A couple of years after releasing the first cache of books and articles found in Osama bin Laden’s compound in 2011, the US government has followed up with a massive collection of computer files — including viral YouTube videos, anime, and the September 11th conspiracy documentary Loose Change.
The CIA-hosted archive includes hundreds of gigabytes’ worth of files, but its title indexes — for audio, documents, video, and images — are a lot more manageable. Agency director Mike Pompeo, who authorized their release, says the collection “provides the opportunity for the American people to gain further insights into the plans and workings” of al-Qaeda.
In addition to a mass of basic operating system elements and clearly terrorism-related material, they reveal some odd details about compound residents’ media diets. There are a few big-name films like Antz, Cars, and Resident Evil, which the CIA has withheld (alongside less prominent copyrighted videos) in case someone was planning to download a 174GB file to fish around for pirated media.
But beyond that, you can also find listings for a downloaded copy of the super-popular YouTube video “Charlie Bit My Finger;” as well as a video file called “Loosechange2” — likely a copy of the second edition of Loose Change, which argues that the September 11th attacks were masterminded by the American government, not bin Laden. You can even find a wealth of videos on crocheting baskets, baby socks, and beanie caps, among other things.
There are also several PDF files about Illuminati conspiracy theories, but some of those titles — like the book Bloodlines of the Illuminati — could already be found in the 2015 documents. Judging by the names on some audio files, someone had installed the video games Zuma Deluxe and Sniper Elite: Nazi Zombie Army 2. Gizmodo writes that there was a major anime fan there as well — and, more bizarrely, a fan of ancient bootleg erotic video games.
Given the sheer volume of the files and the fact that they were only released today, their full political and academic importance probably won’t be evident for some time. Also, in case it wasn’t already clear, these aren’t files that were personally downloaded or accessed by bin Laden — just a series of strange artifacts gathered in one of the decade’s most high-profile US military missions.