Even at the end, Osama bin Laden, obsessed with America, was pushing his debilitated organization to attack U.S. sites despite knowing that his rag-tag group of terrorists weren't up for the fight, according to an official who's seen items found in the al Qaeda leader's Pakistan hideaway.
"He was still focused on carrying out attacks on the United States, he saw that as the target," said John Brennan, assistant to the president for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism.
But, said Brennan, U.S. and allied attacks on al Qaeda had hurt the organization, frustrating bin Laden, who the Obama aide said was in regular contact with his top lieutenants.
"He was a little bit out of touch with just how debilitated his organization was. He was pushing for these major types of attacks and his lieutenants were trying to tell him, 'Yes we know what you want to do, great aspirations, but our ability to do it has been degraded because we're losing people,' and he was concerned about that," added the White House national security adviser.
Brennan described what U.S. special forces found inside bin Laden's bunker during a candid press roundtable sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor this morning. Brennan was frank about the discovery, noting that much of what was found validated what U.S. intelligence agencies thought about al Qaeda at the time of the attack. [See photos of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.]
But among the surprises was a revelation that bin Laden was so concerned about the reputation and safety of his terrorist group that he was making plans to find a new headquarters.
"He was thinking of ways to either rebrand al Qaeda or possibly move," said Brennan, because Pakistan wasn't safe for him and his organization anymore. "It did reveal that it's an organization that is in distress."
Also, after probing how it was that bin Laden could live in Pakistan for years without going noticed, Brennan firmly dismissed allegations and rumors that the local and state government played a role in hiding the architect of the 9/11 attacks.
"Surprises? I think we all assumed when we found out that bin Laden was in Abbottabad that there may have been some type of Pakistani complicity. I haven't seen it. I think the Pakistanis were as surprised as we were."