Osama Bin Laden’s Compound Yields “Motherlode” of Computer Data

    May 3, 2011
    Josh Wolford

What in the world could be on Osama Bin Laden’s hard drive?

We might find out in the coming weeks. The Navy SEALs who carried out the mission that resulted in the death of Bin Laden left the Pakistani compound with more than a body. According to Politco, the SEALs were able to recover hard drives, CDs, and flash drives from the raid that U.S. officials are calling “the motherlode of intelligence.”

Currently, the data is being combed through by hundreds of people at a secret location in Afghanistan. Everyone in Washington is understandably excited to see what kind of information, if any, is usable. “It’s going to be great even if only 10 percent of it is actionable,” officials said to Politico.

The first thought has to be about the contents. Exactly what kind of information could be on these drives? It has been reported that Bin Laden’s compound lacked phone lines or internet in order to keep a lower profile – so it’s hard to guess the contents.

About 5 years ago it was famously unearthed that Osama Bin Laden had a soft spot for some aspects of American pop culture. A woman named Kola Boof wrote a tell-all book where she claimed to be a former sex slave/ girlfriend of Bin Laden. In the book, she detailed the Al Qaeda leader’s obsession with Whitney Houston among other things such as The Wonder Years.

I guess it’s possible that all they could find is the finale to The Wonder Years, you know, the one in the barn where Winnie…ah I can’t talk about it. Talk about depressing on multiple levels.

But hopefully something of use can be taken from the drives, some sort of data that can be used effectively.

The second thought has to be about encryption. Gizmodo has an interesting take on accessing the data:

We don’t know if “the mother lode of intelligence”—as that official called it—in the hard drives and memory sticks is encrypted or not. Given Osama’s level of confidence—the circumstances appear to indicate that he was very comfortable and felt very secure in his lair—the idea of some of the data not being encrypted is not that crazy.

But even if it is, the US intelligence agencies have the necessary computing power and the expertise to crack the information open, even if the terrorists are using the AES-256 standard. You can be sure that, if there are any encrypted files, they are now being processed by supercomputers at CIA’s headquarters. The only question is how fast they can access the information. That’s the critical part: the fastest they get it, the more actionable that information would be, leading to the fast capture or killing of other leaders and operatives in the al Qaeda network.

Yesterday, video and photos surfaced from the raid of the inside of the compound. The graphic images were of blood-spattered rooms in total disarray. Today, we await the possible release of photos of Bin Laden’s body. The White House is currently debating the pros and cons of that action.


Josh Wolford
Josh Wolford is a writer for WebProNews. He likes beer, Japanese food, and movies that make him feel weird afterward. Mostly beer. Follow him on Twitter: @joshgwolf Instagram: @joshgwolf Google+: Joshua Wolford StumbleUpon: joshgwolf