Osama Bin Laden Letters Analyzed

Osama Bin Laden Letters Analyzed

Update: added animated network showing evolution of  relationships over time.

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:

Recorded Future - Bin Laden Letters Analysis Process

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:

Network of Connections in UBL Letters - Click to Enlarge

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

UBL Places of Interest through Letters - Click to Enlarge

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

Bin Laden Iran Netwokr

UBL Letters Associations with Iran - Click to Enlarge

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

Bin Laden Yemen Network

Bin Laden Letters Yemen Associations - Click to Enlarge

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.

Time Lapse Bin Laden Network

Time Lapse Bin Laden Network - Click for Larger View

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?

Timeline of bin Laden Letters

Timeline of bin Laden Letters - Click to Enlarge

Getting a deeper look at the years from which we capture quite a bit of data:

Osama bin Laden Timeline 2007


Osama bin Laden Timeline 2009


Osama bin Laden Timeline 2010


Lastly, one of the unique features of Recorded Future includes the ability to extract references to predictions and future periods of time. From this particular set of documents, one future reference emerged related to planning the foundation of a Muslim state.

Osama Bin Laden Future Prediction


  1. Dennis 2 years ago

    Is it possible to gain access to the Recorded Future’s visualization? I tried searching for it on their website, but could not find it.

    Please e-mail me with the instructions if possible.

    Thank you.



    • Author
      holden 2 years ago

      Hi Dennis –

      You can sign up for a free account on the main page of our site, or if you’d like to look particularly at the Bin Laden data as visualized in this post then this visualization will allow you to explore: https://www.recordedfuture.com/rf/s/1vOv2z

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