Bush, Blair and the Osama Tapes

If the Moon could talk, what would it say?

While the controversy in England about the advice of the Attorney General on the legality of the Iraq war rages on and fuels requests for its publication in full, in America, George W. Bush is luckier and has survived the Valerie Plame issue, WMD’s, and the scathing report on the failure of intelligence prior to 9/11, the question is, how would both deal with the issue brought up in this article that potentially dwarfs all other issues.

The issue is Bin Laden confessionals to his guilt of 9/11 on video tapes; yes plural, it is not a typo. One British supposedly acquired through intelligence, and one American explained as the product of an amateur videographer. Could those two tapes be just one and could it be as reported by the Observer the “result of a sophisticated sting operation”?

We have all seen the “American video”, a video tape acquired by US soldiers in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, and, provided by the Pentagon to the media and the general public in its raw form after intelligence services dissected it, analyzed it, and authenticated it. On the tape aired Dec 13, 2001, Osama Bin Laden, through a conversation with a visiting sheikh, later identified as Khaled al-Harbi , admits to 9/11, or in the least shows prior knowledge of it.

Many of you might have forgotten or never even heard that there is also a “British video”. On Nov. 14, 2001 , Tony Blair addressed parliament and informed the audience that the British Government published transcript excerpts of the “video” in which it says Bin Laden admitted taking his campaign to the United States. The article quotes bin Laden as saying:

“It is what we instigated for a while, in self-defence. If avenging the killing of our people is terrorism, let history be a witness that we are terrorists. The battle has been moved inside America, and we shall continue until we win this battle, or die in the cause and meet our maker.”

Now since Jalalabad fell on Nov. 14, the same day Mr. Blair uttered that quote in parliament, and, the president of the United States first exposure to the “American video” recovered in Jalalabad was not until Nov. 29, one has to assume that the “video” Mr. Blair is referring to is a different “video”. After all, if it is the same “video”, how could Mr. Blair have knowledge of something that has not yet existed?

On Nov 11 , The British video makes it debut introduce by David Bamber of the Sunday Telegraph in London. Mr. Bamber informs us that the Telegraph had access to it and reports it this way:

“The footage, to which the Telegraph obtained access in the Middle East yesterday, was not made for public release via the al-Jazeera television network used by bin Laden for propaganda purposes in the past. It is believed to be intended as a rallying call to al-Qa’eda members. He also tells us: “The video will form the centrepiece of Britain and America’s new evidence against bin Laden, to be released this Wednesday.”

On Nov 14 , three days later, the tape commits a disappearing act and this is how T.R. Reid, the Washington Post Foreign Service correspondent, reports from London on its official introduction in Parliament by Tony Blair; he writes: “The British government did not release the video or a full transcript, saying it does not have a copy of the video but has information about it from intelligence sources.” In the same article, he also reports that there was an interviewer on the tape.

Now you see it, now you don’t !!!

This is how the Washington Post describes on Dec. 9 Mr. Blair’s video in the article that unveiled the “American video” and I quote:

“The new videotape is not the one described last month by British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Intelligence sources had obtained only a transcript of that tape, not the actual video.”

It is a fact that the “British video” Tony Blair referred to on Nov 14, has never been provided to the public and his quotes of Nov 14, which are hearsay, are nowhere in the transcript of the “American video” recovered in Jalalabad and aired on Dec. 13, 2001. It is also a fact that through the various newspaper reports, we are asked to believe that only the Telegraph had access to the video while British and American intelligence had no chance to see it, vet it, or authenticate its transcript. Also, we are asked to believe that there are two “videos”, and that confessionals by “video” are a standard Osama Bin Laden business practice with copies distributed to heads of state.

Logic dictates that we not believe, and dictates that we ask Tony Blair and the Telegraph, to release the video immediately. Also, since the analysis that follows increases the credibility of a report that the tape is the result of a sophisticated sting operation run by intelligence services, urgency is warranted.

The following came to light while I was researching inconsistencies in intelligence that sent us to war in Iraq. The “American video” released by the Pentagon, even though not specifically related to the war in Iraq, stayed in my mind ever since it was aired and warranted a revisit as part of my research.

While viewing the “American video”, both historic and technical inconsistencies were found. Granted, the tape is the most analyzed tape in the world, still, most of the analysis was centered on the looks of Bin Laden, his voice quality, his words, and none reported an investigative analysis that considered post-taping edits. Due to limited technical capabilities, we could only report that the tape was a fourth generation edit (copy or otherwise), that there are both VHS and digital drops on the tape, which is unusual, and that there was unwarranted editing that might have happened post-taping. Also, and most importantly, that certain camera angles and motions seemed too similar to a hat camera that football umpires wear. Those who are better equipped to conduct further evaluation are encouraged to do so. (click here for hints to those interested in conducting further technical analysis)

In terms of the historic inconsistencies, the timeline inconsistencies that follow are of a serious nature and clear enough that the Pentagon analysts should have easily picked them out. The failure to detect them and report them should weigh negatively against those who released the video.

The first anchor for the timeline analysis is what Ari Fleischer, the White House press secretary, informed us through his press briefings. Mr. Fleischer told us that the tape was found in Jalalabad, in an abandoned house, that the tape did not seem to be planted, and that the occupiers of the house seem to have left in a hurry. Mr. Fleischer also tells us that the tape seems to have been made on November 9, 2001, since that is what the time stamp on it is. He also goes on to say in one of his answers: “I can tell you, the President was first informed of it on November 29th.  He first viewed portions of it on November 30th.” Again, for the record, Jalalabad fell on Nov. 14.

Now let us use the transcript of the tape that the Pentagon provided.

In the transcript, the visiting sheikh to whom Bin Laden confessed is reported to have said:

“We came from Kabul….. We asked the driver to take us, it was a night with a full moon, thanks be to Allah.”

On the tape itself, the sheikh actually infers prominent moon, which I interpret as 3 to 4 days before and after a full moon. He is later reported to have said:

 “Allah has bestowed on us…honor on us…and he will give us blessing and more victory during this holy month of Ramadan.”

In the tape he never uses the word Ramadan, he actually says: ”…….victory during this Moubarak (meaning blessed) month and the month after.”

The translators decided to interpret “Moubarak month” as Ramadan since the word Moubarak is usually used to describe the month of Ramadan and totally omitted the fact that he said: “and the month after”.

If Ramadan were the month the taping took place, Ramadan in 2001 starts like every other Ramadan with a new moon, as black as the night can get, and was on Nov. 16, while a full moon is not until Nov. 30, which means a prominent moon is between Nov. 26 and Dec. 4. The taping could not have happened during a prominent moon in the month of Ramadan since Kabul, the town the sheikh traveled through, had fallen on Nov. 12, Jalalabad, where it was found, on Nov.14, and Kandahar, where supposedly it was taped, was surrounded by anti-Taliban forces during that period and fell towards the end of it.

Now that we have established that the taping could not have taken place during Ramadan and that the reported date stamp of Nov. 9 on the tape could have been a programming error on the part of the camera operator, we need to go back in time and examine the previous periods of a prominent moon which are: Oct. 27 through Nov. 4, and, Sept. 28 through Oct. 6.

Going back to the transcript released by the Pentagon we find no mention of carpet bombings, coalition operations, or travel difficulties due to the military operations that officially started on Oct 6, 2001. I find it incredible that, over a period of 40 minutes of tape, there was no mention of military activities by the coalition or their effects on travel, considering the magnitude of such activities and the chattiness of the sheikh, which puts the period of Oct. 27 through Nov. 4 in doubt.

The second anchors for the timeline analysis are statements by Tony Blair, that of Nov. 14 and the following two:

On Oct 4, 2001 , in a speech, he states that a Government document is to be released and I quote the document:

“There is evidence of a very specific nature relating to the guilt of Bin Laden and his associates that is too sensitive to release.” The operative words are “very specific”.

On Sept. 30, 2001 , in a BBC interview, Tony Blair states that he has evidence from intelligence services of Bin Laden’s guilt and that the evidence was “powerful and incontrovertible”. I had to look up incontrovertible in the dictionary, it means; not open to question or dispute; indisputable, as in, absolute and incontrovertible truth. This was only 4 days prior to Oct. 4, is he talking about the same “very specific” evidence. Very likely as it takes governments about 4 days to vet and publish.

When we combine all three statements, we can deduce that the incontrovertible evidence was available as early as Sept. 30, that it was acquired by intelligence, and that it is a “video” since the only incontrovertible evidence, even though hearsay, Blair put forth was his quote of Nov. 14.

Again, logic dictates that we ask Tony Blair to release his video.

Going back to the timeline analysis. If we now take the period of Sept. 28 through Oct. 6, into consideration, we have to consider a fact that strongly favors this period, it is the fact that the visiting sheikh is a paraplegic and needs considerable help during travel. I would think a handicapped person would travel into Afghanistan during the relative calm of this period while he could still get the support and cooperation of the Taliban in his trek to locate and meet Bin Laden. Oddly enough, this time period also fits perfectly with Tony Blair’s statements of Sept. 30 and Oct. 4 and begs the conclusion that the video was produced around Sept. 28.

The only inconsistency with the Sept. 28 through Oct. 6 period is where Ramadan is deduced by the translators but never mentioned by name by the sheikh. Again, let us review what the sheikh said: “…….victory during this Moubarak month and the month after.” One can wonder if his usage of the word Moubarak was strictly out of piety, if it is, then there is no inconsistency. But, since the mention of the prominent moon in the video was a normal statement and stating a fact that should be known to all present, giving it more prominence as the truth, and the use of the word Moubarak is not only proven out of chronological context but would also have raised eye brows if he had not followed it with “and the month after”, one has to consider the possibility that the word Moubarak was inserted intentionally, which adds credibility to the following paragraph.

Ed Voliami and Jason Burke reported in the Observer on December 16, 2001 and I quote:

“This weekend, as the debate the tape has provoked continued across the Islamic world, several intelligence sources have suggested to The Observer that the tape, although absolutely genuine, is the result of a sophisticated sting operation run by the CIA through a second intelligence service, possibly Saudi or Pakistani.”

If Voliami and Burke are correct in their reporting, and our timeline on target, the sting operation that did the taping of the video could have been the sting operation that did the capturing or elimination of Bin Laden which would also have averted the Afghanistan war and significantly contained terrorism, not to mention preventing the loss of life on both sides.

Another very serious consequence of airing a tape that is a product of a sting operation is the effect it would have on its subject, Bin Laden, when viewing it. By airing it, the producers of the tape tipped their hand and exposed the fact that they were mere feet from him; his paranoia and security concerns could only have increased and made him harder to locate.

Considering all these serious questions that have been raised, strictly through the use of logic and public domain information, it is imperative that we ask Tony Blair and the Telegraph to release their tape.

The implications that arise if both tapes, American and British, are the same are beyond comprehension, and the words needed to comfort those who have lost loved ones in 9/11 and in the war or terror are beyond imagination


Articles by: Maher Osseiran

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