Update May 6, 2011 below.
The day after the surprise news that World’s enemy number one, Osama bin Laden, had been killed in Abbottabad in northern Pakistan by U.S. Navy’s SEAL, WikiLeaks had twittered that the Gitmo Files contain hints about Osama’s whereabouts since at least 2008. Well, not really.
Libyan Guantanamo detainee Abu Faraj al-Libi, operational chief of al-Qa’eda and long-term (he met him already in 1991) associate of Osama bin Laden and al Qa’eda’s number two in command, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, had moved to Abbottabad already in 2003 as his Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO) file of 10 September 2008 (an update after 8 December 2006) tells. Through Osama’s designated courier Maulawi Abd al-Khaliq Jan, Al-Libi had received a letter in July 2003 requesting him to take responsibility of collecting donations, organizing travel, and distributing funds to families in Pakistan. Osama even stated that al-Libi would be his official messenger in Pakistan. Immediately then Al-Libi moved his family to Abbottabad. While waiting for a meeting with Abd al-Khaliq in Mardan, al-Libi was arrested by Pakistani Special Forces on 2 May 2005 and transferred to U.S. custody on 6 June 2006. As a “High Value Detainee,” he was then transferred to Guantanamo on 4 September 2006.
The file lists numerous reasons for recommendation for “Continued Detention Under DoD (Department of Defense) Control.” Most serious were manufacturing remote activation devices for suicide bombings employing video game cartridges and knowledge of al-Qa’eda possibly possessing a nuclear bomb and its exact location. But they also include the note that “Detainee also provided safe havens for UBL (Osama bin Laden) and senior Al-Qa’ida leader Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri in 2001 and 2003,” for instance being “in charge of a secret guesthouse in Kabul at which UBL and Zawahiri stayed in October 2001 (!).“
Of course, that doesn’t prove that al-Libi has provided Osama a safe haven in Abbottabad. The detainee’s conduct in Guantanamo is described as “moderately compliant.” That he and his family had lived in Abbottabad when he was arrested in 2005, a small garrison city in Pakistan and thus pretty unlikely of being disclosed as an al-Qa’eda hideout, may just be coincidentally. On first sight it seems as if WikiLeaks launches conspiracy theories here (see, for example, responses here and here).
On the other hand, Obama was still campaigning when the update on al-Libi had been filed. Did interrogators of the JTF-GTMO pay any attention to the mentioning of Abbottabad and when had the newly elected President of the United States been briefed on the al-Qa’eda “key figure”?
In addressing the nation after Osama bin Laden had been killed, Obama himself has mentioned that he knew about his whereabouts since August 2010. That might not be the whole truth. If WikiLeaks had in fact revealed (since 24 April 2011, and forced by The New York Times and The Guardian pressing ahead after having received the files from “another source”) what was supposed to be a well-known secret, Obama didn’t have a choice but kill Osama within a week.
Update May 6, 2011. You do not want to miss Alexander Cockburns tirade on the Obama Administration lies about Osama’s demise here.