By Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News chief Pentagon correspondent, and Robert Windrem, NBC News investigative producer for special projects
The U.S. Navy Seals who killed Osama bin Laden recovered a number of the former al-Qaida leader’s journals at the Pakistan compound where he was hiding, but they were forced to leave behind detailed logs of bin Laden and al-Qaida activity that the Pakistanis have not yet shared, senior U.S. officials told NBC News on Wednesday.
It was not clear how much material was left behind when the Seals evacuated the compound in Abbottabad on May 1, but senior U.S. military officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it could have been a substantial amount.
Senior U.S. intelligence officials, also speaking on condition of anonymity, described the journals that were retrieved by the Seals as showing that bin Laden was active in planning al-Qaida operations.
"It shows he had a clear focus on attacking the United States, and a clear interest in how he might be able to insert operatives into the United States without alerting authorities,” one said.
In a previous Open Channel post, another U.S. intelligence official described the journals as showing that bin Laden was “fully engaged to carry out other 9-11 attacks.”
The second official said the Seals als recovered correspondence between bin Laden and senior al-Qaida officials concerning ideas for attacks.
The official said the correspondence was both one-way -- directives for the other al-Qaida leaders and affiliates – and two-way -- responses to suggestions made by his subordinates.
In the correspondence, bin Laden would often discuss places he would like attacked, the best times to attack and even which personnel he thought would be best for particular jobs.
"He was always trying to refine his approach," said the official.
The official also said that bin Laden would correspond through a chain of command, that the messages would be sent via courier to the organization's No. 3, its operations director, most recently Abu Atia, a North African who took over a year ago when longtime bin Laden aide Sheikh Sayed was killed in a drone attack. Atia would then distribute the message using his own courier network, the official said.
The official said there was little if any material in the journals in which Bin Laden reflected on his role or his "meaning of life" other than some poetry.