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Why I’m Not Positive Bin Laden’s Alive

In the wake of the most recently released Osama bin Laden audio recording I’m compelled to ask several questions: 1. Why has al Qaeda been unable to release one single video of bin Laden demonstrably talking about current events since … Read More

By / November 30, 2007

In the wake of the most recently released Osama bin Laden audio recording I’m compelled to ask several questions: 1. Why has al Qaeda been unable to release one single video of bin Laden demonstrably talking about current events since October 2004? 2. How has Dr. Ayman Al-Zawahiri managed to make over 10 such videos and have them released in the same period of time? 3. Why isn’t much made of this? Al Qaeda has to know how important it is to offer a credible piece of evidence that bin Laden is alive. As U.S. forces continue to demoralize (and kill) their brethren in Iraq, and as their former protectors in Afghanistan continue to descend mountain hide-outs for yearly spring culling, the least they could do would be to youtube a verifiable morale-booster from their supposed number one. Yet this task has remained, for them, insurmountable—for over four years. The last time Osama bin Laden was seen discussing current events was in a clip broadcast on Arab television October 29, 2004, four days before the U.S. presidential election. He demonstrated cognizance of the then present by offering, “Despite entering the fourth year after September 11, Bush is still deceiving you and hiding the truth from you and therefore the reasons are still there to repeat what happened.” After that installment, we get some audiotapes, narrated videos, and unearthed oldies through 2006. Then the supposed return to form comes in September 2007. This is the coal black beard video. Amid all the speculation about the significance of the dye job, curiosity about the video’s genuinely puzzling nature was almost non-existent. Fox News reported matter-of-factly:

During the video, bin Laden's image moves for only a total of about 3 1/2 minutes in two segments, staying frozen the rest of the time while his remarks continue.

A former senior U.S. intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it might have resulted from a technical glitch while Al Qaeda passed the video through a variety of computer sites to mask its cyber trail.

What’s not mentioned is that the "freezes" occur several times, and only while current events are being discussed. In other words, there isn’t a second during which Osama bin Laden can be seen talking about anything after 2004. If I was in charge of A/V the day that tape was shot I’d have been pretty thorough about making sure it was glitch-free. Since then, there’s been more audiotapes and narration over still pictures. Dr. Zawahiri, on the other hand, practically has his own vlog. He’s turned out a long series of up-to-the-minute videos, some as long as an hour and, as far as I know, absent of glitches. Does al Qaeda’s number two have better equipment and more capable videographers than the world’s most wanted man? At this point, I concede I have no answers to questions 1 and 2. I don’t begin to have a technical explanation as to how recordings may have been doctored, etc. And if I see a clip of Osama bin Laden actually talking about, say, Iraq’s al-Maliki government or Annapolis I’ll readily accept the fact. I merely find it all a bit curious. As to question 3, the only people who would make a big deal of bin Laden’s being dead (or not provably alive) are in the Bush administration. But after “mission accomplished” and “last throes” maybe they have learned something about hubris after all.

 

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