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What we learned about Osama bin Laden from the contents of his computer

A look into the psyche of what was once the world’s most wanted man. 

The CIA has released nearly half a million files that were seized in the 2011 raid of Osama bin Laden’s compound. Videos, audio files, images, and documents are among the thousands of things taken from the al-Qaeda founder’s computer, which the CIA has now released “in the interest[s] of transparency and to enhance public understanding of al-Qaeda and its former leader.”

A lot of these files are the sort of horrific garbage you would expect (shock twist as bin Laden enjoys beheading videos), and as such don’t enhance any public understanding at all. But some files are far more telling than others. Below is a genuine list of things found on bin Laden’s computer, with added commentary about what each file reveals. Remember, the eyes are the window into the soul, but Windows is the window into the deepest, darkest bits underneath your soul that you like to keep hidden.



Osama bin Laden had a truly twisted mind, evident in his preference of 1998’s Antz over 1998’s far superior A Bug’s Life.


No matter how much time you have to kill in a compound, alternating your finger over the first two keys you see is always preferable to saving files under proper names.

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

The War on Terror did not go far enough.

Loose Change

The fact Osama bin Laden had a copy of a conspiracy theory documentary that purports that Bush did 9/11 proves one thing and one thing only. Jet fuel can’t melt steel beams.

Chicken Little

He got really lonely in those last few days.


_booby_1.jpeg did not live up to the hype.

Charlie Bit My Finger

Terrorists, they’re just like us!

MS Clipart depicting 9/11

One of the planes that hit the trade centre towers was flight number: Q33NY

Open a new Word document and type in capital letters Q33NY

Click on Font Style and select “Wingdings”. You will then will be amazed!!

Mr Bean

Bin Laden? More like Bin Laughin'

The Yahoo logo

Backwards, medieval thinking extends to a choice of search engines.

28 crocheting tutorials

A professor in the world's most preeminent crocheting school should not have rejected that application. 


He really was evil.


In all seriousness, it’s not possible to know how many of these files were downloaded and used by bin Laden as opposed to how many belonged to other people in his compound. And as Lily Hay Newman at WIRED points out, we shouldn’t lose sight of the real, important revelations in the document dump. 

Also, you should clear your hard drive. 

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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Technology can change the world – provided we have a measure of democracy, too

You could say we need a technological revolution for the many, not the few. 

Over the last five decades, the American Consumer Technology Association’s annual jamboree has grown to become the world’s largest tech show: attracting over 190,000 visitors and 4000 companies, with 7,460 reporters filing 59,969 reports over the course of four days in Las Vegas. In the process, it has achieved an almost mythical status – from unveiling the first-ever home VCR (Philips 1970) to Bill Gates’ resignation from Microsoft in 2006, and has included cameo appearances by the likes of Jay-Z and Barack Obama.

As a fully qualified geek (Electrical Engineering degree, 20 years in tech – before it was cool) and the shadow minister for Industrial Strategy Science and Innovation, I couldn’t resist seizing the opportunity to venture to Las Vegas while on a family holiday to the US’ west coast; hoping, against all hope, to see the progressive future of a technology-enabled, more equal world.

If only.

But I did emerge with a renewed conviction that technology can solve our problems – if we use it to do so.

In some ways, the most remarkable thing about the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was the way it demonstrated how technology has taken over our entire world. CES was a car show in the middle of a health show, which happened to be around the corner from a home show, which was adjacent to a sports show that was next to an entertainment show. Just about every sector was represented.

Nissan had a huge stand for their new autonomous vehicle showcasing the ‘Brain-Vehicle Interface’, as did Philips for their new sleep enhancing devices, and Huawei for their connected home. In 2018, technology can be used as an enabling platform to aid just about everything. And in a world where near enough everything is politicised, technology is very political.

But this was not evident from CES: not from the stands, neither the keynotes, nor the participants. There were few speakers from civic society nor governments, and those politicians who attended – such as Donald Trump’s Transportation Secretary, Elaine Chao – talked only of their ‘excitement’ at the sunlit uplands technology could guide us to. The show existed in its own, largely self-sufficient world. While Ford created an entire street to show off its autonomous cars, there was no reference to who would pay for the road, pavements, lamp-posts and guttering if only robots worked.

And as a politician rather than an engineer, it is the societal impact that matters most to me. One realisation brought about by my visit is that I have greatly under-estimated the consequences of driverless vehicles: communications, parking, urban layout, and public transport are all likely to be deeply impacted. The automobile industry is working to position cars as your personal moving office-cum-front room-cum-hotel-cum-lecture theatre; where you can work, maintain personal and social relationships, unwind and learn – all while going from A to B. How will crowded, under-funded public transport compete?

At the show, Nissan launched its Brain-to-Vehicle technology, which reads the driver’s brainwaves to determine when the car’s intelligence should intervene. Although I'm personally unsure about the inclusion of brain surveillance in the driving experience, it may well be the next logical step as we increasingly give up our data in return for ‘free’ services. Certainly the anthropologists at Nissan argued that this was the very definition of assisted artificial intelligence.

Fortunately, autonomous vehicles are not the only way to get around. Improvements in battery technology mean that – between electric scooters capable of folding away into airplane carry on, and electric bikes with the power of motorcycles – personal mobility has become a market in its own right.

Personal health and sport were also big themes at the event. Philips has brought back the night cap, which not only looks far more fetching than the Victorian original, but is now also capable of lulling you gently into a slumber before monitoring the quality of your sleep. Orcam’s discrete camera-glasses for the visually impaired can read text and recognise people, whilst L’Oréal’s UV Sense is a sensor small enough to be worn comfortably on your fingernail that detects ultraviolet exposure.

One aspect of the show that has remained largely unchanged is its demographics. Whilst the glossy adverts on the walls depict women and BME people using technology, those actually designing it were, with a few exceptions, male and largely white. As always, there were no queues for the women’s loos and while there were not any ‘F1 girls’, the gender balance was improved largely by attractive women, who were not engineers, being employed to ‘explain’ technological advances.

Weeks later, the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos was also dominated by technology, which the Prime Minister used as a fig leaf to cover the absence of vision for Brexit. Lacking in both the CES and Davos, was any sense that the interests of the many had any significant stake in what was going on. We need a Labour government to help change that.

Chi Onwurah is the Labour MP for Newcastle upon Tyne Central, and the shadow minister for industrial strategy.