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Bin Laden Trial: What Did We Learn?

NCJ Number
Studies in Conflict & Terrorism Volume: 24 Issue: 6 Dated: November 2001 Pages: 429-434
Peter Bergen
Date Published
November 2001
6 pages
This article discusses the organization al Qaeda and the strengths and limits of the law enforcement approach to its leader Osama bin Laden.
The 2001 trial of four men linked to bin Laden and convicted for their roles in the bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania provided information about the activities of the al Qaeda group. What was learned was that the group had experienced severe money problems in recent years because bin Laden’s assets in Saudi Arabia had been frozen and because he spent vast sums on road construction in Sudan. Another fact that was learned at the trial was that the United States had some real success in recruiting informants about al Qaeda’s inner workings. The recruitment of a Sudanese member of al Qaeda was accomplished, supplying a wealth of information about the group’s business activities in Sudan, its operations against U.S. troops, and its paramilitary training in the Sudanese countryside. Another informant established that al Qaeda aggressively acquired exotic weaponry, and made serious inquiries into the purchase of uranium and the manufacture of chemical weapons. The trial also provided the fullest accounting of the recruiting methods, structure, and weapons training of al Qaeda. Participants were trained in hijacking buses and planes, how to mount kidnappings, and how to seize buildings. They also learned how to organize security, gather intelligence, and do a site survey of a target using stills and video. A month-long course on the operation and management of the cell was also provided. The trial also elicited information that showed the global scope of al Qaeda. 32 notes