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November 5th, 2008
01:11 PM ET

The dog that didn’t bark

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.a.cnn.net/cnn/2004/WORLD/meast/10/29/binladen.tape/story.binladen.jazeera.jpg]
Peter Bergen
CNN National Security Analyst

One person who was supposed to weigh in on the American presidential election is someone we have yet to hear from: Osama bin Laden.

Four years ago the al Qaeda leader appeared in a well-lit videotape addressing himself directly to the American people five days before they voted in the contest between Sen. John Kerry and George Bush. Bin Laden said then that whoever won the election was immaterial as far as al Qaeda was concerned and that instead Americans needed to change their country’s foreign policies in the Muslim world, or face the consequences.

US intelligence officials tracking al Qaeda have been expecting a similar message from the al Qaeda leader in the run-up to this presidential election. Yet, so far, bin Laden has not appeared.
There could be several reasons for this. First, the bin Laden tape might still be in the pipeline and will surface in coming weeks having wended its long way via a chain of couriers from his hideout on the Afghan-Pakistan border to be uploaded to a jihadist website or delivered to an Arab TV station.


Second, several of the sites where al Qaeda traditionally places its propaganda messages have been taken down in past days. The fact that those sites are down may both be an effort to curtail al Qaeda’s messages to the wider world and also make the terrorist organization go back to its traditional method of communications through Arab TV stations, which are easier for American intelligence agencies to stake out and monitor than anonymous jihadist websites.
Third, bin Laden may have concluded that, given the widespread expectation that he would deliver an election-eve tape, that discretion is the better part of valor and for security purposes now is not the time to make an appearance on the world stage.

Fourth, militant targets in the tribal regions have been the subject of some 20 American missile attacks since the summer and that may have spooked the al Qaeda leadership, which has not being the subject of such intense missile strikes previously.

Those attacks are designed not only to disrupt al Qaeda’s operations, but also to increase the radio or phone communications between militants- signals intelligence known as ‘SIGINT’ -that can be traced by American spy agencies, according to US intelligence and administration officials who track al Qaeda.


Filed under: al Qaeda • Osama bin Laden • Peter Bergen • Raw Politics
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. pati mc., camp hill, pa

    Osama Bin Laden is a coward. Eventually the truth comes around.

    His 15 minutes are up and he knows it, IF he is sitll alive.

    November 5, 2008 at 3:26 pm |
  2. Begum Zuaib-un-Hassab ,California

    Peter,

    May be OBL has not spoken because he wanted USA to elect Mr. Obama. Since Obama has said he is willing to talk and listen rather
    than demean people and box them into the "AXIS OF EVIL", buzz words the Republicans like. The Republicans have led America into the ground using "FEAR"..."MUSLIM".....HATE" and now that this era is over we can move into a period of more LOVE and less HATE

    November 5, 2008 at 2:26 pm |
  3. Rachel

    He's either dead or knows Obama is going to keep his promise to get him and he knows it.

    November 5, 2008 at 2:17 pm |
  4. dogsmycopilot

    Perhaps we haven't heard from him for an obvious reason. If I were on a person's bad side, and that person was so tenacious and so compelling and so tireless they could campaign straight for two years and get the American public to elect them in spite of the racism and the feelings against the name "Hussein" I would be worried. Out of all the threats Bush made over Bin Laden he was pretty lazy. Barry is anything but lazy and if I were Bin Laden I would be on the run and very, very afraid. If anyone can have the tenacity to hunt this guy down it is Obama.

    November 5, 2008 at 1:59 pm |
  5. Stacy from NJ

    Peter, what about fifth. Bin Laden is already dead...?

    November 5, 2008 at 1:43 pm |
  6. Lesley Humphrey

    My daughter is currently studying abroad in London. She, and most of the students at Regent's College stayed up all night to watch the election, along with most of the Europeans. I'd like to forward her words ...."Just weeks ago, when I told people I was from America they developed a condescending tone.... Yesterday, the whole college stayed up until 6:00 a.m. Tears were in our eyes as Obama gave his speech. Since then, the mood has already changed amongst the European and Arabic students, who shared in our excitement. Even the Republicans were moved... Change is in the air... It has truly marked America again as a revolutionary place ....GO BAMA!!!!
    Ashley Humphrey (from Texas), Regents American College, London.

    November 5, 2008 at 1:37 pm |
  7. Cindy

    I'm surprised that we didn't hear from Osama also. But I expect to hear something from some of them soon. They'll probably praise the U.S. for electing someone that they can run over and do as they please with.

    Cindy...Ga.

    November 5, 2008 at 1:31 pm |
  8. Melissa, Los Angeles

    Wishful thinking that one of the missle attacks may have injured or killed him.

    November 5, 2008 at 1:31 pm |
  9. Max

    He is DEAD – I am sure of IT.

    November 5, 2008 at 1:29 pm |