Osama Bin Laden files: The odd finds from al-Qaida data released to the public by CIA

Osama Bin Laden
Osama Bin Laden

MORE than six years after his death, Osama Bin Laden remains one of the most notorious names in the world.

The al-Qaida founder was responsible for atrocities across the world and is the subject of many myths and conspiracy theories, but following the release of nearly 470,000 files recovered in the raid that led to his death in 2011, bit by bit he’s being demystified.

The CIA say they’ve released the files to the public in the interest of transparency and to enhance public understanding of the terrorist leader.

“Today’s release of recovered al-Qa‘ida letters, videos, audio files and other materials provides the opportunity for the American people to gain further insights into the plans and workings of this terrorist organization,” said CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

“CIA will continue to seek opportunities to share information with the American people consistent with our obligation to protect national security.”

A large proportion of the videos, letters, audio files and other materials released by the CIA are as you’d expect – journals, propaganda and home videos. But there are definitely some surprises in there…

1. Charlie bit my finger – again! was there

It didn’t take long for people to start spotting oddities within the files and a 10-year old viral video that was once YouTube’s most watched ever certainly sits in that category.

2. So was Mr Bean

Mr Bean Television GIF by Head Like an Orange - Find & Share on GIPHY


Having had no internet for fear of being tracked, Bin Laden and the others in the compound needed other ways to entertain themselves – hence the viral videos. Included in the files though was also an episode of Mr Bean, which is more than a little weird to imagine. The episode was dubbed in Pashto.

3. Crocheting had a big part to play in the files

A woman crocheting
(Bojan89/Getty Images)


It’s impossible to know how much of the data was of interest to Bin Laden specifically, and not for the eyes of other people living in the compound, but that doesn’t make the fact that there were at least 28 crocheting tutorials among the files any less humorous.

4. Tom and Jerry were well-represented

Tom And Jerry Monday GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY


As well as the famous cat and mouse, there were files titled things like “funny cat” and “HORSE_DANCE”, as well as Wallace and Gromit and Shaun the Sheep.

5. There was an abundance of reaction gifs

Excuse Me Wow GIF by Mashable - Find & Share on GIPHY


Search gif in the files and thousands of results will be turned up, including the likes of “smartass.gif” and “girl-surprised”.

With no internet though, it’s unlikely these were used to elevate any WhatsApp conversations.

6. Pornography

While there were pictures with titles like “_booby_2.jpg” people have been a little surprised that there doesn’t appear to be all that much pornography in the files.

But, with Bin Laden evading capture for 10 years, it probably wouldn’t have been beyond him to give something a fake title. “Mr Bean”, perhaps.

7. There were also bunch of films the CIA couldn’t release because of copyright

Ice Age Sid GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Antz, Cars, Chicken Little and Ice Age were some of the children’s films Bin Laden seemingly had on file to entertain himself and the family he was staying with – while a documentary titled “where in the world is Osama Bin Laden” was also among the collection.

National Geographic and BBC nature documentaries were included, as were historical documentaries on India and Russia.

Files omitted:

  • Antz
  • Batman Gotham Knight
  • BBC Great Wildlife Moments
  • Biography – Osama bin Laden
  • Cars
  • Chicken Little
  • CNN Presents: World’s Most Wanted
  • Final Fantasy VII
  • Heroes of Tomorrow
  • Home on the Range
  • Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
  • In the Footsteps of bin Laden – CNN
  • National Geographic: Kung Fu Killers
  • National Geographic: Inside the Green Berets
  • National Geographic: Predators at War
  • National Geographic: World’s Worst Venom
  • Peru Civilization
  • Resident Evil
  • Storm Rider – Clash of the Evils
  • The Kremlin from Inside
  • The Story of India
  • The Three Musketeers
  • Where in the World is Osama bin Laden

The Bin Laden files are available to look through and search on the CIA website.