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US government releases Osama bin Laden's letters, conspiracy books, and software manuals

US government releases Osama bin Laden's letters, conspiracy books, and software manuals

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Four years after the death of Osama bin Laden, the US Director of National Intelligence has released a list of books, articles, and declassified material that were allegedly recovered during the raid on his compound in Pakistan. The translated declassified documents, mostly letters to and from bin Laden and his associates, reveal an unsurprisingly deep fear of surveillance, as well as things like applications for prospective al-Qaeda members and a letter "to the American people." Even the rest of "bin Laden's bookshelf," though, is a long and curious reading list full of conspiracy theories, material from think tanks and terrorist groups, and computer software.

Among English-language tomes on American policy and the "war on terror," including a book about electronic ballot tampering and two works by linguist and political philosopher Noam Chomsky, you'll find Bloodlines of the Illuminati and Conspirators’ Hierarchy: The Committee of 300, as well as — less comprehensibly — a 2004 "single saved web page" from geek culture site ICv2, covering a website's claims that Steve Jackson's conspiracy-flavored role-playing games predicted the events of 9/11. (Bin Laden wasn't the only political figure to have been potentially confused by Steve Jackson Games; the FBI raided the company in 1990 during an anti-hacker operation.)

The "software and technical manuals" section, meanwhile, is notable just for how detailed and mundane a catalog it is. Think "McAfee Virus Scan 6.0 Manual," "HP Printer Owner’s Manual," and "Adobe Acrobat Manual." If a theme stands out, it's the importance of web and video production, with references to Adobe's tools, the now Google-owned On2 Technologies, and a professional lighting effects suite. This revelation, granted, is not nearly as useful as more reports on the US intelligence community's surveillance program — parts of which are up for renewal this month — would be.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence notes that the "Game Spot Videogame Guide" and "Delta Force Extreme 2 Videogame Guide" were "probably used by other compound residents."