CTC Sentinel | Volume 5, Issue 5 (May 2012)

Published by Combating Terrorism Center

Cover Story Overview

The Abbottabad Documents: Bin Ladin’s Security Measures
By Liam Collins

Within a mere week of his death, Usama bin Ladin asserted that “reality has proven that American technology and its sophisticated systems cannot arrest a mujahid if he does not commit a security error.” Letters authored by Bin Ladin as part of the Abbottabad documents reveal that he was preoccupied with OPSEC measures. His letters portray a man with a strategic vision, favoring patience over rashness and prioritizing the long-term safety of his operatives over the short-term gains of actions that might jeopardize security. This article examines Bin Ladin’s concerns with signals intelligence, imagery intelligence and human intelligence. It also discusses the operational security measures that he implemented or attempted to implement to counter U.S. collection capabilities. Finally, it assesses the impact that these security measures likely had on al-Qa`ida’s ability to conduct operational acts.