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What Was in Osama Bin Laden's Law Library?

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on May 29, 2015 12:55 PM

Just in time to update your summer reading list, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence has declassified "Osama's Bookshelf." The list details the 400 some pieces of writing Osama had on hand when his bunker was raided and he was killed by Navy SEALs in 2011. So, what beach reads could you take from Bin Laden's library?

Amongst the list are some predictable jihadist texts, which frankly are a bit too heavy for a summer read. There's also several conspiracy texts and a lot of pieces about Osama himself. Perhaps most surprisingly, Osama bin Laden seems to have been studying the law.

Congressional Research and Conspiracy Theories

Bin Laden's reading material can be broken down into a few different categories. First, there's the writing about the terrorist director himself. Bin Laden seems to have been a bit of a navel gazer, surrounding him self with books, articles and government reports about September 11th, Al-Qaeda, and himself. He also seemed to be a big fan of the Congressional Research Service, reading report after report on Al-Qaeda from the CRS.

There's also the critiques of American imperialism, from intellectuals like Noam Chomsky. But these are almost entirely overshadowed by the conspiracy theories. Bin Laden's bookshelf included "The Conspirators' Hierarchy," detailing how secret societies like Freemasons and "Bolshevism-Rosicurianism" control the world and "Crossing the Rubicon," on how the U.S. government orchestrated the September 11th attacks. Was Osama a 9/11 Truther?

Osama's Law Library

There's only one traditional legal textbook in Osama's collection. It's the "Handbook of International Law" by Anthony Aust. The book promises "a concise, user-friendly format allowing central principles such as jurisdiction and the law of treaties to be understood." The text includes sections on human rights and terrorism. It's perfect for "the new student of international law," which Bin Laden must have been, seeing as his terrorist network didn't quite comport with international legal norms.

Whether you're relieved or disappointed that Osama had so few legal text books, remember, those books are ridiculously expensive, even for a terrorist king pin. But, aside from text books, Bin Laden had plenty of other legal documents. In fact, aside from a collection of letters, Osama had more documents published by the U.S. government than any other type of reading material. These included Joint Chiefs of Staff reports, those CRS reports, and Department of Justice indictments against Al-Qaeda members.

For a jihadist, though, Osama bin Laden's books were pretty light on religion. There were only 11 religious documents in total. Osama had almost twice as many books about France.

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