A trove of documents that could hold the key to Al Qaeda's future have been gathering dust, say critics who believe the Obama administration is ignoring them because they don’t say what the White House wants to hear.
In fact, according to senior U.S. intelligence officials quoted in a Wall Street Journal op-ed published Thursday, the 1.5 million documents swept up in the Pakistan compound where Navy SEALs killed Usama bin Laden in May 2011 prove that bin Laden was still running Al Qaeda, and that the terror group was not in retreat, as the administration claimed just a year after the raid.
To date, the public has seen only two dozen of the 1.5 million documents. The haul included hard drives, cell phones, thumb drives, handwritten materials, tapes, magazines, data cards, video tapes, audio, newspapers and DVDs.
At the time, an interagency team led by the Central Intelligence Agency gave the cache a quick “scrub” looking for actionable intelligence, according to the op-ed, written by Weekly Standard senior writer and Fox News contributor Stephen Hayes, and Thomas Joscelyn of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. According to the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, that team produced 400 separate reports based on the documents.
But then, the article claims, the documents remained untouched “for months – perhaps as long as a year.”
In 2012, in comments based on what Hayes and Joscelyn said was an analysis of 17 “handpicked documents” that “reached the conclusion the Obama administration wanted,” Obama announced that the defeat of Al Qaeda “is now within our reach.”
But that wasn’t the situation at all, according to the intelligence officials who spoke with the two writers, as well as a sliver of the documents recently divulged in the ongoing trial of Abid Naseer, who is accused of plotting an attack on the New York subway system.
The unnamed sources in the Wall Street Journal op-ed said a small team of analysts were given brief access to the documents around the time the administration was saying Al Qaeda was on the run. They said the documents indicated that bin Laden was not only in control, but had expansion plans – he was giving direction to teams as far away as West Africa before he died.
The Iranian-Al Qaeda connection is also described.
“The DIA team began producing analyses reflecting what they were seeing in the documents,” wrote Hayes and Joscelyn. “That wasn’t what the Obama White House wanted to hear.” So the White House cut off access to the documents and put an end to any more analyses, according to their sources, they said.
Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, who served as Obama’s Defense Intelligence Agency director from 2012-2014, sat down for an interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier, which will be televised this weekend. He said the intelligence gleaned in those documents is “the opposite” of what the administration’s narrative has been about bin Laden and the strength of Al Qaeda.
When reached by Fox News, DNI spokesman Jeffrey S. Anchukaitis denied there was any attempt to cut off access to the bin Laden documents, which some critics say should now be made completely available to the public.
“The thousands of documents recovered from bin Ladin’s compound were carefully analyzed by an interagency task force that produced several hundred intelligence reports,” Anchukaitis said in a statement.
“These reports and the raw holdings were subsequently made available in a timely manner to the Intelligence Community and military analysts who were cleared to review them. Any accusation that critical intelligence of analytic value was withheld from any agency with a need to know, is false.”
Fox News' Lucas Tomlinson contributed to this report