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Timofey Odintsov
Timofey Odintsov

Bin Laden's Hard Drive

The ensuing 9/11 investigation was the most massive in the history of the Bureau. The attacks led to far-reaching changes in the FBI, which made prevention of terrorist strikes its overriding priority and deliberately set out to be more predictive and intelligence-driven in addressing all major national security and criminal threats.

Bin Laden's Hard Drive

It's not unusual for a hard drive to house a bunch of old photos, memes, movies or even some porn, but when those things show up on Osama bin Laden's digital files, it's worth a closer look. That's according to Kurt Champion whose debut art installation is both fascinating and revealing.

Premiering Thursday, Sept. 10 at 9/8c, the one-hour special features CNN National Security Analyst Peter Bergen leading a team of experts as they do a deep dive into hard drive files recovered from the Abbottabad compound in Pakistan where the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks was killed by U.S. Special Forces in 2011.

Bin Laden was raised as a devout Sunni Muslim.[39] From 1968 to 1976, he attended the elite Al-Thager Model School.[35][40] He studied economics and business administration[41] at King Abdulaziz University. Some reports suggest he earned a degree in civil engineering in 1979,[42] or a degree in public administration in 1981.[43] Bin Laden attended an English-language course in Oxford, England, during 1971.[44] One source described him as "hard working";[45] another said he left university during his third year without completing a college degree.[46] At university, bin Laden's main interest was religion, where he was involved in both "interpreting the Quran and jihad" and charitable work.[47] Other interests included writing poetry;[48] reading, with the works of Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery and Charles de Gaulle said to be among his favorites; black stallions; and association football, in which he enjoyed playing at centre forward and followed the English club Arsenal.[49]

At the end of 2000, Richard Clarke revealed that Islamic militants headed by bin Laden had planned a triple attack on 3 January 2000, which would have included bombings in Jordan of the Radisson SAS Hotel in Amman, tourists at Mount Nebo, and a site on the Jordan River, as well as the sinking of the destroyer USS The Sullivans in Yemen, and an attack on a target within the United States. The plan was foiled by the arrest of the Jordanian terrorist cell, the sinking of the explosive-filled skiff intended to target the destroyer, and the arrest of Ahmed Ressam.[164]

During his trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, former Serbian President Slobodan Milošević quoted from a purported FBI report that bin Laden's al-Qaeda had a presence in the Balkans and aided the Kosovo Liberation Army. He claimed bin Laden had used Albania as a launchpad for violence in the region and Europe. He claimed that they had informed Richard Holbrooke that KLA was being aided by al-Qaeda but the US decided to cooperate with the KLA and thus indirectly with Osama despite the 1998 United States embassy bombings earlier. Milošević had argued that the United States aided the terrorists, which culminated in its backing of the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia during the Kosovo War.[175][176][177][178]

Turns out one of America's greatest enemies of the past couple decades was also a Nintendo fan. In news you wouldn't believe if it wasn't for the fact it came from the CIA, Osama Bin Laden's hard drive in which he used during years of hiding contained tons of anime and Nintendo DS Roms. Among them, Pokemon Diamond, and Animal Crossing.

Beyond the games, there was also tons of anime. Naruto and Dragon Ball, in particular, are mentioned, and there is confirmation that someone watched Advent Children: Final Fantasy VII on the hard drive. The video game connections bleed in once again as it was even uncovered that Bin Laden had the entirety of the Devil May Cry anime series ready to go.

So what does all this mean? With no leads from the CIA, we can assume that someone in his compound was utilizing this media, if it wasn't Bin Laden himself. Truth be told, we'll probably never know, but the fact that its all there on a hard drive that likely contains terrorist files and things of that nature are flat-out baffling. Especially considering Bin Laden was in his mid-40s to 50s when he evaded capture and was not exactly a fan of things with a Western influence.

The electronic gear hauled away by an assault team of Navy SEALs reportedly included five computers, 10 hard drives, and scores of removable media including USB sticks and DVDs. Some reports say the forensic analysis is taking place at the CIA's headquarters in Langley, Va., while others have placed it at a "secret location in Afghanistan." (See list of related CNET stories.)

An initial forensic analysis of bin Laden's hard drives will likely be done with keyword searches in Arabic and English. "You can get thousands of hits," Mark McLaughlin, president of Santa Monica, Calif.-based Computer Forensics International, told CNET. "Those hits need to be looked at individually, and in context," he said, which can take a while.

Captured Al Qaeda computers have yielded useful intelligence before. A 2007 Defense Department "summary of evidence" supporting the charges against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed reported that a hard drive seized during his capture contained information on the four airplanes hijacked on 9/11, including code names, airline company, flight number, target, pilot name and background information, and names of the hijackers.

A team of researchers including Princeton University computer scientists published a paper in February 2008 that describes how to bypass encryption products by gaining access to the contents of a computer's RAM--through a mechanism as simple as booting a laptop over a network or from a USB drive--and then scanning for encryption keys.

National Geographic's latest special, 'Bin Laden's Hard Drives', takes an in-depth look at most of the declassified material that was found in Bin Laden's compounds, including personal letters and data drives recovered which contained surprising things like western entertainment such as 'Tom & Jerry', 'Mr Bean', and even pornography. Led by The New York Times best-selling author and CNN National Security Analyst Peter Bergen, who is the only Western journalist to have interviewed Bin Laden when he did so in 1997, 'Bin Laden's Hard Drives' brings in a range of specialists like Ali Soufan, former FBI special agent who led investigations into Al Qaeda and was one of the first to uncover the link between the terrorist outfit and 9/11, and Dalia Mogahed, American-Muslim scholar and Director of Research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.

Bin Laden had television in his compound, but didn't have access to the internet or phone, so everything was written by hand or on computers, and encrypted on flash drives that were given to couriers to deliver. All the letters were backed up on hard drives.

The US assault force that killed Osama bin Laden hauled away about five computers, 10 hard drives and more than 100 storage devices from his hideout in Pakistan, a US official said Wednesday. googletag.cmd.push(function() googletag.display('div-gpt-ad-1449240174198-2'); ); The storage devices found at the Al-Qaeda leader's residential compound in Abbottabad, north of Islamabad, included removable flash drives and DVDs, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

It turns out that on the hard drive recovered following the assassination of Bin Laden, there were not only films like Antz on there, but also video games and anime. Dragon Ball games, Army Men 2, and Zuma are among the games included (all of which were illegally downloaded), and as far as anime goes there was Naruto, Bleach, and Devil May Cry on there too.

But something about this hard drive is different. Among the 250GB of everyday imagery and content, the data tells a far less ordinary: the life of infamous terrorist Bin Laden, and his decade-long evasion from law enforcement agencies across the world.

The confiscation of bin Laden's computer and other data-storage devices, however, may be even more instrumental in dismantling al-Qaida than the leader's death since, according to media houses like ABC, the hard drives and discs confiscated by the special forces could provide a 'treasure trove' of vital information that could lead to snaring other members of bin Laden's terror network.

This 'mother lode of intelligence' that US officials is hoping the seized equipment will yield could be even more revealing than the computer seized by CIA and Pakistan intelligence agents in 2003 when they captured Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. According to Wall Street Journal writer Arik Hesseldahl, Mohammed's hard drive, at the time, allegedly contained, among other things, "three letters from Osama bin Laden, a list of safe houses that bin Laden had used, a pilot's licence belonging to 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and information about the four planes hijacked that horrible day". In 2005 also, after alleged terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi eluded capture in Iraq, US forces still managed to get his computer, which yielded financial information and recent pictures which facilitated the eventual killing of Zarqawi in 2006.

The information secured from terrorists' computers, therefore, has proven historically to be as important as actually killing them. Clearly, although the intelligence fraternity will be salivating at the "impressive" amount of information that CIA Director Leon Panetta said is being extracted by hundreds of analysts in Pakistan, billions worldwide are now also asking the same question: Can you imagine what's on Osama bin Laden's hard drive? But how will they examine bin Laden's computer?

Although the forensic investigators used may be from a cross section of US investigative/law-enforcement agencies, I suspect that the FBI's great expertise and experience in these matters may be playing a lead role. Typically, they will be following some standard set of procedures which will involve physically isolating the computer in question to make sure it cannot be accidentally contaminated; making a digital copy of the hard drive; locking the original hard drive in a safe or other secure storage facility to maintain its pristine condition; conducting all investigation on the digital copy; and, at all times, ensuring forensic best practices are followed in essential aspects such as chain of custody, imaging/hashing function, validated tools, analysis, repeatability (quality assurance), and reporting/possible expert presentation considerations. 041b061a72


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