What We've Learned So Far from Bin Laden's Journal

Leading Al Qaeda meant being a jack-of-all-trades jihadist

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On Wednesday U.S. intelligence officials began leaking a range of intimate details about Osama bin Laden gleaned from his personal journal and hard drives recovered from his compound. The first portraits reveal a tireless leader, deeply enmeshed in Al Qaeda's command structure and involved in a range of projects and functions. A jihadist jack-of-all trades of sorts, bin Laden wore many hats while holed up in Abbottabad. Here's a look at his various roles:

Bin Laden, the mob boss  The Washington Post depicts him as a bona fide gangsta. "Bin Laden functioned like a crime boss pulling strings from a prison cell, sending regular messages to his most trusted lieutenants and strategic advice to far-flung franchises, including al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen," writes the paper. "Some followers pledged their fealty to him; others, however, chafed at his exhortations to remain focused on U.S. targets instead of mounting less risky operations in places such as Yemen, Somalia and Algeria."

Bin Laden, the strategist The Associated Press reports that bin Laden was highly knowledgeable of U.S. counterterrorist efforts and "schooled his followers in working around them." He also set the strategic agenda for Al Qaeda, encouraging militants to strike beyond New York, hitting small U.S. cities and Los Angeles and attacking trains as well as planes.

Bin Laden, the editor-in-chief  Bin Laden even took time to criticize Al Qaeda's supposed English-language magazine, Inspire, which at one point "discussed using a tractor or farm vehicle in an attack outfitted with blades or swords as a fearsome killing machine." To bin Laden (and most thinking people, you'd assume) the idea was idiotic, reports ProPublica's Sebastian Rotella. "Bin Laden said this is something he did not endorse. He seems taken aback. He complains that this tactical proposal promotes indiscriminate slaughter. He says he rejects this and it is not something that reflects what Al Qaeda does."

Bin Laden, the party crasher  Bin Laden remained deeply committed to coordinating attacks during U.S. holidays. He urged militants to pencil in the Fourth of July and the upcoming anniversary of 9/11 for major assaults.

Bin Laden, the politico  He dreamed up ways to specifically fracture America's political system, reports the AP. "He tells his disciples that only a body count of thousands, something on the scale of 9/11, would shift U.S. policy," reports the wire service. "He also schemed about ways to sow political dissent in Washington and play political figures against one another, officials said." He said vice president Joe Biden wasn't worth assassinating but the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff would be ideal.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.