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Bin Laden’s ‘bookshelf’ focused on France, conspiracy theories

AFP file picture | Osama bin Laden was killed in an American military raid on his house in Pakistan on May 2, 2015

Osama bin Laden's English-language reading list included books by journalists and conspiracy theorists as well as a "surprising" number on France that suggest he may have planned to target the French economy, US officials said Wednesday.


Bin Laden's "bookshelf" included titles by US journalist Bob Woodward and linguist and leftist Noam Chomsky, as well as a history of the French economy and an unpublished manuscript of a study called, "Did France Cause the Great Depression?"

US intelligence agencies have released a list of English-language texts found at Bin Laden's Abbottabad compound in Pakistan after the US military raid that killed the al Qaeda chief on May 2, 2011.

Jeffrey Anchukaitis, a spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), said Bin Laden "appears to have been interested in attacking the economy of France in the hope that an economic collapse there would trigger one in the US or the rest of the Western world".

US intelligence analysts were not surprised Bin Laden was interested in attacking Western economies, but Anchukaitis said "it was surprising that he asked for so many books on France".

The spokesman told AFP, however, that "just because he had these books doesn't mean he was committed to that course of action".

It simply means that he "asked his lieutenants to bring him information on France", he said.

The reading material focused on France totalled 19 documents and included texts on France's military health services, its defense industry and its "water profile".

The late al Qaeda leader also appeared to be interested in French nuclear policies, and his trove included a text on how France deals with radioactive waste.

One of the more surprising reads posted on ODNI's website was an article on France’s wage inequality.

About half of the books on the reading list promoted various conspiracies – including books questioning the official US account that Bin Laden's al Qaeda network carried out the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.

The list included retired profesor and conspiracy theorist David Ray Griffin's "The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions About the Bush Administration and 9/11" and "The Secrets of the Federal Reserve" by Eustace Mullins, known as a denier of the Holocaust.

Al Qaeda 'job application'

The release of the reading list coincided with the declassification of more than 100 documents found at Bin Laden's hideout, which followed a Congressional order for spy agencies to release more of the material that was seized in the Navy SEAL raid.

The ODNI said it will review “hundreds more” of the documents in the near future for possible release, granted they do not harm ongoing operations against al Qaeda or its affiliates.

The documents released shed light on Bin Laden's mindset, his concerns about security and his preoccupation with staging more large-scale attacks on the United States.

His main fixation appeared to be attacking US interests, and he pressured al Qaeda groups to resolve their local rivalries and focus on that cause.

The documents contained details of purported negotiations between al Qaeda, its allies in the Pakistani Taliban and representatives of Pakistani intelligence, as well as what seemed to be an al Qaeda recruitment questionnaire.

A July 2010 letter showed that bin Laden had pressed al Qaeda in Yemen, one of the group’s more active affiliates, to make peace with the local government and focus on America.

Bin Laden’s view was that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) ought to sign a truce with the Yemeni authorities, or at least reach an agreement in which the Yemeni authorities would leave the group alone “in exchange for focusing on America” instead of local targets.

“The purpose is to focus on striking inside America and its interests abroad, especially oil-producing countries, to agitate public opinion and to force the US to withdraw from Afghanistan and Iraq,” according to a summary of the letter.



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