By Jamie Crawford
From his Abbottabad hideout, Osama bin Laden was apparently concerned about the financial health of al Qaeda, according to recently declassified documents found during the U.S. raid on his compound one year ago.
Money pressures were evident elsewhere, as well, as seen in a letter from an al Qaeda affiliate checking the morality of financing operations by murdering drug traffickers to steal their money.
In a letter from bin Laden to one of his confidants known as Atiyya in late May 2010, the shape of al Qaeda's finances, and its ability to carry on operations seemed to be on the terror leader's mind.
"Please report to me in detail about the financial situation on your side and about your vision and plans to improve it," bin Laden wrote, adding that money for al Qaeda operatives and their families should be set aside regardless of the near-term financial picture.
In a separate letter from Jaysh al-Islam, a Gaza-based al Qaeda affiliate, to Atiyya, the group makes clear it is in need of money to "support jihad" and questions the permissibility of various revenue streams to finance its mission.
The guidance offered was likely forwarded to bin Laden, according to the Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, which released the documents on its website Thursday. The correspondence took place between October and November of 2006.
Some of the letters included questions about whether it is permissible to accept money from rival Palestinian groups that receive money from Iran, a Shiite nation, that the Sunni al Qaeda saw as an "infidel" state. The group also asked whether it was permissible to invest money in the stock market in support of jihad, and asked for guidance on whether an operative could kill a drug dealer to use their money, and use drugs to lure people to serve as possible double agents against their enemies.
While Atiyya claims he lacks the necessary expertise to advise on the technicalities of the stock market, he told the group the killing of drug traffickers is "permissible in specific circumstances." The legitimacy for illicit activity is granted in the guidance, as long as it does not lead to a greater corruption of the individual's values.
While drugs and alcohol are prohibited items in Islam, proceeds gained from these vices are permissible to spend exclusively in the furtherance of jihad, Atiyya's guidance stated, if there are no other means available.
And accepting money from Iran is also permissible, according to the letter - unless it is solely derived from prohibited means such as drugs, alcohol, or the meat of improperly slaughtered animals. If such methods are confirmed as the source of the money, Atiyya said, "then the proper thing is that it not be permitted to be taken."