While the daring raid by a Navy SEALs team in Abbottabad, Pakistan early Monday morning may have given Americans the terrorist they so desired, it also gave intelligence personnel an invaluable trove of electronic data.
"They cleaned it out," one official told Politico. "Can you imagine what's on Osama bin Laden's hard drive?"
The assault team managed to grab personal computers, thumb drives and electronic equipment during their 40-minute operation to get bin Laden.CBS News correspondent Pat Milton reports that the intelligence community is exploring the information obtained during the raid in an attempt to learn al Qaeda intentions and the identity and whereabouts of key al Qaeda players.
The source said a top priority continues to be the dismantlement of al Qaeda's core. U.S. officials are turning their focus to the elimination of Ayman al-Zawahri, bin Laden's second in command, and other senior operative planners who pose a threat to western interests. The source said there is a concern however that core al Qaeda members in Pakistan may be stepping up attack plans.
"They got bin Laden but not the keys to the kingdom," the source said.
As is usual in the world of intelligence gathering, not much more is known for sure about what exactly was captured during the raid, or even where it is at the moment. Politico reports it's being examined "at a secret location in Afghanistan." Fox News claims a "volume of materials" that will be "exploited and analyzed" has already begun to arrive at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va.Al Qaeda records seized during raid on compound
The intelligence that led to bin Laden's location was largely gained, officials say, the old fashioned way - through spying and interrogation of known associates.
As President Barack Obama and countless others have said, the fight against al Qaeda goes on. This trove of electronic information, the very information that once fed bin Laden's own need-to-know desires, can only help.