The Lawfare Podcast: Peter Bergen Reassessing Osama bin Laden

By Jen Patja Howell
Wednesday, August 4, 2021, 5:01 AM

The U.S. raid on the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, that brought Osama bin Laden to ultimate justice also recovered nearly half a million files. In 2017, these files were publicly released, but few people have the expertise, the experience and the time to go through those materials, as well as interview family members of bin Laden and former associates to try to paint a full picture of the man. One person who fits that description is Peter Bergen, the author or editor of eight books, including "Holy War, Inc.," the definitive early study of bin Laden and al-Qaeda. Peter is also a vice president at New America and a national security analyst for CNN. Most recently, he is author of "The Rise and Fall of Osama bin Laden," a cradle-to-grave biography that takes advantage of a lot of this new material.

David Priess sat down with Peter to talk about bin Laden's evolution from a shy, humble, religious young man to the leader of a global terrorist network bent on killing thousands of civilians. They talked about the development of al-Qaeda as an organization and the U.S. response to al-Qaeda attacks, but they focused especially on what Peter learned from the 470,000+ files and his interviews that made him change his mind about a few things regarding al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.