The U.S. government released Wednesday a trove of information about the reading material found with Osama bin Laden on the day American Navy SEALS killed him May 2, 2011, at his hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
The release showed bin Laden to be a follower of international affairs and included numerous publicly available official documents, think tank studies and technical manuals. Perhaps most surprising was an English-language reading list that had more in common with a liberal college professor than a religious fanatic.
Compiled by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence website as "bin Laden's bookshelf," the cache of information, some previously classified, is part of the Obama administration's goal for increased transparency within the intelligence community. The 2014 Intelligence Authorization Act also requires a review of documents for release, the ODNI reported on their website.
The books: Some of the 38 complete English books, all stored as PDF files, found in bin Laden's compound included notable liberal favorites Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance by Noam Chomsky, Obama's Wars by Bob Woodward and The Best Democracy Money Can Buy by Greg Palast.
The "bookshelf" also housed books on 9/11 and other conspiracy theories with titles like The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions About the Bush Administration and 9/11 by David Ray Griffin, Bloodlines of the Illuminati by Fritz Springmeier and Secrets of the Federal Reserve by Eustace Mullins. A much larger collection of Arabic language media from regional newspapers was also found.
Another surprise from the release was the comparatively small amount of religious documents from a man who once called on Muslims to establish a "righteous caliphate." Far from a room stacked with Qurans, the release showed that bin Laden had 75 official U.S. documents, 40 think tank and related studies and a mere 11 religious documents.
Looking for a job? Also among the documents was what appeared to be a job application for al-Qaida that asked prospective applicants both about their career objectives. Questions included:
1. How much of the holy Quran have you memorized? Did you study Sharia? Who was your instructor?
2. Any hobbies or pastimes?
3. What is your favorite material: science or literature?
4. Are any of your relatives or friends in the jihad theater?
5. List the types of passports you possess. Did you use a real or forged passport for your current travel?
6. Do you wish to execute a suicide operation?
7. What objectives would you would like to accomplish on your jihad path?
8. Do you have any chronic or hereditary disease(s)?
9. Who should we contact in case you became a martyr?
Climate change: Based on the recovered documents, it seems Bin Laden also displayed concern for the welfare of the planet and the effects of global climate change. In a document likely written after flooding in Pakistan in 2010, Bin Laden expressed his belief that Western and Muslim countries had a duty to assist struggling populations.
"What we are experiencing today (drought growth, particularly in Africa, and flooding in other regions, which in days left behind thousands dead and millions of victims forced to be displaced in Pakistan alone) imposes a moral duty upon the good-hearted and determined among the men, to move earnestly and rapidly in rescue of their Pakistani Muslim brothers. For the calamity is considerable and beyond description, whilst requiring massive means."