The Obama administration's top counterterrorism chief, John Brennan, announced today that some of the documents found in Osama bin Laden's Pakistani compound will posted online for all to read. The documents will be posted on the website for West Point's Combating Terrorism Center later this week and will include some of the communications he had with his top commanders and allies, like Ayman al-Zawahiri and Mullah Omar.
As for what those papers reveal, we already seen a few details leak out to the press. Namely, that bin Laden was "depressed" about a string of constant failures since 2001 and that numerous assassinations of his top lieutenants had weakened al-Qaeda's leadership. (Mostly because there no experienced individuals ready to take the place of those who had fallen.) Brennan himself said that bin Laden reportedly even considered changing the name of his organization, because the al-Qaeda brand had become so damaged within the Muslim world.
But what will be more telling is what the Center chooses not to reveal. So far, all the details paint bin Laden as an embarrassed and failed leader — just the kind of image his enemies might want to project on the anniversary of his death. Not to say that they aren't authentic, just "well curated." What is release will not be a complete accounting of the evidence, nor should you expect it to reflect badly on the United States or flatteringly to bin Laden. It's background data, meant to show just how effective our attacks on al-Qaeda have been. Don't expect to hear any operational details about what they might been plotting the last 10 years, either.
Brennan has been on a bit of "Remember Osama" tour lately, hitting up the talk show circuit and delivering a speech today that laid out many of the Obama administration's successes in the war on terror. (You can read a full transcript of his remarks here.) Brennan repeatedly emphasized that al-Qaeda is not dead — which also explains his defense our increased drone use — but taking out bin Laden was clearly a huge blow. His comments and this data dump are as much about boosting the administrations security credentials as they are about reminding people about the monster that bin Laden was.