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U.S. spies dig into data from bin Laden raid

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Sifting through bin Laden's records
  • U.S. commandos took computer gear and CDs in the bin Laden raid
  • Investigators will look for active plots and other al Qaeda leaders, a source says
  • "This is a network, not a hierarchy," a former CIA chief says

Washington (CNN) -- U.S. intelligence officers are digging through a cache of computer equipment and data taken in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in hopes it will yield leads on other al Qaeda leaders and plots, according to American officials.

White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan said the U.S. commandos who stormed the northern Pakistan compound where bin Laden had been holed up took "whatever material we thought was appropriate and what was needed."

"We are trying to determine exactly the worth of whatever information we might have been able to pick up," Brennan said Monday. He would disclose no details, but added, "This is a very important time to continue to prosecute this effort against al Qaeda."

Bin Laden's death may have little impact on war, terror threat

A U.S. counterterrorism official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said the haul inclued electronics and storage media such as CDs and DVDs. That official said the cache was larger than expected, since bin Laden was communicating by courier and his compound had no phone or internet service.

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Investigators will be looking first for any sign of attacks being planned, then for anything that leads them to other top operatives of the terrorist network, the counterterrorism official said. A task force was being set up at the CIA to comb through the evidence seized in the raid, according to a senior intelligence official who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.

U.S. anticipates al Qaeda 'threats of retaliation'

Bin Laden was the mastermind of al Qaeda's September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, which killed nearly 3,000 people and triggered a war in Afghanistan that U.S. and allied troops are still fighting. But the terrorist network dispersed after the U.S. invasion that followed the 9/11 attacks, while others inspired by the group have taken up the cause with little or no direct connection to the group.

Former CIA Director Michael Hayden told CNN's "The Situation Room" that the "diffuse" nature of al Qaeda is among its strengths.

"Keep in mind this is a network, not a hierarchy," Hayden said. "So you've got still very active, very talented cells around the world."

CNN's Peter Bergen, Chris Lawrence and Ed Henry contributed to this report.