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US Discusses Initial Conclusions From Recovered bin Laden Material

In this May 7, 2011 photo provided by NBC News, White House National Security Adviser Tom Donilon appears on NBC's 'Meet the Press' in Washington.
In this May 7, 2011 photo provided by NBC News, White House National Security Adviser Tom Donilon appears on NBC's 'Meet the Press' in Washington.
Michael Bowman

The Obama administration says material recovered from Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan show the terrorist leader was concerned about the image he projected to the world, and that he remained active in al-Qaida operations nearly 10 years after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. 

More than a week after the death of Osama bin Laden, the Obama administration is making initial comments on what has been described as a "treasure trove" of data acquired from computer hard drives and other equipment seized at the bin Laden hideout.

"Still looking at it at this point. The size is quite notable," said Tom Donilon, national security advisor of the president, who spoke on Fox News Sunday. "It is the largest cache of intelligence information gotten from a senior terrorist that we know of. It will need to be translated, it will need to be assessed. And we are in the process of doing that."

Donilon says recently released videos in which bin Laden appears to be rehearsing statements, watching television newscasts about himself, and seemingly having dyed his beard provide insights into the deceased terrorist leader.

"I think it shows an attention to his own image, and an attention to the propaganda aspects of the al-Qaida operation," said Donilon.

The national security advisor declined to comment on any specific intelligence gleaned from the seized material to date, or whether it might lead to the discovery of other al-Qaida figures or terrorist plots. But he did say the material reveals bin Laden was very much involved in the terrorist network.

"Osama bin Laden was not just a symbolic leader of al Qaida," said Donilon. "In fact, he had operational and strategic roles he was playing. And that is clear in the information we have been able to see to date."

Donilon said among the first people President Barack Obama contacted after the successful Special Forces operation in Pakistan was former President George W. Bush.

Also appearing on Fox News Sunday was former Vice President Dick Cheney, who congratulated Obama on killing Osama bin Laden. But Cheney bemoaned the Obama administration’s stated policy of not employing water boarding to pry information from terror suspects.

"I think a lot of the techniques that we had used to keep the country safe for seven years [under President Bush] are no longer available," said Cheney. "It is not clear to me today if we still have an interrogation program that we could put somebody through should we capture a high-value detainee that had crucial information."

CIA Director Leon Panetta has said some of the intelligence that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden came from detainees who were subject to so-called "enhanced interrogation".

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