Osama Bin Laden Letters Analyzed

Posted: 4th March 2012

Thirty six hours ago, the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) released 17 new letters (175 pages) discovered in the Abbottabad compound where Osama bin Laden was discovered and killed last year. The documents were made available as part of a report entitled “Letters from Abbottabad: Bin Ladin Sidelined?”

This post shows analysis of all 17 letters using Recorded Future’s temporal analytic technology and intelligence analysis tools. This first effort analyzes the English translated text and will be followed by an analysis of the letters in their original Arabic.

We treated these letters like they were any other source in the Recorded Future system. Our linguistic algorithms extracted a variety of data points available in the text that we then visualized in the Recorded Future user interface:

Analyzing these documents in aggregate and visualizing them using Recorded Future immediately reveals a number of patterns and insights. We’ll start with a network graph generated from the connections found in the body of letters where it’s clear to see the focal points of God, Yemen, and Afghanistan:

Seeing the locations described in the network, we can actually uncover what locations are mentioned the most:

Shifting back to a network view, let’s find what individuals are associated with Iran in the collected letters:

And to serve as a comparison, below are those relations referenced with Yemen:

We can also use Recorded Future, which contains a time slider to adjust the displayed data, to look at how the full network of connections between entities evolved over several years.

Moving to a timeline analysis of the letters and references within, there is a glaring absence of communication during 2008. Was this a time when Osama bin Laden went dark? Or is there sensitive information in documents from that period meaning they’re still under wraps?