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Homeland Security

Officials Plan No Increase in US Security Level Following Threats from bin Laden

19 January 2006

A new audiotape of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden has surfaced. U.S. government analysts say the voice on the tape appears to be that of bin Laden. The al-Qaida leader is holding out both an olive branch and gun to the United States.

In the tape, excerpts of which were aired by al-Jazeera television, Osama bin Laden warns of new attacks on U.S. soil. But he also holds out the offer of a truce.

The offer was immediately rejected by Bush Administration and U.S. officials say they have no plans to raise the nation's threat level in response to the audiotape.

Former CIA officer Michael Scheuer, who headed a CIA unit that hunted bin Laden in the late 1990s, says bin Laden's threat should be taken seriously.

"I really do think we're at the point where al-Qaida and bin Laden are prepared again to attack inside the United States," he said. "And I would take him very literally at his word. If this a truce [offer] and we don't go for it, which I think we can't, then we should begin to expect an attack in the United States over the next year or so."

The tape was the first public communication from Osama bin Laden in over a year. More recent statements made on behalf of al-Qaida have come from his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

An unmanned U.S. drone launched an attack on a Pakistani border village last week in the belief that Zawahiri was there. Several people were killed, but Zawahiri is believed to have escaped.

But former CIA counter-terrorism officer Vincent Cannistraro tells VOA it is interesting that the tape came from bin Laden rather than Zawahri.

"I don't think the appearance of the tape is accidental. It's almost as if it was rushed out to show that the movement is still alive and well in al-Qaida, is still being led by bin Laden," he noted. "But it's interesting that the first tape after the attack comes not from Zawahiri himself, who has been the face of al-Qaida for over a year."

Analysts say the tape appears to refute any claims that bin Laden has been killed. But Cannistraro says bin Laden's voice sounds tired and resigned to him, and that from his analysis, he believes bin Laden may not be in the best of health.

"He probably is very sick and probably thinking very much about his legacy, what's going to happen to the movement after his departure from the scene," he added. "There are several references to his mortality, to his hopes that the jihad will continue after he passes away, which suggests a reflective point of view and also reflects perhaps his physical state of being."

Bin Laden does not say when he was recording his message.

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