Several news outlets, citing unnamed intelligence officials, began reporting late last night that computer files and documents seized from Osama bin Laden's Abbottabad compound (pictured above) reveal that al-Qaeda was considering an attack against U.S. trains, potentially on September 11, 2011, the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
AFP leads with this news, citing a U.S. Department of Homeland Security bulletin for law enforcement agencies that AFP managed to obtain. The bulletin noted that beyond the intelligence, which was from February 2010, there was "no recent information to indicate an active ongoing plot to target transportation and no information on possible locations or specific targets." DHS added that al-Qaeda "was looking into trying to tip a train by tampering with the rails so that the train would fall off the track at either a valley or a bridge," and that the terrorist network "also noted that newer train cars each have their own braking system, and that movement in a specific direction would derail it, but would not cause it to fall off the track."
The New York Times adds further detail to AFP's report, noting that the information about the possible rail attack was contained in a handwritten notebook, and that Christmas, New Year's Day, the day of the State of the Union address, or the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks were all floated as possible dates for the plot to be executed. Rather than focusing on the rail plot, however, the Times leads with the growing sense among intelligence officials, as they frenetically translate and analyze information from the compound's documents, hard drives, flash drives, and DVDs, that bin Laden wasn't a mere al-Qaeda figurehead in recent years, as some analysts and terrorism experts had believed. "He continued to plot and plan, to come up with ideas about targets and to communicate those ideas to other senior Qaeda leaders," one administration official tells the Times. Bin Laden, the paper adds, appears to have been "in touch regularly with the terror network he created."
Other news outlets are surfacing further details about the documents. CBS News notes that memos from the compound reference potential attacks against major American cities like New York, Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles. The Washington Post notes that the intelligence could reveal leads on the whereabouts of other senior al-Qaeda leaders.