(NPR) – When U.S. commandos stormed Osama bin Laden’s compound earlier this month, they spent much of their time on the ground shoving papers, CDs and thumb drives into huge document bags strung around their necks. That sweep was considered an integral part of the operation, and it confirmed what the intelligence community had long believed: that bin Laden was obsessive about documenting everything.
From its earliest days, al-Qaida leaders insisted on receipts. If fighters were buying a car for an operation, or even disc drives and floppy disks for their computers, they were required to return to base with a precise accounting of everything they had spent.
. . . Al-Qaida “didn’t function as a traditional or typical terrorist organization did,” he says. “It functioned really like a multinational. On the eve of 9/11, for example, the State Department has stated that al-Qaida had 60 offices worldwide. I mean, in essence it was a multinational.”
More proof of its corporate structure: As odd as it sounds, al-Qaida had excellent HR benefits. The seized documents showed that al-Qaida paid an unusual amount of attention to its fighters and their families. Married members were allowed to have seven days of vacation for every three weeks worked. Bachelors got five days off a month.
Married members also got a salary of $108 a month. The pay was smaller for single men and larger if the fighters had more than one wife. Now that the organization has less money and is under such pressure, it is unclear whether the benefits are as generous as they used to be.