Entries in Osama Bin Laden (5)


Inside the Mind of Osama Bin Laden, Other Cult-Like Followers

AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- How did Osama bin Laden get hundreds of young recruits to strap bombs to their bodies and persuade well-educated men to fly suicide planes like missiles through the World Trade Center and the Pentagon?

"People come along some time who can move crowds who by their personality can attract other people to a movement," said former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean, 76, who was co-chairman of the 911 commission, in an interview with New Jersey Network. "That's what he did. He was one of those people driven by half-genius, half-mad genius, half religion, and he created a lot of trouble in this world."

Bin Laden, soft-spoken and somewhat shy, was not conventionally charismatic.

Mark Stern, professor emeritus of Iona College in New York and an expert in the psychology of evil and Messianic figures, believes bin Laden was different from other evil charismatics, such as Adolph Hitler, Charles Manson and Jim Jones.

"He had more of a political world view -- more like a desire to save the world than to destroy it and rebuild it in his image," said Stern. He was a "witness" to the fundamental cause. "The message found him," said Stern. "He didn't find the message."

History is littered with Osama bin Ladens -- former President George W. Bush called them the "evil-doers" -- who wield mesmerizing power over their devoted followers and often possess qualities of grandiosity and charisma.

Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel ruminated on the same question when he analyzed Hitler: "How did this unstable paranoid find it within himself to impose gigantic hope as an immutable ideal that motivated his nation almost until the end?" At the end of World War II, Germany was devastated by war and 6 million Jews had been exterminated.

"The fact is that Hitler was beloved by his people--not the military, at least not in the beginning, but by the average Germans who pledged to him an affection, a tenderness and a fidelity that bordered on the irrational," said Wiesel in an 1998 essay in Time magazine. "It was idolatry on a national scale.

Charles Manson, a Cincinnati-born songwriter and ex-convict, emerged in the turbulent the late 1960s, instructing his "family" of followers -- mostly women -- to kill pregnant actress Sharon Tate and shopkeeper Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary to promote an apocalyptic race war he called "Helter Skelter," a term he coined from the popular Beatles song.

Another charismatic leader, Jim Jones, founder of the Peoples Temple, orchestrated the mass suicide of more than 900 church members in 1978, as well as the killing of five others at a nearby airstrip in Jonestown, Guyana. Until Sept. 11, 2001, it was the single greatest loss of American civilians in a non-natural disaster.

"Basically, because of a lack of healthy attachment, they have an inability to have empathy,” said Hassan, a cult expert and the author of the book, Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves. “They can't put themselves in another person's shoes."

Figures like Hitler, Manson and Jones need the blind adoration of their followers -- their narcissistic supply -- a "compensation goes on wanting to feel love," according to Hassan.

Hassan said bin Laden may have been "manipulated and influenced" by his father figure, al Qaeda's second in command and likely successor Ayman al-Zawahiri.

In general, cult leaders exert their control by lying, withholding information, creating conformity within the group and separating followers from their families. "They inculcate a new belief system," he said.

"If you have an authority figure, they are perceived to be valid," he said. "We are wired as a human species to obey our parents, policemen, teachers or therapists."

"There are two mind control devices: thought stopping or the deliberate implantation of irrational fears if you question the leader, like you lose your spiritual life or get cancer or your family will be hunted down and killed.

"In terrorist groups that is an actual threat," he said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Top Five Osama Bin Laden Health Rumors: Fact or Fiction?

AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- In the years between Sept. 11, 2001 and Sunday's raid, rumors swirled about Osama bin Laden's health.  Some even believed he'd died in an area so remote that the best intelligence could not find him.

ABC News asked experts who have researched and written about bin Laden to weigh in on five of the most widely circulated rumors.  Here's what they said:

Kidney Disease -- Likely False

"Despite the fact that we have all been hearing about his kidney problems and the need for dialysis, according to the intelligence people I've talked to in Washington, there was no evidence of a dialysis machine in the compound where he was found," said Mary Anne Weaver, author of Pakistan: Deep Inside the World's Most Frightening State.

The exclusive video obtained by ABC News inside the compound also does not show any evidence of dialysis equipment.  There were what looked like medication bottles, but a closer look at the video reveals the bottles contain petroleum jelly, eye drops, olive oil, sunflower oil, an antiseptic and a nasal spray.

Marfan Syndrome -- Likely False

Along with the rumors about kidney disease, Weaver said the one about bin Laden having Marfan syndrome was also widely circulated.

Marfan syndrome affects the connective tissue that supports tendons, ligaments, heart valves and other parts of the body.  If it attacks the heart or the vessels of the heart, it could cause an enlarged heart or torn vessels.  Those with Marfan syndrome might be be tall and thin; have long, curved fingers; vision problems or no symptoms at all.

"The CIA suspected bin Laden had Marfan syndrome, but then the guy who briefed me on this said the information was negative a few months later," said Weaver.

Enlarged Heart and Low Blood Pressure -- Both Likely True

Weaver said officials told her bin Laden had an enlarged heart, and she reported that in her New York profiles of the most wanted terrorist.

"It was a fleeting mention by intelligence officials," she said.

Weaver also said she heard bin Laden had low blood pressure, but she never thought it was a serious condition.

Arm Injury -- Likely True

Experts say bin Laden was very likely injured in a 2001 battle in Tora Bora, the complex of caves in Afghanistan where U.S. forces believed members of al Qaeda were hiding.

"It does seem he may have been injured with shrapnel in Tora Bora," said Kenneth Katzman, a Congressional Research Service expert on Afghanistan.  "After his escape, he wasn't able to move it much."

In one of his earlier videos, bin Laden appears to be immobile on his left side, but Katzman said that his injury seems to have healed based on the viewing of subsequent videos.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Osama Bin Laden Death Photos: How to Explain to Your Child

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Abigail Carter, whose husband Arron was killed in the World Trade Center on 9/11, said she and her two children did not need news of Osama bin Laden's death to feel closure, but wonder why the White House has not yet released photos or videos.

"I was sort of expecting them to be out there," said Carter.

While the images may initially shock many adults, child psychiatrists and psychologists say the images will resonate with younger children and adolescents much longer.

Carter shielded her two children from images of 9/11 immediately after their father's death. But a couple of years later, Carter saw images in Time magazine.

"I tried to be as honest with them as I could," Carter said.

Although Carter said she expects that her children -- now inevitably more tapped into the Internet -- will see images of bin Laden if they are released, she won't go to her children with the photos and try to explain. She'll wait until they come to her, she said.

In fact, parents of younger children shouldn't deliberately show their child any potentially disturbing photos, even if they are circulating, said George Scarlett, assistant professor of psychology at Tufts University School of Medicine.

"There really is no reason why a child should be shown Osama bin Laden's corpse," said Scarlett. "But if it happens, then a parent, interpreting what the visual means, will help."

Scarlett said parents should use simple words to describe the images. And more importantly, he says, parents should continually reassure their child not to be scared.

"No need to talk about the possibility of another attack or anything else that suggests that adult caregivers really aren't in control," said Scarlett.

Previous studies suggest children who watch disturbing images -- even fictional horror movies -- are more likely to develop anxiety, repeated thoughts, and nightmares.

"Children do not often know how to contextualize what they saw and may feel that they may be at personal risk, but in reality they're not in danger," said Dr. Cynthia Pfeffer, psychiatrist and director of the childhood bereavement program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

Instead of showing or allowing their children to see images, Pfeffer suggested speaking to children calmly and directly.

But if children aren't interested in talking about it, then don't push it, says Jay Reeve, psychologist at the Bond-Apalachee Wellness Integration Center in Merritt Island, Fla.

"If a child shows little interest, there should be no reason to engage heavily with them," said Reeve. "If they want to discuss it, then parents should be guided by their own views on war and the use of force."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Osama Bin Laden: Relatives' DNA Reliable Indication of Death

CNN via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- An analysis of DNA from Osama bin Laden's relatives that federal authorities said they relied on to confirm his death with 99.9 percent certainty is identical to a paternity test that determines whether a father and child are related.

"As humans, all of us are 99.9 percent identical. It's that 0.1 percent variability that distinguishes us, and that's what DNA testing looks at," said Dr. Ronald Crystal, chairman of genetic medicine at Cornell University in New York City.

A DNA sample collected from bin Laden's body Sunday was compared to DNA from multiple relatives, a U.S. intelligence official told ABC News. The DNA sequence -- a series of letters that make up the genetic code -- was transmitted electronically from Bagram, Afghanistan, to Washington, D.C. Another sample will be physically transported to the United States.

It is unclear whether bin Laden's sister, who died of brain cancer in Boston in 2005, was one of the relatives used in the comparison.

When performed by trained technicians, the DNA-matching technique is almost 100-percent accurate.

"The chances that they're a match are probably 99.999 percent," Crystal said. "The probability that two unrelated DNAs would match so closely is extremely small, but you can never be 100-percent sure."

But the test can't rule out that the body was bin Laden's brother, according to Dr. Lawrence Kobilinsky, a forensic scientist and chairman of science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City.

"The best way to do it is if you've got some of his own DNA [for comparison]," Kobilinsky said. "That would be the best situation."

DNA testing is used widely in the U.S. justice system to match DNA from a crime scene with that of a suspect's. The hearty molecule can persist for years but is easiest to compare when it comes from a fresh tissue sample.

"I assume they had fresh tissue or blood that they could test very easily," Crystal said of the military personnel who tested DNA from bin Laden, who was shot dead in Abbottabad, Pakistan, Sunday. "DNA testing has become very sophisticated. You can even evaluate DNA from extinct animals or humans that have been dead for many years. It's pretty tough stuff."

Despite the 0.01 percent uncertainty, Crystal said, the 99.9 percent match is "absolutely" enough to be considered conclusive.

The al Qaeda leader was shot in the head after U.S. forces stormed the compound roughly 40 miles north of Pakistan's capital city of Islamabad. He was identified by two women in the compound and by members of U.S. military during the raid.

Facial recognition technology that revealed a 90-to-95 percent match between the corpse and photos of bin Laden reinforced the positive ID, officials said.

It is unclear whether officials will release a photo of his body.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


9/11 Families Seek Closure After Osama Bin Laden Death

CHANG W. LEE/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- For many families who lost loved ones on 9/11, news of Osama bin Laden's death and burial at sea has brought mixed feelings -- relief that the world's most notorious terrorist has been brought to justice, but also a reminder of the pain they felt nearly a decade ago.

"It was a feeling of elation, but for those of us who lost so much on 9/11, it wasn't totally elation. For me there was sadness attached to it because it was a reminder of what I lost," David McCourt, whose wife and daughter were killed in the second plane that crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

Meanwhile, celebrations erupted across the U.S. immediately following President Obama's announcement that Osama bin Laden was killed Sunday by U.S. troops.

While it may seem jubilation and grief are distinct sentiments, many psychologists and psychiatrists say these mixed emotions are painful indicators that define feelings of long-awaited closure.

"Closure does not necessarily mean no longer feeling grief, or no longer feeling angst or pain over a situation," said Dr. Alan Hilfer, chief psychologist at Maimonides Medical Center in New York. "It means essentially having threads of resolve."

But many find peace of mind by allowing themselves to understand that they may never stop feeling a sense of loss, Hilfer said. And some, regardless of bin Laden's death, may say that they have already reached their own feeling of closure.

"Some just see this as a task that was incomplete and is now complete," said Hilfer.

McCourt's four-year-old daughter, Juliana, and wife Ruth were on their way to Disneyland when their flight was hijacked on 9/11 and flown into the World Trade Center.

The intensity of bereavement wanes over time, said Dr. Howard Belkin, assistant professor of psychiatry at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich. But for some, bin Laden's death may bring back some of the sharpest memories of 9/11.

"[Bin Laden] was a figure that was so significant in our psyche, that it can take weeks to months to years to feel full closure," said Belkin. "The mourning period may start over, but will be shorter lived than initially."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio