The Skeptics

Bin Laden’s Last Will and Testament—and Other Oddities

When Seal Team Six launched its midnight raid into Pakistan on May 1, 2011, and surprised Osama Bin-Laden in his boxer shorts in his Abbottabad compound, the United States succeeded in finally tracking down and killing the world’s most wanted terrorist thirteen years after he first declared war on America. But the closely guarded operation was just as important for its intelligence value. American personnel not only netted its biggest counterterrorism victory in a decade, but swept up thousands upon thousands of pages of information from bin Laden’s computer files.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has spent the better part of four years translating these documents, scrubbing them for any actionable intelligence that the U.S. military and intelligence community can use in the field, and releasing select portions into the public domain. On March 1, ODNI released its third batch of UBL files. They portray a man who desperately attempted to stay relevant in his very own organization, someone who obsessively sent messages to his subordinates on the most mundane of topics, and a terrorist mastermind who was consumed by paranoia.


Bin Laden’s Will

It’s common knowledge that Osama bin Laden was a very rich man. His father, Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden, was a construction magnate from Yemen who compiled a massive fortune helping the Saudi royal family build the kind the infrastructure that was required for the country to survive and prosper. King Faisal issued a decree that essentially provided Mohammed bin Laden with a monopoly on all construction projects in the kingdom. By all indications, King Faisal and Mohammed were close.

Osama bin Laden’s piousness aside, he was a rich kid with hundreds of millions of dollars in the bank. In a will that he wrote after he was kicked out of Sudan, bin Laden writes that he wanted the $29 million of his fortune left in the country to be spent on jihad. “I hope, for my brothers, sisters, and maternal aunts, to obey my will and to spend all the money that I have left in Sudan on Jihad, for the sake of Allah,” bin Laden wrote. “The conservation about the money in Sudan is over.”

As for bin Laden’s family members, they were second-fiddle to the importance of jihad. His uncle, his uncle’s children, his son Sa’ad and one of his very own wives were given peanuts.


He Despised Ali Abdullah Saleh

Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen’s president for over three decades, appears on multiple occasions in the latest tranche of bin Laden files. Read through them, and you can quickly come to the conclusion that Osama despised Saleh for everything he stood for.

In bin Laden’s mind, Saleh was nothing but a Western puppet who governed Yemen the way the Americans wanted him to run it. His incompetence, corruption, and mismanagement of the nation’s wealth was a stain on the daily lives of millions of Yemenis.

“‘Ali ‘Abdallah Saleh,” Bin Laden wrote in a letter, “which clearly show[ed] that he did things that are contrary to Islam for the past few decades, such as appeasing the infidels, providing for the American destroyers so they may continue their siege and kill our people in Iraq and Palestine, and conspire with the United States in the killing of Muslims in Yemen, including men, women, and children, for the goal of achieving the interests of the United States.” He concludes with a note of disgust: “He even assured the Americans that he would continue to support their operations that target Muslims.”

Interestingly, however, bin Laden argued that simply replacing Saleh would make Al Qaeda’s job far more difficult in the country. Chaos would reign, a new figure would take power who would be more willing to crack down on Islamist activity within Yemen’s borders and Al Qaeda supporters would be unable to preach in an unstable environment.

In bin Laden’s own words: “To say that ousting the apostate government and keeping the country in a state of chaos is better than allowing the survival of this apostate government is not right. We cannot spread our Da'wah while there is chaos. A country with no ruler to impose law and order among the people will force the people to act more barbarously, taking matters into their hands to protect blood and honor.”


A Draft Letter to the American People

As if the American people cared, bin Laden decided to write a letter directly to them, where he espouses the usual dictates about how their country’s leaders have failed them and why their economy was on the brink of collapse. Because this document (like all of them in the cache) is undated, we don’t know when this letter was written. References to the “new administration,” and the government’s Wall Street bailout however, suggest that it was composed some time shortly after President Barack Obama came to office.