He may have been one of the most dastardly millionaires in history, but not even Osama bin Laden was above writing flattering letters to his father asking for money.
“To start,” bin Laden writes to his dad, “I do not forget your favour in raising us, and deepening the concept of jihad in our hearts, and on spending on us, and in helping us get married, and a lot more of other things…what a father and how wonderful you are.”
Hearing this, any father knows what’s coming next: “There is another matter: When I got married, Abu Burhan Al-Suri covered the marriage costs and what was after. If these were not from your funds, kindly pay them back, so I will not be trapped in my grave.”
Beyond begging for money, the letters reveal quite a bit about al-Qaida.Why does this still matter? While bin Laden is dead, the organization he helped create–al-Qaida–is still going strong. Not only was the branch in Yemen, known as al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), responsible for the attack on the Charlie Hedbo office in Paris last year, but the Syrian branch of the organization, known as al-Nusra Front, has begun to rival the strength of the Islamic State in the war against Syrian President Bashar Assad.
But far from revealing an evil mastermind, the letters show bin Laden’s counter-surveillance skills to be a little more amateurish than expected. One funny highlight was when he became concerned that an Iranian dentist may have implanted a tracking chip in his wife’s tooth. “The size of the chip is about the length of a grain of wheat,” he wrote, “and the width of a fine piece of vermicelli.”
Maybe if bin Laden wasn’t worried so much about tracking devices the size of vermicelli, he would have noticed the trail leading the U.S. Navy Seals to his front door.