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WikiLeaks Publishes Afghan War Secrets 966

Posted by kdawson
from the fog-of-war dept.
A number of readers submitted word on the massive WikiLeaks release of Afghanistan war documents. "The data is provided in CSV and SQL formats, sorted by months, and also was rendered into KML mapping data." WikiLeaks provided the documents in advance to the New York Times, Der Spiegel, and the UK's Guardian — the latter also has up a video tutorial on how to read the logs. From the Times: "A six-year archive of classified military documents... offers an unvarnished, ground-level picture of the war in Afghanistan that is in many respects more grim than the official portrayal. The secret documents... are a daily diary of an American-led force often starved for resources and attention as it struggled against an insurgency that grew larger, better coordinated and more deadly each year. The New York Times, the British newspaper The Guardian, and the German magazine Der Spiegel were given access to the voluminous records several weeks ago on the condition that they not report on the material before Sunday. The documents — some 92,000 reports spanning parts of two administrations from January 2004 through December 2009 — illustrate in mosaic detail why, after the United States has spent almost $300 billion on the war in Afghanistan, the Taliban are stronger than at any time since 2001."
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WikiLeaks Publishes Afghan War Secrets

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  • US abuse (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SquarePixel (1851068) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @10:20PM (#33025120)

    Wikileaks is doing great work for the world. It sickens me that the country that is supposedly so open and about democracy abuses rest of the world like this and tries to hide it. I remember that last year the German and French population support for the war started dropping, so US started a project where they tried to think how to manipulate them. They made specific, independent plans for both countries how to give the war better PR so the general population would support it again.

    US is also the only country in the world that is constantly in war with other countries, bullies them and has a history of supporting enemies of its enemies. You know, the exact same thing that US considers as helping terrorists. Funny thing is that because of this, US put itself into this war.

    What about ACTA and other laws US tries to push to the rest of the world? No one comes to US and tries to tell them what to do. So leave rest of the world alone too.

    • Re:US abuse (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Shakrai (717556) * on Sunday July 25, 2010 @10:24PM (#33025144) Journal

      US is also the only country in the world that is constantly in war with other countries, bullies them and has a history of supporting enemies of its enemies

      You realize that every country in the history of humanity has done the exact same things, right?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ColdWetDog (752185)

        Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst.

        Heinlein, Starship troopers, 1959

      • Re:US abuse (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ElrondHubbard (13672) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @10:45PM (#33025274)
        Yes, but the U.S. is the first country in the history of balance-of-power politics to think that the failure of its main enemy (the USSR) entitles it to something like control of the entire world, forever. That was the goal of the Project for a New American Century that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice tried to enact for eight years, at a price that may yet cost the U.S. its pre-eminent position. And yet neoconservatives like William Kristol continue to promote this as though it were a good idea and facts recognized by the 'reality-based community' simply don't matter.
         
  • by evil9000 (72113) * on Sunday July 25, 2010 @10:23PM (#33025138) Homepage

    Last line of http://wardiary.wikileaks.org/ [wikileaks.org]:
    "We have delayed the release of some 15,000 reports from total archive as part of a harm minimization process demanded by our source. After further review, these reports will be released, with occasional redactions, and eventually, in full, as the security situation in Afghanistan permits."

    So this archive isnt complete, come back later for more...

  • uh oh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by u4ya (1248548) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @10:28PM (#33025160) Homepage
    Sure hope no one finds out that war is an ugly business that squanders trillions of taxpayer dollars and wastes countless human lives in order to reap huge rewards for a few special interests. That would be a shame (to the few special interests).
  • by Palestrina (715471) * on Sunday July 25, 2010 @10:35PM (#33025210) Homepage

    ...is how did someone manage to download, store and transfer 90,000 classified documents and not be noticed?

    I know there will be a lot of finger-pointing at Wikileaks for publishing the data on their website, but for the information to have been leaked in the first place should raise even more questions.

    • by Dr. Evil (3501) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @10:58PM (#33025398)

      I bet they used a computer.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by flyingfsck (986395)
      How? Ever heard of CDs or USB memory sticks? One is enough.
  • re Triple GDP (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jelizondo (183861) * <jerry@elizondo.gmail@com> on Sunday July 25, 2010 @10:40PM (#33025254)

    According to the CIA World Fact Book: [cia.gov]

    • Population: 29,121,286
    • GDP (Per capita:) $800 (2009 est.)

    So now, expenditure over six years (Jan 2004 - Dec 2009) is $300,000,000,000.00 divided by six is around $50,000,000,000.00 per year

    Per capita is $1,716.96 or more than double the GDP per capita of the country!

    I would think that the US would get better resultsif the money was simply given to each inhabitant, the $800 they already make plus $1,700 from the US, would triple the GDP per capita, no small feat.

    Just smile for the camera and show that you have not handled explosives or fired guns in the last week (paraffin test) and you get your weekly expenditure; you don't show up for a week then you lose the privilege, i.e. you knew you couldn't pàss the test.

    Who said "You Can Rent an Afghan But Never Buy One"? It would rent the whole lot of them for a long time!

    • No, not at all (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday July 26, 2010 @12:10AM (#33025906)

      Handing out money would accomplish nothing. Few reasons:

      1) True wealth is not in having money, it in having the ability to produce things. Rich countries are rich not because they have cash, they are rich because they have strong economies. While cash could be used to buy that, it won't be. Direct handouts are never used in that fashion.

      2) It would just fall in to the hands of warlords. When you get an anarchy situation where the strong can prey on the weak that is what happens. Happens all the time in Africa with aid. You can hand it out to individuals if you send in guys with guns to make sure that happens, but when they leave it'll get taken.

      3) It would just be used to fuel further fighting. Afghanistan is highly tribal. What this means is people don't really have a large scale, national, identity. They identify just with their "tribe" which in this case is basically extended family living together. By and large they see no problem with stealing from, killing, etc other tribes to their own gain.

      Unfortunately, there is no real solution to the problems there. You cannot help people that do not want to help themselves. This is true with individuals who have addictions, and it is true with cultures, with nations, as well. Help only works when the group you are trying to help wants it, and is willing to worth with you. The Afghans don't, so help will do nothing.

  • Pretty pathetic (Score:3, Insightful)

    by horza (87255) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @10:42PM (#33025256) Homepage

    I am surprised to see the Guardian plunge to the depths of New of the World. I personally am shocked at soldiers killing other soldiers without trial, the use of 'deadly' surface to air missiles rather than the fluffy kind, and the carnage that is being caused by the Taliban to... er 2000 civilians (eh, I thought they were stronger than any time since 2001 so why target civilians, and why is it the fault of the US?). As for the supposedly massive collateral damage by the Allies, 195 people over 10 years is tragic but not huge. Even then it's a mix of French, Polish, British, etc that are at fault so it's not a targetted campaign. Worth quoting a paragraph not unsurprisingly near the end:

    "Most of the material, though classified "secret" at the time, is no longer militarily sensitive. A small amount of information has been withheld from publication because it might endanger local informants or give away genuine military secrets. Wikileaks, whose founder, Julian Assange, obtained the material in circumstances he will not discuss, said it would redact harmful material before posting the bulk of the data on its "uncensorable" servers."

    Phillip.

  • Conflicted (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cappp (1822388) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @10:45PM (#33025282)
    I'm finding myself more and more conflicted in my thoughts regarding wiki-leaks. On the one hand a democracy can only thrive when an informed populace can make choices grounded in reliable facts. The increase in secrecy and the rush to classify and obscure data therefore undermines the functioning of democracy. This isn’t good, we can all agree on that but I’m just not sure if wikileaks is going about things in the right way. Worse, I don’t know what better way there is. Over at Gawker [gawker.com] there’s a quick reminder of the media-savvy that underpins the way wiki-leaks works – as they point out,

    Assange has a long history of making vague conspiratorial claims of harassment that don't stand up to scrutiny

    Similarly a New Yorker piece [newyorker.com]commented on the leaked video and noted that

    These pieces of missing information are not just inherent limitations in video. The producers themselves have chosen not to provide them. There appears to be a purpose to the omissions, which is underlined by the Orwell quote at the start, the prefatory explanation, the quotes and dedication at the end, even the way the helicopter crew’s cruel remarks are edited in a few places for effect. Although the producers identify the camera of the Reuters journalist who, along with his assistant, will be killed by Apache cannon fire, they don’t point to the AK-47 or the RPG launcher carried by other men with whom the journalists are walking in a group. Stripped of much context and weighted with commentary, this video is both an important document of the war, courageously leaked after the military had steadily refused to release it, and, in its way, a propaganda film

    Another article [fas.org]

    Last year, for example, WikiLeaks published the “secret ritual” of a college women’s sorority called Alpha Sigma Tau. Now Alpha Sigma Tau (like several other sororities “exposed” by WikiLeaks) is not known to have engaged in any form of misconduct, and WikiLeaks does not allege that it has. Rather, WikiLeaks chose to publish the group’s confidential ritual just because it could. This is not whistleblowing and it is not journalism. It is a kind of information vandalism. In fact, WikiLeaks routinely tramples on the privacy of non-governmental, non-corporate groups for no valid public policy reason. It has published private rites of Masons, Mormons and other groups that cultivate confidential relations among their members. Most or all of these groups are defenseless against WikiLeaks’ intrusions. The only weapon they have is public contempt for WikiLeaks’ ruthless violation of their freedom of association, and even that has mostly been swept away in a wave of uncritical and even adulatory reporting about the brave “open government,” “whistleblower” site. On occasion, WikiLeaks has engaged in overtly unethical behavior. Last year, without permission, it published the full text of the highly regarded 2009 book about corruption in Kenya called “It’s Our Turn to Eat” by investigative reporter Michela Wrong (as first reported by Chris McGreal in The Guardian on April 9). By posting a pirated version of the book and making it freely available, WikiLeaks almost certainly disrupted sales of the book and made it harder for Ms. Wrong and other anti-corruption reporters to perform their important work and to get it published. Repeated protests and pleas from the author were required before WikiLeaks (to its credit) finally took the book offline. “Soon enough,” observed Raffi Khatchadourian in a long profile of WikiLeaks

    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @11:52PM (#33025774)

      Secrets are sometimes necessary, and yes that includes to the government. As a simple example: Would you want a criminal getting a hold of information relating to an active investigation against them? How about the locations and identities of people in witness protection?

      If you think any of that should be kept secret, then you agree that secrets can be necessary, including for the government. In that case the question is when should they be allowed to keep a secret. Then you have to start exercising discretion about what you release. You need to weigh the public's need to know versus the damage it could do.

      Wikileaks just wants to release any and everything. They don't seem to give any consideration as to public good or need, they just want to leak everything. That I cannot agree with, be it for public or private entities. Anyone who says "There should be no secrets," is just the other side of the "If you've done nothing wrong you have nothing to hide," coin.

      Also, as noted, they seem to have a political agenda. The helicopter video is a great example. It is possible that you could feel the public needed to know about it. Fine, but then the unaltered, uncommented video would be what to release. If you really believe the public needs to see what happened then that is what to show them. The unedited truth. When you edit and comment on it, you are trying to use it as a tool to present a point of view. You aren't interested in telling the truth, you are interested in pushing an agenda.

      Using facts to do that doesn't make it any better. Bill Orielly is nearly always factual in his presentation. He rarely fabricates stuff. However it isn't true. What he does is pick and choose the facts he likes, and choose how to frame them to push a point of view. So while it isn't lying per se, it is still misleading. Wikileaks seems to be willing to do the same.

      So between those two things, I really can't support them. They try to pretend to be the good guys but to me their actions do not show them in that light.

      • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Monday July 26, 2010 @12:16AM (#33025944)

        Would you want a criminal getting a hold of information relating to an active investigation against them?

        In fact, sometimes we do, in countries where people are labeled "criminals" for being members of the wrong political groups or other abuses of human rights.

        Wikileaks just wants to release any and everything

        In fact, the Wikileaks volunteers do review the material that is submitted to them to ensure that it is not personal information about someone or other private information. They are not there to "release everything," they are there to release information that is of political or historical interest that some group of people is deliberately trying to keep secret from the public. You may disagree with that specific goal, but the least you could do is refrain from criticizing Wikileaks for things that they do not do.

        Fine, but then the unaltered, uncommented video would be what to release.

        They did release it, so what is your point? The commentary on the video is their own take on it, but do not present this as them trying to hide the truth from people -- anyone can download an unedited copy.

    • Re:Conflicted (Score:5, Informative)

      by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Monday July 26, 2010 @12:06AM (#33025876)
      It is fair to point out the following:
      1. Wikileaks released an unedited version of the collateral murder video, which anyone else could add commentary about the weapons to. Assange also explained the decision not to include commentary on the RPG, which was that in their opinion, the supposed RPG may have been a camera tripod.
      2. The leaking of secret societies' material is in line with Wikileaks guidelines: Unless otherwise specified, the document described here...Is of political, diplomatic, ethical or historical significance. (emphasis mine).
      3. As the article you quoted pointed out, Wikileaks did remove a book after being contacted about it. Yes, Wikileaks is run by humans, and humans do make mistakes, and at least they corrected that mistake when pressed on it. It is not like the Wikileaks staff went out searching for books to publish on their site; someone outside of Wikileaks thought it would be worthwhile for Wikileaks to publish the book.

      Frankly, given that the US government has a plan in place to discredit Wikileaks (which was, of course, leaked on Wikileaks), any article which takes an overtly negative tone of Wikileaks is immediately suspect. Anything that criticizes Wikileaks without at least mentioning that it is an organization of loosely connected volunteers should be taken with a grain of salt. There is a lot of misinformation about Wikileaks, and we really should not be perpetuating it.

  • One wonders... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @10:49PM (#33025304) Journal
    Y'know what really puts the 300 billion figure in perspective? That the GDP of Afghanistan is ~13 billion. If you can't crush an adversary like a bug for almost a quarter-century's worth of its GDP(and that is comparing your military expenditures vs. their entire economy) there is some part of you technique that you really need to take a hard look at...

    Worse, even if we were having it all our way in military terms, our best case scenario seems to be installing our ridiculously corrupt and dubiously competent puppet leader sufficiently securely that we can leave before he gets overthrown. Given what happened in Iran when our ridiculously corrupt and dubiously competent puppet leader fell, this strategy seems to have a strong structural weakness.
    • Re:One wonders... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 0123456 (636235) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @10:57PM (#33025384)

      Y'know what really puts the 300 billion figure in perspective? That the GDP of Afghanistan is ~13 billion. If you can't crush an adversary like a bug for almost a quarter-century's worth of its GDP(and that is comparing your military expenditures vs. their entire economy) there is some part of you technique that you really need to take a hard look at..

      To be fair, the US military could trivially crush Afghanistan by pattern-bombing it with nukes. The trouble is that 'destroying the country in order to save it' would be a little difficult to justify to American voters and Afghanistan's neighbours.

      The real issue is that Americans really don't care about Afghanistan, but no politico is yet willing to say 'this was a stupid idea and we're leaving'. If 'crushing' the country really mattered they'd have done it long ago, but it doesn't.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cptdondo (59460)

      I spent 21 years in the US military. It's the best military in the world, bar none.

      But... It's a tool. To put it in perspective, a B787 is far advanced compared to the Titanic... But a fleet of them could not have influenced the disaster when the Titanic sank.

      Like a 787, the US military is a tool finely honed to a specific purpose, which was to win a European theater mass war. To apply this tool to the one-on-one guerrilla fighting that is Afghanistan means to retrain and requip every troop, and to rewri

      • Re:One wonders... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Matt Perry (793115) <perry...matt54@@@yahoo...com> on Monday July 26, 2010 @02:11AM (#33026488)

        I spent 21 years in the US military. It's the best military in the world, bar none.

        How do you know that? What other militaries have you served in to which you can compare your experience and declare one to be the best?

        • Re:One wonders... (Score:5, Informative)

          by Aceticon (140883) on Monday July 26, 2010 @04:39AM (#33027108)

          Part of the process of making a soldier consists of inbuing them with an exceptionally strong sense of group and belonging to the group: it's well know that in the thick of it men do not fight above all for their countries they fight above all for their mates.

          Thus it's not surprising that an (ex-)member of a military outfit will belief that "(we) are the best".

          I've seen the same thing in some ex-high-school colleagues of mine, years later when we had a reunion, after they had been in the Portuguese special forces.

    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday July 26, 2010 @12:04AM (#33025860)

      There's a big difference. The US military is the best of the best at destroying shit. If things need to get blown up, people need to die, etc, they can do it quickly and professionally. Never before has there been a military with such raw power.

      What the US military is not good at is conquest, going in and taking a place over. For that you need lots and lots of troops on the ground, and a willingness to be fairly ruthless. None of that guarantees a conquest is successful, of course, history is full of people pushing out oppressors, but it is needed for it to work. That's not what the US army does, never has except for maybe in Japan in WWII.

      So what they US army can do, and has done well, is act as an army of liberation. A country has a powerful occupying force, the US can smash that force and liberate the populace. France in WWII is a good example. That is what the US tried to do in Afghanistan and Iraq. Come in, toss out the assholes in power.

      The problem is that liberation only works when people want to be liberated, and are willing to work for it. It worked in France because of two reasons:

      1) The French people wanted the Germans out, pretty much to a man. There weren't a whole lot of Nazi supporters there, relative to the total population.

      2) They were willing to work together. When the Nazis were kicked out, the worked as a country to untie and rebuild. They understood that freedom meant sacrifices.

      This is not the case in Afghanistan. It is a very, very tribal mindset over there. For the most part people care about what is good for them and their tribe. There is little sense of national identity, little cohesion. To them, freedom means freedom to take your neighbour's shit and make your tribe richer/stronger. As such liberation is near impossible. They aren't willing to work for it.

      So if the objective was to kill every person in the country, I've no doubt the US military could accomplish that goal quickly and efficiently, with little loss on their own part. That's not the goal though.

      • by mjwx (966435) on Monday July 26, 2010 @03:44AM (#33026890)

        The problem is that liberation only works when people want to be liberated, and are willing to work for it. It worked in France because of two reasons:

        1) The French people wanted the Germans out, pretty much to a man. There weren't a whole lot of Nazi supporters there, relative to the total population.

        2) They were willing to work together. When the Nazis were kicked out, the worked as a country to untie and rebuild. They understood that freedom meant sacrifices.

        This is a very important point, one of Sun Tzu's keys to victory and the most important was what was translated as "the moral law". The moral law was a populations willingness to follow a leader, in WWII most of Europe was willing to follow the Allies or Stalin rather then Hitler. Same with the Pacific, the Filipinos, Indonesians and Thais happily threw off Japanese rule in favour of the Americans at their first opportunity.

        It wasn't the US Army who shot Nazi collaborators when they liberated Holland, the Dutch did.

    • Re:One wonders... (Score:4, Informative)

      by brit74 (831798) on Monday July 26, 2010 @02:01AM (#33026458)
      Y'know what really puts the 300 billion figure in perspective? That the GDP of Afghanistan is ~13 billion. If you can't crush an adversary like a bug for almost a quarter-century's worth of its GDP(and that is comparing your military expenditures vs. their entire economy) there is some part of you technique that you really need to take a hard look at...

      The problem is Pakistan. There's a safe haven of Islamic militants across the border. Even the Pakistani government doesn't know what to do with them. Even worse, approval ratings for the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden are in the 35-50 percent range in Pakistan - which is, no doubt, concentrated in the tribal north west. When we're the demonized "evil West trying to destroy Islam" and the Taliban is "one of them" - i.e. fanatical muslims who "just want to implement God's government on earth", even when it means throwing acid in women's faces for wearing the wrong clothing. When they're that mired in conspiracy and in-group loyalty, it can be difficult to win a war.

      2007 Poll: "According to poll results, bin Laden has a 46 percent approval rating...al Qaeda has a 43 percent approval rate; the Taliban has a 38 percent approval rate; and local radical extremist groups had an approval rating between 37 percent to 49 percent." http://edition.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/09/11/poll.pakistanis/index.html [cnn.com]
  • PR (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 25, 2010 @10:52PM (#33025346)

    Is Wikileaks now part of the PR machine? The feeling you're obviously supposed to take away with you from this is: Americans are fighting an uphill battle and are lost against the steadily increasing forces of terrorism it tried to root out.

    an American-led force often starved for resources and attention as it struggled against an insurgency that grew larger, better coordinated and more deadly each year.

    When in reality Americans rolled in there ridiculously outnumbering and, more importantly, ridiculously out-being-equipped the mostly half-civilian rabble that dared stand up against them. There is no Afghan War. A war implies two sides fighting, not one waltzing in with vastly superior technomagic, while the other one is hiding, showing their heads, getting beat to a pulp, running for cover and getting shot in the back, until the next round of civilians gets fed up with sights like that and picks up their weapons to meet a similar fate.

    Much more importantly, this isn't the right question at all. It shouldn't be "Why is this so difficult?" but "Why are we over there, taking their stuff and murdering everyone who so much as raises his voice against us? And shouldn't we be stopping that?" We demanded it. We were promised it. Success. We did our thing and now we don't care anymore. So it doesn't happen. Yay us, yay humanity. We make me sick.

    Fuck me and fuck every single one of you. If I had three wishes I'd wish for a plague on all our houses, then a deluge, and a rinse-repeat.

  • by MindlessAutomata (1282944) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @10:54PM (#33025362)

    Citizens and proud patriots of America, look away! Such things are not for your eyes. It is not for you to know how our war (done on your behalf, my steadfast Americans!) is going. Such things will only hurt the morale of our troops--and recruitment numbers! We beseech you, our countrypeople, you have no right to any of this information, for we do not belong to you--you belong to us.

  • So what *is* there? (Score:5, Informative)

    by ugen (93902) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @11:23PM (#33025582)

    As it often seems to be the case on /., the discussion centers around "talking points" conveniently fed by originator based on fairly clear /. views and agenda.

    So, I went and began reading these reports. My impression is that these do have operational value, and are probably of some interest to military buffs (and certainly to enemy intelligence, though they probably knew most of that anyway). What I did not find in these reports is 1) any particularly unvarnished picture that differs markedly of what my impression of war in Afghanistan was until now based on otherwise available data 2) any real insight into why the war is going the way it is

    I think, in fact, that both these points were answered many times in variety of other media and in other types of discourse.

    My personal opinion is that other than sensationalist value, primarily due to the fact that classified information has been released, there isn't much here that will further any decent causes in our world. There is, however, a clear boon to stature of mr. Assange and his site and he is the one that benefits the most.

    Since it is clear that he let his original source in US military down (essentially letting him be a fall guy who will probably be charged with various offenses), I think it is safe to say that mr. Assange is in it for himself and himself alone.

    For my part, I will not patronize or support his venture. While in theory openness is good, it is only good if it is for the right reason. "Openness" for the sake of personal ulterior motives is just as bad if not worse than what it purports to fight.

    • by Sabriel (134364) on Monday July 26, 2010 @12:47AM (#33026136)

      Since it is clear that he let his original source in US military down (essentially letting him be a fall guy who will probably be charged with various offenses),

      Please correct me if I've lost track of this whole snafu, but if your source blabs to someone else that he's leaking military secrets, and that someone else turns your source over to the military, how are you the guy who let him down?

  • by TheNarrator (200498) on Monday July 26, 2010 @12:03AM (#33025850)

    I know, according to the official story, the original mission was to go to Afghanistan and kick the Taliban out of power and get Osama Bin Laden.

    I don't really think that's the mission right now. I haven't heard anything about Osama Bin Laden in quite a while. What exactly are they trying to do? Perhaps these documents can shed some light on that?

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