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Bin Laden Compound Likely to Reveal Al Qaeda Contributors

Tuesday, 3 May 2011 | 8:04 PM ET
Osama bin Laden
AFP | Getty Images
Osama bin Laden

Computers taken from Osama Bin Laden's Pakistan compound could reveal a motherlode of information on Al Qaeda donors and has probably already dealt a serious blow to Al Qaeda fund raising, according to a Middle East law expert.

Georgia State University College of Law professor Jack Williams said new data, potentially in hard drives and other materials taken by the U.S. special forces, could reveal a new list of Al Qaeda contributors. Williams also works for Mesirow Financial Consulting as a senior managing director and company practice leader in investigative services.

"In many prior situations, where we have captured and/or captured and killed a high level target, particularly those who have been in place for a little while, we found computers with that type of information, and we've been able to glean a lot about the financial structure, flow of funds and the mechanisms by which Al Qaeda and groups raised funds to finance their activity," he said.

Williams said there have been at least four jihadi fatwas issued since the death of Bin Laden. While none were major, one was a fund raising plea. Fatwas are religious decrees issued by a cleric.

"I think there are going to be some companies that are concerned, not necessarily with their names showing up but with the names of their agents or vendors, suppliers or customers, on that Al Qaeda list," said Williams.

"The folks whose names are in those computers as substantial contributors to Al Qaeda causes — they nonetheless will pull back into the shadows to at least assure they don't cause any new undo attention that might be drawn to them. It will have an affect on their donor rate," said Williams.

Williams said Bin Laden was not the biggest contributor but his image was an important selling point, used around the world in places where Al Qaeda is active. "He was certainly the image around which the Al Qaeda mother ship surrounded itself. He was in a fund raising capacity both an emissary and an image," he said.

Whether pictures of Bin Laden, after he was killed, would be useful to Al Qaeda is unclear, but Williams expects the U.S. government to ultimately release them. The question authorities are grappling with is "will disclosing these pictures put more American lives at risk."

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