What's on bin Laden's Hard Drive? - Macleans.ca

What’s on bin Laden’s Hard Drive?

Wouldn’t he take the precaution of encrypting his communications?


“The mother lode of intelligence.”

That’s how a U.S. official, speaking anonymously with Politico, described the cache of computers and thumb drives Navy SEALS seized from Osama Bin Laden’s Abbotabad crib. Former State Department official Richard Haas told the Toronto Star that this “intelligence harvest” could be “as important if not more important than the actual killing of bin Laden.”

He may be speaking too soon. Remember—OBL was careful enough to forego both phone lines and an Internet hookup to his compound. Assuming he was still active in al-Qaeda communications over the past few years, he would have had to physically hustle USB keys and hard drives in and out of his bunker. If he was that careful, wouldn’t he take the precaution of encrypting his communications as well?

As The Register speculates, such encryption might nevertheless be cracked by the US military—especially if Bin Laden used al-Qaeda’s homebrew scrambler “Mojahedeen Secrets” (no joke).

As tantalizing as the data seizure may be to the hundreds of intelligence agents poring over the drives right now, all involved may want to temper their expectations. We’ve yet to receive any indication that bin Laden has been doing anything but cowering in recent years, and it’s entirely possible that he’s completely out of the jihadi loop.

Given the recent discovery of pungent weed crops by the Abbotabad compound and reports of frequent munchie-runs by OBL’s cronies, America’s best data-crackers may find nothing on the drives but a copy of Super Smash Brothers PC and a badly dubbed torrent of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.


What’s on bin Laden’s Hard Drive?

  1. It'll work though. Americans will believe anything.

  2. OBL has been an evil genius at disrupting the infidel with minimal investment and a lot of ingenuity. Just look at September 11: Fifteen jerks, four of whom learned just enough about flying a commercial aircraft, box-cutters, and brainwashing. The infidel dissembled, processed and heroically defeated this plan the very same morning (United 93), but the damage was (and remains) considerable.

    If his evil genius remained intact, that hard drive will have just-credible-enough (but bogus) information about targets and methods, maybe even (bogus) people. Imagine the considerable $, sweat and disruption just a few of these "threats" would drain from us.

  3. "Remember—OBL was careful enough to forego both phone lines and an Internet hookup to his compound."

    I'd be surprised if he wasn't connected in some other way – a couple of the pictures of the compound show satellite dishes and presumably there's cell phone/wi-fi access in Abbottabad.

  4. Of course, the real reason OBL was using sneaker-net was because Pakistan allows UBB. :)

  5. I never thought I'd see the day the Register was linked on Maclean's, awesome.

  6. Super Mario and many computer games to kill time? Who knows a self drawn version of "Draw Prophet Muhammad", peace "maybe" upon him, cartoons. Yow naughty Osama dude, porn movies too?