CTC recently released a cool analysis of the Osama bin Laden letters by Recorded Future. Basically, they took the raw documents and ran them through a unique instance of Recorded Future so that they could use all of their visualization tools against the 175 pages of letters that were released.

The OBL analysis they posted was a really quick turnaround (36 hours after the letters went public), and showed the technical capabilities of RF to rapidly extract and visualize data from unstructured text.

I thought that with some additional details on the process and results, this would be interesting to share with the AOL Government audience, as follows:

  • They treated these letters like they were any other source in the Recorded Future system. Their linguistic algorithms extracted a variety of data points available in the text and then visualized them in the Recorded Future user interface.
  • A network graph (see above) generated from the connections found in the body of letters makes it clear that the focal points are God, Yemen, and Afghanistan.
  • A time slider adjusts the displayed data, to look at how the full network of connections between entities evolved over several years.
  • The timeline analysis of the letters and references within, show there is a glaring absence of communication during 2008. Was this a time when Osama bin Laden went dark? Or is there sensitive information in documents from that period meaning they’re still under wraps?
  • Recorded Future includes the ability to extract references to predictions and future periods of time. From this particular set of documents, one future reference emerged related to planning the foundation of a Muslim state.
Switching from the isolated instance Recorded Future used for analysis of the letters to the full Recorded Future index of events culled from more than 70,000 public sources one can see below relations for each of these three individuals during the same timeframe covered by the corpus of letters – 2006 to 2011:

Anwar al-Awlaki (senior AQAP spokesman and recruiter, killed September 2011)
Saeed al-Shihri (deputy leader of AQAP, killed in February 2011)
Nasir al-Wuhayshi (senior AQAP leader and OBL’s former secretary)

This social network analysis provides an overview of the individuals in Yemen that were closely tied to Osama bin Laden during the period of his correspondence from Abbottabad, and then shifts to leverage the expanse of media coverage and discussion on AQAP to identify individuals tightly woven into that network that remain influential in AQAP today.

So many thanks to Recorded Future for sharing this fascinating analysis and insights. Keep them coming!