This Is What Osama bin Laden Liked to Read


Today, the Director of National Intelligence released a bunch of the documents US forces recovered from Osama bin Laden’s compound during the  raid in Abbottabad. The inventory of the declassified materials provides a glimpse into what were OBL’s reading habits. Were there novels of Nick Hornby and Ian McEwan? Maybe a dog-eared copy of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History? Or a marked up first edition of Julia Phillip’s infamous Hollywood tell-all You’ll Never Eat Lunch In This Town Again?

No, you will be unsurprised to learn, there were not.

SPOILER ALERT: Bin Laden liked to read things about al-Qaeda. Things with such sexy sundry titles as “Prospects for al-Qaeda” and “Al-Qaeda and the Internet: The Dangers of ‘Cyberplanning’.”

Two fun ones though: Popular Science‘s “Best Innovations of the Year” and an article in TIME about AOL’s troubles, both of which sort of seem like the reading materials one might find in the waiting room to hell.

In the section titled “Documents probably used by other compound residents” we find some of the bin Laden children’s periodicals: art stuff, Guinness Book of World Records, video game instruction manuals, a sports nutrition guide, and a suicide prevention manual entitled “Is It the Heart You Are Asking? by Dr. Islam Sobhi al-Mazeny.

Pretty bleak!

Here’s the full list of “media articles” from Bin Laden’s bookshelf, courtesy of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. You should probably commit the names of some of them to memory so you’ll have something interesting to talk about at parties.

Business Week (19 Feb 2007 issue)

Doctrine: Journal of General Military Review, Issue 3

Foreign Policy in Focus, “Prospects for al-Qaeda” (24 Jan 2003)

Foreign Policy (Jan-Feb 2008)

Foreign Policy (March-Apr 2008)

Foreign Policy (May-June 2008)

Foreign Policy (Nov-Dec 2008)

Foreign Policy (Sept-Oct 2008)

Heft, “The Taliban, al-Qaeda, and the Determination of Illegal Combatants,” Issue 4 (2002)

“The Impact of the War in Iraq on Islamist Groups and the Culture of Global Jihad,” by Reuven Paz, Project for the Research of Islamist Movements (2004)

International News, “Governments’ Successful Measures against Terrorism” (21 Aug 2009)

Journal of International Security Affairs, “Future Terrorism, Mutant Jihads” by Walid Phares

Los Angeles Times, “Is al-Qaeda Just Bush’s Boogeyman? (11 Jan 2005)

Middle East Policy, “Terrorist Recruitment and Radicalization in Saudi Arabia” (Winter 2006)

Military Review, “Changing the Army for Counterinsurgency Operations” (Nov-Dec 2005)

Newsweek, part of an article on an attack within Israel

Newsweek, part of an article on President Bush’s business practices prior to his terms as President

Newsweek, part of an article on hawks and doves on Iraq within the Bush Administration

Newsweek, quotes column (unknown issue, but apparently from the years of the Bush Administration)

Osprey corporate advertisement featuring U.S. military troops rappelling from a helicopter

Parameters, “Al-Qaeda and the Internet: The Dangers of ‘Cyberplanning’,” Timothy L. Thomas (Spring 2003)

Parameters, “The Origins of al-Qaeda’s Ideology and Implications for U.S. Strategy,” by Christopher Henzel (Spring 2005)

Popular Science, “Best Innovations of the Year Issue” (Dec 2010)

“Pushing the Prize Up , A Few Notes on Al-Qaeda’s Reward Structure and the Choice of Casualties,” by Raul Caruso and Andrea Locatelli

“Studi Politico-Strategici: An Introduction to Unconventional Warfare,” by Joseph Gagliano

Time, part of an article on a dive of America Online’s stock

Tulsa World article on criminal charges against David Coleman Headley

U.S. News and World Report (fragment, issue unknown)

Washington Quarterly, “Counterterrorism after al-Qaeda” by Paul Pillar (Summer 2004)

Washington Quarterly, “The Post-Madrid Face of al-Qaeda,” by Rohan Gunaratna (Summer 2004)

Washingtonian Magazine profile of John Esposito (Jan 2005)

“Documents probably used by other compound residents”:

Art Education: The Journal of National Art Education Association, “Islamic Art as an Educational Tool about the Teaching of Islam” by Fayeq S. Oweiss (March 2002)

Arabic Calligraphy Workshop by Fayeq S. Oweiss

Published Work Sample from Fayeq S. Oweiss (2004)

Resume for Fayeq S. Oweiss, Ph.D. (2006)

Delta Force Extreme 2 Videogame Guide

Game Spot Videogame Guide

Grappler’s Guide to Sports Nutrition by John Berardi and Michael Fry

Guinness Book of World Records Children’s Edition 2008 (scans of several pages from)

Is It the Heart You Are Asking? by Dr. Islam Sobhi al-Mazeny (suicide prevention guide)

Silkscreening Instructions