HR Strange But True!
August 03, 2011

The storming of Osama bin Laden’s compound will go down as one of the major events of 2011. In addition to other goals of the operation, intelligence gathering was a priority. A wealth of information was retrieved from Bin Laden’s compound that gives insight into the al Qaeda organization, including its HR policies and functions.

According to a recent NPR report, Bin Laden, who received an undergraduate degree in economics and public administration, was a stickler for documentation.

"I think this treasure trove of intelligence reflects the fixation or the preoccupation that al Qaeda always had with massive record-keeping," says Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at Georgetown University.

For example, al Qaeda fighters were required to submit receipts for all purchases related to an operation, from cars to explosives to disc drives.

This is not the first insight into al Qaeda’s HR functions. In 2001, documents were discovered in al Qaeda safe houses that laid out al Qaeda 's founding bylaws and detailed HR policies, including personnel records.

Al Qaeda "didn't function as a traditional or typical terrorist organization did," Hoffman says. "It functioned really like a multinational. On the eve of 9/11, for example, the State Department has stated that al Qaeda had 60 offices worldwide."

In addition to recordkeeping, al Qaeda has HR benefits. At one point, the organization offered surprising vacation benefits. Married members received 7 days of vacation for every 3 weeks worked, while singles were offered 5 days a month.

Their salary also depended on family. Married members’ salary was $108 a month, singles less, and men with multiple wives more. NPR notes that current benefits are not known due to changes in the organization.

Furthermore, in the early stages of al Qaeda, leaders had a strong focus on recruitment and retention, explains The Atlantic:

“In The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, The New Yorker's Lawrence Wright explains how new recruits, in return for filling out forms in triplicate and pledging secrecy and loyalty to bin Laden, received salaries of $1,000–$1,500 per month, a round-trip ticket home each year, a month of vacation, a health-care plan, and a buyout option of $2,400. ‘From the beginning,’ Wright wrote, ‘al-Qaeda presented itself as an attractive employment opportunity for men whose education and careers had been curtailed by jihad.’”



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