Controversy over Esquire profile of the SEAL who shot bin Laden (or maybe didn't)

Was Phil Bronstein's 15,000-word Esquire profile of the SEAL Team 6 member who killed Osama bin Laden, a Navy SEAL who is "now retired and struggling to make ends meet while dealing with the psychological and physical scars of war," a bunch of “Complete B-S”? That's what some of "The Shooter's" fellow SEALs told CNN's Peter Bergen.

Adrian Chen tries to figure it out. Esquire stands by the story. [Gawker] Read the rest

The Zero Dark Thirty files

The National Security Archive, a nonprofit founded by journalists and scholars in 1985 "to check rising government secrecy," has published all of the available official government documents about the mission to kill the leader of al-Qaeda.

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US doxes Bin Laden (always use encryption, kids)

CNET's Emil Protalinski reports that Osama bin Laden did not encrypt the thousands of files stored in the Pakistani compound where he was killed, and "17 of the 6,000 documents have now been publicly released." (via @ioerror) Read the rest

Bin Laden wanted a marketing makeover for al Qaeda, documents show

Documents obtained by US special forces from the compound where Osama bin Laden was killed show that the terror mastermind was considering a rebranding campaign for al Qaeda, and a possible merger with other regional militant groups. Mat Apuzzo, in the Associated Press, got a briefing from US officials familiar with the documents:

The problem with the name al-Qaida, bin Laden wrote in a letter recovered from his compound in Pakistan, was that it lacked a religious element, something to convince Muslims worldwide that they are in a holy war with America.

Maybe something like Taifat al-Tawhed Wal-Jihad, meaning Monotheism and Jihad Group, would do the trick, he wrote. Or Jama'at I'Adat al-Khilafat al-Rashida, meaning Restoration of the Caliphate Group.

As bin Laden saw it, the problem was that the group's full name, al-Qaida al-Jihad, for The Base of Holy War, had become short-handed as simply al-Qaida. Lopping off the word "jihad," bin Laden wrote, allowed the West to "claim deceptively that they are not at war with Islam." Maybe it was time for al-Qaida to bring back its original name.

Can I make a suggestion, dead guy? Go Silicon Valley. Just take out some vowels, a la Flickr, gdgt, Tumblr, and the like. "LQD." Read the rest

Disney files trademark for "Seal Team 6;" possibly for "Killing bin Laden" snow globes, Christmas ornaments

SEAL Team 6 is the elite Navy squad credited with killing Osama bin Laden. One day after the raid, Disney Enterprises, Inc., filed applications with the US. Patent and Trademark Office to trademark the name "SEAL TEAM 6." The trademark has not yet been granted.

A quick USPTO web search shows three applications (screengrabs below). The applications cover a variety of uses. The first, for "Entertainment and education services." A second application covers "Toys, games and playthings; gymnastic and sporting articles (except clothing); hand-held units for playing electronic games other than those adapted for use with an external display screen or monitor; Christmas stockings; Christmas tree ornaments and decorations; snow globes." And a third covers "Clothing, footwear and headwear."

The USPTO database also shows that a company based in Calabasas called NovaLogic applied in 2002 and 2004 for a "Seal Team 6" mark for electronic games, and was denied.

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Michael Moore's "Some Final Thoughts on the Death of Osama bin Laden"

Michael Moore's "Some Final Thoughts on the Death of Osama bin Laden" is a tremendous essay on the larger significance of the assassination of ObL, and the way that the war on terror has transformed American politics and security:
For nine years I wrote and I said that Osama bin Laden was not hiding in a cave. I'm not a cave expert, I was just using my common sense. He was a multimillionaire crime boss (using religion as his cover), and those guys just don't live in caves. He had people killed under the guise of religion, and not many in the media bothered to explain that every time Osama referenced Islam, he wasn't really quoting Islam. Just because Osama said he was a "Muslim" didn't make it so. Yet he was called a Muslim by everyone. If a crazy person started running around mass-killing people, and he did so while wearing a Wal-Mart blazer and praising Wal-Mart, we wouldn't automatically call him a Wal-Mart leader or say that Wal-Mart was the philosophy behind his killings, would we?

Yet, we began to fear Muslims and round them up. We profiled people from Muslim nations at airports. We didn't profile multi-millionaires (in fact, they now have their own fast-track line to easily get through security, an oddity considering every murderer on 9/11 flew in first class). We didn't run headlines that said "Multi-Millionaire Behind the Mass Murder of 3,000" (although every word in that headline is true). You can say his wealth had nothing to do with 9/11, but the truth is, there is no way he could have kept Al Qaeda in business without having the millions he had.

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How did Osama bin Laden email without the US discovering?

"It was a slow, toilsome process. And it was so meticulous that even veteran intelligence officials have marveled at bin Laden's ability to maintain it for so long."

How did the world's most wanted terrorist managed to maintain email communication with his far-flung web of associates without being detected by US spooks, who were working awfully hard to sniff his headers out?

With an epic sneakernet. We know now, because after assassinating him, the US Navy SEALs departed bin Laden's Abbottabad home with about 100 flash memory drives that officials say appear to archive emails between bin Laden and his al Qaeda network around the world. From a report published today by the Associated Press:

Holed up in his walled compound in northeast Pakistan with no phone or Internet capabilities, bin Laden would type a message on his computer without an Internet connection, then save it using a thumb-sized flash drive. He then passed the flash drive to a trusted courier, who would head for a distant Internet cafe.

At that location, the courier would plug the memory drive into a computer, copy bin Laden's message into an email and send it. Reversing the process, the courier would copy any incoming email to the flash drive and return to the compound, where bin Laden would read his messages offline.

"How bin Laden emailed without being detected by US" (Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo, reporting for AP)

Related reading: This Time article ventures analysis on what bin Laden's family life was like. Read the rest

In Wikileaks Gitmo dump, nuclear revenge threats from Qaeda loyalists if bin Laden killed

CNET: "Recently-released WikiLeaks documents show that detained al Qaeda members have predicted nuclear reprisals if Osama bin Laden were captured or killed." Read the rest

US official: "Can you imagine what's on Osama bin Laden's hard drive?"

Politico's Mike Allen reports that during last night's raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, the Navy SEAL assault force is reported to have grabbed an assortment of computers, thumb drives, and disks. A U.S. official quoted in the Politico piece described this as "the mother lode of intelligence."
"They cleaned it out," one official said. "Can you imagine what's on Osama bin Laden's hard drive?"

U.S. officials are about to find out. The material is being examined at a secret location in Afghanistan.

"Hundreds of people are going through it now," an official said, adding that intelligence operatives back in Washington are very excited to find out what they have.

"It's going to be great even if only 10 percent of it is actionable," the official said.

Here's a crazy thought: what if there is no cache of OBL devices, and this is disinformation spread to destabilize what remains of Al Qaeda morale?

Osama bin Laden raid yields trove of computer data (Politico) Read the rest

Internet jihadis not amused by bin Laden's death

Random commenter guy on a jihadi message board, earlier today:
Just look at those beer-drinking, hog-eating, incestuous, red-necks, uncle sams, house negros...all celebrating outside the White House. It's like a holiday for them. Really a sad bunch of people. I'm just waiting for the Chocolaty Muslims, Talafies [fake Salafi Muslims], and those borderline murtad[apostates]/moderates to join the ugly bandwagon of cheering this so-called victory.
More in Foreign Policy's piece on reactions in that corner of the internet to bin Laden's assassination.

(via Blake Hounshell) Read the rest

ABC reports Osama ID'd with DNA from dead sister's brain, but hospital denies

Here's an odd twist in the Osama kill story: According to various reports, when bin Laden was shot dead by Navy SEALs, US operatives had DNA samples from his family members ready with which to ID the corpse. ABC News reported that the DNA came from the brain of bin Laden's sister, who was said to have died of cancer at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. But that hospital denies that his sister was there, or that the FBI requested any remains.

Let the conspiracy theories and/or zombie analysis bloom.

More in The Phoenix. Related: WBUR, CBS Boston. (via Steve Silberman) Read the rest