Osama bin Laden tried to orchestrate a plot to kill President Barack Obama by ordering his terrorist network to target presidential aircraft, according to an administration official citing documents found in the al Qaeda leader’s compound in Pakistan after his death last May.
U.S. officials said the threat wasn’t serious. Al Qaeda didn’t have the capability to shoot down aircraft, officials said.
“Bin Laden clearly had bold ambitions to kill as many innocent people as possible,” another administration official said.
The official added that the U.S. believes al Qaeda’s “capacity to pull off those types of complex attacks has been greatly diminished, and that bin Laden himself spent much of his time brooding and providing guidance that often fell on deaf ears.”
News about the plot against Mr. Obama resurfaced Friday in a column by David Ignatius of the Washington Post, who reviewed the documents.
Intelligence analysts have spent the months since bin Laden was killed sifting through documents, letters, video and other materials retrieved from his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
Some of the information is being declassified and is set to be released to the public in coming months.
“However, part of the picture that emerges from these documents is a portrait of a weakened and beleaguered core al Qaeda—an organization rife with internal disputes over its global strategy and operational priorities—and whose now-deceased leader was obsessively focused on the group’s own image,” the administration official said.
Bin laden also sought to launch attacks against aircraft transporting Gen. David Petraeus, the current Central Intelligence Agency director who at the time was the commander in charge of the Afghanistan war. And a letter found in the compound shows bin Laden considered changing al Qaeda’s name in an apparent attempt to rehabilitate its public image.
Many of these details were previously known. Television reports last year mentioned the threat against Mr. Obama, and the plot to kill Gen. Petraeus emerged during recent confirmation hearings.
Wall Street Journal