by Mike Rudin
9 January 2010
The face of Bin Laden has
become instantly recognizable around the world
Osama Bin Laden died eight years ago
during the battle for Tora Bora in Afghanistan, either from a US
bomb or from a serious kidney disease...
...or so the conspiracy theory goes.
The theory that has developed on the web since
is that US intelligence services are manufacturing the Bin Laden statements
to create an evil bogeyman, to justify the so-called war on terror in
Afghanistan, Iraq and back at home.
So is the world's most wanted man still alive?
For a decade, Osama bin Laden has managed to evade the world's
superpower and the biggest manhunt in history.
Bruce Riedel, who chaired President Barack Obama's
Afghanistan/Pakistan policy review, and who has seen the intelligence on Bin
Laden, says the trail has not so much gone cold as "frozen over".
"We don't have a clue where he is," he says.
In the absence of any concrete intelligence, Bin
Laden has become shrouded in myth and rumor.
Numerous audio and video statements purporting to be from Bin Laden have
been released, but their authenticity has been continually questioned.
The veracity of all of the videos is questioned by David Ray Griffin,
a former theology professor and member of the
9/11 Truth Movement, which also questions mainstream accounts of
the attack on the World Trade Centre.
"None of them can be proven to be
authentic," he says. "At least three of them can be shown to be almost
"And if somebody is faking Bin Laden videos, then that leads to the
suspicion that all the videos and audio tapes have been faked."
Experts have examined
many different images of Osama Bin Laden
His first example is
a video released by the US
Department of Defense in December 13, 2001. In it, Bin Laden
confesses to 9/11, yet Mr Griffin points out that al-Qaeda has only
rarely admitted responsibility for terrorist attacks.
He also maintains that the Bin Laden figure looks very different to
previous footage - fatter, with shorter fingers, and that he is even writing
with the wrong hand.
Most of Bin Laden's statements are audio only. Only two that show Bin Laden
speaking have been issued since 2001.
Griffin claims both are fakes. He argues that a video released in October
2004 - just days before the presidential election - lacks the religious
rhetoric contained in previous statements.
This video (below), he says, helped
George W Bush secure a second term.
Osama Bin Laden Broadcat on Al-Jazeera
On October 29, 2004
But it is the last video, released in September 7, 2007, that has attracted
most attention (below video).
Bin Laden Video - The Solution
September 7, 2007
Mr Griffin calls it "Blackbeard: the terrorist tape". Bin Laden's trademark
grey beard has been replaced with a neat, jet-black beard, and there are a
number of frames in the video, where Bin Laden carries on speaking but the
picture of him freezes.
One former CIA agent also questions its authenticity.
Robert Baer dismisses the suggestion of a
conspiracy by Western intelligence but thinks that al-Qaeda may have faked
"[al-Qaeda has] an interest in manipulating
it to look like current tapes," he says. "You can digitally manipulate
voice to say anything. You can change months, years, you can tape vowels
and syllables and put it into a recording and change it."
I think those conspiracy theories that he is
dead are pretty much laughable
Art Keller, former CIA agent
Andy Laws, a former military imaging
analyst for the RAF, was asked by the BBC to forensically test an undisputed
Bin Laden tape from 1998 against the 2001 so-called "confession tape" and
the 2007 "blackbeard tape" (above video).
He says the fact that Bin Laden appears fatter in the 2001 tape is down to
the editing process, when subtitles were added and the image was squashed.
His conclusion is that all the videos are of the same person - Bin Laden.
Furthermore, Mr Laws says it is not realistic to think that the US military
would fake such tapes.
"Technologically in this day and age, those
kinds of things can be done, but not quietly," he says. "There would be
a number of people involved and word of it would have spread by now."
If you stop the war, then that is fine. If
you choose not to stop the war, then we have no other option but to
continue the war of attrition against you on all possible axes
Audio statement attributed to
Osama Bin Laden, 13 September 09
Bin Laden has issued around 40 statements since
9/11, and many include clear contemporaneous date references. Two recent
statements released last year mentioned US President
Mike Scheuer, the former CIA officer who set up and ran the agency's
Bin Laden unit, thinks Bin Laden is still alive.
"Whenever he speaks on audio tape, he always
says something in there that's fairly current. Also, the US National
Security Agency (NSA) and UK Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ)
are very good at voice prints," he says.
Mr Scheuer concludes that if it was not Bin
Laden's voice, these organizations would make sure governments were well
aware that the tapes were fakes.
Another former CIA agent, Art Keller, is more damning:
"I think those conspiracy theories that he
is dead are pretty much laughable," he says. "It's easier to explain
things away with a conspiracy than to face up to the difficult reality.
"In this case, the difficult reality is that we're trying to operate in
possibly the worst area in the world and track someone who's very crafty
and elusive and putting considerable effort to stay off our radar."
BBC Conspiracy Files
Osama Bin Laden Dead or Alive