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Bin Laden tape no great shakes, FBI director says

  • Story Highlights
  • Last week's message contains no clear threat, Robert Mueller says
  • Even children capable of technology behind messages, he says
  • Mueller: It's not hard to hide in remote mountains
  • "Substantial concerns" about terrorism remain, he says
  • Next Article in U.S. »
From Kevin Bohn and Kelli Arena
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- There was no overt prediction of a terror attack in the tape released last week by al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, FBI Director Robert Mueller said.


Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden appears in a videotape urging Americans to embrace Islam.

In the tape, the first videotape of the terrorist leader since October 2004, bin Laden urged Americans to "embrace Islam," a call that some terrorism analysts said could portend an attack.

"The tape is still being analyzed, but this isn't the first time he has encouraged those in the United States or elsewhere, in Western Europe, to convert to Islam, and there has not necessarily been any correlation between statements that he or [Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda's second in command] have made in the past and attacks," Mueller told CNN in an exclusive interview.

Mueller downplayed the significance of bin Laden's ability to get messages out and to seem well-informed about current events.

References to new French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown suggest the message was recorded this summer. Bin Laden also alludes to the U.S. mortgage crisis and the Democratic majority in Congress.

"It is an indication we live in a globalized world, the world of the Internet," he said. "No matter where you are in this globe you can tap into the Internet and immediately pull up the media, you, and be up on current affairs.

"At the same time it is relatively easy to hide an individual or small group of individuals in a series of mountains such as you see between Afghanistan and Pakistan," Mueller said.

"It is still very difficult to hunt down and find an individual or small group of individuals who do not want to be found in a country where the terrain is such as you see in Pakistan or Afghanistan," he added.

The FBI director said the terror group doesn't need as much help as some have said to get its tapes distributed since As Sahab, its media arm, posts its messages directly on the Internet.

"It does take, without a question of a doubt, it takes some technological knowledge," he said. "But ... children are technologically adept and in the educational process have no problem in producing PowerPoints or videos, and many of them are of top quality. The same is true for terrorists or for others who want to get a message out.

"It takes very little equipment, very little in terms of the hardware capability or software capability to produce that, and then it is a question of finding an outlet on the Internet. Once you find one outlet to the Internet, that is sufficient to have it spread throughout the Internet, and so it is much easier for an individual or a small group of individuals to put out their message."

Asked if the U.S. had hit a wall in its search for the al Qaeda leader, Mueller responded, "Let me just say it is a continuous effort. A lot of people in the U.S. government are spending a lot of time and have for many years to try to locate him."

Mueller also said the FBI has "a number of investigations" ongoing concerning potential extremists in the United States, but he refused to provide details on numbers or possible activities. Video Watch Mueller assess the threat of terrorists inside the U.S. »


The heightened "threat period is certainly not over," he said, adding that officials still "have substantial concerns."

Counterterrorism officials have said there is no imminent, credible threat to the United States. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About TerrorismAfghanistanPakistanOsama bin Laden

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