[Last update: 6 January 2002]

Usama bin Laden Tape not a Good Forgery

by doug foxvog

The Usama bin Laden tape is internally dated by the text of the speakers as the meeting occuring around the end of November or the beginning of December. This is far later than the US govt claims for the origin of the tape, and starts about the time that the US claims that the tape was found. At this time the trip by the shaykh from Kabul to (presumably) Kandahar would have been very unlikely to have been possible. Other parts of the conversation appear to be significantly before the end of November.

Detailed analysis follows

At the beginning of part 3 (the beginning of the meeting) the shaykh says (according to the transcript):

We came from Kabul. ... We asked the driver to take us, it was a night with a full moon The last two full moons were December 1 and November 2. Giving a 2-day leeway, for the shaykh's trip (just before the meeting) this means that the meeting is either October 31-November 4 or November 29-December 3.

Later on the shaykh says:

Allah has bestowed on us...honor on us...and he will give us blessing and more victory during this holy month of Ramadan. Thus the tape is made in Ramadan, November 16-December 15, not in early November. This is far later than the "about November 9" which the administration has claimed.

So the earliest that the tape could have been made is around the end of November. However, the end of November, after a string of defeats, is a strange time to be discussing "more victory".

One could argue that the "translator" made a mistake in translating the Arabic text to "this Ramadan" instead of "this coming Ramadan". This is unlikely, because the translator transforms text into US equivalents (e.g., 5:30 p.m. instead of 17:30) and adds parenthetical comments if something is unclear.

The US dating of the tape being produced "about November 9" may come from this quote from UBL:

Abu-Al-Hasan Al-((Masri)), who appeared on Al-Jazeera TV a couple of days ago and addressed the Americans saying: ``If you are true men, come down here and face us.''

This presumably gives the "around November 9" date. However, it does not correlate with the shaykh travelling from Kabul at the full moon (instead of third quarter), nor with the meeting being during Ramadan.

It also seems a little strange for UbL to say, when discussing the first plane hitting the World Trade Center:

"It was 5:30 p.m. our time."

Other than someone being unlikely to say "our time" when he hasn't changed time zones -- and discounting the possibility that the "translator" added this instead of "(Afghan time)" -- there is the problem that the since Afghanistan is 9 hours and 30 minutes (not 10 hours) ahead of EST (New York time), the 8:30 EDT attack would have been at 17:00 Afghan time, i.e. half an hour earlier. Saudi Arabia is on solar time, so it is unlikely that he would be referring to Saudi time as a shared "our" time. Anyway, the time in Riyadh is about two hours earlier than Afghanistan, so the attack would have been around 15:30 Riyadh time.

I will give the translator the benefit of the doubt for generating a "p.m." phrase merely to make it easier for most Americans to understand. Most of the world uses 24 hour time. I would be surprised if UbL did not.

One notes that UbL's face is very blurry. However, when "Sulayman" comes into the room, the camera zooms in on his face and it is clear.

This was a most fortuate bit of luck if it were real. Bill Press, CNN Crossfire's co-host, wrote an article stating

... there is no doubt of the tape's authenticity or impact>. Hollywood could not have produced a more powerful video.

The government wants us to believe that it discovered a piece of video that was as powerful as Hollywood could produce around the time it went to Hollywood to ask for assistance.

[Additional Analysis 6 January 2002]

In a later tape released by Osama bin Laden, Osama's face was sunken and thinner than that of the previously released tape. The government's "home video" shows "Usama" with a more fleshed out face than either of the two released tapes. Whether Osama weight loss was due to medical problems or something else, one would not expect him to have gained weight immediately before loosing so much weight.

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