WASHINGTON — Osama bin Laden in his final days schemed over an effort to kill President Barack Obama as well as other top U.S. officials, documents recovered from his compound show.
A senior administration official confirmed the existence of a bin Laden proposal to assassinate Obama and Gen. David Petraeus, first reported Friday by Washington Post columnist David Ignatius. The administration official said the documents show that bin Laden spent much of his time brooding and offering guidance that went unheeded and that he was extremely concerned with improving al-Qaida’s public image, going so far as to consider changing the group’s name.
Senior leaders of al-Qaida believed the group’s image had been seriously damaged because of its attacks against other Muslims, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.
Bin Laden’s suggestions were not advanced enough to be considered a serious plot, the official said.
A cache of personal letters shows a “brooding, frustrated and isolated bin Laden,” the official said. The al-Qaida leader seemed disconnected from other members of the group and from their operations.
The documents include correspondence between bin Laden and key lieutenants, including one letter in which he proposed changing the name of al-Qaida “because of the group’s declining public image,” the official said.
In the months since the operation that killed bin Laden last May, government analysts have been poring over letters, documents, video and other items taken from the compound.
Officials are preparing to declassify the material and make some of it public, according to the official, who declined to release the documents or make them available for inspection.
Ignatius said in his column that a senior administration official showed him the documents, in which bin Laden said that “Obama is the head of infidelity” and that killing him would throw the U.S. into crisis because Vice President Joe Biden was “totally unprepared” to take over the presidency. Bin Laden hoped to target the president’s plane, Ignatius said, something that U.S. officials do not believe al-Qaida has the ability to do.