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Al Qaeda Nuclear and Conventional Explosive Documents: CNN - ISIS Collaboration


In November 2001, as the Taliban was fleeing Kabul, ISIS was contacted by CNN to help assess al Qaeda documents containing information about nuclear weapons.1 CNN Senior Producer Ingrid Arnesen had acquired many documents related to al Qaeda's activities in Afghanistan on both nuclear and conventional explosives.

Over the next two months, ISIS staff translated and assessed these documents. The documents include: instructor guides on making conventional explosives; edited, mass-produced instructional materials; nuclear weapon documents; student notebooks; and information about the activities and plans of Pakistani nuclear scientists in Afghanistan.

ISIS President David Albright, with the assistance of ISIS Senior Analyst Corey Hinderstein and Arabist Ronald Wolfe, was able to decipher and analyze these documents. Many of these conclusions were discussed and expanded in the first half of January 2002 during intensive sessions with CNN producers and correspondent Mike Boettcher. A summary of many of ISIS's findings aired on January 17, 2002 in a half-hour special report by CNN, and were further discussed on other CNN shows, including shows hosted by Wolf Blitzer and Aaron Brown. CNN subsequently published an in-depth report based on this story on the CNN web site and a gallery of images, which are reproduced on the ISIS web site.

1See, for example, reports by Aaron Brown and Christiane Amanpour