945. Maybe it's because I've read so much about that period of history.

"Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it." - George Santayana

cato_the_elder 6 years, 2 months ago

If you're implying that Obama shares a number of Hitler's personality traits, including but not limited to megalomania and narcissism, I would agree with you.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 2 months ago

I suppose you think the same of Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Bush, right?

cato_the_elder 6 years, 2 months ago

No. Obama is the most narcissistic, self-centered, and megalomaniacal individual who has ever served as president in my lifetime.

JayhawkFan1985 6 years, 2 months ago

You're a buffoon. You must rely on fox news for all your information. I feel sorry for you.

cato_the_elder 6 years, 2 months ago

No, I rely on my eyes and ears and what they tell me about the most narcissistic, self-centered, and megalomaniacal individual who has ever served as president in my lifetime. You must not be familiar with Obama's career and personal history. Of course, if all you do is read the New York Times and the Daily Kos, and watch MSNBC, I can understand how you've never gotten the full picture.

JayhawkFan1985 6 years, 2 months ago

Since you have the inside scoop perhaps you could share some actual facts that would support what appears to the rest of us as buffoonery. Please shed some light so we don't continue cursing the dark...

JayhawkFan1985 6 years, 2 months ago

Clearly, Cato has nothing of substance to offer...

Richard Heckler 6 years, 2 months ago

Why wouldn't bin Laden want to kill the current USA president? It seems GW and Obama were trying to kill bin Laden.

During the current war to control the world oil supply about 7,000 soldiers have lost their lives and about 45,000 have come home disabled and no jobs for them. An untold number of vets are forced to live homeless.

The USA war machine is not worshipped around the world only among the RINO/CINO party and the military industrial complex. Can we say a huge tax dollar money hole generating large profits and large political campaign contributions for a chosen few?

Flap Doodle 6 years, 2 months ago

You're granting equivalence between OBL and BHO?

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