With Bin Laden’s whereabouts and activities a mystery in recent years, many intelligence analysts and terror experts had concluded that he had been relegated to an inspirational figure with little role in current and future Qaeda operations.The initial data may not end up being accurate and the review may yet turn out to be an incomplete or completely different interpretation..
A rushed examination of the trove of materials from the compound in Pakistan prompted Obama administration officials on Thursday to issue a warning that Al Qaeda last year had considered attacks on American railroads.
The documents include a handwritten notebook from February 2010 that discusses tampering with tracks to derail a train on a bridge, possibly on Christmas, New Year’s Day, the day of the State of the Union address or the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, officials said. But they said there was no evidence of a specific plot. An Obama administration official said that documents about attacking railroads were among the first to be translated from Arabic and analyzed. The materials, along with others reviewed in the intelligence cache, have given intelligence officials a much richer picture of the Qaeda founder’s leadership of the network as he tried to elude a global dragnet.
“He wasn’t just a figurehead,” said one American official, speaking only on condition of anonymity, who had been briefed on the documents. “He continued to plot and plan, to come up with ideas about targets, and to communicate those ideas to other senior Qaeda leaders.”
The crash program across the intelligence community to translate and analyze the documents has as its top priority discovering any clues about terror attacks that might be in the works. Intelligence analysts also were scrubbing the files for any information that might lead to identifying the location of Al Qaeda’s surviving leadership.
Since Sunday night, when President Obama announced the killing of Bin Laden in a daring raid, counterterrorism officials have been alert to the possibility of new attacks from Al Qaeda to avenge its leader’s death and prove its continuing relevance.
Department of Homeland Security officials have reviewed potential terrorist targets and deployed extra security at airports. And in response to the new evidence seized at the Bin Laden compound, the Transportation Security Administration issued a bulletin to rail companies.
But officials emphasized that the information was both dated and vague. “It looks very, very aspirational, and we have no evidence that it developed beyond the initial discussion,” said Matt Chandler, a spokesman for Homeland Security.
Still, it does raise questions on how bin Laden was able to maintain operational security for all these years and goes to show just how capable he was in being able to maintain contacts with other al Qaeda through his trusted couriers.
That bin Laden lived in Abbottabad means that far from being cut off from the rest of al Qaeda, he was much more likely to be in control and providing guidance and plotting further attacks.
The intel from the raid also appears to have uncovered plots to blow up trains or tampering with rails. It's all about causing mass casualty attacks and doing the most damage - perhaps in connection with the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Railroads have long been targeted by al Qaeda and several plots have been disrupted in the past in the US, including plots to blow up the PATH tunnels to New York, subway bomb plots, and unfortunately al Qaeda successfully carried out deadly attacks against railroads in Madrid.