Source: 2.7 terabytes of data recovered from bin Laden compound

(FILES) This undated file picture shows Saudi dissident Osama bin Ladin speaking at an undisclosed place inside Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden was killed late on May 1, 2011 in a firefight with covert US forces deep inside Pakistan, prompting President Barack Obama to declare 'justice has been done' a decade after the September 11 attacks. AFP PHOTO / FILES (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images) CBS

Bin Laden computer files
CBS
A law enforcement source tells CBS News that 2.7 terabytes of data were recovered from the laptops, computers, hard drives and other storage devices seized from the bin Laden compound. It's unclear whether all of the 2.7 terabytes are original files or if there are multiple copies of files. To put the amount of data recovered in perspective, just one terabyte of data could hold about 2,000 hours of audio or 220 million pages of text.

Intelligence officials have not said how they are analyzing the data, but a DOD computer forensic analyst who works on computers captured on the battlefield tells CBS News forensic analysts are most likely using search indexing tools and software to rapidly analyze seized electronic devices to locate information of interest to the intelligence committee.

Sources said much of the material seized in the daring raid was encrypted so the messages could not be read if they were intercepted.  

Among the material confiscated was al Qaida propaganda material including al Qaida messaging strategies to inspire and recruit new Jihadists. There is some indication that bin Laden was continuing to develop his strategy to utilize homegrown operatives that were intimately famiilar with the countries in which they lived. There was also material on current events, in an apparent effort to keep bin Laden abreast on news from around the world.

Complete coverage: The Killing of Osama bin Laden

The compound did not appear to have been used as a nerve center or a command and control post, but analysts are looking further to determine the extent of bin Laden's involvement in day to day decisions and long-term strategy.

bin Laden had cash, phone numbers sewn in clothes

The first priority, sources tell CBS News, is for analysts to determine if the mother-lode of data contains any actionable plots in the works against the U.S. and western interests. Analysts will also seek to identify any al Qaida operatives or extremists in the United States or elsewhere.

A good portion of the material is being analyzed at CIA headquarters at Langley and at other intelligence community at sites around the world.

Another top priority for analysts is to search for evidence of a connection between al Qaida and al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), in particular links between bin Laden and AQAP's leader Anwar al awlaqi, living in Yemen, and Nasir al-Wahishi, AQAP's operational leader.

Digital forensic and evidence recovery specialists were part of the raid team---springing into action after the compound was secured. The team had to rapidly preserve everything, freezing everything on computers so that it didn't get wiped out. The recovery specialists had to be particularly careful before they unplugged the computers not to trigger software programs designed to destroy hard drives or delete data that may have been installed by bin Laden's people as protection.

Photos: Osama's hideaway

"The trick was to get it out fast but to preserve everything, a source said, "for intelligence purposes first but also for evidence for possible prosecutions,'' of terrorists.

Sources say it could take weeks or months to get a handle on what the U.S. has and what the value of it is.

CBS News' Pat Milton contributed to this story

  • Emily Rand

Comments

CBSN Live

pop-out
Live Video

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.