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Osama bin Laden’s Files Introduced at Bradley Manning’s Trial

12:09 PM, Jul 2, 2013 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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Prosecutors in Army Pfc. Bradley Manning’s case have introduced an intriguing piece of evidence: Osama bin Laden’s documents, or at least a description of them. The Associated Press reports (emphasis added):

Al-Qaeda leaders reveled in WikiLeaks’ publication of reams of classified U.S. documents, urging members to study them before devising ways to attack the United States, according to evidence presented by the prosecution Monday in the court-martial of an Army private who leaked the material.

…The government presented another uncontested written statement that former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden asked for and received from an associate the Afghanistan battlefield reports that WikiLeaks published. The material was found on digital media seized in the May 2011 raid on bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, [lead prosecutor Maj. Ashden] Fein said. Bin Laden was killed in the raid.

These “battlefield reports” are what Wikileaks refers to as the “Afghan War Diary,” a trove of “over 91,000 reports covering the war in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2010.” Wikileaks withheld 15,000 of these reports from its initial release because even the anti-government group recognized the sensitivity of their contents. Still, the diary covers a “range of topics”: “Improvised Explosives Devices encountered, offensive operations, taking enemy fire, engagement with possible hostile forces, talking with village elders, numbers of wounded, dead, and detained, kidnappings, broader intelligence information and explicit threat warnings from intercepted radio communications, local informers or the [Afghan] police.”

It is easy to see why bin Laden would have an interest in the Wikileaks material. The files gave al Qaeda insight into how the U.S.-led coalition viewed the Afghan war.

Another, earlier report in the Guardian (UK) says that bin Laden’s files show he had “frequent discussions of joint operations against NATO forces in Afghanistan” with Taliban chieftain Mullah Omar and al Qaeda’s then number two, Ayman al Zawahiri. It is possible, then, that the files released by Wikileaks could have been used by al Qaeda and the Taliban to better plan such “joint operations.” (The press reports on Manning’s trial do not indicate if any evidence concerning how bin Laden and al Qaeda used the Wikileaks material has been introduced.) 

Bin Laden’s keen interest in the Wikileaks material demonstrates, once again, that he was an active manager in the war against America and its allies at the time of his death.

Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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