Today, the Central Intelligence Agency posted a cache of files obtained from Osama Bin Laden’s personal computer and other devices recovered from his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan by Navy SEALs during the raid in which he was killed on May 2, 2011. The 470,000 files, 321 gigabytes in all, include documents, images, videos, and audio recordings, including Al Qaeda propaganda and planning documents, home videos of Bin Laden’s son Hazma, and “drafts” of propaganda videos. There is also a lot of digital junk among the files.
The CIA site presents a raft of warnings about the content of the downloads:
The material in this file collection may contain content that is offensive and/or emotionally disturbing. This material may not be suitable for all ages. Please view it with discretion. Prior to accessing this file collection, please understand that this material was seized from a terrorist organization. While the files underwent interagency review, there is no absolute guarantee that all malware has been removed.
Some of the files contain personal correspondence between Bin Laden and members of his family and other Al Qaeda leaders, and some are related to Al Qaeda’s terrorist operation. But there’s a great deal of the flotsam and jetsam of cached webpages and other Internet content that Bin Laden had to view offline, such as Web advertisements (including one for a Chrysler-Dodge dealership in Calgary) and page design elements. Others include scans of newspapers, magazines, and textbooks, as well as images that were apparently downloaded from Wikipedia—such as a map of “The fragmentation of Latin Greece, c. 1350,” showing the areas of influence of Italian and Catalan crusaders.
The file collection excludes some of the content recovered, including “materials that are sensitive such that their release would directly damage efforts to keep the nation secure; materials protected by copyright; pornography; malware; and blank, corrupted and duplicate files,” a CIA spokesperson said in a prepared statement.
For example, some of the copyrighted material being withheld from public release are the following:
- Batman Gotham Knight
- BBC Great Wildlife Moments
- Biography – Osama bin Laden
- Chicken Little
- CNN Presents: World’s Most Wanted
- Final Fantasy VII
- Heroes of Tomorrow
- Home on the Range
- Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
- In the Footsteps of bin Laden – CNN
- National Geographic: Kung Fu Killers
- National Geographic: Inside the Green Berets
- National Geographic: Predators at War
- National Geographic: World’s Worst Venom
- Peru Civilization
- Resident Evil
- Storm Rider – Clash of the Evils
- The Kremlin from Inside (a documentary recorded from Al Jazeera)
- The Story of India
- The Three Musketeers
- Where in the World is Osama bin Laden
There are at least two works found in the videos in the collection that the CIA missed: Episode 20 of the animated series Jackie Chan Adventures downloaded from MyEgy, an Arabic video streaming site, and a pirated Tom and Jerry cartoon.
The videos in the digital archive are in a hodgepodge of formats: RealMedia, Windows Media Format, .MOV and various MPEG formats, as well as Flash video archives of YouTube videos. One viewed by Ars is a video from Al Qaeda in Iraq of a roadside bomb being exploded under a US Army Bradley Armored Fighting Vehicle; others are videos of sermons by various Islamic clerics.
There’s also a 100-megabyte PDF file of scans of Bin Laden’s personal journal. However, no translation of the journal, written in Arabic, is currently provided by the CIA.