Letters from Osama bin Laden's last hideaway, released by U.S. officials intent on discrediting his terror organization, portray a network weak, inept and under siege -- and its leader seemingly near wit's end about the passing of his global jihad's glory days.
The documents, published online Thursday, are a small sample of those seized during the U.S. raid on bin Laden's Pakistan compound in which he was killed a year ago. By no accident, they show al-Qaida at its worst. The raid has become the signature national security moment of Barack Obama's presidency and one he is eager to emphasize in his re-election campaign.
Those ends are served in the 17 documents chosen by U.S. officials for the world -- and voters -- to see. The Obama administration has refused to release a fuller record of its bin Laden collection, making it difficult to glean any larger truths about the state of his organization.
What is clear from the documents released so far is that al-Qaida's leaders are constantly on the run from unmanned U.S. aircraft and trying to evade detection by CIA spies and National Security Agency eavesdroppers.
In one letter, either bin Laden or his senior deputy tells the leader of Yemen's al-Qaida offshoot that, in the face of U.S. power, it is futile to try to establish a government that will offer it safe haven.
"Even though we were able to militarily and economically exhaust and weaken our greatest enemy before and after the eleventh," the letter says, referring to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, "the enemy continues to possess the ability to topple any state we establish."
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