The Triumph Of Bureaucracy: Al Qaeda’s Job Application

Who knew terrorists had an H.R. Department?

Now Hiring Sign

Among the odder documents uncovered in yesterday’s release of material found in Osama bin Laden’s hideout in May 2011 was what basically amounts to an al Qaeda job application:

Some of the questions are H.R. boilerplate, the stuff you’d find on a form anywhere in white-collar America: List your previous occupations. What are your career objectives? Have you ever been convicted of a crime?

And then there’s this: “Who should we contact in case you become a martyr?”

Among the hundreds of Osama bin Laden documents released Wednesday by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence was what has to be one of the stranger artifacts in the history of human resources bureaucracy — a job application for al Qaeda.


Here are some of the questions. You can read the whole thing here.

  • How much of the holy Qur’an have you memorized? Did you study Shari’a? Who was your instructor?
  • Any hobbies or pastimes?
  • What is your favorite material: science or literature?
  • Are any of your relatives or friends in the jihad theater?
  • List the types of passports you possess. Did you use a real or forged passport for your current travel?
  • Do you wish to execute a suicide operation?
  • What objectives would you would like to accomplish on your jihad path?
  • Do you have any chronic or hereditary disease(s)?
  • Who should we contact in case you became a martyr?

If it weren’t for the fact that this came from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, I would have thought this story came from The Onion, but apparently it’s completely real. I suppose it’s a reflection of the fact that, in the end, al Qaeda wasn’t all that different from any other bureaucratic organization. Although I would hate to have to explain to Osama or Khalid Sheikh Mohammed why the TPS Reports are late.

Here’s the original document in Arabic:

Al Qaeda Appication in Arabic by Doug Mataconis

And here’s the English translation:

Al Qaeda Application in English by Doug Mataconis

FILED UNDER: Intelligence, National Security, Terrorism, , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. JohnMcC says:

    When the French spec ops folks chased the Al Qaida in the Maghreb out of Timbuktu they found a regional office with files that jihadists had had to keep including expense reports listing purchases down to a cake ($.60).

  2. Neil Hudelson says:

    Ugh, America has a bureaucracy, Al Qaeda has a bureaucracy. Typical Doug “Both Sides Do It” Mataconis!


  3. Slugger says:

    The question about chronic or hereditary diseases probably reflects an effort to keep the cost of the AlQaeda’s health plan under control. A large number of carpal tunnel claims from beheading infidels is driving these costs up.
    On a serious note, all large organization have to have a bureaucratic structure. Otherwise, every issue, every performance problem, every little interpersonal spat becomes a problem for the senior executives who are forced to come up with an ad hoc solution. With a structure you tell people to handle things through channels with your immediate supervisor. I bet no organization of more than ten people can function without clear rules and lines of authority. These guys also have the problem of preventing infiltration by the intelligence services of many countries with questionnaires and interviews as a first line of defense.