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Officials mine secrets of bin Laden papers, videos

WASHINGTON - U.S. officials will mine the secrets of Osama bin Laden by poring over an intelligence haul seized at the time of his death that a top White House aide describes as a wealth of intelligence about al-Qaida.

WASHINGTON - U.S. officials will mine the secrets of Osama bin Laden by poring over an intelligence haul seized at the time of his death that a top White House aide describes as a wealth of intelligence about al-Qaida.

"This is the largest cache of intelligence derived from the scene of any single terrorist," national security adviser Tom Donilon told NBC's "Meet the Press. "It's about the size, the CIA tells us, of a small college library."

Last week Navy SEALs raided bin Laden's walled compound in Pakistan and killed him, and his body was buried at sea. The information they gathered already has shown the world's most wanted terrorist was actively involved in planning and directing al-Qaida's plots.

"What we now know, again taking a look initially here, is that he had obviously an operational and strategic role, and a propaganda role, for al-Qaida," Donilon said on CNN's "State of the Union."

Donilon made the rounds of Sunday television talk shows a day after a handful of videos were released showing bin Laden in propaganda tapes. A less-than-flattering video showed the 54-year-old terrorist appearing hunched and tired, seated on the floor, watching television while wrapped in a wool blanket and wearing a knit cap.

Out-takes of his propaganda tapes show that they were heavily scripted affairs. He dyed and trimmed his beard for the cameras, then shot and reshot his remarks until the timing and lighting were just right. The new material shows bin Laden in a much more candid, unflattering light than the rare propaganda videos that trickled out during his life portraying him as a charismatic religious figure unfazed at being the target of a worldwide manhunt.

Notes and computer material gathered by the SEALs after the pre-dawn raid last Monday, local time, revealed bin Laden's home was a command-and-control centre for the terrorist network, said a senior U.S. intelligence official who briefed reporters Saturday and insisted his name not be used.

Bin Laden was eager to strike American cities again and discussed ways to attack trains, officials said, though it appeared that plan never progressed beyond early discussions.

The evidence seized during the raid includes phone numbers and documents that officials hope will help break the back of the organization behind the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S. A task force headed by the CIA is working through the material, combing it round the clock to find clues to plots that might already be under way.

Even though bin Laden was killed in the town of Abbottabad, about 35 miles (55 kilometres) from the capital Islamabad and not far from a top military academy, Donilon said he's seen no evidence yet that the Pakistani government knew bin Laden was there.

"I've not seen any evidence, at least to date, that the political, military or intelligence leadership of Pakistan knew about Osama bin Laden at Abbottabad, Pakistan," he said.

Donilon said the circumstances of where bin Laden was living requires investigation, and he said the Pakistanis are doing that.

Donilon said the U.S. has asked for access to people who were around bin Laden, including three wives who Pakistanis have in custody from the compound. The U.S. also wants access to additional materials collected there, he said.

Pakistani authorities, who were deeply embarrassed by the raid, so far are not allowing the CIA access to bin Laden's family members in their custody.

The success of the raid was far from certain, Donilon said. President Barack Obama was given intelligence updates over several months and thought there was a 50-50 chance that bin Laden was in the compound, Donilon said, adding that the president had total confidence in the ability of the special forces to execute the mission.

The administration has considered the risk of terrorist retaliation, he said.

"We fully expect the threat to continue," Donilon said. "We'll continue to press very hard and take every opportunity we have as this organization tries to survive."

Donilon also appeared on ABC's "This Week" and "Fox News Sunday."

 
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