New fake bin laden tape has fake beard
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U.S.: No Overt Threats In Osama Video
WASHINGTON, Sept. 7, 2007(CBS/AP) A new videotape purported to be from Osama bin Laden, nearly 30 minutes long, contains no overt threat against the United States, a U.S. security official tells CBS News.
Intelligence analysts are still looking at the video image to determine if the speaker is bin Laden, the official said.
However, according to the U.S. official, a transcript of the tape reveals the following:
# The speaker who appears to be bin Laden makes specific references to the U.S. involvement in the Iraq War, which indicates the tape may have been made sometime in 2007.
# The speaker talks about the politics of a U.S. withdrawal, an issue that was not current at the time of bin Laden's last confirmed video in 2004.
# The speaker seems to criticize Democrats and their lack of action in pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq. He reportedly makes references to Democrats' campaign promises to start a withdrawal and notes the failure to follow up.
Officials will not say how the government obtained the tape, but it may have been briefly posted this morning on a Jihadist Web site, reports CBS News correspondent Bob Orr. That Web site since has crashed.
U.S. officials said they do not know when, or if, al Qaeda will release the tape. The officials brushed aside questions about whether the U.S. would preemptively put it out.
Al Qaeda's media arm had previously announced a new bin Laden video would be released ahead of the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. The video, if authentic, would be the first video from the terror chief in nearly three years.
Earlier Thursday, the White House said that any new video from bin Laden would serve to highlight threats the West faces. Analysts noted that al Qaeda tends to mark the Sept. 11 anniversary with a slew of messages, and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told CBS News Friday afternoon there is no credible, imminent threat against the U.S.
Intelligence analysts will also be looking for any sign that the message indicates attacks to come, reports Orr.
Still, if the man in the video is bin Laden, his appearance would be significant. The al Qaeda 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, his longest period without a message.
One difference in his 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.
"I think it works for their (al Qaeda's) benefit that he looks young, he looks healthy," Katz said.
CBS News consultant Jere Van Dyk scoffs at that.
"I have never in all my years here ever seen a man dye his hair black," he wrote in e-mail from Afghanistan. "Men here do not dye their beards black."
Van Dyk asked Abdul Salem Zaeef, a former Taliban spokesman, deputy defense minister, and ambassador, about the change in bin Laden's appearance.
"He listened carefully, smiled and said the picture is an old one," writes Van Dyk.
The announcement that a video would be released and the photo appeared in a banner advertisement on an Islamic militant Web site where al Qaeda's media arm, Al-Sahab, frequently posts messages.
"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.
"Why this new video?" asks Van Dyk. "To recruit, to show that he is alive, to mark the anniversary of 9/11, maybe to send a message, not just to the west, to the Umma, the worldwide Muslim community, but to (Pakistan's President Gen. Pervez) Musharraf."
The anniversary has always been a major media event for al Qaeda - a chance for it to drum up support among extremists, tout itself as the leading militant group and show off its continued survival.
"They've always gone out of their way to commemorate it," said Ben Venzke, chief executive officer of IntelCenter, which is based in Alexandria, Virginia. "Historically the anniversary of 9/11 has never been drawn to attacks. It's drawn to video releases."
But the fact that bin Laden is delivering the message is significant, he said. Whether the message will indicate a potential attack will depend on what bin Laden says.
President Bush used a Sydney speech to list dead and captured terrorists, reports CBS News White House correspondent Peter Maer.
"The fight against terrorists in this region is one of the untold success stories in the region," Mr. Bush said.
But left unstated was the obvious: bin Laden remains at large.
Bin Laden "is most likely hiding among Pashtuns as they are the people that inhabit both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border; or, he is being protected by some institution," says Van Dyk. "He is somewhere, most probably, in western Pakistan."
The White House said that any new video message from bin Laden would only underscore the threat the United States and other nations face from extremists.
"Six years after 9/11, the arrests in Germany and Denmark this week and the battles we fight against al Qaeda in Iraq, Afghanistan, southeast Asia and around the world remind us of the continuing threat we face from extremists and why we must continue to take the fight to them wherever they are," said Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the National Security Council at the White House.
It's the first images of bin Laden since an Oct. 29, 2004 videotape, just before the U.S. presidential elections. In that appearance three years ago, he said America could avoid another 9/11 style attack if it stopped threatening Muslims.
The new video also end the longest period bin Laden has gone without releasing a message. His last audiotape was on July 1, 2006, in which he welcomed new leader of al Qaeda in Iraq succeeding the slain Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Bin Laden went silent for a similar long stretch before - from Dec. 28, 2004 to Jan. 19, 2006. That absence sparked widespread speculation he was ill, wounded or possibly dead.
There has been little such speculation since then. U.S. officials have repeatedly said over the past year they believe the al Qaeda leader is alive. He is thought to be hiding in the tribal regions of western Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan.
During bin Laden's silence, his deputy Egyptian-born Ayman al-Zawahri has been frequently issuing videos and audiotapes.
Al-Zawahri appeared in a 2006 video marking the 9/11 anniversary. An anniversary video in 2003 showed footage of bin Laden and al-Zawahri walking through mountain paths, with voice-over messages from both leaders.
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