Oct 22, 2003

New Bin Laden audiotapes

Transcript # 101805CN.V27 SECTION: News; International LENGTH: 1682 words HEADLINE: New bin Laden Tapes Call For Attacks Against America In Middle East GUESTS: Peter Bergen BYLINE: Andrea Koppel, Mike Boettcher HIGHLIGHT: The U.S. government is analyzing the audio to determine whether it is truly the words of the al Qaeda leader. BODY: ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN ANCHOR: More now on those taped messages purportedly from Osama bin Laden. The U.S. government is analyzing the audio to determine whether it is truly the words of the al Qaeda leader. CNN's Mike Boettcher is with me here at CNN Center with the latest on this developing story. Now Mike, I know you and some of our CNN colleagues have listened to the tape and you believe it is his voice. MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I believe it is his voice. It is also his speech pattern, the way he delivers messages as opposed to his number two, who gives a virulent message. Ayman al-Zawahiri is not part of this audiotape that was released today. It's only bin Laden. There were two separate messages that were delivered to Al- Jazeera, the Arab satellite television network. One was issued to the Arab Muslims and to Iraqis, the other to the American people. In that message to American people, he threatened that suicide attacks in and outside of the United States would continue. In the second message, he attacked U.S. presence in Iraq, and he also urged young people in the Arab world to rise up against what he showed or portrayed to be a crusade against the Arab and Muslim people. Let's listen to it. (BEGIN AUDIOTAPE) OSAMA BIN LADEN (through translator): I say to our brothers in Iraq, I share your concerns and feel your pain. And also, I congratulate you on the status of jihad (UNINTELLIGIBLE). God only knows, if I could find a way to your battlefield, I would not stay behind. (END AUDIOTAPE) BOETTCHER: That message has been getting out loud and clear, Andrea, to young people in the Arab world. I talked to a source who lives in a Palestinian camp in Lebanon who told me last week that there's heavy recruitment in those camps for people to go and fight in Iraq. In fact, he said 11 of his friends had left to go and fight. KOPPEL: Really? I want to bring in our terrorism analyst, Peter Bergen, who is joining us from Washington. I guess, Peter, what's new, at least to my ears hearing this tape, is the audience that Osama bin Laden is trying to reach, the fact that he is speaking in this one audiotape to the American people. What strikes you? PETER BERGEN, TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, that does seem to be new. But one thing that strikes me, Andrea, is the previous tapes we've had from Osama bin Laden this year relating to Iraq have been awfully generic and could have been made at any time really in the last year. This one does has a reference to the to the now stepped-down Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas. Now, he was stepped down in September of 2003. That could indicate that that tape was made as recently as September. And of course, for U.S. government officials, the question of whether bin Laden is alive or not is obviously a very important one. I think this tape moves up his -- we can say now he's certainly alive in the last, let's say three or four months, because of the time references on the tape. KOPPEL: Obviously, we've had lots of audiotapes that have been released from Osama bin Laden going back to, you know, number of years back. Why do you think, Peter, that this time Osama bin Laden has kind of split the tapes and is addressing two different audiences? BERGEN: Well, I guess he's trying to rouse some sort of support from the American audience, which, of course, is pretty ludicrous. I don't quite understand his reasoning. Obviously, the addressing of the Iraq situation is, of course -- makes a lot of sense, because al Qaeda's main theater of operations have, of course, now become Iraq. KOPPEL: Peter, be good enough to stand by there in London. Mike, there are two tapes. We've played one from the one that's addressing the American people, but there's another one that addresses the Iraqi people. BOETTCHER: This next one will address the Iraqi people, and this is the bite that has the time reference that Peter spoke about. The Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas resigned his post on September 6th. In this particular sound bite from Osama bin Laden, he talks about Abbas as if he was still prime minister. Let's listen. (BEGIN AUDIOTAPE) BIN LADEN (through translator): Any government that's formed by America will be an agent, a puppet government, just like all the other governments in the area, like (UNINTELLIGIBLE) or Mahmoud Abbas, that were set up to shed the blood of Muslims. (END AUDIOTAPE) BOETTCHER: So in this message, he asked both that young jihadists come to Iraq to fight, and he asked Iraqis not to participate in the government structures being set up by the United States. KOPPEL: Now, obviously, it's dated, but we know roughly when this tape could have been made, because he does reference the former Palestinian prime minister. You and I were discussing this before. One of the reasons could be just the way, the number of people the tapes -- that this tape could have been passed to in order to get it from Osama bin Laden to the Al-Jazeera network. BOETTCHER: Well, for security in passing these messages, I am told by intelligence analysts in the Arab world that, when the recordings are made, they don't go directly to Al-Jazeera. There are a series of what are called cutouts in that business. One person hands it off to the next, who hands it off to the next, who hands it off to the next, and they don't know each other. They don't know the person two handoffs before. So they can try to keep security, try to keep any sort of investigation away from Osama bin Laden if that tape was captured. KOPPEL: OK. Peter Bergen, just going back to you to get your response to this tape -- and I guess, you know, by way of explanation, that's perhaps why the tape is dated. But are there any other clues that we've heard, that you've heard and others have heard in these tapes that you want to point out? BERGEN: Well, I think sort of picking up on something that Mike said, the chain of custody of these audiotapes is the one direct way to get Osama bin Laden. And as you sort of pointed out, I mean, obviously, there's a series of cutouts and that, of course, could explain why it takes time for these things to get to air. But bin Laden is in a very interesting catch 22. If he continues releasing audiotapes, he's obviously vulnerable for people looking for the chain of custody of these audiotapes. If, on the other hand, he remains silent, he's out of the business. So every time he releases one of these audiotapes he makes himself more vulnerable. On the other hand, if he wants to remain completely hidden, he'll basically disappear from history. KOPPEL: Peter, again, if you could stand by. I know we have another clip, Mike, that you want to play. And in this one, again, it's sort of a common message. Osama bin Laden, again, appealing now to the Iraqi people, as he did just last month, to rise up against the Americans. BOETTCHER: To the Iraqi people, and specifically, in this one, to the American people he is talking about the budget deficit in terms of his speech to the American people to not support President Bush for what he called is fighting, waging a Christian war. He tried to couch it in terms of a crusade, so to speak. And in this, he talks about a budget deficit of $450 billion, and a $450 billion figure came out on July 15th in Washington. So that's another time reference. Let's listen to that particular sound bite. (BEGIN AUDIOTAPE) BIN LADEN (through translator): After New York, they lost more than $1 trillion, which is a thousand million dollars, and they have a deficit in their budget for the third year in a sequence, and it's more than $450 thousand million. So thank god for that. (END AUDIOTAPE) BOETTCHER: Now, al Qaeda attacks are aimed at the American economy. He talks about the damage done to the United States' economy after the 9/11 attacks, and he's talking with about the budget deficit now. And so he's obviously paying close attention to how his attacks across the world impact the American economy. KOPPEL: Well, it's kind of curious, in that he's obviously watching President Bush's or perhaps watching if, in fact, these are the tapes of Osama bin Laden's voice -- and we have as yet to hear from the U.S. government on that -- but he's watching President Bush's poll numbers. Peter Bergen in London, why do you think that Osama bin Laden would believe that a message like this would resonate with the American people? BERGEN: I just don't know the answer to that question. But I mean, I think what it does show is that Osama bin Laden is quite well informed. When I met with him in '97, he was talking about very obscure parts of American politics that I was very surprised that somebody in the middle of eastern Afghanistan, seemingly cut off from the outside world, would ever know about. So I think what it does show is that this guy is quite intelligent, well informed and continues to be well informed. Obviously, he has some means of keeping up with the news. KOPPEL: All right. Peter Bergen, thank you so much for joining us in London.