Intelligence sources: Much of the bin Laden material is encrypted

Pakistani police and media personnel gather outside a burnt compound at the hideout of Osama bin Laden following his death by U.S. Special Forces in a ground operation in Abbottabad on May 3, 2011. U.S. officials warned it would probe how bin Laden managed to live in undetected luxury in Pakistan, as gripping details emerged about the U.S. commando raid that killed the al Qaeda kingpin. Inside the compound Complete coverage: The killing of Osama bin Laden
Pakistani police and media personnel gather outside a burnt compound at the hideout of Osama bin Laden following his death by U.S. Special Forces in a ground operation in Abbottabad. AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images

Intelligence sources tell CBS News that the intelligence community is currently conducting an "intense examination" on the huge amount of material seized during the raid by U.S. Navy Seals and CIA operatives on bin Laden's secret compound.

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

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The material was stored electronically primarily on computers, laptops, hard drives and storage devices such as DVDs and thumb drives. There were also handwritten documents. There was no internet or land line phone service at the compound. It appears everything was being brought to and from the compound by couriers.

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.

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.

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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.

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"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.

  • Pat Milton

    Pat Milton is a CBS News investigative producer