MASADA TRAINING CAMP ATTENDEES
By Michael S. Smith II
The below images comprise a set of pages from a ledger containing names and other details, such as proficiencies with certain weaponry, for individuals entering the Masada training camp (Afghanistan) in 1988. This material is from a file known as Tareekh al-Musadat, which contains data that has informed terrorism investigators’ understandings of al-Qa’ida’s early years. Contents of the Tareekh al-Musadat file are comparable to the contents of the Tareekh Osama file covered by journalist Peter Bergen in his book The Osama bin Laden I know.
This and numerous other caches of documents highlight that, since the time of al-Qa’ida’s organization, the terrorist enterprise’s leadership has encouraged diligent records keeping. Over time, these records function as an historical archive. Portions of this larger archive, such as the names of individuals who have pledged bayat (allegiance) to al-Qa’ida leaders when applying to join the terrorist group, as well as financial records that detail even minor expenses like the ones discovered at an al-Qa’ida office in West Africa by journalist Rukmini Callimachi, suggest al-Qa’ida’s leadership has always intended for a command and control-oriented model to be employed to manage the activities of their self-defined “Islamic group,” with its rigidly-defined hierarchy and bylaws that call for deference to senior leaders while compelling compliance with policies established by them.
If authentic, files containing names of Islamic State members that were recently shared with journalists indicate the al-Qa’ida offshoot known as the Islamic State has implemented records-keeping policies similar to those of al-Qa’ida. Indeed, the group claims to be stewarding the jihad charted by al-Qa’ida’s founding leader, whose successor, according to the Islamic State, has steered al-Qa’ida off course — going so far as to brand al-Qa’ida under Ayman al-Zawahiri as the “Jews of Jihad” earlier in 2016.