News

Bin Laden Was Worried About Arab Spring, Says US Intelligence Chief

A roadside vendor in Pakistan sells newspapers with headlines about the death of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, Lahore, May 3, 2011.
A roadside vendor in Pakistan sells newspapers with headlines about the death of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, Lahore, May 3, 2011.

Multimedia

Audio
  • Listen to entire Clapper interview with VOA's Gary Thomas

It was nearly one year ago - May 2, 2011 - that U.S. commandos killed the world’s most wanted terrorist. After a decade of false leads and dead ends, Osama bin Laden was cornered in a walled compound in the city of Abbottabad, Pakistan, not far from that country’s elite military academy, and shot dead. His body was buried at sea.

Map showing Abbottabad, Pakistan, where Osama bin Laden's compound was located.
Map showing Abbottabad, Pakistan, where Osama bin Laden's compound was located.
A treasure trove of intelligence in the form of documents and computer drives was found in the compound, giving intelligence officers invaluable insights into bin Laden and al-Qaida.

In a rare interview, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told VOA that at the time of his death Osama bin Laden was concerned that his al-Qaida movement was being sidelined by the forces of what came to be known as the “Arab Spring.”

"They [Arab Spring protests] weren’t fomented or inspired," Clapper said. "They weren’t a global jihadist sort of thing. They had other aspirations, other motivations. And so I think there was some concern to the extent that he was aware of all this - again, given his isolation - that would cause him and his movement to be marginalized."

Listen to entire Clapper interview with VOA's Gary Thomas

Clapper said officers were somewhat surprised at bin Laden's isolation.

"He used to commission or swear in new members, he proselytized personally, he engaged," Clapper said. "And of course all that came to an end. And so while his value, his importance, I believe, was his iconic identification and the ideology he represented. And so he was still issuing at least philosophical guidance, some of it operational, some of it aspirational, and frankly, in my mind, some of it delusional."

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
Clapper said bin Laden had not given up trying to hatch new plots to follow up on the devastating attacks of September 11, 2001 in New York and Washington. But analysts say al-Qaida Core, as intelligence officers call the Pakistan-based original group, slipped in importance even before bin Laden's death.

Professor Audrey Kurth Cronin, a terrorism expert at George Mason University, said al-Qaida attacks have killed more Muslims than non-Muslims, which is a major blunder for a group seeking support in the Islamic world.

"The operation to kill bin Laden had a significant impact on al-Qaida," Cronin said. "But if we look at the movement strategically, al-Qaida had begun to decline some years before that. So it’s not taking away from that operation to point out that the broader sense of support, the degree to which al-Qaida was successfully mobilizing the people it was trying to reach in Muslim majority countries, had already turned pretty sharply some years before then."

What of al-Qaida one year after the death of its leader? Intelligence chief Clapper said al-Qaida Core today no longer poses the same threat as it once did because bin Laden’s lieutenants have also been targeted. But, he added, the West should not let down its guard.

"Al-Qaida Core is, of course, profoundly weakened, but it’s not gone," he said. "And that, I think, underscores the necessity of sustaining the pressure on al-Qaida Core. It is a mere shadow of its former self simply because the leadership, the senior leadership - the ranks below Osama bin Laden - have been severely decimated."

Clapper pointed to how the group has now morphed into so-called “franchises” in Yemen and Africa. But he said most of them do not appear to pose much of a direct threat to the West.

"It has created franchises," Clapper said. "But for the most part, with one exception, they are essentially locally focused and not so much consumed with attacking the [U.S.] homeland. The one exception to that continues to be Al-Qaida on the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, which of all the franchises I view as the most dangerous and most threatening to both Europe and the United States."

Clapper added that there is also concern in intelligence circles that pro-democracy Arab Spring movements in places like Syria, for example, may be hijacked by extremists.

The Director of National Intelligence ascribes the lack of any successful jihadist terrorist plot in the United States since 9-11 to the much improved cooperation among the agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community. But, he added, he never turns down a bit of luck - and there may be some of that involved, too.

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
    Next 
by: Mike
April 29, 2012 8:12 AM
There have always been people who hear little voices telling them to prey on or mislead others. Today we call them bi-polar or something related. Some people have used religious schemes to convince others to follow them and make them politically powerful. OBL was such a person but there are many others. Poor ignorant people are a good recruiting ground for religious manipulation by the clever. OBL is gone but the ignorant are still with us.

by: Terrence
April 27, 2012 10:13 PM
Osama Bin Laden was responsible for thousands of innocent people being killed. In America, in countries around the world where they blew up Embassys and all the innocent civilians killed in Iraq. If 911 did not happen the US would not be in Afganistan or Iraq. IT was all his fault.

by: Tony Quirke
April 27, 2012 2:49 PM
Whether or not you believe in an invisible friend (God or Allah), let your own conscience guide your behaviour. If it feels wrong, it probably is, whatever the snake oil salesman is telling you.

by: Bin Wazir
April 27, 2012 8:09 AM
Robert you ignorance and hatred is astounding. I think a little more education and spelling lessons would help you understand what 1 billion other people (predominantly smarter than yourself) have about Islam and help you spread peace rather than your hate mongering. At any rate with your current views seems like you are no better than BinLaden only difference he unfortunately had balls to do, while all u do is spew hate.

by: Salam
April 27, 2012 6:11 AM
if Osama Biniladin was poor minded person and doing things for Pakistan

by: James
April 27, 2012 5:24 AM
@Paul: No, we need leaders that put the people first, and do not place religious belief in government. Free thought and speech are Enlightenment values, not religious ones.

by: Okoro Leo C
April 26, 2012 9:39 PM
The USA is God's gift to the world. She is contributing immensely in the scientific and technological development of the world, promotion of democratic ideals, promotion of world peace and progress, human development and preservation of human rights, and more especially her relentless war on terror. God bless the USA!

by: Okoro Leo C
April 26, 2012 9:39 PM
The USA is God's gift to the world. She is contributing immensely in the scientific and technological development of the world, promotion of democratic ideals, promotion of world peace and progress, human development and preservation of human rights, and more especially her relentless war on terror. God bless the USA!

by: Robert Makoi
April 26, 2012 8:26 PM
osama bin laden was like unto so-called profet mohammed, the only difference was that O Bin Laden did not proclaim revelations from allah, the only one and only false god.

by: Akira
April 26, 2012 6:32 PM
Paul, it is leaders that put 'GOD then Family' before country and before upholding the rights and dignity of other people that inspired a very small amount of so called 'Miss led Middle Easterners' to threaten/kill others. You say that Christians are being bullied, yet you fail to note that the vast majority of those killed by these groups are not Christian, suggesting that you did not even finish reading the article you responded to with such a holier-than-thou attitude.
Comments page of 2
    Next 

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs