The Combating Terrorism Center acknowledged, however, that it had no access to thousands of bin Laden records that have not been declassified. A White House spokesman said Thursday that no additional releases are planned.
The letters depict a suspicious, antagonistic relationship between al-Qaeda and Iran, which detained operatives and their relatives who fled after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda secured the release of some of those held, including members of bin Laden’s family, by kidnapping an official at the Iranian Consulate in Peshawar, Pakistan, the documents indicate.
Fearing that Iran or the United States would seek to follow those relatives to his hide-out, bin Laden instructed them to switch cars in the tunnel between Kuhat and Peshawar. They should also get “rid of everything they received from Iran, like baggage or anything, even as small as a needle as there are eavesdropping chips that are developed to be so small,” bin Laden wrote.
The analysts at West Point concluded that al-Qaeda’s ties to Iran were the “unpleasant byproduct of necessity, fueled by mutual distrust and antagonism.’’
U.S. officials have described the complete collection of bin Laden material as the largest cache of terrorism files ever obtained, with about 100 flash drives and DVDs as well as five computer hard drives, piles of paper and a handwritten journal kept by the al-Qaeda chief.
Many details contained in the newly released files have been previously reported, including bin Laden’s desire to target Obama so that an “unprepared” Vice President Biden would be thrust into the Oval Office.
The files reveal a widening gap between bin Laden and his longtime deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Instead, bin Laden appears to have become increasingly close to another subordinate, Atiyah abd-al Rahman, who was the frequent recipient of missives that make the al-Qaeda leader seem out of touch with how depleted his organization had become.
“It would be nice,” bin Laden wrote repeatedly in a 48-page letter to Rahman that contains daunting requests. Among them are to move followers out of the reach of CIA drones, fix the network’s followers and train new recruits on aircraft. It also instructs Rahman to locate a “brother distinguished by his good manners, integrity, courage, and secretiveness, who can operate in the US.”
Staff writer Julie Tate contributed to this report.