Lawrence Wright: While bin Laden has been depicted in the media as an extremely tall playboy billionaire with kidney disease, the truth isn't as extreme. Instead, bin Laden is likely worth about $7 million, was always "pious" - he's fasted twice a week since his teenage years - and seems to suffer from Addison's disease, the same hormonal disorder that afflicted President John F. Kennedy.
Ayman al-Zawahiri announced in a video that bin Laden was blind in one eye since his youth. Also that he had joined the Muslim Brotherhood but been expelled over Afghanistan in the late 1980s.
Osama bin Laden authored two fatāwā in the late 1990s. The first was published in August 1996 and the second in February 1998.
Bin Laden's 1996 fatwā is entitled "Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places".
The signatories of the 1998 fatwā were identified as the "World Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders". They were: Osama bin Laden; Ayman al-Zawahiri; Ahmed Refai Taha; Mir Hamzah and Fazul Rahman.
Osama was in charge of at least three organisations:
- Islamic Salvation Foundation - or - al Qaeda, "the base"
- Advice and Reformation Committee of Arabia
- International Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders
(Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammad, head of the political wing in Britain, said "the military wing of the International Islamic Front is run by Osama Bin Laden.")
"Following the latest explosions in the United States, some Americans are pointing the finger at me, but I deny that because I have not done it. The United States has always accused me of these incidents which have been caused by its enemies. Reiterating once again, I say that I have not done it, and the perpetrators have carried this out because of their own interest," - bin Laden on September 16, 2001
Sahim Alwan is one of the "Lackawanna Six", a half-dozen Yemeni-Americans from the Buffalo area who were convicted in 2003 of providing material support to al-Qaeda by attending bin Laden's terrorist training camp near Kandahar in 2001.
In March 2014, during the second day of testimony against Kuwaiti-born Iman Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, Alwan gave testimony that gave an eerie glimpse of bin Laden on the cusp of the terror attacks.
"I heard something is going to happen," Alwan recalled, mentioning to bin Laden, referring to camp-wide rumours of an imminent major terror attack.
"There have been threats made back and forth," bin Laden cryptically replied, according to Alwan.
Sulaiman Abu Ghaith told authorities that when he visited al-Qaeda training camps in the summer of 2001, he gleaned something major was in the works but never learned of any specific plan to attack the United States, Agent Michael Butsch testified at Abu Ghaith's federal trial in New York.
Abu Ghaith said he was summoned to bin Laden's home after the Sept. 11 attacks unfolded, Butsch said. "Bin Laden first asked him, 'Did you see what happened?,' referring to the attacks. And he said he did, and bin Laden said that he did this operation," the agent said, recounting statements the government says Abu Ghaith made while being flown to the U.S. on an FBI jet after his capture last year.
Bin Laden then asked Abu Ghaith, a Kuwait-born imam who had agreed that summer to put his rhetorical skills to work for al-Qaeda, to give a series of speeches - and even gave him bullet points, Abu Ghaith recalled, according to the FBI agent. Abu Ghaith went on to make a series of videotaped speeches, the first of them on Sept. 12, with bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders visible alongside him. "He said the purpose of these videotapes was for propaganda, to get them out into the media," Butsch said. In an Oct. 9, 2001, video, for instance, Abu Ghaith threatened that "America must know that the storm of airplanes will not abate, with God's permission."
NEW YORK – Osama Bin Laden claimed responsibility for masterminding 9/11 on the night of the attacks, his son-in-law said Wednesday as he unexpectedly testified at his federal trial in New York on terror charges. Suleiman Abu Ghaith, who married bin Laden’s daughter Fatima, recounted a dramatic meeting with the jubilant Al-Qaeda chief in an Afghanistan cave complex on the night of Sept. 11, 2001. “Did you learn what happened? We are the ones who did it,” Bin Laden declared, according to Abu Ghaith. The 48-year-old from Kuwait told the court he warned Bin Laden that he would feel the full force of America’s wrath following the attacks on New York and Washington. Bin Laden replied simply by telling him: “You’re being too pessimistic.”
"According to Peter Bergen, known for conducting the first television interview with Osama bin Laden in 1997, the idea that "the CIA funded bin Laden or trained bin Laden ... a folk myth. There's no evidence of this. ... Bin Laden had his own money, he was anti-American and he was operating secretly and independently. ... The real story here is the CIA didn't really have a clue about who this guy was until 1996 when they set up a unit to really start tracking him."
"A variety of sources — CNN journalist Peter Bergen, Pakistani ISI Brigadier Mohammad Yousaf, and CIA operatives involved in the Afghan program, such as Vincent Cannistraro — deny that the CIA or other American officials had contact with the Afghan Arabs (foreign mujahideen) or Bin Laden, let alone armed, trained, coached or indoctrinated them."
According to Bergen: A source familiar with bin Ladin's organisation explained that bin Ladin "never had any relations with America or American officials... He was saying very early in the 1980's that the next battle is going to be with America... No aid or training or other support have ever been given to bin Ladin from Americans." A senior offical unequivocally says that "bin Ladin never met with the CIA."
Steve Coll: I did not discover any evidence of direct contact between CIA officers and bin Laden during the 1980s, when they were working more or less in common cause against the Soviets. CIA officials, including Tenet, have denied under oath that such contact took place. The CIA was certainly aware of bin Laden's activities, beginning in the mid- to late-1980s, and they generally looked favorably on what he was doing at that time. But bin Laden's direct contacts were with Saudi intelligence and to some extent Pakistani intelligence, not with the Americans.
Former CIA officer Milt Bearden, who ran the Agency's Afghan operation in the late 1980's, says: "The CIA did not recruit Arabs," as there was no need to do so. There were hundreds of thousands of Afghans all too willing to fight...
Richard Miniter: ...the handful of Americans who had heard of bin Ladin in the 1980's knew him mainly for his violently anti-American views. Dana Rohrabacher, now a Republican congressman from Orange County, California, told me about a trip he took with the mujihideen in 1987. At the time, Rohrabacher was a Reagan aide who delighted in taking long overland trips inside Afghanistan with anti-Communist forces. On one such trek, his guide told him not to speak English for the next few hours because they were passing by bin Ladin's encampment. Rohrabacher was told, "If he hears an American, he will kill you."
bin Ladin was himself asked about US funding by Robert Fisk in 1996: "What of the Arab mujahedin he took to Afghanistan - members of a guerilla army who were also encouraged and armed by the United States - and who were forgotten when that war was over?" bin Ladin: "Personally neither I nor my brothers saw evidence of American help...
Ayman al-Zawahiri in his Knights under the Prophet's Banner: "While the United States backed Pakistan and the mujahidin factions with money and equipment, the young Arab mujahidin's relationship with the United States was totally different. Is it possible that Usama Bin Ladin who, in his lectures in the year 1987, called for boycotting US goods as a form of support for the intifadah in Palestine, a US agent in Afghanistan? ... Furthermore, is it possible that the martyr-as we regard him-Abdallah Azzam was a US collaborator when in fact he never stopped inciting young men against the United States and used to back HAMAS with all the resources at his disposal?"
QUESTION from Doron Weber, Sloan Foundation: "You were in charge of the General Intelligence Directorate for 25 years beginning in 1977. How early did you become aware of Osama bin Laden and what was your strategy in dealing with him?"
AL-FAISAL: "I met Osama bin Laden five times in my life as intelligence director. Mid-‘80s to end of 1989 or beginning of 1990 was the last time I saw him. And so, by 1990 when I last saw him at the beginning of that year, he had come to me with a proposition that he wants to bring his Mujaheddin as he called them, to liberate the then-Marxist regime in south Yemen. And I advised him that that was not the right time to do it because there were other factors playing there politically and economically. South Yemen was being—not a favorite word of mine—weaned away from the Soviet Union at that time. So, he left and that was the last that I saw of him.
"He then remained in the kingdom for another two years after that, sometimes going to mosques and preaching without taking permission to do so and being arrested for doing that and reprimanded and then let go.
"And I think at the end of 1992—perhaps Mr. Rubin can correct me on that—he asked for permission to leave Saudi Arabia. And he left and went to Afghanistan. And he went from there in—end of 1993 he went to the Sudan, and that’s when he began operating against the kingdom from the Sudan. He was stripped of his Saudi citizenship in 1994. His financial assets were frozen at that time and even his personal family disowned him in public at that time.
"By 1996, he moved from the Sudan to Afghanistan and it went on from there. So we were pretty much aware of bin Laden from the very beginning, if you like. Not perhaps so much in terms of how dangerous he could be, but as he grew and as his movement grew, people became more aware of his danger.
"And the first terrorist act undertaken by bin Laden was against Saudi Arabia in 1995 when an explosives truck was exploded next to a training facility for the national guard where I believe 11 American trainers were killed along with other nationalities."
Carlotta Gall claims that then-ISI head Ahmed Shuja Pasha had direct knowledge of bin Laden’s presence:
Soon after the Navy SEAL raid on Bin Laden’s house, a Pakistani official told me that the United States had direct evidence that the ISI chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, knew of Bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad. The information came from a senior United States official, and I guessed that the Americans had intercepted a phone call of Pasha’s or one about him in the days after the raid. “He knew of Osama’s whereabouts, yes,” the Pakistani official told me. The official was surprised to learn this and said the Americans were even more so. Pasha had been an energetic opponent of the Taliban and an open and cooperative counterpart for the Americans at the ISI. “Pasha was always their blue-eyed boy,” the official said. But in the weeks and months after the raid, Pasha and the ISI press office strenuously denied that they had any knowledge of Bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad.
In trying to prove that the ISI knew of Bin Laden’s whereabouts and protected him, I struggled for more than two years to piece together something other than circumstantial evidence and suppositions from sources with no direct knowledge. Only one man, a former ISI chief and retired general, Ziauddin Butt, told me that he thought Musharraf had arranged to hide Bin Laden in Abbottabad. But he had no proof and, under pressure, claimed in the Pakistani press that he’d been misunderstood. Finally, on a winter evening in 2012, I got the confirmation I was looking for. According to one inside source, the ISI actually ran a special desk assigned to handle Bin Laden. It was operated independently, led by an officer who made his own decisions and did not report to a superior. He handled only one person: Bin Laden. I was sitting at an outdoor cafe when I learned this, and I remember gasping, though quietly so as not to draw attention. (Two former senior American officials later told me that the information was consistent with their own conclusions.) This was what Afghans knew, and Taliban fighters had told me, but finally someone on the inside was admitting it. The desk was wholly deniable by virtually everyone at the ISI — such is how supersecret intelligence units operate — but the top military bosses knew about it, I was told.
Peter Bergen at CNN was confused:
It is, of course, hard to prove negatives, but having spent around a year reporting intensively on the hunt for al Qaeda's leader for my 2012 book "Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for bin Laden From 9/11 to Abbottabad," I am convinced that there is no evidence that anyone in the Pakistani government, military or intelligence agencies knowingly sheltered bin Laden.
On three reporting trips to Pakistan I spoke to senior officials in Pakistan's military and intelligence service. They all denied that they had secretly harbored bin Laden. OK, you are thinking: "But they would say that, wouldn't they?"
Well, what about the dozens of officials I spoke to in the U.S. intelligence community, Pentagon, State Department and the White House who also told me versions of "the Pakistanis had no idea that bin Laden was hiding in Abbottabad"?
During the course of reporting for my book I spoke on the record to, among others, John Brennan, now the CIA director and then President Obama's top counterterrorism adviser; then CIA Director Leon Panetta and his chief of staff, Jeremy Bash; then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Adm. Mike Mullen; then Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. James Cartwright; then director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Michael Leiter; then senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council, Nick Rasmussen; then head of policy at the Pentagon, Michele Flournoy; Michael Vickers, who was then the civilian overseer of Special Operations at the Pentagon; Tony Blinken, who is now the deputy national security adviser; and Denis McDonough, who held that position before Blinken.
These officials have collectively spent many decades working to destroy al Qaeda, and many are deeply suspicious of Pakistan for its continuing support for elements of the Taliban. But all of them told me in one form or another that Pakistani officials had no clue that bin Laden was living in Abbottabad.
The death of Osama bin-Laden was announced as May 1st, 2011. This is the 66th anniversary of Adolph Hitler's death (May 1st, 1945).
Raelynn Hillhouse, an American security analyst, claimed that bin Laden's whereabouts were finally revealed when a Pakistani intelligence officer came forward to claim the longstanding $25m bounty on the al-Qaeda leader's head:
"The [Inter-Services Intelligence] officer came forward to claim the substantial reward and to broker US citizenship for his family," she writes on her intelligence blog, The Spy Who Billed Me. "My sources tell me that the informant claimed that the Saudis were paying off the Pakistani military and intelligence (ISI) to essentially shelter and keep bin Laden under house arrest in Abbottabad, a city with such a high concentration of military that I'm told there's no equivalent in the US." After confirming bin Laden's presence in the military town, the US approached Pakistan's military leaders securing their co-operation in return for cash and a chance to avoid public humiliation, according to Dr Hillhouse's account.
Sources in the intelligence community tell me that after years of trying and one bureaucratically insane near-miss in Yemen, the US government killed OBL because a Pakistani intelligence officer came forward to collect the approximately $25 million reward from the State Department's Rewards for Justice program.
The informant was a walk-in.
The ISI officer came forward to claim the substantial reward and to broker US citizenship for his family. My sources tell me that the informant claimed that the Saudis were paying off the Pakistani military and intelligence (ISI) to essentially shelter and keep bin Laden under house arrest in Abbottabad, a city with such a high concentration of military that I'm told there's no equivalent in the US.
The CIA and friends then set about proving that OBL was indeed there. And they did.
Next they approached the chiefs of the Pakistani military and the ISI. The US was going to come in with or without them. The CIA offered them a deal they couldn't refuse: they would double what the Saudis were paying them to keep bin Laden if they cooperated with the US.
The fate of Osama bin Laden's remains have been called into question after emails leaked from an intelligence analysis firm say the body of the terror leader was actually sent to the U.S. for cremation.
According to the emails, the Al Qaeda boss was shot and killed during the famous Navy SEAL Team Six raid on his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, was transported back to the U.S. and cremated.
The emails were allegedly obtained by the hacker group Anonymous from Stratfor, an organisation dealing with analysis of intelligence and geopolitical analysis.
It's also known as the 'Shadow CIA'.
Last week, Anonymous announced that it had gotten access to 2.7million of the firm’s confidential correspondences, and said they could provide 'the smoking gun for a number of crimes'.
The hackers said Stratfor, based in Austin, Texas, were 'clueless' when it came to database security.
After bin Laden was killed in the famous raid in Pakistan on May 2 2011, the Obama administration said his body was buried at sea off the USS Carl Vinson - in accordance with Islamic tradition.
But in a particular set of emails given to WikiLeaks, the firm’s vice president for intelligence, Fred Burton, says he doubts the official White House version of what happened to bin Laden's body.
Stratfor’s vice-president for intelligence, Fred Burton, says the body was 'bound for Dover, Delaware on a CIA plane' and 'onward to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Bethesda Maryland'.
The claims are sure to stoke conspiracy theorists, especially since the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology that Burton refers to closed its doors on September 15, 2011, four months after bin Laden's death.
In another email, Burton said: 'If body dumped at sea, which I doubt, the touch is very Adolf Eichmann like. The Tribe did the same thing with the Nazi's ashes'.