Bin Laden Makes No Overt Threats In New Video, Official Says
Friday, September 7th 2007, 2:41 pm
News On 6
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A new video of Osama bin Laden makes no overt threats against the United States and appears to have been made as recently as this summer, a government official said Friday.
The video includes references to current events in the war in Iraq, the official said. That would bolster the video's authenticity, which intelligence officials still are trying to confirm.
The new video of al-Qaida leader bin Laden _ his first in three years _ runs nearly 30 minutes long, said the government official who has seen a transcript of its contents and spoke on condition of anonymity because it has not been made public.
Bin Laden makes ``no overt threat'' in the video, the official said.
But he mentions Sept. 11 several times and says that while the United States is the greatest economic and military power in the world, the nation is unjust, the official said.
The video, which the U.S. government obtained only very recently, surfaced the week before the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Several intelligence agencies were analyzing the video Friday.
The Homeland Security Department said Friday it had no credible information warning of an imminent threat to the United States, and analysts noted that al-Qaida tends to mark the Sept. 11 anniversary with a slew of messages.
White House deputy press secretary Tony Fratto declined to comment on the video until it has been fully analyzed, except to say it was a reminder of the continuing terrorist threat.
``This is why we need to be more vigilant and more persistent in our pursuit of terrorists,'' Fratto said. ``We will continue to pursue them. And it reminds us that we need to be certain that our intelligence professionals have all the tools they need to continue to disrupt their activities.''
Several intelligence and counterterror officials said there was still a question about whether the video was authentic _ whether it is, in fact, Osama bin Laden on the tape. But one intelligence official said there has never been one of these tapes that has proven not to be authentic.
The government also is looking at bin Laden's physical characteristics _ in part, for clues about his health after unconfirmed rumors earlier this year that he had died of kidney disease.
Soon after word emerged that the United States had the video, Islamic militant Web sites that usually carry statements from al-Qaida went down and were inaccessible. The reason for the shutdown was not immediately known.
Evan H. Kohlmann, a terrorism expert at globalterroralert.com, said he suspected it was the work of al-Qaida itself, trying to find how the video leaked to U.S. officials.
``For them this is totally disruptive that the U.S. government could have a copy before their targeted audience does,'' he said. ``They could be concerned and trying to plug the leak quickly.''
The video ends bin Laden's longest period without a message. The al-Qaida leader has not appeared in new video footage since October 2004, and he has not put out a new audiotape in more than a year.
Al-Qaida's media arm, Al-Sahab, announced bin Laden's new message Thursday in a banner advertisement on an Islamic militant Web site that included a photo of him.
``Soon, God willing, a videotape from the lion sheik Osama bin Laden, God preserve him,'' the advertisement read, signed by Al-Sahab. Such announcements are usually put out one to three days before the video is posted on the Web.
One difference in bin Laden's appearance was immediately obvious. The announcement had a still photo from the coming video, showing bin Laden addressing the camera, his beard fully black. In his past videos, bin Laden's beard was almost entirely gray with dark streaks.
Bin Laden's beard appears to have been dyed, a popular practice among Arab leaders, said Rita Katz, director of the SITE Institute, a Washington-based group that monitors terror messages.
Katz said al-Qaida has consistently marked the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks as one of its biggest successes. In 2003, a videotape of bin Laden was released the day before the anniversary and last year al-Qaida released a documentary describing the planning of the attacks.
Videotapes of bin Laden are the group's most powerful propaganda tools, and they use them sparingly, Katz said, primarily because security concerns make access to the leader difficult. But also, she added, because al-Sahab wants to ensure that a new tape gets maximum play in the media.
Over the last few years, al-Qaida leaders appear to have gotten better at distributing their missives, one intelligence official said. They are using subtitles and different languages and using the Internet to distribute them, rather than depending on a particular television station or network.