Witness and Response: September 11 Acqusitions at the Library of Congress
Area Studies/Overseas Offices
The crisis of September 11 highlighted the importance of not only the information contained in the Library's vast resources but also the knowledge embodied in its expert staff. Foreign area specialists from the Library's Area Studies divisions, with extensive knowledge of the world's languages and cultures, immediately began collecting and interpreting press reactions and forewarnings from around the world. The Library's Federal Research Division had issued a prophetic report, Sociology and Psychology of Terrorism, in 1999, based on then-current literature written by experts on terrorism. The report mentioned the possibility of a terrorist attack on important U.S. monuments and buildings. In the aftermath of the attacks, the report garnered nation-wide media attention.
Area specialists, working with colleagues in the Library's overseas offices, moved quickly to capture and preserve a broad picture of foreign reactions to the disaster, both sympathetic and not. As materials poured in, expert staff provided translations of new and existing collections for congressional committees and the executive branch. One such translation was of a 1991 pamphlet by Osama Bin Laden in which he described how he and the mujahidin fighters planned and executed major attacks against the occupying Soviet army in Afghanistan. Bin Laden also described the nationalities of his allies, which proved useful for those attempting to trace the roots of the movement he leads.
The Library of Congress maintains overseas acquisitions offices in Rio de Janeiro, Cairo, Nairobi, Islamabad, New Delhi, and Jakarta. These offices turned to their usual sources to acquire newspapers, news magazines, pamphlets, books, cassettes, and posters to document the local coverage of September 11 and the U.S. response. They also sought out material that might otherwise have been considered beyond the general scope of collecting. In India, for instance, books on the attacks were collected that were printed barely two weeks after the event. The Indonesian office acquired Muslim clerics' sermons recorded on cassettes. Through the Islamabad office, thirty-six posters featuring Bin Laden were obtained in October and November 2001, most featuring Koranic injunctions on jihad. Perhaps, the most remarkable of these, obtained in October, depicted Osama Bin Laden against the backdrop of the World Trade Center under attack. Significantly, this poster appears to represent an early claim of responsibility for the assault on the World Trade Center by Osama Bin Laden or his followers and sympathizers. The primary caption, in Urdu, translates: "Hundreds of Osamas will emerge from every drop of my blood".
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Ma arik Ma' sadat al-Amsar:Al-Arab bi-Afghanistan. [Battles of the Lion's Den of the Arab Partisans]. Cairo: 1991. African and Middle Eastern Division (221)
Manoel Santa Maria. Eu daqui você de lá Guerra aqui, Guerra acola. [Searching for [Bin Laden] Dead// I am from here, You are from there, War here, War there]. Brazilian chapbook. Rio de Janeiro Overseas Office (226)
Pedro Costa. A Guerra Contra O Terror Em Literatura de Cordel. [The War Against Terror in the Chapbook Literature]. Brazilian chapbook. October 2001. Rio de Janeiro Overseas Office (227)
Al Ahram. Cairo. Compilation of newspaper clippings. Cairo Overseas Office (232)
Anonymous. ["God is Great, Soldiers of Islam"], 2001. Color offset poster. Islamabad Overseas Office. Prints and Photographs Division (210)
Bisvera pratiti Mosalamana Amerikara biruddhe, rukhe daraile Musalamanera bijaya anibarya, Osama bina Ladena. "If each Muslim resists America, then victory is certain for them. Osama Bin Laden." ca. September 20, 2001. [Bengali] poster calendar. New Delhi Overseas Office (187)