October 30, 2004
In Video Message, Bin Laden Issues Warning to U.S.
By DOUGLAS JEHL and DAVID JOHNSTON
WASHINGTON, Oct. 29 - In a new videotape televised Friday, Osama bin Laden made a direct, formal address to the American people, saying that the best way for Americans to avoid a repeat of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, was to stop threatening Muslims' security.
The videotape of the leader of Al Qaeda was the first to surface in more than a year. In contrast to his haggard appearance in his last videotaped message televised on Sept. 10, 2003, Mr. bin Laden appeared vigorous and healthy, more than three years after the United States began the intense manhunt that he has so far evaded.
Mr. bin Laden did not explicitly threaten any new attacks in an excerpt of the videotape, first broadcast on Al Jazeera, the Arabic-language satellite network. But the appearance of the tape four days before Election Day injected Al Qaeda and Mr. bin Laden into a presidential campaign in which the threat posed by terrorism has weighed heavily.
Though Mr. bin Laden's statement referred to President Bush and Senator John Kerry by name, he said the prospect of a future terrorist attack would depend not on the outcome of the election but on concrete actions taken by the United States.
"Your security is not in the hands of Kerry or Bush or Al Qaeda; your security is in your own hands," Mr. bin Laden said. He added: "Any state that does not mess with our security, has naturally guaranteed its own security." Gesturing emphatically at times with his hands, the Qaeda leader wore a long gray beard, traditional white robes, a golden cloak and a turban. He gazed directly into the camera as he delivered the address, which he appeared to be reading from a text behind a lectern in front of a plain brown backdrop.
"Oh, American people, I am speaking to tell you about the ideal way to avoid another Manhattan, about war and its causes and results," he said. He added: "Despite entering the fourth year after Sept. 11, Bush is still deceiving you and hiding the truth from you, and therefore the reasons are still there to repeat what happened."
The appeal to Americans to reconsider United States policy toward Muslims echoed the theme of Mr. bin Laden's last public message, an audiotape in April that offered a truce to European nations if they pulled troops out of Islamic countries.
American intelligence officials, who indicated that they had obtained access to the entire videotape, said it appeared to have been made recently, possibly as recently as last Sunday, the date that appeared in Arabic in script superimposed on part of the tape. American intelligence and law enforcement officials said an analysis by the C.I.A. had established with "a high degree of confidence" that the tape was authentic. They offered no other immediate assessment of the videotape.
A senior State Department official said the United States had sought unsuccessfully to persuade Al Jazeera not to show the videotape, consistent with past efforts to deny a podium to terrorist threats.
The channel rebuffed the American request, the official said, but a spokesman for Al Jazeera said it had televised just one minute of a five-minute tape.
American officials said they would try to determine whether the address contained hidden messages or clues about a possible future attack against the United States, but they said it was too early to know.
A spokesman for Al Jazeera would not comment on what the portions of the videotape not televised by the network had contained. American intelligence officials said they saw nothing even in the part of the tape that was not televised that conveyed an explicit threat.
It was unclear exactly when and where the videotape was made, but it referred to recent events like the third anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. The American authorities have long believed that Mr. bin Laden had been hiding out in a remote region along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The tape surfaced a day after ABC News broadcast a threatening taped message from a man in traditional Arab dress who, speaking English with an American accent, identified himself as a follower of Mr. bin Laden. American intelligence officials have said they have no information linking those warnings to a specific threat.
The new tape followed five months of warnings by law enforcement and homeland security officials that Al Qaeda hoped to carry out a catastrophic strike in the United States timed to disrupt the presidential election season.
In recent days, counterterrorism officials have said they have seen no concrete evidence of an election-year plot and it was unclear how the new tape would affect those assessments. The White House said there would be no increase, for now, in the current threat warning.
Mr. bin Laden said Mr. Bush reacted slowly to the Sept. 11 attacks as they were occurring, giving the hijackers more time than they expected to carry out the plot. At the time of the attacks, the president was visiting a group of second graders at an elementary school in Sarasota, Fla., holding a book called "My Pet Goat."
"It never occurred to us that the commander in chief of the American armed forces would leave 50,000 of his citizens in the two towers to face these horrors alone," Mr. bin Laden said, referring to estimates of the number of people who might have been at the World Trade Center.
Referring to the president, Mr. bin Laden said: "It appeared to him that a little girl's talk about her goat and its butting was more important than the planes and their butting of the skyscrapers. That gave us three times the required time to carry out the operations, thank God."
The timing of Mr. Bush's actions on the morning of Sept. 11 have been reported on numerous occasions. He was notified at about 8:55 a.m. by Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, that a plane had struck the World Trade Center. He was told at about 9:05 a.m. by Andrew H. Card Jr., the chief of staff, that a second plane had hit the south tower. Mr. Bush left the classroom several minutes afterward.
In Mr. bin Laden's last videotape, in September 2003, he and Ayman al-Zawahiri, his chief lieutenant, walked on a rocky mountainous path. In an eight-minute soundtrack, Mr. bin Laden praised the hijackers who caused "great damage to the enemy," identifying five by name.
In that videotape, Mr. bin Laden appeared gaunt and somewhat halting as he picked his way along a trail with a walking stick.
In the latest tape, Mr. bin Laden spoke more directly about the Sept. 11 attacks than he has in previous messages, saying that he had told Mohamed Atta, the plot's ringleader, that the attacks should be carried out "within 20 minutes before Bush and his administration noticed." Mr. bin Laden said the idea of attacking buildings in United States occurred to him when he said he watched Israeli aircraft bombing tower blocks in Lebanon in 1982.
"As I watched the destroyed towers in Lebanon, it occurred to me to punish the unjust the same way - to destroy towers in America so that it can taste some of what we are tasting and to stop killing our children and women." He claimed direct responsibility for the Sept. 11 attacks.
"We decided to destroy towers in America," he said, apparently referring to the World Trade Center. "God knows that it had not occurred to our mind to attack the towers, but after our patience ran out and we saw the injustice and the inflexibility of the American-Israeli alliance toward our people in Palestine and Lebanon, this came to my mind," Mr. bin Laden said.
The last time a message from Mr. bin Laden referred to the attacks was in a rambling videotaped conversation with a Saudi sheik televised Dec. 15, 2001.
Correction Monday, Nov. 1, 2004
A front-page picture on Saturday showing a scene from a videotape in which Osama bin Laden addressed the American people carried an erroneous credit. The image was from Al Jazeera, the Arab-language satellite network.
October 29, 2004
Transcript of Al Jazeera Tape
DUBAI, Oct 30 - Following are excerpts from a speech by al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden addressing the American people in a video tape, parts of which were aired by Al Jazeera television on Saturday, as translated by Reuters.
"O American people, I am speaking to tell you about the ideal way to avoid another Manhattan, about war and its causes and results.
"Security is an important foundation of human life and free people do not squander their security, contrary to Bush's claims that we hate freedom. Let him tell us why we did not attack Sweden for example.
"It is known that those who hate freedom do not possess proud souls like those of the 19, may God rest their souls. We fought you because we are free and because we want freedom for our nation. When you squander our security we squander yours.
"I am surprised by you. Despite entering the fourth year after Sept. 11, Bush is still deceiving you and hiding the truth from you and therefore the reasons are still there to repeat what happened.
"God knows it did not cross our minds to attack the towers but after the situation became unbearable and we witnessed the injustice and tyranny of the American-Israeli alliance against our people in Palestine and Lebanon, I thought about it. And the events that affected me directly were that of 1982 and the events that followed -- when America allowed the Israelis to invade Lebanon, helped by the U.S. Sixth Fleet.
"In those difficult moments many emotions came over me which are hard to describe, but which produced an overwhelming feeling to reject injustice and a strong determination to punish the unjust.
"As I watched the destroyed towers in Lebanon, it occurred to me punish the unjust the same way (and) to destroy towers in America so it could taste some of what we are tasting and to stop killing our children and women.
"We had no difficulty in dealing with Bush and his administration because they resemble the regimes in our countries, half of which are ruled by the military and the other half by the sons of kings ... They have a lot of pride, arrogance, greed and thievery.
"He (Bush) adopted despotism and the crushing of freedoms from Arab rulers and called it the Patriot Act under the guise of combating terrorism.....
"We had agreed with the (the Sept. 11) overall commander Mohammed Atta, may God rest his soul, to carry out all operations in 20 minutes before Bush and his administration take notice.
"It never occurred to us that the commander in chief of the American forces (Bush) would leave 50,000 citizens in the two towers to face those horrors alone at a time when they most needed him because he thought listening to a child discussing her goat and its ramming was more important than the planes and their ramming of the skyscrapers. This had given us three times the time needed to carry out the operations, thanks be to God...
"Your security is not in the hands of (Democratic presidential candidate John) Kerry or Bush or al Qaeda. Your security is in your own hands and each state which does not harm our security will remain safe.