What was in Osama bin Laden’s tape collection?

Richard Fenton-Smith BBC News Magazine

After the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, Osama bin Laden was forced to flee the city of Kandahar, where he had been based since 1997. Several compounds were hastily vacated, including one, opposite the Taliban foreign ministry, where al-Qaeda bigwigs met. Inside it, 1,500 cassettes were waiting to be discovered.

Flagg Miller with the al-Qaeda tapes

Flagg Miller with the al-Qaeda tapes

Picking through the ransacked property, an Afghan family found this haul of audio tapes, which they swiftly removed and took to a local cassette shop – with the Taliban now gone, there was money to be made producing previously banned pop music, and these were ripe for wiping and filling with the hit songs of the day.

But a cameraman working for CNN heard about the haul, and convinced the shop owner to hand the tapes back, saying what they contained could be important. He was right. This was, after all, al-Qaeda’s own audio library.

The tapes eventually made their way to the Afghan Media Project at Williams College in Massachusetts, who asked Flagg Miller – an expert in Arabic literature and culture from the University of California, Davis – to immerse himself in this hotchpotch of sermons, songs and recordings of intimate conversations. He is still the only person to have heard the collection in full. Read More »

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Grateful nation owes sick 9/11 survivors lifelong medical help (editorial)

Staten Island Advance editorial

The ailing heroes of September 11, a disproportionate number of them Staten Islanders, ought not to be left to worry about the future of their vitally needed official health benefits. Making sure these survivors have the security of knowing their health needs arising from their efforts at Ground Zero will always be met is the least a grateful nation can do.

Nevertheless, under the federal government’s Zadroga Act, the World Trade Center Health Program for surviving first responders and other sick victims is due to expire in September, the latest in a sequence of expiration dates which Congress has had to extend.

These benefits and the financial support provided by the September 11th Victims Compensation Fund, which is due to end in October 2016, must be made permanent. Read More »

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Military cancels hearing for 9/11 suspects


WASHINGTON — The U.S. military has canceled a pretrial hearing for suspects in the September 11, 2001, attacks, a military spokesman said Sunday, in another setback for the government in its efforts to try the five men being held at the Guantanamo Bay prison.

A defense department spokesman said the hearing, originally scheduled for Aug. 24 to September 4, was canceled by the military judge.

“The judge cited issues that remain unresolved with regard to a claimed defense counsel conflict of interest,” Cmdr. Gary Ross said.

News of the cancellation was first reported by ABC News.

Defense attorneys for Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four alleged co-conspirators raised concerns in 2014 that they were being spied on by the FBI. They said that created a conflict of interest between them and their clients. Read More »

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