Osama Bin Laden was in routine contact with several senior figures from Pakistan's military intelligence agency while in hiding in the country, according to a large cache of secret intelligence files.
The disclosure was contained in emails from the private American security company, Stratfor, which were published by WikiLeaks website yesterday (Monday) after being obtained by the Anonymous hacking group.
Stratfor provides analysis of world affairs to major corporations, military officials and government agencies and was once likened by an American business magazine to a "shadow CIA".
According to one of the emails, the company was shown the information papers collected from bin Laden's Abbotabad compound after the US special forces attack last May that resulted in his death. The e-mail, from a Stratfor analyst, suggested that up to 12 officials in Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency knew of the al-Qaeda leader's safe house.
The internal email did not name the Pakistani officials involved but said the US could use the information as a bargaining chip in negotiations with Islamabad after the raid.
American officials have always believed it was impossible for the ISI not to have known that Bin Laden was sheltering in a garrison town so close to Islamabad. Pakistan has repeatedly dismissed the charge.
"Mid to senior level ISI and Pak Mil with one retired Pak Mil General that had knowledge of the OBL arrangements and safehouse," the email said of the officers involved. "I get a very clear sense we (US intel) know names and ranks."
WikiLeaks claimed to have five million Stratfor emails that it would publish in collaboration with media outlets. HOnly 200 were released in the first lot.
Other revelations from the emails included the suggestion that Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's president, may have less than a year to live after his cancer spread to the colon and bone marrow.
Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, accused Stratfor of involvement in wide range of legally or morally questionable research activities for corporations.
Stratfor rejected claims that there was anything improper in the way it handled information gathered. "Stratfor has worked to build good sources in many countries around the world, as any publisher of global geopolitical analysis would do," the company said. "We have done so in a straightforward manner and we are committed to meeting the highest standards of professional conduct."