CNN BREAKING NEWS
Possible bin Laden Audiotape Released
Aired February 11, 2003 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Once again, if you're just tuning in, in about ten minutes, we have received word that an audiotape exists, an alleged audiotape with the voice of Osama bin Laden, a message regarding a possible showdown with Iraq.
We're going to go to our Andrea Koppel, State Department correspondent, with more on the transcript that Colin Powell received. Secretary of State Colin Powell. What has he told you, Andrea, about this transcript? He hasn't actually heard a tape, right?
ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's unclear, Kyra. And I should clarify to our viewers that I have not spoken personally with Secretary Powell. It's just open testimony that Secretary Powell made a short time ago up on Capitol Hill in which he really sort of stunned everyone who was in the room there and others who were listening in on television when he said and alluded to the fact that bin Laden or a person believed to be bin Laden would be making a statement at some point today on the Al-Jazeera television network -- that's that Arab satellite TV network. That he would be making a statement in which he would be making links, expressing solidarity, if you will, with the Iraqi people.
The State Department and the Bush administration is not making any apologies or is certainly not trying to dissuade us from going the next step in saying that there are links between Osama bin Laden and the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein. I just spoke to a senior State Department official who left that out there. He said, Look at Secretary Powell's presentation that he made just last week at the U.N. Security Council. We do believe -- the U.S. believes that there are links, credible links, between Iraq and Saddam Hussein.
Why is that important? Well, among the various options that the U.S. is putting out there, among the various cases that the Bush administration is trying to build to justify its possible attack on Iraq is the fact that Iraq is harboring, sheltering terrorists.
And this is something that the international community, some are saying that, Why are you giving up on the war on terrorism? If the U.S. can then draw a direct link between terrorist organizations and Saddam Hussein that bolsters their case.
But I spoke to a couple of senior State Department officials, Kyra, who told me that on the tape, that this they -- the characterization that they have heard, the person they believe they were listening to was Osama bin Laden in their eyes.
They say right now they're scrambling, actually, over at the State Department to try to figure out who is going to appear on Al- Jazeera after this tape airs in about seven minutes. They said they got very short notice. Al-Jazeera said, We would like to have some type of U.S. response. That was left up to the State Department. So we should expect -- we don't know who, but somebody will be appearing from the State Department to rebut what is laid out in this bin Laden tape.
Now, in addition, I was told that it disassembled some of the events of last fall. That in the tape, this person who may or may not be Osama bin Laden references some of the events, perhaps the Bali bombing that we've heard referenced in the November tape that Osama bin Laden audiotape he put out, perhaps even the Moscow terrorist incident involving Chechen rebels.
So that at least gives us an idea as to when this tape may have been made. It's unclear, Kyra, if this tape was made in recent weeks, recent days or even recent months. That of course is significant because it tells us whether or not Osama bin Laden is alive -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: All right, Andrea. Now I'm getting word that Al- Jazeera is not going to air this audiotape come 3:00 p.m.
You know, let me just ask you quickly. I'm just curious. Do you think all this talk and -- about this tape and the authenticity is maybe leading the network to hold off from airing this tape? What could be some possible scenarios here?
KOPPEL: Well, it's difficult to interpret exactly what this means. It could be as simple as perhaps just not having the audiotape or the videotape ready to go. There seems to have been confusion all afternoon long, in fact, ever since we first heard about the tape during Secretary Powell's testimony.
Al-Jazeera representatives were telling CNN -- they were telling other networks, other news organizations, that they didn't know anything about a tape. They said that they had heard rumors about it but that there wasn't a tape that they knew of. then, suddenly within the last hour, the wires were flashing. CNN was then told by Al- Jazeera yes, in fact, there would be a broadcast.
So I wouldn't read too much into the fact that the time of the actual broadcast is slipping. Clearly, Al-Jazeera is now admitting to the fact that there is what may be videotape or audiotape of bin Laden. And the only question that's out there really is when was this audio cassette or video cassette made.
The Bush administration, of course, wanting to focus and hone all of our attention right now on the fact that they are reading into this statement as being further proof that there are links between the al Qaeda terrorist network headed by Osama bin Laden and the regime, the Iraqi regime headed by Saddam Hussein -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: Andrea, the latest word coming from our David Ensor, our national security correspondent, is that it's an audiotape, not a videotape. And he was making the point that, you know, there's a big difference. It's hard to fake a videotape. It's easy to fake an audiotape. There've been a lot of tapes that have surfaced before. You know, what are your thoughts about the type of tape allegedly that exists here?
KOPPEL: Well, that would certainly follow. And the last time that we had heard -- and I emphasize heard from Osama bin Laden last November, it was an audio cassette.
And in fact, it took, if folks remember, a number of weeks for the intelligence community to authenticate that tape. There were questions as to whether or not in fact it was bin Laden. So if this is going to be another audio cassette, that seems to be the M.O. of recent -- of late of Osama bin Laden.
And in that November audio cassette, Osama bin Laden did mention the Bali attacks in the nightclub. He did mention the Moscow/Chechen hostage situation. And perhaps it's unclear from the officials I've spoken with -- perhaps those are the events that Osama bin Laden, if in fact it is him, was referencing in the tape that we're expecting to be broadcast soon.
But, also, Kyra, if you look at the pattern that Osama bin Laden has established really over the last five years, even since before the August 1998 embassy bombings in East Africa, he broadcast, in that case a video cassette in which he issued his fatwah, his religious edict, in which he was saying that there should be a religious war aimed at Westerners, especially targeting Americans, those who had a presence on Saudi soil, American troops.
Then before the October 2000 attack on the USS ,Cole again Osama bin Laden appeared in a videotape in which he had a Yemeni sword, which has since been interpreted as yet another signal that there was going to be terrorist attack in Yemen.
Now, we have heard as recently as last Friday the intelligence community, the Homeland Security administration and President Bush himself talking about the fact that the U.S. believes that a not only in this country, but overseas, Americans are at risk for further terrorist attacks. So it does make one question as to the timing of the release of this audio cassette.
And also Al-Jazeera, should be noted as a footnote, has been the preferred, if you will, venue of broadcasting these Osama bin Laden threats -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: OK, Andrea, bear with me. I apologize. I am now -- I'm now getting word that this audiotape will air at 3:00 p.m. on Al- Jazeera. It's interesting to sort of see us go back and forth here. The information continues to change. So we're trying to stay on top of this and figure out when indeed this audiotape will air. We are told now it will air 3:00 p.m. on Al-Jazeera.
If you're just tuning in, we're talking about an audiotape allegedly made by Osama bin Laden. It was first mentioned -- Secretary of State Colin Powell, he revealed today that there was an existence of this audio message. He said that he had not heard a tape but had, rather, read a transcript. Let's listen to what he said earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: This morning it was brought home to me once again when I read the transcript of what bin Laden or who we believe to be bin Laden will be saying in Al-Jazeera during the course of the day. You'll be seeing this as the day unfolds. Where once again he speaks to the people of Iraq and talks about their struggle and how he is in partnership with Iraq.
This nexus between terrorists and states that are developing weapons of mass destruction can no longer be looked away from and ignored.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: OK, once again, if you're just tuning in, Secretary of State Colin Powell referring to a transcript that he read. Allegedly an audiotape in existence that's going to air on Al-Jazeera Network 3:00 p.m. Eastern time.
Want to bring in Ken Pollack, one of our CNN analysts on Iraq. He is with the Brookings Institution.
Ken, I want to ask you first your reaction to all this talk that's going on. And you've probably been listening, or hearing, there will be a tape, there won't be a tape. Kind of a back and forth cat and mouse game here. What's your take on this audiotape?
OK, we do not have Ken on the phone. I apologize for that. Can you give me some direction to where we're going. All right, we're going to go straight to Al-Jazeera network live. Lets listen in.
OK, I am told we are looking at Al-Jazeera network.
CNN correspondent David Ensor, now.
David, I am told watching Al-Jazeera Network right now. Are you able to see what I am watching at this right now.
DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Casting some pictures. There's the United Nation's -- the NATO assembly of recent days. We saw earlier some of the hearings that I and others have been covering for CNN. Just one thing to mention while we're waiting to figure out what's going on here.
Talking to a very senior intelligence official on Capitol Hill today, one thing that he was noting about the possibility of this tape is that he's quite concerned, whenever there is a possible bin Laden tape, because in the past it seems when a bin Laden tape comes out some attempt at large-scale terrorism is sure to follow fairly soon. And, of course, as you know and as we've been reporting, the U.S. intelligence community has a lot of evidence and intelligence it's gathered in recent weeks, suggesting that there is a serious effort under way to attack either the United States itself or perhaps a U.S. target on the Arabian Peninsula -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: Now, David, let's talk a little more about this tap. Secretary Colin Powell making the statement that when he read this transcript, this was a message to Iraq, not necessarily a message to the United States. Is that how you interpreted what he had to say?
ENSOR: That was part of what he was saying, yes. Interesting to note, though, that when Al-Jazeera, which, of course, has heard the tape also, for sure, was describing it on its air briefly, it talked about the tape being in part, a message to Muslims in general, calling upon them to support Iraq.
Interesting to note, and of course clearly secretary Powell already has, that at a time when the U.S. is trying to make the case that there's a connection between al Qaeda and Iraq that they are helping the U.S. The next place you will probably here from Iraq saying, "Wait a second, we didn't tell bin Laden what to say and we don't have any connection with him." It's creating problems for Iraq that such a statement may soon be put out.
PHILLIPS: National security correspondent David Ensor, we're going to ask you to stand by as we continue to follow this developing story. If your just tuning in, we are told an audiotape will be or is possibly airing on Al Jazeera Network at this moment right now. An audiotape allegedly with the voice of Osama bin Laden. A message to Muslims in general, supporting Iraq and talk of a possible connection between Iraq and al Qaeda. We're going to turn to the White House now.
White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux standing by.
Suzanne, what kind of word or response are you getting from the White House with regard to this audiotape?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: This is really vindication for the White House, really a big get. It was just last fall the president had first introduced this alleged link between al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. Quite frankly, it was something that didn't pick up a lot of traction in the fall. And it was the administration's thinking that secretary Powell, as well as other advisors have been talking about this, should stick with really showing that Iraq was not complying with weapons inspections and that it was violating the resolution. Not to try to connect the dots here with al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, but Ari Fleischer earlier today was asked about this audiotape, and again he said it is of great concern to the administration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I don't think it's the first time that there has been information that has come about in this manner that was reported by Al Jazeera after a period of time. And from everything we have heard, Al Jazeera will be reporting this. QUESTION: You are confirming that a -- the U.S. Government is aware of a new statement that as Secretary Powell said, we've determined is from Osama bin Laden?
FLEISCHER: I don't think Colin Powell would have said what he said if he didn't have a basis to say it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: The administration very aware of this tape and it would air later in the day. Ari Fleischer really didn't want to upstage Secretary Powell in discussing about the specifics of all of this. But really just a part of the administration's broader, larger case against Iraq, against Osama bin Laden, that, yes, there is this connection.
Osama bin Laden, as well as Saddam Hussein, that there is this connection and there is this sense of urgency that Iraq must be dealt with. The message being if Iraq has these weapons of mass destruction, this connection to al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden are at least some sympathy between the two organizations, that he could pass along those weapons and that the United States would then next target -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: Suzanne Malveaux, at the White House, thank you so much.
If your just tuning in, right now airing live on Al Jazeera Network, the Arab Network, is an audiotape allegedly with the voice of Osama bin Laden. Right here at CNN, we are monitoring that audiotape. Putting it through our certain -- our process -- our process to try to make sure it is an authentic audiotape. We are continuing to listen to it. Our analysts are looking by.
Also on the phone with me, Ken Pollack from the Brookings Institution. He formerly worked with the CIA.
Ken, first of all, just hearing this that there may be an audiotape, not a videotape but an audiotape, what's your first reaction.
Do you think it could be authentic?
KEN POLLACK, BROOKING INSTITUTION: It certainly could be. If it's only an audiotape, but not a videotape, it is unclear why they'd have it as an audio and not a videotape. It does raise the possibility that this is not bin Laden himself, that it is some kind of impersonator, but it may also be that bin Laden is not somewhere where he can get access to a video camera or some kind of video studio.
But I think the headline here is, if this can be authenticated that Osama bin Laden is alive and well and somewhere he can make audiotapes. Second early this is this issue of Bin Laden expressing solidarity to the Iraqi people. This is something bin Laden has done before, many times, even before September 11. It's one thing for Secretary Powell to suggest he is expressing solidarity with the Iraq people and expressing some kind of a connection to Iraq.
It's another thing to hear what bin Laden exactly says. Whether he says that we are actually in bed with Saddam Hussein or he is simply expressing a broader sympathy with the Iraqi people, which is what he's generally done. It would be a real departure for bin Laden to suddenly say he's in league with Saddam Hussein. But perfectly in keeping and not much of a change at all if all he was doing was suggesting that the al Qaeda movement has great sympathy for its brothers and sisters in Iraq.
PHILLIPS: Ken, let's say this is authentic, this audiotape with a message from Osama bin Laden. It could be a warning that he could be planning other terrorist attacks if the U.S. invades Iraq.
Would that be fair to say?
POLLACK: It could be. But I wouldn't push that too far. Bin laden and al Qaeda are planning other terrorist attacks. There is no question about it. If he wants to somehow cloak these as being part of some sort of a pan-Arab reaction or pan-Muslim reaction to a U.S. attack on Iraq, he could certainly do that. It's something we've seen since September 11. Bin Laden trying to tie his own cause more closely with other causes that are popular in the Arab world. But I don't think that we should necessarily see this as being somehow meaningful in the sense that bin Laden wouldn't be making these attacks in the United States were not going to go to war with Iraq.
PHILLIPS: Ken, you've worked for the CIA. You've written some pretty detailed books with regard to the case against Iraq, and invasion against Iraq.
How do you analyze such a tape?
POLLACK: Well, obviously the CIA and the National Security Agency have some extraordinarily sophisticated technological capabilities, in terms of breaking the tape down, listening to the inflection of voices, listening to how the person speaking pronounces different words, and you can match that up against previous tapes known to be bin Laden. And what you do is you look to see, does this person pronounce the words the same. Does he or she speak with the same kind of a cadence. Is the voice modulation in exactly the same sort of range. So, it's a combination of technological capabilities in terms of, does the voice, the sounds of the person making match with sounds known to come from bin Laden's throat, along with how the person speaks.
Does the person use the same sort of vernacular that Osama bin Laden does?
Do they use the same expressions that bin Laden does?
Do they pronounce words the same way?
So, it's a combination of technological analysis and personal or qualitative analysis. PHILLIPS: Ken Pollack, CIA analyst, also with the Brookings Institution. We'll ask you to stand by. Stay with us as we continue to roll along with the coverage here.
Okay, Ken, actually, are you still with me?
POLLACK: I'm still with you.
PHILLIPS: Good. Thank you. Stay with me. I'm receiving a lot of last-minute information here, working to get a lot of people on the phone lines with us as the tape rolls on Al-Jazeera. And trying to decipher if, indeed, this is an authentic message made by Osama bin Laden on an audiotape. All right. We have an excerpt from that tape.
We're going to roll it right now Ken. Stand by.
OSAMA BIN LADEN, TERRORIST (through translator): Following very carefully the preparation of the crusaders to invade the Iraqi land and taking the wealth of the Muslims and installing a regime that has Tel Aviv and Washington on its head to run you. In preparation for the establishment of greater Israel, god forbid, we want to let you know and confirm to you that this war of the infidels that the U.S. is leading with its allies and friends.
First, we are with you and we will fight in the name of god. This is not for the leaders or nations to win, but this is god winning. God says that those who believe and fight in the name of god. What you need to do is fight those that believe in Satan, too. We want to remind you that victory comes from god only. All we have to do is be prepared and be ready and fight from Jihad. And god said all those who believe in god, will be on your side. And god will forgive all your sins -- (recites Quranic verses). And don't feel fairly with people. With those who drink alcohol, and that all these are infidels and should be fought in the name of god -- (recites Quranic verses).
PHILLIPS: You're listening to a live audiotape allegedly a message from Osama bin Laden. It's airing right now on Al-Jazeera Network. The Arab Network that we are told received this audiotape. A lot of questions here. Is it authentic? Is it indeed Osama bin Laden? What's the meaning behind the message? Terrorism analyst Peter Bergen with us now as we try to decipher, I guess, actually, try and figure out if indeed this audiotape is authentic.
Peter, I guess I want to ask you, specifically, as we're listening to this, just the short bit that we did listen to, we're not hearing anything specific with regard to a link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, or a U.S. invasion of Iraq. I mean, this seems to be pretty general thus far, sort of a message to Muslims, a spiritual message if you will. What do you think thus far?
PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: He has mentioned the impending invasion of Iraq. He hasn't mentioned anything to do with Saddam Hussein. So far, it is just a solidarity statement about the war in Iraq, not necessarily linked to the regime. In terms of the authenticity of the tape, I mean, I've heard bin Laden's voice many times. I'm pretty confident that's him. Al-Jazeera has had a 100 percent success rate, as it were, in terms of identifying bin Laden's tapes and putting out tapes that have turned out to be authentic. Clearly Secretary Powell believed it to be authentic when he talked about it this morning. I believe it is authentic, would be very surprising if it weren't.
PHILLIPS: You do think it's authentic. Tell me why. You say you know his voice? Is it simply just by listening to it, you can identify immediately with the way he's pronouncing words, and the voice modulation?
BERGEN: It just sounds like him. I mean, I've listened enough times to his voice to think -- to know this sounds very like him.
PHILLIPS: So if indeed this is him -- I mean, headline here, Osama bin Laden is alive.
BERGEN: We knew that already, actually. In October, a four- minute tape was released which referenced the Bali blast which happened in October. It was a very brief tape of four minutes, but it made the kinds of references that indicated that it would be made sometime in perhaps -- sometime in October. So we knew that he was alive. We also know -- we have another audiotape from his No. 2, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, who is also very important in the organization. Essentially, we know that the two leaders of al Qaeda remain alive today.
PHILLIPS: All right. Peter Bergen, our terrorism analyst, I'm going to ask you to stand by, please.
Our Mike Boettcher now, we're going to go to London -- Mike, you've been listening to this tape. You have heard Osama bin Laden's voice before. Do you think this is authentic also?
MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, judging by the routing of the tape -- that it was released by Al-Jazeera indicates that it is authentic.
PHILLIPS: Hold on just a second. I'm going to put Mike on hold for a quick second. I'm told we have got another excerpt from this audiotape message from Osama bin Laden. Let's listen in.
OSAMA BIN LADEN (through translator): In an earlier speech, I had mentioned their bunkers and the way they build them. If you look back at the old battles that we fought bravely, and here I'm going to mention a little bit about this old battle just to show you how cowardly they are, and how the bunkers that they built turned against them. We were 300 mujahid (ph), and we had built some bunkers that were very close to each other. So each bunker was for three people to diminish the loss of life, and then our positions were attacked. We were attacked on October 7, 2001. We were attacked very extensively, and then things got a little bit better until the middle of Ramadan.
PHILLIPS: All right. If you are just tuning in, what you are listening to was an audiotape, an alleged audiotape of Osama bin Laden. So far, our terrorism analyst, Peter Bergen out of D.C. believes, indeed, that this is an authentic tape. We were just talking with our Mike Boettcher in London. Mike, let's go back to you. As you continue -- I didn't mean to cut you off. I apologize. We were bringing another excerpt sort of at the last minute here of this taped message allegedly by Osama bin Laden. You were talking about your reaction to this tape, if, indeed, you think it's authentic. Your reaction thus far?
BOETTCHER: Well, my reaction so far is the fact that this seems to be an advice column from Osama bin Laden to the Iraqis, telling them how he managed to fight the Americans, saying that he listened to the radio broadcasts during the fighting at Tora Bora. He could listen to American radios and radios of the other coalition forces there, and they were able to survive. He talked about how hard it was, and it's a lesson, a morale lesson, as well, it seems Osama bin Laden is trying to give to Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi army.
PHILLIPS: So, when he's talking about an old battle, you're saying he's talking about Afghanistan?
BOETTCHER: Well, he originally was talking about Tora Bora. He described the heavy bombing in Tora Bora, which occurred after the U.S. offensive had driven the Taliban out of power. This would have happened late in 2001, and this is the battle in which Osama bin Laden, we've been told by coalition intelligence sources, managed to escape because he moved bunkers a day before.
He talked about heavy U.S. bombardment, but that bombardment missed Osama bin Laden by about 100 meters, we are told, and he was injured in that bombing. He relates the heavy bombing, but what I've heard so far he doesn't talk about being injured. But that is at the time when he made the escape from Kandahar to Tora Bora. There were large forces there of al Qaeda. It was the biggest battle in the campaign against al Qaeda, and there were several U.S. lives lost there, and he basically says on the tape that those U.S. forces couldn't beat us. How can these powers defeat the Arab nation, and that is a direct comment to the Iraqi people and Saddam Hussein.
PHILLIPS: So, Mike, you are saying that this message from Osama bin Laden is a bit of an advice column, as you say, to Iraq. Sort of a morale speech to Saddam Hussein. But is it actually -- do you think thus far, as you listen to this, are you actually seeing a link here between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. Does this prove that there is a relationship, a working relationship, do you think, or do you think it's just sort of a gesture on his part, a speech he's giving to Saddam Hussein?
BOETTCHER: Well, what I've heard so far is no smoking gun, no connection. He's not going to talk about, of course, any links if they do exist, between al Qaeda and Iraq. He is exhorting them to carry on, telling him about their past experiences in battling the United States and its coalition forces, and he's telling them that they can win if they resist against the United States.
The details that will, if they ever will, connect al Qaeda with Iraq, are still being worked on by intelligence agencies all over the world. There is a lot more out there, I've been told in my recent travels through the region, through the Middle East region, that there's a lot more out there that's going to come out, but even with that additional information, and it has to do with money and how this was all funded, but even with that additional information, it will still be difficult to say this is a smoking gun.
PHILLIPS: All right. Our Mike Boettcher, live out of London there. We are going to ask you to stand by as we continue to vet this tape. If you are just tuning in, what we are monitoring right now is a message, an audiotaped message from Osama bin Laden. It's airing on Al-Jazeera network, an Arab news network. It's an excerpt, rather, that you just heard. You've actually heard two excerpts, but we are monitoring this tape. OK. I'm told we have another excerpt. Let's go ahead and take a listen to that, and I'll continue to explain what's happening here.
BIN LADEN (through translator): ... in the name of God, this is a message to our brothers, Muslims in Iraq. Peace be upon you -- (recites Quranic verse). We are following very carefully the preparation of the crusaders to invade the Iraqi land and taking the wealth of the Muslims and installing a regime that has Tel Aviv and Washington on its head to run you, in preparation for the establishment of greater Israel, God forbid...
PHILLIPS: All right. Once again, you are listening to an excerpt from an audiotaped message from Osama bin Laden. Indeed, we are vetting this audiotape that is airing live on Al-Jazeera network right now, the Arab network that is airing this audiotape. So far, our terrorism analyst Peter Bergen has told us he does believe that this is authentic. He's heard Osama bin Laden's voice many times. I am now told we have another excerpt. We're going to listen in.
BIN LADEN (through translator): We also want to confirm, we want to ask the good Muslims to help in any way they can, to join the forces and get them together to overthrow the leaderships, the leadership that works as a slave for America. Jordan and Morocco and Nigeria and Saudi Arabia, all these countries should be careful that this war, this crusade, is attacking...
PHILLIPS: You've been listening to excerpts of a videotape -- or, sorry, an audiotape -- I apologize -- of Osama bin Laden, an alleged audiotape in existence right now, airing live on Al-Jazeera network, the Arab network that is carrying this audiotape.
So far our terrorism analyst Peter Bergen tells us that he does believe that this tape is authentic. He's been listening to it. He knows Osama bin Laden's voice. We've also been talking to our Mike Boettcher out of London. He, too, following what is airing on Al- Jazeera right now. We're not airing the tape in its entirety. What we are doing is running through our veting process here at CNN, indeed trying to confirm that it is authentic. So far our experts here at CNN believe that it is authentic.
Osama bin Laden basically coming out, as our Mike Boettcher puts it, with an advice column to Iraq, describing the old battle, talking about Afghanistan and the bombs being dropped in Tora Bora, and advising Saddam Hussein on how they built bunkers and survived the bombing.
Let's bring in our terrorism analyst Peter Bergen in D.C. Peter, you'll be a lot better at describing what we're hearing here. As you listen more and more to these excerpts, you still are believing that this is indeed Osama bin Laden on this audiotape?
BERGEN: Yes, he's hitting a lot of the themes he has hit in the past. On theme that he just -- in the last excerpt we heard was calling for the overthrow of the Saudi monarchy, essentially, which is something that he's been calling for for more than a decade. He also talked about overthrowing the governments in Morocco, Nigeria, and Jordan, all of whom he regards as being too pro-American. That is part of his -- that has been part of his general world view that most Middle Eastern regimes need to be replaced by more Islamic regimes.
PHILLIPS: All right, Peter, and as you -- also I want to point out, too, that as we've been talking, we still have not heard an actual identifiable link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, right?
BERGEN: I'd be very surprised if he does. I mean, you know, Osama bin Laden has long been on the record as supporting the Iraqi people against what he regards as the oppression of the West. He rarely brings in Saddam into that. So that in past statements that he's made, he tends to lump Saddam together with other Middle Eastern rulers that he doesn't like. So I would be surprised if he has nice things to say about Saddam. We haven't heard the whole tape, but I would be surprised if he does.
PHILLIPS: All right. Our Peter Bergen, terrorism analyst, live in D.C. there. Thank you so much. We're going to ask you to stay with us as we continue to listen to this tape.
Someone else that knows these tapes very well, Octavia Nasr. You actually spent time, quite a bit of time at Al-Jazeera. You've seen tapes like this come forward, videotapes, audiotapes. Your impression so far as we listen to the excerpts?
OCTAVIA NASR, CNN AL-JAZEERA CONTACT: This is a very interesting tape because the whole 16 minutes of this tape is talking about Iraq.
Basically this is Osama bin Laden feeling that a war is imminent or a war is near, and he's sending a clear message to the Muslims of Iraq to hang in there, if you will, to not to fear, what he called the American propaganda machine. Not to fear words such as smart bomb.
And he's giving the people of Iraq, the Muslim people of Iraq, his personal account about what happened in Tora Bora. He comes across as this hero, speaking to the oppressed people and telling them, Don't worry. You have God on your side. So all this propaganda machine, all this might that you are being exposed to, shouldn't scare you at all because you have what it takes to fight it. You just need to hang on to your religion, believe in your God, pray.
And then, of course, he goes on to kind of give them ideas on how they should fight this war, should it happen.
PHILLIPS: Now you're translating these tapes for us. So as you listen to this, you've been through this a number of times with us. Does this tape match up with other tapes? The voice modulation, the way he's pronouncing his words?
NASR: Absolutely. It does. When I was translating this tape I did not think for a second that this is not Osama bin Laden.
And I was pretty shocked to hear the references to the smart bombs, the references to the bunkers, references to his personal account. It was chilling to be in the translation booth and hear all these words because, to me, it did sound like Osama bin Laden. And it's chilling. And I can only imagine the affect this tape is going to have on the Muslim population around the world and of all those that understand Arabic and when we get this message, with that translation.
PHILLIPS: And then, here comes the question, when was this made? How do we figure that out? How do we...
NASR: That's the toughest thing to do right now. I don't think anyone can pin it down to a date. This could have been taped months ago in anticipation of a possible war on Iraq. It didn't strike me as something that was taped last week or yesterday or today or even last month. It could have been as old as one year because the -- this whole buildup on Iraq has been going on for a while.
PHILLIPS: We have another excerpt. Will you listen and translate for us? Here we go.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIN LADEN (through translator): It doesn't matter whether the Communist Party or Saddam disappear. This is an attack against them. They should go for Jihad against this crusade. They should take arms because this is their duty as Muslims and God said they should pick up their arms and kill all those who are infidels and who don't believe.
Muslims should have a clear ideology when they fight for God. The prophet said, Those who fight for that word of God is the highest that's who will end up in heaven. If the Muslims and the communists get together to fight the crusaders, that's OK.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: Once again, you're listening to an excerpt of the audiotape message from Osama bin Laden as this develops. It's rolling live on Al-Jazeera network. Octavia Nasr with us. She's been translating these tapes for us. We're going to go to David Ensor, national security correspondent. Octavia, we're going to come right back you, OK? And get you reaction and continue talking about these tapes.
But David, I understand that you have reaction out of Washington right now to this audiotape. ENSOR: Well, the reaction out of Washington is clearly going to be something that they want to get out quickly. And one of the things they are doing is offering Richard Boucher, the spokesman, assistant secretary of state, to Al-Jazeera. We understand he will be -- and maybe is at the moment -- taping a response.
They want to reach the Muslim and the Arab public as soon as possible with what the U.S. view is on this tape, and that view is very distinct. And we heard a little bit of it from Secretary Powell earlier. And that is this: that when you see Osama bin Laden praising Iraq and calling on the Iraqi ds to fight the Americans, you have further evidence that there is a connection between al Qaeda and Iraq.
Now you probably are going to hear from Iraqi officials saying they had nothing to do with this and don't know anything about it. So still, it is evidence that is going to help, in some ways, with the American argument that there is sympathy at least, if not cooperation, between al Qaeda and Iraq. And that last line of the excerpt we just ran, "If Muslims and communists get together and fight the crusaders, that's OK," where bin Laden refers to communists, he means the Bathist Party, the socialist party with Saddam Hussein at its head in Iraq.
He in past years was not exactly complimentary about the Bathists or about Saddam Hussein. But there is an element now of the enemy of my enemy is my friend, clearly, in the language of Osama bin Laden we've just been hearing -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: All right. And David, I'm told -- you mentioned the deputy secretary of state would be making a comment, would be reacting to this audiotape. And I am being told right now here is a live picture via Al-Jazeera network. He is, indeed, responding to the audiotape. So we will follow that and hopefully get him on our air.
It's being translated right now, obviously, in Arabic. I don't know, Octavia, maybe you can -- let me try to bring this up. Well, actually now it's moving along to the anchor there at Al-Jazeera. But we will try -- I will bring -- yes, we'll try and decipher -- actually, are these the words right here that are being translated?
NASR: No, this is still the old graphic. I don't think this is a live picture we're looking at here.
NASR: This is a filled (ph) picture. But if you can see Al- Jazeera, then I will be able to read it to you.
PHILLIPS: Yes. You know what I'm going to do? I'll bring that up for you. Meanwhile, we are going to listen to another excerpt of this tape, and then I'm going to get you hooked up so you can see this better.
(BEGIN AUDIOTAPE) BIN LADEN (through translator): ... all to say that killing the infidels is a good thing that will get you in heaven. And finally, I will ask you and myself to pray to god and to stay together and unify our forces. I tell myself, I remind myself and you that we should always pray. And as god says, stick together and unite because that's the only way to victory.
PHILLIPS: All right. If your are just tuning in, once again, rolling coverage right now as an audiotape -- an audiotaped message of Osama bin Laden rolls on live on Al-Jazeera network, the Arab network carrying this audiotape. So far our analysts here at CNN, they are listening to this tape, they're translating this tape. A number of our analysts do believe that this is authentic, that this indeed is a message from Osama bin Laden. A message, a bit of an advice column to Iraq, as our Mike Boettcher has been telling us. Sort of a building morale among Muslims.
Osama bin Laden coming out and asking Muslims to join forces. Talking specifically about a U.S. invasion against Iraq. Trying to build up Iraq and supporting them in the cause and the cause of Muslims. Jihad and the duty as Muslims.
I'm told now our Nic Robertson up live for us in Baghdad. Any reaction out of there thus far -- Nic.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No reaction so far. Perhaps one of the reasons of course is that it's so late in the evening here. It's almost midnight. Also it's a holiday here. So many officials in the government are off at this time.
There are some elements of it that may resonate with people in Iraq. They may recognize some of the themes that they've heard coming from the Iraqi leadership over recent days. In particular, the fact that the United States' aggression against Iraq in their eyes would be over the issue of Iraq's oil. Another point made in that statement, that it would be the United States and Israel that would be dominating the region once Iraq was conquered.
Now this is something the Iraqi leadership has spoken often about to the Iraqi people, saying that is the reason the United States wants to go to war with Iraq, is over its oil and its over controlling the region. The Iraqi leadership here, however, has, on a number of times, distanced itself from any connections whatsoever with al Qaeda. President Saddam Hussein, in his first interview essentially with the western news organization, in almost 12 years, a couple of weeks ago, said Iraq had no ties with al Qaeda. He said that if Iraq did, then he wouldn't be ashamed to say it.
But we've heard it many times, that there are no ties with al Qaeda. Something the Iraqi leadership insists and insists again -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: All right. Nic Robertson live out of Baghdad, following reaction there to the audiotape of Osama bin Laden, the message by Osama bin Laden. Next to me also Octavia Nasr. She's been translating these audiotapes for us. And your taking diligent notes as you listen to these excerpts. What are some of your thoughts as we continue to sort of vet the tape here?
NASR: I think one thing that we didn't touch upon yet is the way Osama bin Laden is encouraging Muslim people of Iraq to fight. He's even giving them ideas on how to fight. He's telling them, don't worry, air strikes cannot get to roofs, bunkers. And he's giving them the example of how he and his -- as he said, a few Mujahadeens were able to send the allied forces to their loss (ph) in the Tora Bora battle because they had these roof bunkers.
He's also encouraging them to have suicide attacks. He also tells them, just take a look at how successful they were in Israel and the United States. So basically it's a very interesting tape in the way it addresses the Muslims -- the sort of oppressed Muslims, and giving them hope and giving them ideas on how to prevail and not worry about this might that's heading their way.
PHILLIPS: And you listened to this. You are talking about the clear targets that are being made to fight this battle and the suicide attacks. And yet he's saying, "Fighting in the name of god."
NASR: Absolutely. Actually, the 16 minutes that we listened to have a lot of references to the Quran. Many, many, many verses. Many tales from the Quran about how Muslims should fight. And when Muslims fight in the name of god, when Muslims kill in the name of god, that's perfectly fine. As a matter of fact, he tells them that this is what's going to get them to heaven.
PHILLIPS: And something that frustrates Muslims all across the world.
NASR: That's true. That's very true, because it's all a matter of interpretation. Again, you have this debate going on all the time about -- and this is why fundamentalism is something that not many people embrace. But those who embrace it are so fanatic about it. And that's where moderate Muslims will come in and tell you, wait a minute, no, no, no, this is not what it means.
There's a totally different interpretation to this. And this group of Muslims feel betrayed because it is their book that they believe in and they pray for every single day. It's that book that's being taken, as they think, as they see, totally out of context and being used. The same verses are used to prod people to fight, to prod people to kill the infidels.
And, for example, one important reference in this speech is to -- it's a warning, basically, to anyone who will help the Jews and the Christians. Now you are getting the Christians in the mix as well. So this is really a message directed at Muslims.
He's trying to tell them that you are the target. Muslims around the world are the target. They want to wipe you out. They want to create the state of greater Israel. So be careful. Fight until the end, because fighting in the name of god is going to get you somewhere. Whereas if you help the infidels in any way, he said, even by words, you are an outcast. You're outside.
PHILLIPS: Octavia Nasr translating the message here via audiotape of Osama bin Laden. Thank you so much. We're going to ask you to stick with us here.
We're going to go over to the White House now, where White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux is sort of getting the pulse on the folks there reacting to this audiotape. What can you tell us, Suzanne?
MALVEAUX: Well, Kyra, we actually have official White House reaction to the tape. I'm going to read it for you. This is from a senior administration official.
It says, "If it is borne out that it is indeed the voice of Osama bin Laden, then at best, it is a terrorist making common cause with a brutal dictator. And at worst, it demonstrates a burgeoning alliance of terror."
Quite frankly, administration officials realize that this tape does -- it works both for and against the administration. It does two things. First of all, it really vindicates the White House. They've been trying to make this connection between al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.
That argument first introduced in the fall. And they realized it wasn't really gaining very much traction. Didn't hear much about it. But then it resurfaced again in the beginning of the year.
So they say that, yes, it's a vindication. But then also, it brings up the very difficult question, kind of the menacing question of Osama bin Laden, the fact that it appears that he is still alive. What do we do about this brutal terrorist who still is amongst us?
Well, the White House would say that it's not just about bin Laden. It is not just about Saddam Hussein. That terrorism exists worldwide, and it is a part of the president's global campaign to stamp it out as best as possible, and that there is still a lot of work to be done -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: All right. Suzanne Malveaux, live from the White House, following the reaction from there on this audiotape. What so far our analysts and our folks here at CNN say is definitely an authentic audiotape from Osama bin Laden.
Octavia Nasr has been translating these tapes for us. Once again, let's just brief viewers quickly. You've been listening to a number of these excerpts. Matter of fact, let's go ahead and roll one of them right now and then we'll tell our viewers exactly what we're listening to.
(BEGIN AUDIOTAPE) BIN LADEN (through translator): It doesn't matter whether the communist party or Saddam disappear. This is an attack against them. They should go for jihad against this crusade.
They should take arms because this is their duty as Muslims. And god said they should pick up their arms and kill all those who are infidels and who don't believe. Muslims should have a clear ideology when they fight for god. The prophet said, those who fight so that the word of god is the highest, that's who will end up in heaven. If the Muslims and the communists get together to fight the crusaders, that's OK.
PHILLIPS: Let's bring in terrorism analyst Peter Bergen again, once again out of D.C. Peter, we're sort of recapping as we continue this rolling coverage on this audiotape of Osama bin Laden, an audiotape you say definitely is authentic. You've heard Osama bin Laden's voice many a time.
This particular excerpt talking about, well, a message to Muslims here. Basically Osama bin Laden coming out and saying, you, Muslims, are the target.
BERGEN: Well the last excerpt we just heard is the only time we hear Saddam's name on the tape, apparently. And this will be the excerpt that will get a lot of attention. I don't see this as a ringing endorsement of Saddam's regime. He says it doesn't matter if Saddam and the communists, meaning the Bathist secular party that Saddam leads in Iraq, disappears. They should take arms and fight against the infidels.
So he's saying that, obviously in this particular situation, the fact that the socialists, the Bathists should get together with the Muslims and fight the infidels. I think it's ambiguous in terms of making the connection between al Qaeda and Iraq the regime. Certainly this is a call for the Iraqi people to rise up, but it doesn't seem to be a ringing endorsement of Saddam personally.
PHILLIPS: Peter, why do you think it's an audiotape? Why isn't this a videotape? Isn't a videotape more effective if you see and hear Osama bin Laden?
BERGEN: I think there are probably three or four reasons for that. First of all, bin Laden is probably in pretty poor shape and may not want to reveal that fact to the outside world. The last videotape that we saw of him, which was aired in late December of last year, he looked like a guy in his late 60s. He's only 45.
The second reason is that bin Laden is aware that in previous videotapings people have sort of looked at the background and tried to work out where the tape was actually made. The third reason is that he's on the run. I mean he's living in -- probably in the northwest frontier on the Afghan-Pakistan border, somewhere between Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is not a place where perhaps videotaping facilities are very easy to find. And fourthly, there may be concerns about his personal security in a sense that he may have changed his appearance. Bin Laden may have shaved his beard off. He may not want to show the world exactly what he looks like right now. So there's a whole range of possible reasons this is only an audiotape.
PHILLIPS: What do you think of the timeline here? First of all, when do you think that this tape was made? Can you even figure that out by listening to it or looking at it?
BERGEN: Well, as Octavia Nasr just pointed out, it could have been made really -- I mean this potential war against Iraq by the United Nations and coalition has been, after all, the subject of some debate for some time. And there's nothing on the tape that has a real specific timing reference. So I am going to abstain from making a judgment on that. I don't think we can make one right now.
PHILLIPS: All right. You mentioned Octavia. She is sitting here next to me. Let's bring her into the mix, Peter.
You've been translating these tapes for us. You were listening to what Peter had to say, making some notes. What are your thoughts?
NASR: I agree with Peter totally on the four points he made on why this is an audiotape versus a videotape. And I would like to add one thing here. Smuggling a videotape is a lot harder than smuggling an audiotape, and that is something to keep in mind, as Peter mentioned.
Osama bin Laden is on the run. He's not -- we don't even know if he's alive or dead. For us to receive an audiotape of him is big news. Or videotape, or even a written statement at this point is news. And you have to think right now with all the security around the world, at airports and so forth, it's a lot harder to travel with a videotape than it is to travel with an audiotape.
Audiotape, you slip it in your pocket, in your purse. There are many different ways to record audio. You can even travel with it on the Internet. But I think this is an important point to make, also. And, of course, I agree with everything he said about the appearance and the impression that people are going -- this is an Osama bin Laden that's a lot stronger than an Osama bin Laden than you're going to see, I have a feeling.
PHILLIPS: And once again, Peter made this point you, made this point. So far we've only heard Osama bin Laden mention Saddam's name once, right? He hasn't necessarily made a connection that these two have a relationship or that they are working together. This is sort of a -- maybe a morale message to Saddam Hussein and to all Muslims.
NASR: And actually, Iwill take it even further to say he made sure to distance himself of Saddam Hussein. There is no -- the way he talks about him in this thing is very casual.
PHILLIPS: Why would he do that? NASR: I think for many reasons. First of all, they don't get along. I mean this is a fundamentalist versus a secular person. That's number one.
They never were buddies or friends or even agreed on the same things. And, of course, while everybody is waiting, like Peter said, the word Saddam on the tape...
PHILLIPS: Hold that thought for a minute. Is this a new excerpt or an old excerpt that we're about to listen to? OK. We have a new excerpt from the videotape. We're going to talk about that relationship between Saddam and Osama -- the tense relationship rather -- after this excerpt. Let's listen in.
BIN LADEN (through translator): We are following very carefully the preparation of the crusaders to invade the Iraqi land and taking the wealth of the Muslims and installing a regime that has Tel Aviv and Washington on its head to run you. In preparation for the establishment of greater Israel, god forbid, we want to let you know and confirm to you that this war of the infidels that the U.S. is leading with its allies and friends, first, we are with you and we will fight in the name of god.
This is not for the leaders or nations to win, but this is god winning. God said that those who believe and fight in the name of god, what you need to do is fight those that believe in satan, too. We want to remind you that victory comes from god only. All we have to do is be prepared and be ready and fight through jihad.
And god said, all those who believe in god, god will be on your side. And god will forgive all your sins. More verses from the Quran. More verses about all those that oppress and don't deal fairly with people, like those who drink alcohol, and all these are infidels who should be fought in the name of god. More examples from the Quran that you should do a good deed before you go and fight.
Number three, it has become apparent through our fighting of the enemy, the U.S. enemy, that they are focusing so much on psychological war through their propaganda machine and through their air strikes. This is a reflection on their actions and their being cowards, because the army, their soldiers know that their governments are oppressors, and they have no cause to fight for. They are fighting for all the businessmen and those that deal in arms, including those who are in the White House. They have all old animosities to the Middle East, especially when you look back at George Bush Sr.
PHILLIPS: CNN's Octavia Nasr translating the audiotaped message there via Osama bin Laden. An audiotaped message that's airing live on Al-Jazeera network right now.
Let's bring in our terrorism analyst, Peter Bergen, in D.C. The newest excerpt here, Peter, that we're listening to, you've had a chance to listen to it. Osama bin Laden talking about a psychological war taking place here. A message to Muslims, talking about a relationship between Washington, D.C. and Israel and building a greater Israel. What do you make of the message here?
BERGEN: It's pretty similar to a lot of statements bin Laden's made in the past. I mean what's different is that we have an impending war against Iraq. Bin Laden has always made the connection. I mean, when he declared war, he declared war against the crusaders, i.e. the west and the Jews. I mean bin Laden regards the crusaders and the Jews in his mind as being kind of (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and the designs the United States has is the same as Israel.
He talked in this tape about creating a greater Israel. In his view, a war in Iraq would be basically a Zionist conspiracy. So it's some of his familiar themes. Obviously, the big difference is there is a potential that a war in Iraq is imminent rather than something that is less likely.
PHILLIPS: CNN's terrorism analyst Peter Bergen out of D.C. there. We're going to ask you to stay with us. Thank you so much, Peter.
If you are just tuning in, stay with CNN for continuing coverage, breaking news coverage. A live message via -- rather on live television on Al-Jazeera network. A message, an audiotaped message from Osama bin Laden. A message to Muslims.
He mentioned Saddam Hussein. He talks about an impending war against Iraq, an invasion by the United States. Stay with CNN. "INSIDE POLITICS" with Judy Woodruff up next. We'll continue to vet these tapes and let you know what Osama bin Laden is saying. Stay with us.
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