What was on Bin Laden's bookshelf?

Last Updated May 20, 2015 6:34 PM EDT

Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden apparently read a wide range of literature -- from the works of U.S. journalist Bob Woodward and MIT professor Noam Chomsky, to Foreign Policy magazine, to video software manuals -- according to a trove of documents released Wednesday by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).

The cache -- composed of documents found during the 2011 Navy SEAL raid of the compound used to hide Bin Laden -- includes some non-classified, English-language materials found in or around the compound, along with other recently declassified documents.

ODNI listed 39 English-language books, including two written by MIT professor and linguist Noam Chomsky, a work by Pulitzer Prize-winner Bob Woodward, two books by former State Department employee William Blum, and other works from American authors critical of the George W. Bush and Obama administrations. Several issues of U.S. news magazine Foreign Policy were also found, including select articles from Newsweek, Time, and the "Best Innovations of the Year" issue of Popular Science magazine.

"I'm really surprised. What a weird book for him to have," Christine Fair, the co-author of "Fortifying Pakistan: The Role of U.S. Internal Security Assistance," told CBS News. The introduction of the book was among the English-language selections recovered from the compound.

"The book was really about why is Pakistan so terrible at counterterorrism so its actually so ironic that Osama bin Laden had this book on his bookshelf," she said.

Fair also said she is unsure how bin Laden might have procured the book, since it was not for sale in Pakistan. The book was in the hands of some Pakistani government officials, but otherwise only for sale from Amazon or the U.S. Institute for Peace. It was not available for download when it was first released.

All of the English-language books PDF files, not hard copies.

Michael O'Hanlon, who authored another one of the books called "Unfinished Business, U.S. Overseas Military Presence in the 21st Century" said bin Laden "probably wanted to understand better the bases from which we could be watching and, if we found him, striking him!"

And Henry Sokolski, who co-authored "Checking Iran's Nuclear Ambitions," said his book's presence on the list is a larger reminder of the reach of the written word.

"I think other cultures and certainly our adversaries read and what's exciting about this revalation is the possibility that Osama bin Laden did that as well. And he was an enemy. If he did read, we ought to pay more attention to what we're writing and we ought to read as well," he said.

Other religious documents littered the compound: books on Islam, the Koran, "Muhammed in the Bible' and a profile of bishops in the Church of English. The software and technical manuals found on the grounds showed a wide-ranging fascination with video creation: the documents showed several how-to's on video editing software like Adobe Premiere, and even an "Art of Digital Video" book.

"Silkscreening instructions" was a document listed by ODNI as part of the "documents probably used by other compound residents" -- along with a video game guide to "Delta Force: Xtreme 2," a first-person shooting game released in 2009.

The al Qaeda leader had touted Woodward's "Obama's Wars" in a video message released on the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks. The terrorist group commander had recommended that Americans read the Woodward book in order to determine whether the Obama administration lived up to his "Yes, we can" promise.

"The enemy reads what we write, they listen to what we say, they try to gain insights all the time," said CBS News Senior National Security Analyst Juan Zarate. "Bin laden very much saw himself as a strategic leader of this global jihadi movement fighting a historic battle against the remaining superpower in the world, the United States, and so he wanted to understand as much as possible what made the United States work. He wanted to understand its vulnerabilities."

The national intelligence office is expected to review hundreds more documents in the near future for possible release.

A few other notable books and documents in the cache are listed below:

  • Bloodlines of the Illuminati by Fritz Springmeier
  • America's Strategic Blunders by Willard Matthias
  • Obama's Wars by Bob Woodward
  • Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies by Noam Chomsky
  • Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance by Noam Chomsky
  • The Best Democracy Money Can Buy by Greg Palast
  • Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins
  • Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions since World War II by William Blum
  • Maps of Iran's nuclear enrichment sites
  • An Arabic grammar manual and dictionary
  • Game Spot Videogame Guide (listed as a "document probably used by other compound residents")
  • Delta Force Extreme 2 Videogame Guide
  • Grappler's Guide to Sports Nutrition by John Berardi and Michael Fry (listed as a "document probably used by other compound residents")
  • Silkscreening Instructions (listed as a "document probably used by other compound residents")
  • Guinness Book of World Records Children's Edition 2008 (scans of several pages, listed as a "document probably used by other compound residents")