The U.S. is trying to identify terrorist threats or plans hidden in the huge cache of material recovered from the hideout of slain al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, a senior official has said.
“The top priority is to identify any threat information and to disseminate it widely within the U.S. government and with our foreign partners. Of course, other top priority is to exploit the information to attract leads to other members of al-Qaeda,” the intelligence official said on condition of anonymity.
“The treasure trove of information have provided some golden nuggets of information on communications within the al-Qaeda and we hope to get a better sense as it continues,” he said.
The CIA, which has set up a task force, to go through every piece of material obtained during the raid, said that the US is still cataloguing them.
The official however did not give the quantity of material obtained during the raid, except for saying that most of the information would however remain classified for long.
“We want to make sure that we methodically process this material so that we get the highest quality intelligence from this collection,” he said.
In one of the videos which were released by the U.S. on Saturday, bin Laden was very critical of the U.S. and denigrated capitalism, according to the official.
“In the material that we have seen so far, he has continued to show interest in transportation and infrastructure targets,” the official said, adding that bin Laden was planning to attack the U.S. homeland.
54-year-old bin Laden, the world’s most wanted terrorist, was shot dead early this month by U.S. forces in a successful operation in Pakistan’s garrison city of Abbottabad.
This week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a general alert about security of railway and mass transit systems in large cities, which was based on the information obtained from these materials. Because of the sensitivity of the information, U.S. officials are very selective on sharing the information obtained from these materials, including the cell phone and numbers obtained.
“We are reviewing the information for threats to US and to our interests to include American troops. Obviously al-Qaeda has American bloods in its hand and this includes American blood in Afghanistan and we are going on round the clock basis, mine this information for anything that could suggest there are continuing threats from bin Laden and his inner circle against our troops,” the official said.
From these materials, he said the U.S. is looking at close links between al-Qaeda and other terrorist outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed.
“I am not in a position to say at this time. We have shared information with foreign countries, but I am not going to say which ones,” the official said.
Noting that al-Qaeda financing is an important factor, he said the U.S. is looking into any insight that these materials could provide about the terrorist outfit’s funds.
Terming it as the greatest intelligence success, perhaps, of the generation, the official said: “This is a hunt for a top al-Qaeda leader that has spanned nearly 10 years. This is a classic and historic intelligence success.”
Observing that the intelligence community is in the initial stages of analysing the materials that the assault team recovered from bin Laden’s compound, the official said identifying any imminent threats and plotting is their top priority.
“A multi-agency task force led by the CIA has been established to triage, catalogue, and analyse this intelligence,” the official said.
The task force is working around the clock and will draw on the expertise of the CIA, DHS (Department of Homeland Security), DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency), the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, FBI, the National Media Exploitation Center, NCTC (National Counter terrorism Center), NGA (National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency), NSA and Treasury.
“This collection represents the most significant amount of intelligence ever collected from a senior terrorist. It includes digital, audio and video files of varying sizes, printed materials, computer equipment, recording devices and handwritten documents,” the official said.