One very real, contemporary way for people to know who we are long after we’re dead? By looking at the inner-contents of our electronics. And while the world knows Osama bin Laden as a ruthless terrorist responsible for legions of senseless deaths, what we didn’t know was just how downright pedestrian the data he was surrounded by in private actually was — until now.
A new Twitter account, @AbbottabadImage, is tweeting images found on devices at the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where Osama bin Laden was killed by Untied States soldiers in 2011.
“I am hoping people interrogate the archive contextually, realizing that these images are from a large number of devices used by a variety of people,” wrote the person behind the account. “Despite the impulse to assign meaning to everything, the majority of the files are digital detritus (cache thumbnails, system images), and looking for meaning here is like sorting through an entire neighborhood’s trash.”
In the files, there’s a picture of chickens, and a photo of a bucket of apples. There’s a picture of a cat, and some serene landscapes that look like they could be the background on your computer. Someone at the compound seems to have saved an X-men vs. Street Fighter poster, and there’s a picture of bin Laden’s face photoshopped over the burning towers of the World Trade Center.
The images on that Twitter account are just a tiny part of a trove of bin Laden’s documents released by the CIA on Nov. 1. According to the agency, the release includes 79,000 “audio and image files.”
The CIA released around 470,000 files in total, though nothing that “would directly damage efforts to keep the nation secure; materials protected by copyright; pornography; malware; and blank, corrupted and duplicate files.”
Bin Laden and those who lived at the compound also had a good number of copyrighted items on hand or that were discovered in the Abbottabad complex. The U.S. found copies of movies such as Antz, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, and a CNN documentary called “In the footsteps of bin Laden.”
The fact remains, as ever: Be you Joe Schmoe, or a global terrorist, one uniting factor persists — everyone looks at dumb, weird shit on the internet. Everyone.