tv Al- Qaeda and Osama bin Laden Documents CSPAN December 1, 2017 2:23pm-3:50pm EST
sunday at 8:00 a.m. eastern, the recollections of the battle of midway. sunday at 4:00 p.m. eerp astern real america, the film "dreams of equality." american history tv all weekend every weekend only on cspan3. >> referee: the cia recently released the latest assortment of thousands of files recovered in the may, 2011 raid on osama bin laden compound in pakistan. two senior fellows with the foundation for defensive democracies spoke about goingbe given a firsthand look at the documents and videos. next their analysis between the relationship of al qaeda and iran as well as al qaeda and isis. well, good afternoon and welcome to the foundation for defense of democracies. i'm cliff may, the founder and president and i'm pleased to
welcome you today to our conversation, understanding al qaeda through the massive trove of osama bin laden's files. i think you all know the background in may of 2011 a navy s.e.a.l. team went to pakistan and killed osama bin laden. they had a second information to take as much as they could from his compound. they did so. we should have learned a huge amount of information but we couldn't because it was under lock and key. fdd tom and bill were among the advocate and lobbyists and pressures to release that information but most recently 470,000 documents have been released and we were given an advanced look by mike pompeo who said this should be available to scholars and journalists and others. so with that i'm pleased to hand the conversation over today to our moderator, kimberley dozier who
has had a distinguished career reporting on intelligence and national security issues. she covered the war in iraq from 2003 until she was wounded in the car bombing in 2006. last thing by way of housekeeping, i should note that today's event should be live streamed. i encourage guests here to join in today's conversation on twitter and also ask you to please silence your phones. kim, thank you very much. hand it over to you. >> cliff, thank you very much. so today we have with us three of the practitioners of the dark art of delving into everything al qaeda. also isis but we're going to dwell on al qaeda today. in case you haven't met them before, we have bill rogio we have founder of the long ward journal. "the new york times" specialist
on al qaeda, foreign correspondent and an ap veteran. and tom who i asked to bring out this notebook. believe me we're going to start broad, but -- these guys know this stuff inside and out. so with that, i'll start with the broad question. why did it take so long, tom, to release these documents? >> anybody who deals with the intelligence bureaucracy knows they're definitely allergic to releasing anything. we called for general transparency on a lot of matters. we think that's basically the media's job to push for transparency. and all these different issues. transparency re think helps inform the public because here we are sitting in 2017 and the u.s. may not have large scale deployments but we're still deployed in several areas and fighting
through the air and understanding this whole threat spectrum and the enemy and how this all evolved, we think is crucial for understanding and debating the efficacy of these policies and understanding our enemy and what better way to see it than through the eyes of osama bin laden. bill and i started fighting for release in these files in may 2012. at the time the obama white house put out 17 files from this massive trove and bill and i are proudly nerds and thinking we're going to get all these goodies today and all that comes out is 17 files. there was a narrative that said basically al qaeda was on the decline, everything was going poorly. there was no cohesion to the international network. you have groups everywhere from west africa, the heart of middle east fighting, but they're not really al qaeda. bin laden had little control over all of this. that narrative in 2012 we knew immediately was totally wrong and basically a cherry picked
version of what was going on. we said we can prove it's wrong based on the file. even the 17 files that came out we can prove it is wrong and based on a lot of other information we can prove it's wrong. the only way to put this to rest is to get everything released as soon as possible. that's where this fight began it began with a very simple question. what role did osama bin laden play in al qaeda on the day he was killed. what was he doing. >> can you describe what were in the first 17 and what was recently released to you guys first? >> the first 17 files, there was a mix, a little of information. we had information on the communications with the pakistani taliban. we had information -- one of the first files, the somali file was in the first batch, right? >> there was a letter written to -- that was an
attachment to another letter that wasn't released. we're going to get nerdy. >> so i actually reported on it in 2010 that there was -- that it was ordered to obscure its ties with al qaeda and they did it -- and the reason i reported from very good sources was that they were concerned about getting -- having aid cut off because there was lot of famine in somalia at this time and they wanted to keep the international coalition from co as ressing and coming in and attacking shabob. in one of the files conformation of that report. we saw a letter. >> so that was in the first set? >> that was in one of the first seats. soo we've seen more information on that and then the initial response. it was a smattering.
we have to understand about these files is we're looking at -- we may see one or two communications that would be a long string of communications. when you said it was cherry picked, that has that feeling of they put out this piece for this, this piece for that. there was some information on iran/al qaeda ties, for instance. and that was -- it's funny, when you look at that, the other was made that there were no ties. we read that one document and say we see some indications that there are. so it was a mix of information in that first batch. 17 files is not enough to draw any kind of concrete conclusions made at that time. >> between then and now, for the audience, can you describe again what was just released in terms of size and scope? >> i believe -- >> 107,499 and --
>> it's like 450,000 pages. >> audio either reports in audio. so for instance reports on al qaeda and iraq at that time which eventually became the islamic state. communications back and forth. bin laden's personal journal. we see -- there's family videos in there. a lot has been made of the tom and jerry videos. and all of that stuff. we have to remember that they didn't just seize bin laden's laptop and his book case but they seized everything that was used. so i imagine if someone looked at your family computer, they would see a whole lot of different information. we've seen communications about the pakistani taliban. we really only scratched the surface. >> it's his digital life. >> not just his but his family's as well. >> the difference between the first release and the second release.
why do you think the obama administration was holding those documents back? >> i can only speak to my own reporting and my interaction with the administration. in 2011 when osama bin laden was killed, i was based in senegal but i covered the region. about six months later a branch of al qaeda called al qaeda and the islamic migrip or aqim took over the northern half of mali. so this enormous, enormous territory. when i was calling officials in washington and diplomats at the embassy and analysts, many of them except for tom and a few others, the narrative i would get is this group in mali was actually not really connected to al qaeda. it had opportunistically taken the al qaeda name to scare people and that in fact those people were just criminals, drug dealers, cigarette smugglers and
kidnapping people for ransom in a criminal way. >> so these are not the al qaeda droids you're looking for. >> in 2013 the french went in and flushed out this group. i was among the reporters able to get to timbuctu. it really exists. it's a real place. and i went building by building in the buildings that had been occupied by this terror group and started collecting the thousands of documents they had left behind. i work with the translator for the next year and suddenly my world view which had had been informed by officials, i think most reporters work this way because it's very hard to get access to the terror group, that world view started to fall apart. because among the documents i was finding in mali a disciplinary letter from al qaeda reprimanding a mallian commander who had negotiated a ransom of a canadian hostage on
his own without consulting al qaeda central. that was going back to 2008/2009. suddenly this group i was told really had no tie -- >> >> a bunch of criminals with no connection. >> exactly. was in fact being micromanaged. so when the first set of documents came out, if you read them carefully with this knowledge in mind, you find evidence of this micromanaging. where you see them giving each other instructions, guidance, etc. but the overall narrative i think was being pushed to the press and if you look back at the editorials was an image of bin laden isolated. he had lost control of this group. i remember one of the headlines describing him was a lion in winter and in fact the new trove that has now come out confirms very much what i was seeing in
mali which is not just real connective tissue but connective tissue to the point of them being micromanaged from afghanistan and pakistan. very minor personal decisions are being decided by the group thousands of miles away. >> do you think that was something kept from the public's view because it revealed there were -- there had to be reams of communication back and forth which means western intelligence was missing this? >> you know i think back to when bin laden was killed. it was 2011. it was right before a major campaign season. i don't want to underplay the role that killing of osama bin laden had. that was obviously a very, very important thing that happened. but i think that was theorized into something much bigger. the head of the organization has been killed and now these are
literally quotes i would get. the organization has been decimated. the organization is in disarray. the organization is on the run. and at the same time we were preparing to pull out troops from iraq and afghanistan, i think it was important to portray this as a problem that no longer existed. >> so tom, you all badgered two administrations, you got cia director mike pompeo to release the information. why did it come from the cia and not dni like the last set of documents? and what does that mean in terms of there have been accusations out there that pompeo released this with a political in mind to hammer home a link, a supposed link between al qaeda and iran. >> this is why you asked me to bring the binder. >> because i asked that question back there and he started blinding me with science and
documents. notice now he's going to do it to you. >> so we're going to get nerdy. the bottom line is this was -- our role in this started with exactly the reasons you just outlined. it came down to a simple question. what is al qaeda? what does the organization look like? it has all sorts of problems in answering these questions. and so the big reason why we wanted these files out was to answer these types of questions based on primary source evidence so we don't have somebody chattering at each other. their own opinion about it. mike pompeo, i don't know who he was when we started advocating for the release of this stuff. i think he was a new member of congress. but he certainly heard us saying this has to be released, has to be released. and by the way congressman nunez fought to have this released as well. he was a key architect of having this stuff in the national authorization act that led to the release of more files.
>> and i just have to say hipsy is the house intelligence committee for those on cspan who don't live and breathe this every day like we do. >> good clarification. i laughed when i saw this allegation that this was all about a tie between iran and al qaeda. the reason i laughed is because it's so uncontroversial that obama administration, their state and treasury departments over the course of five years issued numerous terrorist des designations citing the link that allows al qaeda to maintain a core facilitation pipeline if inside iran. i said look, i don't need the bin laden files. that's the argument i wanted to make. it's probably one of 50 things we're interested in, in the files. if that was what i wanted to make, all i have to do is point to what the obama administration said.
>> this is a treasury document. >> this is a treasury department terrorist designation. this goes through a very rigorous interagency process. it has to hold up in a court of law. it is citing firm intelligence to make this designation and a whole series that started july 28th, 2011. >> this is an unclassified document any of you all can look up. >> >> using iran as a critical transit point. and they talked about uncovering the formerly secret deal between iran and al qaeda. their words. not mine. then in december 2011 -- i want to give you an example -- >> this is all after the may 2011 raid. >> right. this stuff is flowing out. parts of the u.s. government are using the bin lad inn files to justify terrorist designations and that sort of thing while other parts are putting their heads in the sand and don't want to hear it. in december of 2011, here's the state department now. they offer a $10 million reward
for a major al qaeda facilitator and they say he's operating under an agreement between al qaeda and the iranian government. it gives you all sorts of details on it. we can go on. listen, we can go on with this through the next eight hours if you want. but the bottom line is when it comes to the thorny issue between iran and al qaeda, the truth is they do have an agreement. a also have hostilities against each other. they fight each other in syria, yemen and elsewhere. this is not a love affair. you have to tell the whole story. we alone were saying tell the whole story. tell all the bits and pieces of it. that whole story includes a file written by osama bin laden himself. >> this is from the documents that judge just been released. >> it was released prior to that because the house intelligence committee told him you have to release more files. this file came out because of that. and this was written by osama bin laden on october 18th, 2007.
the head of islamic state of iraq had just threatened iran publicly. what happens is bin laden says to him, he dress es him down. he says you shouldn't have done that. you have to consult with us if your going to threaten the iranians. he explains that iran is our main artery funds, personnel and communication and he also mentions the hostages. so while iran was allowing some al qaeda guys to operate, they were keeping others as hostages. and our point in all of this is you want to understand this stuff. you want to understand the whole picture. you you need to see the primary source of evidence, not just parts of what people want to show you. you mention this whole accusation that mike pompeo's trying to jin up a connection. it's a very simple answer to that. all anybody has to do is point to what the obama administration said were in the files. the functioning parts of it. they repeatedly sited this agreement between the two.
>> you did reporting on the hostages being held? >> yes, i was -- the new york times was it first to break the story that a very senior al qaeda figure and was imprisoned in iran had been released as part of a prisoner swap. and that he had been released from iran and was on the move. i was never able to confirm where he went. we got a lot of push back from the white house saying the story wasn't true. i had sourced it to an al qaeda commander i was speaking to. and my colleague in the washington bureau had sourced it to officials he was speaking to. so this iran thing has always been a really touchy subject. and i agree with tom that most important thing is the primary source material. let us see the evidence and let us try to report based on the evidence rather than based on opinion. >> one quick point. the reason why it's important to report on that evidence is not
to justify a set of policies. or anything along those lines. sunshine causes problems for these guys. so when the state department in 2011 came out with a $10 million reward for the chief facilitator in iran, the iranians were embarrassed. they had to sideline him temporarily because of this embarrassment. sunshine is the ultimate disinfectant. it's the ultimate sort of problem for these guys. and because having a relationship with iran is controversial for jihadists, this is something al qaeda finds itself having to explain both internally and externally. so that's the whole point. show the whole relationship. you have two sides of it. yes, they're at odds in many ways. but they also have this agreement. show the whole story. >> you've done a lot of study over the years on how al qaeda operates, communicates. what did you learn from the latest traunch that surprised you? >> yeah. there's a -- one document we're working on right now, it's a
personnel file of mid-level leaders at that time. we're able to date it to a certain time period. one of these leaders was escaped in late 2005 and later he was recaptured in late 2006. so we know it was written some time frame, 2006. these 19 leaders, i believe we were able to identify somewhere around eight or nine of them. i would call him the -- if you were in the military, they'd be majors, colonels, lieutenants, majors. these are the up and coming al qaeda. we killed several in drone strikes. al qaeda's leader in pakistan, afghanistan. suri, who tom mentioned -- yeah, he's the first guy profiled and they do discuss how he trav traveled, how he facilitated networks into iran.
it's fascinating. al qaeda is evaluating its future leadership. some of these guys -- what fascinates me is not the ones we identified. it's the ones we can't. who are they. are they dead? are they alive? several say this guy has a future. we can rely on him. it's a brief but detailed evaluation and not only do you see what al qaeda -- what is important to them? are they married? are they single. they like their leaders to be married. it makes them stable. are they -- their physical fitness, that's something they're very interested in. >> they don't like heavy guys? >> they don't. what their expertise is, what they're interested in doing. how are they perceived by their -- and so all of these commanders and this is clear to me based on looking at this particular document and we've seen these type of files, how al qaeda defines its general manager.
we've seen other files and releases. this is just one of the ones in the new release but in this case this was al qaeda's leadership in afghanistan as well as in pakistan. particularly in coast province in afghanistan and pakistan. it's clear these are al qaeda leaders who are embedded in fighting along the network. which is not its own individual group. it is a integral part of the taliban. a deputy for the taliban. this is something we fight often. this attempt to disassociate it from the taliban. you see these leaders, how they're fighting, this is the type of things that fascinate me. it's very clear that when we seize a document like this we start targeting these individuals. because they started coming off the radar. did the u.s. government know this? prior to seizing these documents from the bin laden files or not?
these are interesting questions which we may never know. but how al qaeda perceives its leadership, where they're operating, all of these things. i think it's important -- the best way to ultimately defeat your enemy is to understand how they perceive themselves, how they operate and what's important to them. we see elements of that within these files. >> you're describing a very sophisticated network and one of the things we've heard in the post bin laden era is much of their network has been decimated. we're hearing that now about isis. from what you've read in the files and the sophistication you're describing, how do you think they're operating now? >> al qaeda? >> zawarhi? has it changed? is he using some of the same things in terms to communicate? >> we know they're still fighting in afghanistan. remember obama administration narrative from cia, al qaeda's decimated.
one of the things they told us for years is al qaeda has 50 to 100 fighters. this number remained constant for six years straight. >> i've heard that a lot. >> and here, without even having the bin laden documents, i'm reading international security system force, which has now become resolute support, they're launching attacks and issues press releases on al qaeda members who have been kill canned in afghanistan. one particular raid killed 50 guys. the question is there now zero to 50? we see this all the time. we compile this information. we map where these raids took place. so this is what's going on outside of the bin laden files. low and behold in october 2015 -- and the other thing the defense department intelligence said was al qaeda's confined to northeast afghanistan, minimal presence outside of there. this is up to 2015 when we conducted a raid in kandahar province in southeastern afghanistan.
they killed around 200 al qaeda fighters. in this one raid alone >> so that's negative 50. >> yeah. exactly. you do the math. more than 50 to 100 al qaeda fighters. we've seen -- so al qaeda formed a branch in the indian subcontinent. i think they responded to some of the losses that they incurred during the drone campaign. it's clear, bin laden files do state that they were taking losses and it was hurting them. they were talking about moving operatives. this is back in, again, we're talking pre2011 here. they're moving operatives in afghanistan. they identified provinces where they would be safe. forprovinces, by the way that were not -- one of them was kuhn ar. >> they're sticking to places with security that is challenged. >> yes. >> remote locations.
places where they can blend in. >> friendly forces operating there. difficult for american -- we be there's been reports. al qaeda has a large network inside karachi. i don't believe -- look, i never believed bin laden was hiding in a cave, and i don't believe al zaweary is, as well. >> flynn waanyone want to take the? >> some city like fiso bad. central pakistan. >> i did spot some friends from the pakistani industry here today that may have some q & a. >> pick a city like that, and that's probably where you're going to nail him. ab abbottabad. >> in studying what you've been able to study so far, because the trove is fast, what has been your take-away?
>> so super interesting communication between al qaeda central and this group that had been portrayed as a bunch of criminals in mali and west and northern africa. there is a letter that tom just got to me yesterday, and it's regarding these two tunisians who were -- sorry, these two austrian tourists kidnapped in tunisia. it was a horrific kidnapping. they were there with their two german shepherds and at the moment they were kidnapped, the the al-qaeda affiliate that took them did not want to waste its bullets, killing the animals so they beat them to death in front of the couple. the woman could barely talk when i was -- she spent the whole interview crying. and at the time, i had spoken to the negotiator that had gone into the desert to negotiate the release. >> how long were they held? >> it wasn't that long.
it was less than a year. but i mean, i was seeing her in 2014. and she -- she couldn't conduct the interview without crying. right? she was clearly like a wounded person that had -- that i think had been changed by this. he was more sanguine. but anyway, the negotiator, a monthlyian man, told me at the time that the austrian government had paid 2 million euros. i reported that, and i got enormous pushback from the austrian government that were upset we were reporting. this so there is a letter that is found in pakistan, in osama bin laden's house. this confirms that it was a 2 million euro ransom and al qaeda says we need to keep this secret because austria has been pressured by the united states no the to pay our ransom. >> wow. did you ever think you would get your reporting confirmed from the bid laden trove? >> last night i was e-mailing
the hostages, hi, i don't remember if you remember me from 2014, and by the way, here's proof that what you and other people were telling me is true. so anyway, again, the thing that i find remarkable is, these are physical letters. right? so the presumption is that these are being hand-carried. right? from the deserts of northern africa across these oceans, across the territory, all the way over to pakistan. and yet for things that are -- a 2 million euro ransom is not that much compared to what aqim would later get but for thing of that nature, there is that voluminous correspondence going back between the affiliate in the sahara and the core group. another example is -- so al qaeda and the islamic -- the group in africa, it had a different name. and pledges allegiance to al
qaeda, 2006, 2007. there's a letter from eamon zawahiri. where he's going over the charter for the al qaeda group in africa. basically like giving notes on -- >> on bin laden on. >> on their by lines saying article 16, you should phrase differently, article whatever, do it this way. >> like the most intrusive editor in the world. >> exactly. like editors you and i have both had. yes. and one of the suggestions that zawahiri makes is the article stating what their goal was going to be in africa. was initially formulated to say it was going to be jihad against the algerian regime. and zawahiri very gently says i think you would be better positioned to say this is a more global thing. and basically suggests it should be against the west. against america, but in this territory. right? so you see -- >> shaping their mission. >> shaping their mission, making
it global. another ongoing trip you hear about, boko haram, shabaab, even isis, is that these are local groups with local grievances. and of course they are local groups with local grievances. the whole point is that when you become part of this terror brand, those local grievances become part of something more global. right? so you are hitting abuja, but you're hitting a western target in abuja like the hilton, right? or you're hitting algeria, but you're hitting the united nations compound in algeria, right? >> kim, can i -- she made a statement. we have seen in previous documents where al qaeda is getting some of the funding, at least locally -- pakistan, hostage exchange. they're getting their cut, al qaeda central in pakistan. these documents talk about moving money. and another thing, to follow up, movement with taliban and pakistan, we have seen documents where, again, al qaeda is
basically red-lining the tpp movement in taliban and pakistan's charter, saying do this, do that. there's another document in there where al qaeda -- or the head of the movement in taliban and pakistan, where he was being uprated for trying to poach some of al qaeda's quote, unquote companies operating inside of pakistan. so you see this -- everyone says the tpp, it's a local taliban group that hates the pakistani government. and yeah, sure, al qaeda has some ties to it. but you see -- >> because they make it sound like trade ties or something when you talk -- >> yeah. >> counterterrorism briefers on it. >> it's like corporate. telling its local affiliate there, you've got to do this. this is how you're going to do it. this is how you're going to play the game. we see that time and time again. it's from -- you know, as far flung as the african desert to as close as to where al qaeda central was inside of pakistan. >> tom, you were saying that you're still like every day you're finding new stuff.
and the communication with what happeneders commanders in iran will surprise people. sorry, iraq. >> i think the files will rewrite the history of the iraq war. we have already learned things from these files that nobody knew previously. for example, bin laden was receiving fairly regularly, although we haven't fully cataloged them yet so i'll stipulate that. fairly regularly, audio reports from his commanders in iraq. so they weren't giving one of these hand-written letters or a typed letter like other subordinates. instead they would record a summary of the weekly events or however long a time line was to explain what was going on and what their thinking was. and these are very in-depth reports, talking about the political situation, talking about the economy, surges see groups, very granular stuff. >> and this is al qaeda and iraq under al zarqawi. >> and afterwards.
this is the direct isis. and one of the big debates spawned in the counterterrorism community and elsewhere, and also between isis and al qaeda was whether or not isis was really part of al qaeda past 2006 when they first declared the state of iraq. i think the files will end that debate once and for all. it's pretty clear in some of the files we have seen so far that in fact al qaeda was providing leadership for an islamic state of iraq and bin laden considered it to be part of his global empire. but you asked a key question, right? and i think -- earlier, this was a key question about the ebb and flow of this fight. people are now saying that isis is decimated, just like al qaeda was decimated. one of these audio files to bin laden is fascinating. his commander in iraq is saying to him, you know, the field of jihad in iraq is fertile. even if the islamic state of iraq collapses, we'll keep going. we have plenty of resources and opportunities for us to keep waging jihad here indefinitely. and this is years before the syrian uprisings and the complexity of that war spilled
over and led to jihadist groups there, as well. they were already eyeing syria years before from iraq. they were eyeing it, seeing it social securi as something the islamic state of iraq could expand into syria. they were talking about that years before the opportunity that we saw sort of manifest itself. so that's the point i think ultimately that we make -- -- there is an ebb and flow to this fight. not that they're invincible. far from it. but if he only sees part of the story and say that's it, the islamic state of iraq is collapsed, well, we saw what happened. they bounced back and became isis, a global phenomenon. and that's why we have to keep track of these different organizations and the sort of long war we keep trying to document. >> now, before opening up to the audience, one question i had wanted to ask you all is, which copy of the documents do you have? do you have the first one that the cia put out? >> we put them all over. >> you've got the malware version. >> yep, they gave me malware. >> so cia posted these
documents. >> yeah. so instead of giving us a helpful guide and some english translations because i struggle with arabic, although i can do some and i have experts to help me with more. instead of being helpful in that regard, it was quite unhelpful. basically what we were given was a -- asxan will know and bill will know and other people in this room will know, basically a giant jumble of files. so you'll see a picture of a cat and a picture of a rose, and hey, this is a letter from a filter moving guys in afghanistan. cat, rose, flower. that sort of thing. that's basically what's been given to us. and many of the files also had the malware in it. cia had to take this stuff down, scrub it and relaunch it. we got the original unscrubbed version with the malware in it. and history books will show, if you're worried about that, you don't have to give them to us yet. you can wait. but we got the malware version. so -- >> awesome. anything to add on that? >> no. nothing. >> you firewalled one computer that you're using to access it? >> i hope. we think.
>> well, on that note, i would like to open up to questions from the audience. so do we have anyone who -- can be equally -- >> there's one back here. >> there's a microphone close to -- right to that person in the blue tie. and if you could introduce yourself. >> derek harvey. and, you know, great rundown. i really appreciate it. there's a lot that's still going to come out, as you said. i'm wondering, do you have any idea about the -- if there's any gap between what was released and the 470,000? do you think there -- besides a select number of highly classified documents that they want to retain, you know, they're saying proprietary information -- not proprietary, but, you know, copyrighted material and pornography, they weren't releasing. but do you think there's a gap still of other material that might not be released?
that's question one. and question number two is, you know, the raid recovered only what the raid team could bring back with them. and there was a lot of material left there. and we do have pakistanis here in the audience, i think. but there was a treasure trove that they recovered, too, that has not been made accessible. could you comment on that? >> well, derek just hit on two key questions. so i don't know, of course, what wasn't given to us. i don't know -- you know, it was represented to me that it was basically -- or what was released publicly now, that basically it was only the most operationally sort of sensitive stuff. and i have some indications what that is. but i'm not sure how much that is, of course. but the second part of the question is something i asked about, which is if you go back through the raid, the americans did carry out -- basically, the navy s.e.a.l.s killed bin laden and start just pushing as much stuff into did you feuffel bags
up al qaeda duffel bags, as well. as derek said, they did not get everything. and there's an open question about whether or not the stuff that the pakistanis recovered i'm going to assume the americans got it, the u.s. intelligence got it. i'm going assume that. there is an open question about whether or not any of that material was actually included in what was released. because that may include a piece of the picture, right? so you may have part of the files that maybe we don't have that maybe fill in correspondence or fill in blanks where we have them. we don't know. the answer to your question is, we don't know. >> to your knowledge, how much was there in exchange of information? >> you know -- >> with the pakistani government? >> my sense is this is very sensitive between the american government -- >> because it wasn't going well. >> highly controversial raid. i mean, the abbottabad report has some details on this. my sense is that -- my guess is, i'll put it as a guess -- is that the u.s. got from pakistan what they recovered or at least gave them -- or at least got from pakistan what pakistan was
willing to give them from what was recovered. and i doubt that was all included in this release, would be my answer. >> sir in the front row. the microphone is heading your way. and if you could introduce yourself. >> sure. my name is david jackson. i'm a former director of voice of america. sort of related to that last question, i was curious whether you got a sense, any of you, about what percentage of this recent trove of documents has been shared over the years with america's allies. >> well, i'll take that one too, if you want. so this is a great question. couple things. one, we know the documents have been used in a number of criminal cases, including in europe and elsewhere. so some of the documents have been shared. criminal cases in germany, for example, where somebody is mentioned in the files and that file is used to prosecute that individual. but, you know, part of the reason why we advocate transparency in this regard is, we were hearing a lot of stories back in 2012 there were fights
even within the bureaucracy of who was given access even within the u.s. government to the entirety of the files. and there were different fights going on bureaucratically, even with regards to that. and so our answer to that was, we believe in competitive analysis, and freedom of information. and the only way you can do that is to ensure wide access as possible. >> i was hearing from gripes from intelligence analysts within the u.s. government saying we can't get our hands on these files. >> that's right. >> it's strange. now, we are living in a world of fake news, information operations, weaponizing information. when you spend a lot of time watching isis and al qaeda on social media. and bill, i know you do too. so has there been anything from the files that would be embarrassing to al qaeda that you've seen turn people off or be weaponized in a way that it might turn followers off? >> i mean, i think this trove is
still too young for it to have made it that far. because most of it is not translated. for example, when the abbottabad raid occurred and they found pornography, in osama bin laden's computer, i think that that was something that you would see -- of course, the al qaeda community took that as something that had been planted. >> yeah, they didn't believe it. >> they would never believe that bin laden, a human being, could possibly, you know, injest pornography. so that was surely something embarrassing for the group. >> by the way, we also found bollywood videos. i had never actually watched bolly wood videos, but i've come to appreciate them. having watched them through -- >> you're looking for messages, right? got it. >> absolutely. >> and you raise an interesting question and important question. i mean, i don't think they're going to -- no matter what we put forward from these documents, the jihadists are
just going to generally dismiss it. i do think the -- probably one of the things that is very difficult for them to dismiss is the iran/al qaeda ties. because you have -- i mean, they could dismiss it as false. but i think everyone knows what's going on in there. you know, if you're members of al qaeda, have transited through iran to get to iraq and syria and the pakistan and afghanistan, they all know what's going on. and having these files just come out and prove it. i think that is something that's difficult for them to deny. the rest is easily dismissed. >> i think isis has made fun of al qaeda on this point, right? >> so isis in their official magazine or newsletter, they actually had a defector from al qaeda who accused al qaeda of being soft on iran, okay? and al qaeda's response was basically they didn't deny they had to deal with iran. so al qaeda issued a response in which they didn't deny they had dealings with iran. but it became something of an embarrassment for them, exactly right. and the isis defector was saying you guys are soft on iran, and you have a deal and there are safe houses in iran that the
iranian intelligence is monitoring. there are al qaeda safe houses and you don't do anything about it. you don't strike them. al qaeda's response was, yeah, but you too. how did you get over to syria and iraq? you went through iran. and you went through the same safe house. that was their answer. so the bottom line is, this is not -- that agreement or relationship is actually not controversial within isis literature, recognizes it, al qaeda literature recognizes. the obama administration recognizes it. courts, 9/11 commission, go on and on and on. it's something that has to be discussed, because as they were saying, it causes problems for al qaeda. >> and yet in the hands of a savvy information operations officer, if they had had that information back in 2011, you know, that might have been something they would have wanted to include in a file to be made public. because -- so maybe it wouldn't sway the jihadists, but how about that vast middle of people who are considering going in that direction? >> if i can add one more point
on that. if you want something controversial, i know romania has seen this a lot. a big argument about whether or not isis had a buyout or allegiance to al qaeda's leader that was broken when baghdadi declares the caliphate and head of isis. these files i think probably could have been weaponized during the rise of isis to undermine the idea that isis never really had a buyout to al qaeda that was broken. this became a big deal. al qaeda was calling baghdadi the oath-breaker and their argument is how can you trust him and pledge allegiance to him when he's broken his own oath to us. i think these files make clear that relationship was ongoing and something that could have been weaponized in that regard. >> right. >> sir, with the mustache. >> thank you very much. i'm dr. audrey, cnn analyst. and i heard these three words, disseminated, disarray. i wanted to know, is the present
study of containing, eliminating, disseminating al qaeda in such groups, militants, extremists and terrorists. is there a strategy at present working to bring this -- is it expanding instead? and if it is expanding, what should be the strategy to bring it to a closure? >> i'm a journalist, so, of course, i can't make policy recommendations. what i can say is, let's look at isis for a moment. isis held a territory in iraq, syria and libya for more than three years. that at its height was the size of the united kingdom. they ruled 12 million people. they had recruits from 100 different countries, tens of thousands of people. and so i think it is significant that that territory has now been taken away. according to the latest coalition figures i got, 96% of
that territory has been taken away. but i see analysts and officials making the same declarations that i heard in 2011 and 2012, where they are -- where they are conflating things. they're thinking that because the territory has been erased, that the group is now decimated, in disarray and on the run. literally we're hearing the same terms. and all you have to do, in my opinion, is be on their telegram channels. this is one of the apps they use online, to see how active they remain today. hundreds and hundreds of channels are populated by literally thousands of their acolytes online. and they continue their jihad virtually. just in october, we saw the attack using a car in my home city in new york. the young man who did that initially tried to put the isis flag on the hood of his car.
instead he used it to cause violence and kill people. when he was in his hospital bed, he then asked a nurse to deliver him an isis flag. so clearly, this guy -- whether or not he was actually speaking to isis is taking on their mantle. and is -- believes that he is, you know, working in their name. so i would caution us from thinking, especially with isis, in light of what we've seen with al qaeda, that the current successes, which are important successes, that this somehow spells the end of the group. >> i do have to say, i have heard from administration officials like top defense officials, top intel officials, both talk about the virtual caliphate. >> right. >> and also refer to this as a generational war. >> finally. yeah. >> but there's a difference between the national security officials you hear from and some of the messages out of the white house. >> right. exactly. you know, i spent a lot of time in paris and france, because that was where the most
devastating isis attack took place. and it was very similar to american officials before the november 13th attack. following the november 13th attack, the state's prosecutor, who is the one who does the press conferences after every subsequent attack that has occurred, in my opinion started to really level with the population. >> november 13th attacks. t >> he would say things like where he would make clear this group is not defeated, it's not going to be defeated any time soon. we're doing everything to keep you safe. we have this many investigations going on. but you have to understand that this is a major problem. right? that's the kind of -- that's the kind of rhetoric we're hearing out of france, and that's because they faced them in such an acute way. we haven't, i think, heard that, except privately.
in america. but i think that the -- you know, the most informed analyst that i speak to do call it a generational war. that this is -- this is something that is going to be here for a while. and i think, frankly -- i think we don't completely know how to -- how to defeat them. perhaps you disagree with me. but if we did, i think we would have done it by now. >> just might add, even though they've lost 96% of the territory or whatever that number is, i'm seeing them launch attacks in areas that they've recently lost. you see them on their videos and their telegram and what not. and these attacks look very much like attacks we were witnessing in 2011, '12 and '13. >> right. >> prior to the islamic state seizing fallujah in early 2014 and then mosul and northern and central iraq and in mid 2014. so it's very easy to say they lost territory, therefore they're defeated. but they're not defeated on the battle field.
they just transitioned from openly controlling territory, now fighting a guerilla style surges see. they're still active, still have combat power. that still draws in recruits, still shows their followers they're not just a virtual california i fate but they still have a significant presence on the battlefield even though they don't control territory. >> back to al qaeda. what i'm curious about is, reading these documents, you see that they think strategically. they do alliances of convenience. or alliances that help them seize both influence and power. could you see cooperation with isis in its current form? >> well, you know, i think you can -- we should be wary that maybe some factions within isis could go back to the al qaeda fold. you can see that happen. but the isis literature and propaganda has been virulently anti al qaeda for years. and there are a number of leaders within isis that have really adopted a basically -- you're too soft al qaeda approach. and there are disagreements in terms of tactics and methodology and that sort of thing between
the two organizations. so i would be -- we're always on the lookout for collusion in these different countries or sort of a -- bargain between these different factions. i just don't think you're going to see a full-scale reconciliation of isis at all into al qaeda. isis has adopted its own sort of, you know, methodology and sort of messaging to its recruits that's distinctly different in some ways from where al qaeda has been saying. >> so more like -- operations of the cooperation of convenience on the battlefield in syria, or libya, where they have been like -- okay, we're in this area so you stay in this area. or -- >> yeah, i mean, isis -- isis killed one of the most senior al qaeda guys in syria. they sent a suicide bomber to kill them back in early 2014. al siri. they killed him. they've had some pretty intense in-fighting in the different areas. but, you know, one of the things to keep looking out for and i mentioned this file earlier. they understand that there's an ebb and flow to this fight. >> yeah. >> they understand that
there's -- there's times when they're surging and times when they're retreating. and the bottom line is no keep an eye on it at all times to make sure you understand where they are in that process. the bottom line, too, for us is, for us, ultimately none of this is political. if the current white house spikes the football on isis, we're going to say you're wrong. you know? just as the previous administration has spiked the football on al qaeda and we said you're wrong. you know? so to us it has to do with the details and the actual analysis of what's going on. not anything to do with, you know, sort of political messaging. that's the key thing here. >> sir. >> my name is ken timerman. first question. were there any documents in this release relating to the 9/11 attacks? and second, you know, there was a great deal of information actually out in the public realm before 2011, which you mentioned when we could have weaponized the iran/al qaeda connection. there's a defector, iranian defector who walked into a u.s.
embassy in july 2001 and warned about the upcoming attacks. i was involved in a lawsuit that won a $10 billion judgment in new york against the islamic state of iran for their involvement in the 9/11 attacks. you had documents that came out in the 9/11 report on pages 240, 241. why do you think it is that the u.s. intelligence community has consistently pushed back up until just recently on the iranian connection, both to al qaeda and the iranian connection in the september 11th, 2001, attacks. which was mentioned first in the 9/11 commission? >> we have to be careful not to conflate the u.s. intelligence community pushing back versus certain administrations pushing back. but -- >> i'll do my quick answers. [ inaudible question ] >> my quick answers, we're hunting for anything 9/11-related. it seems the cache is more -- it's not as old. seems more recent. but we still haven't gotten through a great deal of it. and, you know, when it comes to iran/al qaeda, part of the
issue, you see this argument to justify the iraq war, the bush administration was supposedly hyping saddam's connections to al qaeda and that was used to justify the iraq war. and that is a reflexive thing we see in these arguments too. we see when we bring this up that doesn't follow that we want a regime change war in iran. we've watched iraq now for how many years, bill? you know? this has been a nightmare. you know? the fact that we would want another iraq war? i mean, are you kidding me? you know? so, i mean, the point is that reporting on the facts and what they are is a whole other issue and there is a policy resistance. that's a policy -- and politicization, by the way, goes both ways. it can go in a direction of trying to support a war. or it can go the other way where somebody decides basically they want to nix any ideas they think are out there about a war and play down real existing relationships. our point is, we're not trying to justify any war. we just want to understand what our enemies are doing. >> and what i was referring to
is the fact there was -- if you read michael morell's book, "great war of our time", he comes out with a narrative in this current release that -- it was -- it's a different narrative than al qaeda was on its heels, and it was the lion in winter, watching the good old days in reruns on his noncable tv. instead, this former deputy director of the cia, former acting director, said that no, we realized that they were in touch in a very micro managing way with their entire network. so what the intelligence community thought versus what the two administrations in a row decided to release seemed to be different things. >> [ inaudible question ]. >> so i was -- i was referring to the behavior of al qaeda. and how -- >> yeah, morell's book is very
good on the point of what was bin laden doing at the time he was killed. prior to the bin laden raid, the cia assessed that bin laden was basically giving control to al qaeda. and he says after the documents are scooped up and files, lo and behold they realize, no, he was running the whole thing. so that's very good, clarifying language, i think, that it's not just us nerds combing through the files or he was not a nerd and just a great journalist or yourself or anybody looking through this stuff. that you have a senior official who says that's what the reality of these files was. and that's the clean analysis of it. that part of why we wanted these files out is to settle this once and for all. because that narrative that took hold in 2012, we still see traces of it, and it affects analyses to this day. you will find people making arguments. you still see it. that's not really al qaeda, it's a local group. or what bill was talking about, the pakistani/taliban. and by the way, the afghan taliban. we've got some good stories coming there. so, you know, whether that's a very interesting set of files.
>> previews? >> so i think there's uncomfortable truths in these files that make certain policy decisions very difficult to execute. such as negotiations with the -- the obama administration wanted to negotiate with the afghan taliban. we're seeing evidence in there of what al qaeda's view of that was. that they viewed the individuals that were negotiating with were actually nobodies. within the taliban. but how can -- if there's evidence of al qaeda and taliban collusion in these documents, how can you release those documents if you want to push a policy of, say, negotiating with taliban? it's not just iran. what if we expose -- we hope to see, and we suspect we will see perhaps exposing that golden chain. the donors of -- we haven't found the absolute proof of this yet. but if things like that are in these files, it makes executing policy in the middle east -- >> part of what bill is holding back, we found files from an
unnamed sha unnamed saudi sheikh. and he's corresponding with bin laden regularly. and he signs his letters, your loving brother who you know well. and it's all about stuff inside saudi. and and, you know, this is the type of thing which is very fascinating about these files. who is that guy? why is he -- why does he have a direct line to bin laden. and why can he even at times chastise bin laden for what he's doing? very interesting stuff. >> so that's also going to be more embarrassing potentially to the obama administration, because they would have had access to those files. and is that guy still active, did they ask the saudi government to crack down on him, et cetera. it will raise all of those questions. >> yeah, and it's not just about the obama administration. it's about the whole thing. the whole kit and caboodle. this is not about any one politician or political group or anything like that. this is about what is the ground truth of these files, and what do they expose? we're fighting in more places today than ever. we don't have large scale troop
dploimts, but fighting in these areas. shouldn't we have more information about who it is exactly we're fighting? who supports them, and why does this thing keep going? isn't that important to uncover and discuss and debate and then figure out what the best approach is for countering? because you guys asked the exact question. we don't know how to win this thing yet. >> right. >> in the front row. >> thank you. from nbc of afghanistan, political counselor. quick question on the potential relationship or come placence or any negligence on the pakistani government, especially its military to allow osama bin laden to be there, operate and, you know, operate from under the nose of the pakistani military in abbottabad. was there anything that the previous administration could have looked and, you know, had pakistan be held accountable? or that the trump administration
used, such evidence to have this new bold policy that kind of, like, puts pakistan in its place? >> let me take this -- >> you go ahead and take that. >> first we need the government of afghanistan to talk to me about osama bin laden. i've got some questions outstanding. and his current role in afghanistan. we'll follow up after this. there are some interesting things there, i think. the second thing is, the pakistan situation is very complex. you know? i mean, you see, you know, that, in fact that al qaeda was leading the insurgency against parts of the pakistani estate and directing this, and that certain pakistani officials, by the way, in the files, it shows that certain pakistani officials knew when they wanted to negotiate truce with the pakistani taliban and insurgents, they knew where to go. they went through intermediate areas to bin laden which suggest they knew he was close at hand. but the problem is, from our perspective and what we see, there are these other groups, as you well know in afghanistan, there are other groups, including the afghan taliban, which have been de facto sponsored by the pakistani isi
and military for years. and here's the trick. some of those groups are also deeply in bed with al qaeda and were part of bin laden's support network in pakistan. so provides these cutout that is were basically to brut res what they were doing in pakistan that also on the other hand were maintaining relations with the pakistani state. and our whole point is that all that needs to be untangled. we have spent more time trying to answer that question you just had than anything else since we got the files. many sleepless nights, many pots of coffee. we're going through these files very carefully. it's a very difficult web to untangle to get to the whole truth. but we have been suspicious all along as everybody else has, you know, who knew he was there, and how do we prove that. >> the gentleman in the back of the room. in the green jacket. >> thank you very much. row home rashidy from deer stan tv. cia director, he confirmed that
sa manny was in kirkuk. they were used through our militia in iraq. it was very clear. they were using u.s. weapons to take kurdistan, a u.s. ally. and strategy is not clear. >> i agree with you. look, the -- the u.s. military has white-washed the roles of shia militia inside of iraq. these are militia -- one of them -- they're under an umbrella called the popular mobilization forces. its operations leader is an individual who is listed as a specially designated global terrorist by the u.s. government. in his designation, he's listed as an adviser to la manny. the popular mobilization forces today is a -- it's -- reports directly to the prime minister of iraq, and it is an official -- it's
institutionalized as an official arm of the iraqi military. but, again, it only reports to the prime minister. the u.s. military, u.s. state department, has white-washed this issue. they have -- their position has been that they're part of the official government. one of these organizations -- it's called hezbollah brigades. it's listed as a foreign terrorist organization. all of the key groups in the popular mobilization forces, all have the largest militias, the most influential, the most powerful. that have been at the forefront of the iraqi offensives in every major city inside of iraq. they're all hostile to the united states. several of their leaders are listed as -- or especially global designated global terrorists. some of them have openly stated, if itiola khamenei orders me to overthrow the iraqi government, i will do that. i am at his calling. they have made threats against the united states 689 they said they would target the united
nations if ordered to do by komani. as you said. so la manny has been identified as an adviser to the iraqi prime minister. you have a significant problem here inside of iraq. the u.s. withdrawing, in my estimation, open the door for iranian influence to flood in. when i was embedded in iraq and spoke to a senior mid-level iraqi military officers who were by all accounts loyal to the iraqi government, they feared just this thing. they predicted that the u.s. withdraw would allow this to happen. there needs to be clarity from the u.s. government in order to how to deal with this problem or else you basically -- what has been established inside of iraq with these popular mobilization forces is basically analogous to iraq's irgc. that's what's been created. they're going to usurp power of over the military. they've already really done that. they have been the most influential force on the
battlefield next to the counterterrorism service, which also reports to their ex prime minister. it's a very big problem, and it's -- it's one i'm not very confident in seeing this problem being resolved in any time shortly, unless there's a major change in the understanding. you know, look, the bin laden files, you have to understand -- i realize there's no connection here between the two. but we have to understand what is actually going on and look at it reasonably and say this is what's happening in order to develop policy and strategy to counter it. but when you have top u.s. officials and u.s. generals saying pmf is not a problem inside of iraq, well, then that's what u.s. policymakers are getting. and therefore, you know, you have -- this problem, and it's -- look, i'm going to say one more thing. look at the problem that hezbollah has created with what a population of 4 million in lebanon. now you have iraq with a population of 30-something million people. that's what the pmf's recruiting base is. this is what's in store for the
middle east. >> so as moderator, i have to ask, is there anyone from the state department or the iraqi embassy in the crowd who wants to stand up and take that -- not this time. okay. we have a question in the back of the room. >> dan de lose, foreign policy. thanks for this. i wanted to ask you, in light of these documents, and already what you've studied over the years, how would you compare al qaeda leadership's relationship to pakistan and elements of pakistan's government? and its relationship with iran and the irgc? is there any analogy there? is it totally different? >> you know, that's a really tough question to answer. because it's too totally different contexts. i mean, you know, when it comes to pakistan, their big complaint you'll see in the al qaeda letters, they cooperate with the u.s. against al qaeda, parts of the pakistani state do. and so they complain about that, whereas they don't have that complaint with iran, necessarily. the trick is that pakistan is
not exporting sort of their own revolution throughout the region, whereas iran is. and al qaeda's big problem with iran is they don't want the iranian-style showism to spread throughout the region when they want their own version of islam to spread throughout the region. so there are ideological problems there, big-time between what iran wants to do and what al qaeda wants to do. within pakistan -- but he, again, that doesn't preclude them from cooperating in some ways. pakistan, the problem again comes back to the role of the american state. and you can see, we've seen a lot of files where they're even debating, you know, what do you do when you have a pakistani spy? so somebody who is, you know -- who is clearly working for pakistani -- some part of pakistani intel or some part of the pakistani establishment against us. can we kill them outright. what do we have to do with them. you can see them having that granular level struggle. but years ago, i'll just say this one quick point. steve cole has a book coming out on director at s, part of the intelligence service in the isi,
which i'm going to review. i think it's pretty good. i haven't read the whole thing yet. it strikes me as pretty important. but it's hitting on the key issue here, which is when pakistan -- you have wheels within wheels. whereas part of the intelligence service has assisted and helped the u.s. against jihadis. part of it has not. and the part of it that has not is still not fully understood. and what is the level of their collusion with al qaeda specifically. you can show that they're colluding directly with groups that collude with al qaeda or are alive with al qaeda. the request question is what ab direct relationship. >> and one of the things we have seen in pakistan is the pakistani military has targeted al qaeda leaders. for instance, it launched offenses. whether it was intentional or accidental, i can't tell you. but we know they have and they have permitted the u.s. to launch their own strikes to kill off leaders. there is certainly a tension there, and al qaeda has supported the movement of taliban and pakistan which had
its whole insurgency. so that was a problem. that was contentious with the pakistani state and establishment in general. but at the same time, this is the good taliban versus bad taliban narrative here. where what pakistan tried to do is say, well, we have -- good taliban, and they're the afghan taliban. it's -- you know, it's all the groups that fight in kashmir and then the bad taliban and pakistan. so you have -- you have this dynamic going on. but with a -- either ignore intentionally or unintentionally -- i'm sure it's intentional, the good taliban supports the bad taliban. so when they -- this is in the bin laden files. when the pakistani government wanted to negotiate a truce with al qaeda, who do they reach out to? they reach out to the good taliban. they reach out to khalil, muj
adean, and the afghan taliban. and they try and facilitate and coordinate a truce with al qaeda and with the movement in taliban and pakistan. that's the dynamic we see there. what they don't understand, these groups, the good taliban shelters the bad taliban, provide arms and money and weapons and everything safe haven. everything they need to survive. and that's the dynamic that we see publicly, and i think it's part of the dynamic we're seeing inside the documents, as well. but we do expect to see that -- to see -- you know, again, i go back to how is osama bin laden living outside of pakistan's west point without the direct knowledge? anyone that understands what abbottabad is, it's not an open city here like the united states. there's check points to go from a to b to c. all throughout the city. it's not -- >> so i have to ask, was there anything so far in the document file, the recent release, that
shows communications with pakistani officials and al qaeda? >> yeah, well, the -- that's the -- the information where they're trying to negotiate a truce. >> right. but i mean, not just a truce. other types of -- >> i haven't seen anything like that. >> real cooperation. a truce is -- >> trying to figure this out. >> got it. >> this is what we're working on desperately to figure out from these files, figuring out all this stuff. i'll say this one quick point. there is eye very interesting file i should have brought up we with just finished translating. al qaeda's assessment for the u.s. strategy for combatting al qaeda and afghanistan and pakistan. and al qaeda believed pakistan didn't want the jihadi problem to go away entirely because that meant the rest of the international community would have to focus on other issues, including a nuclear program and other things within pakistan. and so it was a very sophisticated reading of the whole situation that al qaeda had in pakistan, and we -- that file was very interesting for a lot of reasons. >> got it. we have time for one more question. just want to see. i hadn't -- asked anyone on this
side of the room. >> there's a gentleman in the back of the room there. >> okay. the gentleman in the back of the room who i cannot see because of -- building structure. >> thanks for the pillar. john mueller from the cato institute. i would like to ask about whether these communications had consequences. the usual take on zarqawi, for example, there were a lot of messages coming from al qaeda central. but he kept doing what he was doing. do you see a different take when you look at these materials coming out in 2011? >> and can i just -- can i just do a 1-2. also this gentleman, can you ask your question, as well? we're getting you a microphone. just a second. the microphone traveled to that side of the room. it's a "lightning round" of two questions to finish this. >> from the hudson institute. one of the more amazing things that comes out of this, it seems to me, is the amount of
communication that al qaeda central must have been managing. and i was just wondering if you got any sense from these documents how this was done, and whether -- i mean, that you would think there would be enough indications of how this was going on that that would have given us a lot of opportunities to intercept it. i was just wondering if you saw anything like that. >> so real quick on the al qaeda and iraq point on zarqawi. i can the files are -- the i think term files from al qaeda still laud zarqawi. and yes, i think there were tensions and fraught with difficulty in terms of relationship. but i think that part of that whole messaging of they were trying to dress down zarqawi constantly was looking at only one window in their relation with zarqawi. numerous other times they were praising zarqawi and saw him as their guy in iraq. so they had problems with some of his tactics for sure. but overall, he was still their guy, especially after swearing allegiance. and i think he was affiliated with al qaeda before that. in fact, this will answer both points. or start to.
al qaeda was issuing directives to the heirs to zarqawi. we're seeing directives that still go out to the islamic state of iraq, his successors, about even as -- talking about the minute sha, the administrative body. and writes to the heads of islamic state of iraq, zarqawi successors and says, sheikh bin laden says you need to set up an office within the office, and here's what you're going to do. you're going to take down all of the personal biographical information, you're going to sort them, figure out who is who and what their talents are. basically issuing administrative orders to the islamic state of iraq. and on the question of how all this stuff was transported, some of it was courier. we know that, thumb drives, that kind of thing. but what you're looking at in the bin laden cache are files that come in at different times with different personalities. so he inherited -- one of his key guys, his right-hand man, rahman probably communicated in different ways with people over time. so he probably got
communications that came in at different times, different ways. it wasn't always necessarily courier in the end for everything we're looking at, although a portion of it was. >> did you have anything to add? >> it's really funny you mentioned this -- the office for -- this administrative office. so that letter from the man who is now the head of al qaeda specifically says that they need to keep a register. of all of their new recruits and they need to identify their special skills. what talents do they have. it's basically like an hr department. and just to fast forward now to the islamic state, i have found these documents that the islamic state issues to their new recruits, basically like an intake form, right? an application. who is your mom, who is your dad. where did you go to school. what do you want to do inside of the islamic state. what particular skills do you have. have you ever been arrested for terrorism charges? obviously that would be a good thing. you know -- [ laughter ] and anyway, and so you see, you know, the successor to the
islamic state in iraq very much applying this particular piece of administrative advice that came i think in 2008. >> one more point. i mean, and that just shows, this wasn't just a group with some terrorist cells here and there, and if we just kill this key leader and this key leader, the whole thing falls apart. they're built to survive the drone campaign from 2007 to 2015 when it started winding down in pakistan. that's -- you know, a small cellular terrorist group doesn't set up an administrative office. these are the things we learn. and we see this time and time again. and central is directing to its branches, which we prefer of affiliates and passing down lessons learned and being passed back up to the top. this is what successful organizations do, whether they do it as well as some of the finest corporations out there, that's certainly remains to be seen. but it's well enough to go from
a jihad where al qaeda just had a presence in afghanistan fighting alongside the taliban to a global terrorist insurgency to this day. >> so closing thoughts from each of you. my lightning round question is, what have you seen in the files that answers the question, what keeps drawing followers to al qaeda? tom? >> well, you know, i haven't seen a lot of the recruiting stuff yet. but what you can see consistently in their messaging that they're telling others to disseminate is they do believe in a conspiracy to recall view of the world. they believe there is this grand alliance between america and the zionists to basically conspire against muslims everywhere. you know? and basic everything that happens or befalls them in the world is a product of this conspiracy to recall anti islamic viewpoint. that's part of the reason why we've been strong in this when journalling when we talk about the rhetoric in this country when it comes to muslims in this country or abroad, to be very
careful in distinguishing between the vast majority of muslims who have nothing to do with this and are not part of this movement and these groups. and the fact that ultimately they're on the front lines whether in afghanistan or mali, ultimately on the front lines as a local muslim more often than not who has to fight these guys, you know? and they want to erase that distinction. they want to say they represent all of islam and muslims and of course that's false. but that's a key theme you see them saying in their messaging and it's very important upon us to make sure we're careful in our rhetoric to sort of not give into that false narrative. you know? >> regarding the messaging, i think what i would take away from them is their time line. their time line -- at least if you take them at their word, seems to be eternity. they're fighting forever, right? i was in -- i was in iraq last year when the start of the mosul operation happened in october. and at that point in time, when i was speaking to both u.s. and iraqi officials, they were hopeful, optimistic, that they
could take mosul before obama left office, which would have been in january. right? so three months. right? instead, it was a nine-month-long slog that the most senior general on the american side who was helping the coalition described as the worst fighting he had seen in 35 years, comparable to the worst battles of world war ii. and so i think that one of the things we're up against is that their time line is forever, and our time line is a political one. where our leaders are, of course, under enormous pressure to share results. and unfortunately, in that effort to show results, we repeatedly underestimate them. and we repeatedly see them as smaller than they are. >> so we tell ourselves the story we want to hear. >> that's right. >> as opposed to the reality in front of us. >> that's right. >> yeah, i think there's -- in addition, i see two other things there. i see that commitment to the fight, which is -- they are
planning for the long haul, and that's very important to them. and the religious justification for what they're doing, they do try to put themselves as the vanguard, not just the fighting vanguard, but they're the true believers. and this is something that they're very clear. like, they're very concerned about killing muslims unnecessarily, for instance. that's part of the schism between the islamic state and al qaeda. and you see the seeds of this, you know -- zarqawi was definitely their guy. even read one recent document where they said when he swore allegiance to us, when he was part of mono thesism in jihad which was his group, and certainly became al qaeda and iraq. so the -- but they're very clear that they want to project themselves as being righteous fighters. religious fighters. it's not just a war against the west, but a religious war they're putting forward. and that's something i think
that is appealing to the segment of the muslim world that is -- that will support them. >> well, on that note, i want to thank you all for the discussion. tough thank fdd for sponsoring this. and if there are any folks in the intel world who are watching this and you have some more documents that you would be willing to release -- we are all for it. >> we're here. >> on that note, thank you very much. [ applause ]
sunday, live on "in depth," professors cornell west and robert george will be our guests. >> any time i get a chance to be in dialogue with professor george, we go back now 13 years. we revel in each other's humanity. we share a fundamental commitment to the life of the mind and the world of ideas. we've had a chance to teach and lecture around the country. and so when i see him, i don't see him first and foremost as a conservative thinker, catholic philosopher, one of the major political theatres of our day. i see him as my brother. i see him as my friend. and someone who has a right to be wrong. [ laughter ] >> if you're going to work together in conversation, even debate, to get at the truth, the people involved in the conversation first have to recognize that they are fallible, frail, fallen human
beings. they have to recognize that they could be wrong. each one has to recognize -- even about my most cherished beliefs. i could be wrong. and if, in fact, one has that attitude and understanding -- not in a merely notional way but a deeply appropriated way, one will begin to develop a virtue that is indispensable for truth-seeking. >> among the books is "race motors" and "brother west." mr. george's books include "making men moral" and "conscious and its enemies". we'll take your calls, tweets and facebook questions. watch "in depth" with cornel west and robert george, live, sunday from noon to 3:00 p.m. eastern on book tv on c-span 2. . the