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Understanding al Qaeda Through the Massive Trove of Osama bin Laden’s Files

17th November 2017 - 12:00 PM

 

Download the full transcript here.

The Foundation for Defense of Democracies and FDD's Long War Journal hosted a by-invitation-only lunch event Friday, November 17 from 12:00pm to 1:30pm to discuss the findings from the recently released documents from Osama bin Laden’s compound.

The conversation featured Rukmini Callimachi, foreign correspondent with The New York Times, whose stories covering her discovery of a cache of al Qaeda documents in Mali made her a Pulitzer Prize finalist, as well as Thomas Joscelyn and Bill Roggio, FDD Senior Fellows and editors of FDD's Long War Journal, who were given an advance opportunity to preview the records, images, audio, and video files released this month by the Central Intelligence Agency. The discussion was moderated by Kimberly Dozier, Executive Editor of The Cipher Brief.

Mr. Joscelyn and Mr. Roggio (whose findings thus far can be found in FDD’s Long War Journal) have been calling for the release of the documents since the raid in which bin Laden was killed more than six years ago. The release this month contains new, valuable information which have already helped shed light on al-Qaeda, including:

  • Video of Hamza bin Laden’s wedding (al Qaeda had previously only used one publicly available photo of Hamza bin Laden as a small child).
  • Details from the never-before-seen personal journal of Osama bin Laden.
  • Evidence that Osama bin Laden continued to act as an operational commander in the last year of his life, contradicting analysis that he had removed himself from those responsibilities.
  • Dozens of records providing new insights into the insurgency in Iraq, including the relationship between al Qaeda's senior leadership and the jihadists who led the predecessor to the Islamic State.

Rukmini Callimachi joined The New York Times in March 2014 as a foreign correspondent, covering al Qaeda and Islamic extremism. She is a three-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, including for her series of stories based on a cache of internal al Qaeda documents she discovered in Mali. She is also the winner of multiple Overseas Press Club Awards and the Michael Kelly prize. Before joining The Times, Ms. Callimachi spent seven years covering a 20-country beat in Africa, first as a correspondent and later as West Africa bureau chief for The Associated Press. She began her career as a freelancer in India in 2001, where she was lucky enough to get one of the last seats on a plane to the state of Gujarat on the day of a catastrophic earthquake, filing her first story for TIME magazine.

Kimberly Dozier is the Executive Editor of The Cipher Brief. She covered intelligence and national security for The Associated Press and The Daily Beast from 2010 to 2017, after 17 years as an award-winning CBS News foreign and national security correspondent. She also held the 2014-2015 Bradley Chair at the U.S. Army War College, Penn State Law and Dickinson. She covered national security for the CBS Evening News in Washington from 2007 to 2010, and spent the decade or so before that covering conflict zones for CBS including Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel and the Palestinian territories, Kosovo and Northern Ireland. Dozier and her CBS News team were hit by a car bombing in Iraq in 2006. Her memoir Breathing the Fire: Fighting to Survive and Get Back to the Fight, recounts the loss of Army Capt. James Alex Funkhouser and his translator “Sam,” together with CBS cameraman Paul Douglas and soundman James Brolan, when the bomb tore through the army foot patrol they were following, and Dozier’s fight to recover and return to her job overseas. She is a recipient of the Peabody Award, several Edward R. Murrow Awards, and she was the first woman journalist recognized by the National Medal of Honor Society for her coverage of Iraq.

Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at FDD and senior editor of FDD's Long War Journal, a widely read publication dealing with counterterrorism and related issues. Much of his research focuses on how al Qaeda and the Islamic State (or ISIS, ISIL) operate around the globe. He has served as a trainer for the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division. Mr. Joscelyn has testified before Congress on fourteen occasions, including before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, House Homeland Security Committee, House Foreign Affairs Committee, House Armed Services Committee and House Judiciary Committee. He was the senior counterterrorism adviser to Mayor Giuliani during the 2008 presidential campaign. Mr. Joscelyn is also a frequent contributor to The Weekly Standard. His work has been published by a variety of other publications and cited by The Associated Press, Reuters, The Washington Post, USA Today, TIME, Foreign Policy, and many others. He makes regular appearances on television and radio programs.

Bill Roggio is a senior fellow at FDD and editor of FDD’s Long War Journal, which provides original reporting and analysis of the Global War on Terror from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, North Africa, and beyond. He is also president of the nonprofit media company Public Multimedia Inc. Mr. Roggio was embedded with the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Army, and Iraqi forces in Iraq between 2005 and 2008, and with the Canadian Army in Afghanistan in 2006. His articles have been published in The Weekly Standard, The Daily Beast, National Review, The New York Post, and his work has been in outlets including The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, CNN, Foreign Policy, and Bloomberg. He also presents regularly at the U.S. Air Force’s Contemporary Counterinsurgency Warfare School on the media and embedded reporting. From 1991 to 1997, Mr. Roggio served as a signalman and infantryman in the U.S. Army and New Jersey National Guard.

This event is made possible through a grant from The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.