Abbottabad Maths

For all that's interesting in the Abbottabad Documents, there are two reasons why they should be treated with caution. I know that I am not the only one who has pointed that out, but if you are interested, I still would like to share one piece of maths with you. After OBL's death, reports quickly emerged about the amount of documents and data seized. Several news reports stated that 100+ digital storage devices had been secured. Several quality newspapers put the number of pages seized at "several million".

Let us assume it was just one million.
Let us, for argument's sake, farther assume that 98 % are irrelevant, redundant or just not interesting.
That would still leave us with 20.000 pages we would all very much like to read.
The 17 documents now published spread over 175 pages.
That is less than 1 % of what I would consider to be a very low estimate of substantial material.

It is simply impossible to base a picture of AQ on such a portion. The stuff we now get to read should be treated as anecdotal evidence, not as proof.

This is more so, because apart from the quantitative argument, there is a qualitative one: The 17 documents have been cleared by government agencies. We can safely assume that they have three interests: nothing will go out that can still be used operationally; the publication of the documents is a golden opportunity for disinformation in order to send certain message to the adversary; all of what goes out will be material that don't contradict government expert opinion full-on. That said, it should be clear that the 17 documents in question will neither be representative nor the most chilling ones.

I am still not saying we should disregard them. And I am the first one to admit that they are very interesting. I am just saying we should treat them for what they are: anecdotal evidence.

As such, they still yield important information.

One such example is that OBL seems to have been a rather strange mixture of both, a global strategist and a total micro manager (who, e.g., discusses wording of Bay'a oaths on more than one occasion).

Other interesting nuggets that one is bound to neglect in the first reading:

- Jaish al-Islam in Gaza claims that Fatah has offered them financial support
- OBL wants German recruit Abu Talha al-Almani (that's the one with the videos directed towards Germany in autumn of '09) to know that should he wish to postpone his planned suicide attack, he, OBL, would be interested in his suggestions for "external work", i.e. attacks in the West.
- OBL orders brother 'Azzam to translate Robert Fisk's new book into Arabic. I think that must be Adam Gadahn. And if so, I am quite surprised that his Arabic is that good.
- Talking about Gadahn: His long letter outlining what could or should be done in terms of getting Western media interested in 9/11 anniversary coverage is bizarre in and of itself. Am I the only who thinks that Adam and OBL are totally misreading Western media when they believe that they can hook them with "exclusive material"? Apart from that it is interesting of course that Adam seems to have been taken rather seriously by OBL. Not everybody thought that possible.
- Passing mention of the work of a certain "Yunis" seems to track with information surrounding al-Mauretani and the Euro Plot scare.

That's all for now. For those of you who read German, you can find a more readable version of this blogpost in tomorrow's edition of Die ZEIT.

Cheers, Y.

1 comment:

  1. aha...little knowledge is dangerous.....
    and my point is if there was no usama in atd then who was killed??
    i live near that house in bilal town?