18:50 GMT15 June 2021
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    Classified intelligence documents obtained by Edward Snowden have shed some light on the CIA operation aimed at killing of Osama bin Laden, and in some way have confirmed Seymour Hersh's version.

    Although the Snowden archive related to the hunt for "terrorist number one" does not explicitly prove Hersh's narrative, it provides a new context for the ongoing debate regarding the notorious Abbottabad raid, investigative journalists Cora Currier, Andrew Fishman and Margot Williams pointed out.

    "The files provided by Snowden by no means represent the totality of intelligence community documents from that time period. The archive, sourced from the NSA's computer systems, offers only a partial window into the intelligence community's CIA-led efforts to find bin Laden," the journalists stressed.

    However, according to the researchers, the documents contain valuable information on the tracking of al-Qaeda couriers in Pakistan, the existence of intelligence found in Abbottabad and the impact of the operation on US-Pakistani counterterrorism collaboration.

    The investigative journalists underscored that although the Obama administration has repeatedly stated that the clue about bin Laden's location was found when the CIA detected al-Qaeda courier Ibrahim Saeed Ahmed (also known as Abu Ahmed al Kuwaiti), this very data "surfaces rarely in the internal NSA documents."

    "Ahmed's true name does not appear in the archive files… The one concrete reference to him is in a list of top terror suspects, updated in 2008," the researchers pointed out, adding that the documents read that the terror suspect was at large and believed to have information on the location of bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, another terrorist commander.

    Interestingly enough, after the Abbottabad raid, the NSA's then-associate deputy director for counterterrorism Jon Darby had not mentioned that the NSA tracked any courier and boasted that the NSA "played a key role in identifying the compound where bin Laden was found," collecting electronic data on the #3 level al-Qaeda figures.

    On the other hand, according to Seymour Hersh, the information on Osama bin Laden’s location came from a former Pakistani intelligence official in 2010, the journalists noted.

    There is also something sinister about bin Laden's documents collected by the SEAL team in Abbottabad, they emphasized. The US officials qualified these materials as a genuine "treasure trove" that led to a number of overseas operations and successful investigation into terrorism cases. These documents were also cited in the court martial of Army Private Chelsea Manning in 2013.

    Citing Hersh's report the journalists pointed out that these materials, including bin Laden's letters and his pornography collection, were in fact of little if any operational significance: since 2006 bin Laden had been sidelined in a Pakistani detainment facility.

    Curiously, Snowden's documents also contain information regarding the materials found in Abbottabad in 2011, but they "do not reference any actionable intelligence gained from them," the researchers underscored.

    In addition, Cora Currier, Andrew Fishman and Margot Williams highlighted that the NSA documents from Snowden's archive related to the bin Laden hunt "often use boastful language designed to justify budgets and boost career accomplishments."

    Referring to the Snowden archive, the journalists pointed to the fact that the US operation in Abbottabad triggered a lot of controversy in Pakistan and aggravated tensions between Washington and Islamabad.

    The Pakistani government even demanded to launch an investigation into the US raid, while the international community was slamming Islamabad for "turning a blind eye to militant groups in its backyard."

    Although this pressure prompted Pakistani General Kayani (who was allegedly informed of the Abbottabad raid ahead of time) to restrain US-Pakistani intelligence cooperation, mutual trust was then regained.


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    killing, investigation, raid, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), National Security Agency (NSA), al-Qaeda, Seymour Hersh, Chelsea Manning, Osama bin Laden, Washington, US, Islamabad, Pakistan
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