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New Audio Tape Purported to be From Osama bin Laden; Cheney Speaks on War on Terror; White House Press Briefing

Aired January 19, 2006 - 11:59   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Daryn Kagan at CNN Center in Atlanta.
We're going to continue with our breaking news coverage of a newly released audio tape said to be from Osama bin Laden. And we will get to that tape and let you listen for yourself in just a moment.

First, though, I want to draw your attention to a couple of live events that will be beginning in the next half-hour. You will see both live here on CNN.

In about 15 minutes, we're expecting the White House briefing to begin, the daily White House briefing. We are going to go to that live and you'll be able to listen it.

Also, at the bottom of the hour, Vice President Dick Cheney comments on the war on terror. This was a speech that was already scheduled, the topic as well, but it has particular relevance with the events of the day.

Now on to the tape. This tape was first aired on the Arab language network Al-Jazeera. On the tape, Osama bin Laden -- the person claiming to be that -- warns that plans to attack the U.S. are already under way.

Now, we should let you know that CNN could not immediately confirm that the voice on the tape is bin Laden. But here now you listen for yourself as a portion of the audio tape message is played.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I would also like to say that the war against America and its allies will not be confined to Iraq. Iraq has become a magnet for attracting and training talented fighters. The Mudjahadeen were able to overcome all security measures in European countries, and you saw their operation in major European capitals.

As for similar operations taking place in America, it's only a matter of time. They're in the planning stages, and you will see them in the heart of your land as soon as the planning is complete.


KAGAN: And as we continue our coverage, I want to welcome in our senior editor for Arab Affairs. Octavia Nasr is here with me in Atlanta. Also, terrorism analyst Peter Bergen is in Washington, D.C. And our justice correspondent, Kelli Arena, in Washington as well.

Octavia, first to you, because you've been able to get a look at this and these comments that very few people have.

Al-Jazeera aired portions of the tape. We have aired that one sound bite. You have the transcript in Arabic of the entire tape, and you've been able to pull out some nuggets that perhaps have not been heard about other places.

OCTAVIA NASR, CNN SR. EDITOR, ARAB AFFAIRS: Yes. You know, Al- Jazeera posted the transcript. So, of course, we have no way of confirming this is the authentic transcript. But according to Al- Jazeera and what it posted on its Web site, there are a few other details in what -- what bin Laden said that might be of interest.

One of them is a timeline of sorts. You know, you may remember late November of 2005 there was a leak in a tabloid in London that there was a document, a secret document that details a plan by the U.S. president, George W. Bush, to bomb Al-Jazeera and that Tony Blair talked him out of it.

Well, guess what? This transcript mentions that. It mentions the document. It mentions the controversy.

Now, of course we did not hear that part of the audio. And Al- Jazeera didn't comment on why it excluded that portion from the audio. But in the transcript that is mentioned. And that really puts the tape at around late November, early December, at least, of 2005.

Earlier, we talked about other markers, you know, when he mentions European capitals, attacks on European capitals. He used the plural, which means it's more than one attack.

Up until July of 2005, there was only one major attack in Madrid, in a train station in Madrid. Now back in July, 2005, there was another major attack. This one in London. So with him using the plural, that means that is included as well.

But again, Daryn, he keeps things general. He keeps things -- although he gives pointers, you know, timelines. But he keeps things general, because, again, there is no -- no knowing for sure when these tapes are going to hit the market, if you will. When they are going to hit their target audience.

KAGAN: All right, Octavia. Back to you in just a second.

Let's talk about again about the timing of this.

Our terrorism analyst, Peter Bergen, standing by with that.

Peter, what do you make of the timing of this coming out now?

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, I think -- I think what Nic Robertson in the last hour actually makes a lot of sense, that perhaps this was taped -- this tape was ready to go for any news event that al Qaeda wanted to react to. And of course the big news of that was this strike in Pakistan that killed 18 people, a number of them members of al Qaeda, but not apparently Ayman al-Zawahiri as of the thinking right now.

That strike happened on Friday. Al Qaeda may have had this tape ready to go for some kind of news event they wanted to react to.

I think it's fascinating that Octavia mentions that the tape refers to "The Daily Mirror" story which alleged that President Bush met with Tony Blair and either joked or was serious about attacking Al-Jazeera's headquarters in Doha, Qatar. Because that means this tape is of pretty recent vintage, something that was made, you know, within the last three months, which makes it even more -- even more contemporary than reacting to the attacks in Madrid and London which happened in 2004, in July 2005.

So, suddenly, this tape, based on Octavia's reporting, is even more contemporary than we were thinking just an hour ago.


Let's talk about the idea that it could have been sitting on the shelf just for the right time. Would that be a different way of operating for al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden?

BERGEN: That's a good question. You know, they are people who are reacting to news events.

I mean, the best example of this was bin Laden's videotape which aired on October 29, 2004, five days before the U.S. presidential election. Clearly, that was something that was out on the shelf, as it were, and ready to react to interfere with the U.S. presidential election just before it happened.

So, I think that they -- we've certainly seen examples of them releasing tapes to react to news events. And also in the recent past.

So this is -- it would be not untypical. I mean, I want to stress we are sort of -- you know, this is simply a theory here. But I think it's a reasonable theory that the tape was put out there by al Qaeda to show that their top leadership is alive and well, despite this recent attack.

KAGAN: Kelli, let's bring you in here.

The man said to be Osama bin Laden on this tape directs his message to the American people, threatens America. That's going to get a lot of people's attention here in this country, obviously.

What kind of attention does it get from law enforcement officials?

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: You know, obviously it gets attention. But law enforcement officials say for them they did not need an audio tape to know that there's a threat against the United States.

They said that there is no specific or credible intelligence that has come in, in recent weeks, to suggest that there's a plot under way to attack on U.S. soil. One of the indicators, as you know, that intelligence -- the intelligence community looks at is for an increase in so-called chatter or electronic satellite communications. They say there has been no increase in chatter.

Sometimes that means something. Sometimes it doesn't. But at least it lends to backing up what they are saying, which is that they do not have any specific intelligence to back up what Osama bin Laden is saying, which is that there is already an attack plan under way to hit on U.S. soil -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Kelli, thank you.

We are going to have our coverage continue once again. We are standing by. We expect less than 10 minutes from now for the White House daily news briefing to begin. You are going to see that live here on CNN today.

We will also talk to Nic Robertson, who has covered this story for many years.

We'll do all of that right after this break.


KAGAN: We continue our coverage now of this breaking news story. A man purported to be Osama bin Laden releasing an audio tape to the Al-Jazeera network. They played large portions of it. We have one sound bite to play for you, which I'll do in just a moment.

But on this videotape, Osama bin Laden directing his thoughts and his comments to the American people, and specifically talking about plans that he says -- plans for attacks on the U.S., that he says those plans are already under way.

Right now here is that sound bite.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I would also like to say that the war against America and its allies will not be confined to Iraq. Iraq has become a magnet for attracting and training talented fighters. The Mudjahadeen were able to overcome all security measures in European countries, and you saw their operation in major European capitals.

As for similar operations taking place in America, it's only a matter of time. They're in the planning stages, and you will see them in the heart of your land as soon as the planning is complete.


KAGAN: We do expect there to be questions about this new audio tape at the White House press briefing. That is scheduled to begin in less than five minutes. You'll see that live here on CNN.

And then at the bottom of the hour, Vice President Dick Cheney has a speech that was prescheduled to be on the war on terror. We will listen into that as well in about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, I want to bring in our senior editor for Arab Affairs, Octavia Nasr, and talk to her about what she's been able to listen to on the tape.

You've been able to read the entire transcript of it as well. But I want to get to the listening part, because we do like to make use of your understanding of the area and because you are fluent in Arabic as well.

What you hear in the tone of the man claiming to be Osama bin Laden, not just what you hear on this tape, but how would you compare it to previous tapes that you've heard?

NASR: Yes, I think that's very important to say that I have been listening to Osama bin Laden, you know, for a few years now. I mean, I've heard hundreds -- I've listened to hundreds of hours of Osama bin Laden tapes. I mean, I have heard him when he was up, when he was down, right after Tora Bora, when he escaped a major U.S. airstrike.

There's always something to learn from the intonation of his voice, his annunciation. You know, at times we hear him tired. At other times we hear him upbeat.

Here, it's very interesting, because he's very calm and composed. You know, he doesn't sound like a man who is desperate or someone who is breathless. You know, many people wait for an audio like this, especially, you know, intelligence experts.

They want to listen to the message and try to gather intelligence information from it. Is he hurt? Is he sick? Is he -- where is he living? Is he comfortable where he is? And so forth.

So basically, he comes across very calm. Now, anyone who listens to bin Laden on a regular basis knows that he's a very soft-spoken man. It's hard to tell if he's angry or if he's upset, usually.

In this case, it's hard to tell where he's standing. But the rhetoric is what makes this message -- message chilling.

As you heard earlier, he makes it a clear message to the American people. He leaves no room for doubt as to where he is standing on this.

He says that he is willing to widen the war in Iraq. He talks about Iraq as a magnet of jihadist training and recruiting.

He describes Iraq very much in the terms of how he used to describe Afghanistan back in the '80s. So the tone of voice is very important. And it doesn't tell us that he's sick or he's dying.

And again, this comes from just listening to hundreds of hours of bin Laden tapes. And again, you know, CNN cannot authenticate 100 percent that this is bin Laden. We always leave it up to the experts, people who will compare voice on this audio with known bin Laden audio of past or previous years.

They will come back to us and say, indeed, it is bin Laden or it is not him.

KAGAN: Yes. And David Ensor reporting earlier that he would expect the CIA to give that confirmation, if indeed it is that, by the end of the day. But that has been the timing on that.

What about how Al-Jazeera plays into this? How they on one hand could be considered a mouthpiece for al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, and how they have tried to come up with some sort of balance by only playing portions of the tape, but on their Web site, as you have in your hand there in Arabic, they released a transcript oft entire tape?

NASR: And this is new for al-Jazeera. You know, in the past, they would -- well, in the beginning, in the very beginning, you know, back in 2001, they would air the audio or video of bin Laden or Zawahiri or any of the al Qaeda leaders.

They would air it unedited as long as they got it. And sometimes that audio or video would be 30 minutes long, 40 minutes long, sometimes over an hour long.

That changed with time, because as you said, they were criticized for being the mouthpiece of al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. So then they started picking and choosing, and they would air what they consider newsworthy material.

At that point, when they started doing that, we would approach them and say, "Are you going to release the entire transcript?" And they would say, "No. No, we have no intention of releasing the transcript."

Well, they were criticized for that as well. They were criticized for not being transparent enough with their audiences about what really bin Laden said and how they chose the portions that they chose to air. Well, recently they started airing the portions that they thought were newsworthy, and then on their Web site, posting the entire transcript.

The interesting thing about today's speech by the purported Osama bin Laden is that there's a mention of Al-Jazeera in his speech, according to the transcript that Al-Jazeera posted on its Web site. As a matter of fact, there is a mention of a controversial topic that we dealt with here on CNN and elsewhere around the world, media outlets dealt with that issue.

There was a leak in a secret document in London. "The Daily Mirror" reported an alleged plan by the U.S. president, George W. Bush, to bomb Al-Jazeera. According to that leak -- the document -- leaked report, it said that Prime Minister Blair talked President Bush out of that plan. And as a matter of fact, Al-Jazeera hired a British lawyer to carry on this case. Basically, they're asking for a full disclosure of that document to see if indeed this conversation took place or not.

Well, bin Laden in his speech today mentions that document, which to us gives us a timeline, which is the end of November, beginning of December of 2005. But Al-Jazeera chose not to air that portion. But they put it in the transcript for all to see.

KAGAN: Octavia, thank you for that. You are going to stay with us.

We are going to continue our coverage here of this tape, once again released today.

We're also standing by expecting the White House press briefing, the daily White House press briefing to begin any minute. And when it does, we'll go live to the White House.

Right now it looks like a good time to fit in a quick break.


KAGAN: We continue our breaking news story and our developing story. A new audio tape delivered to the Al-Jazeera network, purported to be from Osama bin Laden.

We do expect that question to come up at the White House press briefing. And what we are looking at, a live picture right now, is New York City, the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. This is where Vice President Dick Cheney is expected to speak in about 10 minutes. You will see that event live here on CNN.

In the few minutes before that, we do expect the White House press briefing to begin as well. And for more on that, let's go to our Bob Franken, who is at the White House today -- Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And what is so interesting, Daryn, is that there has been quite the scramble here at the White House to make sure that there is a belief that this is authentic, or at least that there are enough indications it's authentic that it is worthy of comment. We of course will be expecting questions, if not initiated comment from Scott McClellan, when the briefing begins in any minute.

The early word that we've gotten was that this was not something that was going to be covered by Vice President Cheney. But clearly, this is a fluid situation.

We should probably anticipate that there would be a focus from this administration on the comments that Osama bin Laden made about Iraq, because, of course, the administration makes the constant claim that there is this connection between the war on terror and the war in Iraq, that it is all one continuum as opposed to two separate entities. So we would expect that that would be comment that's going to be made. Meanwhile, the different national security agencies are all trying to find out when they can say whether this is authentic or not, whether they can get a much better handle on when the comments were made. We are going to get what amounts to a preliminary reaction, at least we hope we do, from Scott McClellan when he begins the briefing any second now.

KAGAN: And as for the vice president's speech that's scheduled to begin in about 10 minutes, this was a pre-planned speech and already was supposed to be focusing on the war on terror, Bob?

FRANKEN: And so often, what happens is there's a late add, to use the term that we use in the business, where the vice president might say something. It's also possible that there's going to be a decision to be very deliberate about this and to not stray from the subject matter because, of course, what he is talking about is relevant to the circumstance that has happened today. That is, the release of that tape purportedly by Osama bin Laden.

KAGAN: And other topics we expect to come up today, Bob?

FRANKEN: Well, there's the discussion about Iraq, there's the justification for the war in Iraq. There's going to be expectation that the vice president is going to reject the claims that are continuously made that the administration misled the American people in its justification to get into Iraq. There's also the possibility of comment on the current use of release of information and disclosures that surveillance was conducted without what many people believe to be legal authority that was needed.

All of this, of course, is the news of the day. What we've just had now is a startling addition to that news of the day.

KAGAN: That we have. That's our job. Bob, thank you.

Bob Franken will be back live at the White House when that news briefing begins. And again, it was originally scheduled to begin about seven minutes ago. So as soon as it starts, you'll see it live here on CNN, as well as the vice president's speech that is scheduled to begin at the bottom of the hour.

First, though, let's go ahead and bring back our international correspondent, Nic Robertson, who has covered the story of al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden for many years now.

Nic, since this news broke over a couple of hours ago, you've had a chance to look at some things and listen in. Tell us any new nuggets you've been able to bring to us.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Daryn, I think really the analysis has to be here that it seems to be no coincidence that after a week where the news has all been negative against al Qaeda, particularly in the Afghanistan region, that -- that a new message should be released which has as part of that message that al Qaeda is winning -- winning in Afghanistan. So that attack in Pakistan last week that was targeting bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, it appears not to have gotten him but may have gotten some other key al Qaeda leadership figures. It appears as if al Qaeda wants to get the message back on its terms and has pulled out its biggest gun to do that, Osama bin Laden.

We haven't heard from him in over a year. And now he's back on the airwaves at the end of a week where the news for them has been particularly disastrous.

So whether or not it was recorded for this, or was it sitting on a shelf somewhere waiting to be released, I think perhaps that's the biggest clue that the battle, perhaps, to catch bin Laden is heating up. We've heard from David Ensor over the last couple of hours saying that the CIA does appear to be ratcheting up its targeting and efforts to catch bin Laden ad Zawahiri. And perhaps this is a bonus for intelligence officials.

Every time bin Laden or Zawahiri break cover with a message, this is another opportunity for intelligence officials perhaps to trace where that message came from and perhaps get to one of these two people.

KAGAN: Well, good idea.

Let's bring David Ensor back in here on the intelligence angle.

David, number one thing they need to do is authenticate that this is indeed Osama bin Laden.

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And typically, that is done within a day or so.

They have obviously a lot of other tapes of his voice, and they've got translators who know it very well. So I imagine that this is genuine and they will say so soon. There have been a couple of fakes out there, though, so it's worth checking.

KAGAN: Meanwhile, this goes -- this goes two ways. On one hand, it's a chance for Osama bin Laden to speak to the world and taunt American officials, but also it's a risk in putting a tape out.

ENSOR: Well, right. As Nic mentioned, you put a tape out, that provides a chain of custody for intelligence services to try and follow. Whether they've had any success -- well, they clearly haven't gotten all the way back to bin Laden or Zawahiri, or by now they wouldn't be with us. But it's obviously something that every time there are intelligence services, American and others, trying to achieve.

Now, at the same time, as Nic mentioned, the Central Intelligence Agency in the last five or six weeks has clearly gone on the offensive against al Qaeda up in northwest Pakistan. There have been three strikes attributed to either the CIA or other Americans. In particular, the one last Friday, but there was one the previous Saturday. And in December, there was an attack in which it was said that the then al Qaeda operations chief was killed.

So, there's a lot of aggressive effort being made now by the Central Intelligence Agency and its allies, and Pakistani intelligence and elsewhere to truly go after these guys. They have to be worried.

KAGAN: And let's bring our terrorism analyst, Peter Bergen, in.

And Peter, get your thoughts at this time.

BERGEN: Well, I mean, I think, as David and Nic have pointed out, these tapes of -- the one way you can find either Ayman al- Zawahiri or Osama bin Laden -- and by my calculation, the tape that we just heard today from bin Laden is number 19, astonishingly, that he's released since 9/11.

KAGAN: I mean, let me just stop there. Number 19 since 9/11, and yet the entire U.S. intelligence system and the U.S. military cannot go backwards and trace it back to either of these men.

BERGEN: Well, you put your finger on I think what has been something of a deficiency. And we are spending hundreds of billions of dollars a year on our national security, and so far we haven't been able to do that. But I do think that the strike on Friday in Pakistan which we've been referring to which was aimed at Ayman al-Zawahiri may well be the result of the fact that Ayman al-Zawahiri, in the time that bin Laden wasn't saying anything for about a year, suddenly was saying a lot.

And by my calculations, I think Ayman al-Zawahiri is perhaps up to tape number 15. So between the two of them, we are looking at about 35 tapes since 9/11.

In the case of Ayman al-Zawahiri, it's possible that the chain of custody of these tapes was -- that there were some successes in tracing it back, because certainly he was releasing an average of a tape a month in the recent months. He was releasing more tapes than Britney Spears at one point.

So he's a guy who -- but I think was -- you know, comes at some cost, which is one of the reasons that bin Laden has been silent for so long.

KAGAN: Our entire team is going to stand by with me. Peter Bergen, David Ensor, Nic Robertson and Octavia Nasr here with me in Atlanta.

Standing by for two events to take place, the White House press briefing, also Dick Cheney, the vice president, giving a speech in New York City on the war on terror.

A good time for us to fit in a break. We're back with more coverage after this.


KAGAN: We're looking at a live picture of New York City. This is the Manhattan Institute. Vice President Dick Cheney scheduled to give a speech there that is set to begin any minute. You will see that speech live here on CNN.

This was a pre-planned event. And the topic, the war on terror. That was all scheduled ahead of time, before the news broke today that a man purported to be Osama bin Laden released an audio tape to the Al-Jazeera network in which he makes specific threats against Americans and the United States.

Now, we don't know if Vice President Dick Cheney will address the idea of that tape and the topic of that tape in his speech, but we do know that on Christmas Eve he was in Pakistan, and the vice president sat down for an interview with our White House correspondent, Dana Bash. And in that interview, Dana did ask the vice president about al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. And let's listen into a sound byte from that interview, once again taped on Christmas Eve in Pakistan.


DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I think the organization has been degraded in some respects at the center. That is to say we've captured and killed a lot of people that were close into the leadership. And I don't think it's as effective as it once was. On the other hand, it's more decentralized now and there are a lot of wannabes out there, people who want to emulate Osama bin Laden. So I think the organization has, in fact, changed some. But we haven't heard from him in a year. We have done a lot of damage to his organization, things like capturing and killing key operatives in the al Qaeda organization.


KAGAN: That was Vice President Dick Cheney, Christmas Eve in Pakistan, as he talked to our Dana Bash. Once again, we do expect the speech with the vice president to begin any minute in New York City.

While we wait for that to happen, let's bring in our senior editor for Arab affairs, Octavia Nasr, who has had a chance to listen to the tape that Osama bin Laden, the man purporting to be Osama bin Laden, released earlier today. Also to look at the entire transcript that's been posted on the Web site of Al Jazeera in Arabic. You have the advantage of being fluent in Arabic to get an insight into this that we English speakers would not have.

NASR: And also having the privilege of having read and listened to bin Laden for the last five years or so, hundreds of hours of bin Laden.

KAGAN: A privilege?

NASR: Well, it is in this case because you end up with the knowledge on these issues. So, you know, when you read the rhetoric, for example, it is easy for someone like me -- that's what makes it a privilege -- is to be able to read and compare quickly this with previous messages from bin Laden. The rhetoric is the same. It's identical. One thing that jumped out at me, especially after hearing the -- you know, what the vice president has just said, you know, when you hear someone like bin Laden in a speech that -- it's obviously a propaganda tool that he's sending out to people that are willing to listen to him. And he talks about winning the war and being on the winning side and so forth. And you wonder what is he thinking? Is he right? Is he wrong? What is he thinking?

And then you hear the U.S., for example, saying that he is losing, he is on the run, he is hiding, he cannot come out and talk to people, you know, openly anywhere because he will be captured. And then in that transcript that you mentioned, there is one portion where he talks about -- basically, he gives the example, he says, if you are in the ocean, rain doesn't bother you.

And this is an indication for people who do listen to bin Laden on a regular basis, people who analyze him on a regular basis understand that he is really losing. And basically he's saying -- and he says it right before he gives the example -- he says that we have nothing to lose. Basically, he is admitting that he is losing already, basically admitting that he is swimming in an ocean already and the rain is not going to bother him because he's already in deep trouble.

You know, nuggets like these are very important. And of course Al-Jazeera chose what it considered to be news-worthy material to put out there. But it was a good thing, I guess, that Al-Jazeera posted the entire transcript for us to pore over and analyze bit by bit and try to find those nuggets that you know, observers and experts and of course intelligence officers are going to be looking for in a speech like this one.

KAGAN: Also mention of a truce. He offers a truce to the American people?

NASR: Right. Basically, right before he offers the truce, he's threatening more attacks. He's saying...

KAGAN: Now how does that go hand in hand? Because there's got to be an Islamic interpretation in that that we in the West don't understand.

NASR: Beats me. No, I don't think there is an Islamic interpretation for that. As a matter of fact, in the Islamic world, Osama bin Laden is considered really non-Muslim for all the things, for all the violence that he incites, for all the killing that he calls for. So really, we're not going to find the answer in any Islamic interpretation.

The only way to find the answer is in Osama bin Laden himself. This is exactly how he is. And I think Peter Bergen said it earlier. I mean, he is a man full of controversies. So on the one hand, he's telling the American people, look, we are attacking you because you are attacking us. Then he says, well, we are preparing more attacks. Don't think that anything is going to stop us. We are in the planning stages of more attacks and you will see them very soon. And then he says but, if you want, we are willing to have a long- term truce with you. The question is, who is he talking to? Who is going to come out and say yes, I'm accepting your truce. Bin Laden did the same thing in Europe. He -- in one of his speeches, he announced that he is offering Europe a truce. And then you go, which country in Europe is he talking about? Is he talking to the leaders? Is he talking to the people? Is he really offering a truce and expecting someone to engage with him in this offer of truce?

So this is again, the same thing. This is bin Laden at his best. He -- basically experts who listen to bin Laden, they always say that bin Laden goes on these long speeches, sometimes over an hour long , all improvised. So basically he loses his train of thought. Now, he is a very good speaker. It is known in the public speaking world -- it is known that he is a public speaker, that he is a strong public speaker. He's very persuasive. That is how he is described in the public speaking Arabic circles.

But at the same time, he's someone who can jump from one topic to the other. In his mind, they're all linked. So how can he threaten more attacks and then offer a truce at the same time? In the bin Laden book, that makes sense. In other books, that might not make sense.

KAGAN: All right, Octavia, thank you. Once again, a couple events. -- we're standing by -- that we expect to start within the hour. The White House press briefing, as well as a speech with Vice President Dick Cheney in New York City.

On the topic of a press briefing, let's go live to the White House. Our Bob Franken standing by there -- Bob.

FRANKEN: Daryn, as you can imagine, every word that is going to be coming out of either of the events -- particularly the press briefing, I would have to say -- are going to be words that have been carefully, carefully discussed because of the obvious impact of having this highest level of government represented.

And before all that occurs, there has to be urgent discussion, which I can imagine is going on right now, about such things like the authenticity, about any nuance that might have been detected in the tape, about any sort of thing like that. And of course, one can expect that there is going to be questions about the lack of an ability to capture Osama bin Laden after all of this kind of thing.

So we're seeing the delays that we are seeing understandably. Every word is being discussed. Every position is being considered and reconsidered. We were thinking, perhaps, when President Bush came back from the speech he made on the economy earlier today, there was a possibility that he would stop on the South Lawn going in. But that was something we quickly decided and it was reinforced that he wouldn't do because there hasn't been this careful analysis.

But we're going to see the results of that in a few minutes. Scott McClellan, we all know, is very deliberate when he's not responding to questions. And, of course, he's going to have a very deliberate, carefully calculated response when he speaks in just a moment -- Daryn.

KAGAN: So this White House press briefing in about 20 minutes right now past when it was originally supposed to start. Not reading much into that? That could just be because of the events of the day?

FRANKEN: Well, I think there is a very careful, careful formulation being discussed right now and when they've formulated, they'll come out and share it with the world.

KAGAN: All right. Bob Franken, thank you. We will go live to the White House when that begins. Also standing by waiting to hear what the vice president has to say in New York City today.

So this tape has specific threats to America. What does that do to the threat level here in the U.S.? We'll talk to our Kelli Arena, our justice correspondent, about that in just a moment.


KAGAN: A couple of live events we are standing by for. Vice President Dick Cheney scheduled to make a speech in New York City. That should begin momentarily. You will see that live here on CNN.

Also waiting for the White House press briefing to begin. You will see that live here on CNN as well. We are looking for comments on the breaking news of the day, and that is this audio tape message purported to come from Osama bin Laden. In it he makes direct threats on America and on Americans. He directs his message to Americans, in which he warns the American people that plans for future attacks on America, he says, are already under way.

More on the tape in a moment. Let's listen to Vice President Dick Cheney in New York City.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRES. OF THE UNITED STATES: Good afternoon. Thank you all very much. Thank you for the warm welcome and thanks for the introduction.

And I've been looking forward to the visit today, and after my comments I'll be happy to accept a few questions.

It's an honor of course today to be joined by Governor George Pataki. It's always a pleasure to be with my friend and colleague Ambassador John Bolton, who's here with us today. And I want to thank the people of the Manhattan Institute for hosting us here this afternoon.

This is a place of tremendous creativity, of original thinking and of intellectual rigor. The scholars of the Manhattan Institute have shown time and time again the power of good ideas to shape public policy and to have an impact on the lives of people here in New York and across the nation. You've made enormous contributions to the betterment of the city and the policy debate nationwide.

The Manhattan Institute's greatly admired in the country, and rightly so. I congratulate you for building such a fine reputation and for maintaining it over the years. As always, I enjoy the opportunity to visit New York, a city that means much to America. And where I was nominated for a second term as your vice president.

And New York of course is where the first vice president, John Adams, was inaugurated, together with President Washington in 1789. This was the nation's capital. And back then Congress met in Federal Hall, down at the intersection of Broad and Wall Streets. I was interested to learn that in those early days the vice president actually had floor privileges in the United States Senate. He was allowed to actually go down into the well of the Senate and engage in debate. And then he did a couple of times, and they withdrew his floor privileges. And they've never been restored.

So all that a vice president can really do in the Senate these days is to preside and to cast tie-breaking votes. This is something John Adams did 29 times. I've done now on seven occasions. The most recent was last month when the Senate split 50/50 on the deficit reduction package. I was pleased to take the chair that day to cast a crucial vote for spending discipline. Once again, I'm happy to observe that every time I get to vote, our side wins.

In order to cast that vote, I had to cut short a trip to the Middle East, although I did get back to the region just this week, visiting Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. In Afghanistan last month, Lynne and I witnessed the first full session of parliament, a significant event in any country, and one that had special meaning in a nation that just four years ago was in the grip of a cruel dictatorship. Now Afghanistan is a free country, with a market economy, equality for women and millions of children going to school for the first time. There's still a terrorist element that threatens the Afghan people and there continues to be tough fighting in some of the mountain areas and along the border. Our military is getting the job done, together with coalition partners, and an increasingly strong and effective Afghan military. It's impossible to overstate all that our coalition has achieved in Afghanistan. And when our forces return home from that part of the world, they will be able to be proud of their service for the rest of their lives.

I brought that same message to our people serving in Iraq. These Americans in uniform have been absolutely relentless in their duties, going out every day, striking the enemy, conducting raids, training Iraqi forces, countering attacks, seizing weapons, capturing killers. They've faced long deployments, the hardships of separation from home and family, the loss of comrades. Their efforts are bringing us closer to the goal we share with Iraq's leaders, a democratic country that can defend itself...

KAGAN: We will continue to listen in to Vice President Dick Cheney as he gives his speech in New York City. But the White House press briefing beginning right now. Let's listen to that.

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESPERSON: And the president made it clear that we will end it at a time and place of our choosing.

We continue to pursue all those who seek to do harm to the American people and to bring them to justice. QUESTION: OBL seems to have been reading polling, particularly on this issue of troop withdrawals, contrasting that with the president's position and trying to drive a wedge, it would seem, between the president and the American people. What's your response?

MCCLELLAN: My response is what I just said. I think clearly the leaders of Al Qaida and the others are on the run. We've already brought to justice some three-quarters of the Al Qaida leadership. And we are not going to let up. We are taking the fight to the enemy. We are continuing to pursue them, wherever they are. And we will bring them to justice. And we will win in this war on terrorism.

And I think clearly, if you look at the last time we heard from bin Laden, you can see the kind of pressure he's under.

Last time, remember, he was telling the Iraqi people not to show up and vote. Well, we saw how that turned out.

QUESTION: To my knowledge, this is the first time that he has used polling to try to drive his point...

MCCLELLAN: Well, again, I mean, I'll let the intelligence community do the analysis of the tape and look at his words. That is an ongoing analysis at this point.

QUESTION: What is the White House hearing from the intelligence community about the validity of the warnings of attacks?

MCCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: What is the White House hearing initially from the intelligence community about the validity...

MCCLELLAN: There's nothing to report.

This tape was just aired earlier this morning. And they're looking at it to determine, one, if it's authentic and, two, to see if there's any actionable intelligence on it. And there's nothing more to report on that at this point.

QUESTION: The voice also says that the absence of an attack in the U.S. since 9/11 is not due to security measures, but that plans are, in fact, in place. Since the administration often says some of the security measures have, in fact, made the country safer, what's your response to that part?

MCCLELLAN: Well, I think absolutely our intelligence community and law enforcement officials are doing a great job. Our men and women in uniform are doing an outstanding job. They're taking the fight to the enemy.

And we keep them in our thoughts and prayers always, and we thank them for all that they're doing. We thank their families. They understand the stakes involved.

And we are prevailing in this war. And we will continue to take the fight to the enemy. We will continue to support the advance of democracy in the broader Middle East.

We know the nature of the enemy. The president has talked about the nature of the enemy at length. We know that they want to drive us out of the Middle East, because they view democracy and peace as a threat to their existence. And they know that the United States remaining involved in the Middle East is a threat to their ambitions. We know that they want to continue to try to create a safe haven to where they can plan and plot attacks.

But we've got them on the run. We've got them under a lot of pressure. And we're going to continue taking the fight to them.

QUESTION: Do you see a tactical link...

MCCLELLAN: That's the best way to prevail in the war on terrorism.

But we're acting on numerous fronts. We have taken a number of steps since the attacks of September 11th to harden our defenses at home. And I think that in no small part because of the great work of our military abroad and our men and women in law enforcement and intelligence here at home, and the tools that we have used, we have been fortunate not to have been attacked again.

We know the enemy wants to attack us again and they want to inflict even greater harm than they have previously, and that's why we must continue taking the fight to them. That's why we must not stop until they are defeated. And that's what this president committed to doing to the American people.

QUESTION: Do you see a tactical link between the release of the tape now and the strikes that occurred...

MCCLELLAN: Again, I mean, this tape is being analyzed by the intelligence community. They'll look at these issues. And if there's more to report at a certain point, we'll talk about it further.

QUESTION: You said three-quarters of Al Qaida leadership has been captured or killed. I assume you meant known leadership.

MCCLELLAN: That's right.



MCCLELLAN: ... and we know that they replace their leaders. We've talked about that at length. But we pursue those as well, and we've brought some of those to justice as well.

But it's not the same organization that it was when it attacked us on September 11th, because of the actions that we have taken and because of what we have done to put their leaders out of business or bring them to justice.

QUESTION: But we've been unable to capture Osama bin Laden. He's still capable of sending out messages, still capable of threats, and I assume still capable of attacks?

MCCLELLAN: I think, clearly, he is on the run. Clearly, he is under a lot of pressure, just as other Al Qaida leaders who are on the run are. And that's why we are going to continue pursuing them and continue going after them to bring them to justice. We have made great progress but this is a war that continues and this is a war that we will not let up on until we have prevailed.

QUESTION: Explain why it's so difficult to find him, just for the American public who say we are so technologically advanced, greatest army in the world...

MCCLELLAN: Well, I think you have to look at the nature of the enemy that we face and the nature of the war that we're engaged in. This is a war on terrorism. It's broader than any one person. It's a struggle of ideologies.

The president has talked about this at length with the American people and will continue to talk about it. The vice president, I think, is talking about some of that right now, as well. He's giving a speech in New York.

And this is a ideological struggle. The president made it clear that this is a long struggle that we are engaged in, and that we must do everything within our power and act on all fronts to prevail in this war on terrorism. We are winning this war on terrorism. The terrorists are on the run, and we're going to continue pursuing them and bringing them to justice wherever they are.

QUESTION: I realize (inaudible). Why is it so hard to find him?

MCCLELLAN: Well, he is someone who is clearly on the run and has been hiding, and we will continue to pursue him and bring him to justice.

QUESTION: Would it make a huge difference if he was found at this point or killed or captured?

MCCLELLAN: Well, again, that's why I made the point that it is much broader than any one person, and there's a loose network the president has talked about of terrorists who are committed to a shared ideology. And we must continue to take this threat seriously. And that's why we must continue to do everything within our power and use every tool at our disposal to defeat the terrorists.

QUESTION: Scott, why do you keep linking Iraq and 9/11 and so forth? Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. And you keep -- we started the war in Iraq. We brought the terrorists in, so called...

MCCLELLAN: See, I think that's a misunderstanding of the...

QUESTION: Twenty to 50 people are dying every day in Iraq.

MCCLELLAN: I think, one, that's a misunderstanding of the global war on terrorism that we are engaged in. Some people take a narrow view of the war on terrorism. The president recognizes...

QUESTION: Innocent Iraqis are paying this price.

MCCLELLAN: The president -- well, first of all, the Iraqi people -- we have heard from many of them who have expressed their appreciation for the removal of a brutal and oppressive regime.

Second of all, Zawahiri, bin Laden's number two leader, has talked about how Iraq is the central front in the war on terrorism. We know that the terrorists want to create a safe haven from which they can plan and plot attacks.

The stakes are high in Iraq. And that's why it's critical that we prevail in Iraq because it will be a major blow to the ambitions of the terrorists.

They don't want us in the Middle East. The Middle East is a dangerous region of the world. It has been a breeding ground for terrorism, a breeding ground where people have flown planes into buildings and attacked innocent civilians across the world.

And that's why it's so critical that we prevail in Iraq as well. And we will. And the Iraqi people no longer live under a brutal, oppressive regime, a regime that was responsible for the systematic torture and killing of people who simply spoke out against that regime.

QUESTION: On a related issue, there seems to be a lot of contradictory evidence or statements about the recent raid on the village in Pakistan.

Can you give us an accurate update based on intelligence that you and the president know as to whether there were in fact four or five or more top Al Qaida people killed in this raid?

Was al-Zawahiri one of those? Was he there? Was he not there?

MCCLELLAN: Let me make a couple of comments. First of all, I indicated earlier this week that I don't tend to get not discussing operational matters or alleged operational matters in the war on terrorism from this podium. And I don't have any information to share with you on the reports that you're referring to.

Pakistan is a valued ally in the global war on terrorism. We work very closely with Pakistan to pursue Al Qaida leaders and other terrorists and bring them to justice and we will continue to do so.

QUESTION: During the appearance in Sterling, Virginia, the president didn't find out about the purported tape until after that was over.

MCCLELLAN: That's correct.

QUESTION: And you have a situation where millions of people are watching television, they're learning about the tape before the president does.

QUESTION: Doesn't the White House view that as kind of awkward? And was any thought given to perhaps giving him a note or somehow concluding that event earlier?

MCCLELLAN: No, I don't think there was any thought given to that. He was briefed immediately after the remarks, and I think that was an appropriate time to inform him of it.

QUESTION: How does the president feel about bin Laden personally? There have been famous quotes...

MCCLELLAN: Obviously, if there's something that's of an urgent nature, the president is informed.

QUESTION: Famous quotes: "Dead or alive." Then, in March of 2002: "I'm not that concerned about him." Then he said: "I never said I wasn't worried about him."

You talk broadly about the leaders in general, Al Qaida...


MCCLELLAN: Well, I just indicated to you that we continue to pursue Al Qaida leaders and other terrorists who are seeking to do harm to the American people.

We have made great progress over the last few years, we have kept them on the run, we have put a lot of pressure on them, because of the great work of our intelligence community, because of the great work of our military, because of the partnerships that we have with many nations around the world.

And we will continue to pursue them wherever they are. The president has made that very clear. They can run, but we will continue to pursue them and they will be brought to justice.

QUESTION: Two questions.

One, as far as this tape is concerned, somebody, somewhere is delivering these tapes to Al Jazeera, and sounds like Al Jazeera is acting as an agent of Osama bin Laden ever since 9/11 or before, because each and every message from Osama bin Laden and Al Qaida they have aired, and they keep continue airing.

So somebody should be knowing who is delivering these tapes to them and where and where is Osama bin Laden. MCCLELLAN: I don't have anything for you on that.

QUESTION: Second question is, outside there are Iranians demonstrating for greater freedom. What message do you think President Bush will have for them, for the Iranians for freedom?

MCCLELLAN: For the Iranian people?

We continue to stand with the people of Iran. The people of Iran seek greater freedom. And our policy has long been to support the Iranian people in their desire for greater freedom.

You have a regime that is in place that is out of step with the rest of the broader Middle East and out of step with its own people. It is a regime that is more interested in serving its own self- interest and its own power than its people.

QUESTION: Is it similar of that to the Iraqi people?

MCCLELLAN: I'm sorry.

QUESTION: A similar message what president had given to the Iraqi...

MCCLELLAN: Well, this is another reason, going back to something that Helen brought up about the comprehensive war that we're engaged in that's important to understand.

A free Iraq will serve as an example to the rest of the Middle East and help inspire reformers in places like Iran.

MCCLELLAN: That's why it's so important that we succeed in Iraq. And that's why we have a clear strategy that's in place for doing so.

And we're making real progress. There's still difficulties and there will still be tough days ahead. But we stand with the Iraqi people, we stand with the people in Iran, we stand with people throughout the Middle East who want greater freedom.

And we will continue to support people in the region in many different ways to advance freedom and democracy. Because that is critical to our long-term security; that is critical to laying the foundations of peace for our children and grandchildren.

And that's what I mean when I'm talking about the comprehensive war that we're engaged in and making sure that we're doing everything we can to prevent attacks from happening and to defeat the enemy.

QUESTION: Scott, you mentioned Pakistan being a critical ally in the war on terror. The Pakistani government is one thing. Does the president believe that without the Pakistani people's support Osama bin Laden can be found?

MCCLELLAN: One, a couple of things.

I'm not going to get into talking about any intelligence matters, if that's what you're getting at.

But second, the Pakistani people are seeing the compassion and generosity of the American people in our response and support as they recover from the earthquake that hit.

Our military and many aid workers have been in Pakistan helping people in need, people who were affected by those earthquakes and people that lost everything that they had. And we will continue to do our part to help them recover. We've committed some $500 million in aid money. That's an extraordinary amount of resources committed to help them.

We've also committed a large amount of military assets to help with getting people out of those dangerous areas. And we will continue to do so.

QUESTION: The threat level -- are there considerations or discussion, obviously, right now, depending on what the outcome on authenticity... MCCLELLAN: I don't have any update. It's something that we always continue to look at, and we will continue to do so. I don't have any update, and it's something we are always looking at.

QUESTION: Scott, back on the struggle that you're talking about, New York Congressman Ed Towns says, "The administration's priorities are upside down. Instead of concentrating on Osama bin Laden, we're concentrating on war in Iraq."

QUESTION: And this goes back to the issue of why Osama bin Laden has not been found. And he was the impetus of this war on terror. He was the one who attacked -- well, his minions attacked the United States. Why not have Osama bin Laden captured or otherwise?

MCCLELLAN: Well, I think you're ignoring a lot of what the president has said and a lot of what we are doing.

And I think that some do have a misunderstanding of the nature of the enemy that we face and the war that we're engaged in. Some do view this as more of a law enforcement matter, but this is about an ideology. This is about an ideological struggle.

This is an evil ideology that is based on hatred and oppression. This is an ideology that the terrorist want to spread throughout the broader Middle East. They want to create safe havens. This a group of people that deny people their political and religious freedom.

And that's why it's so important that we continue to do two things: take the fight to the enemy and spread freedom and democracy, because free nations are peaceful nations, and that will lay the foundations of peace for generations to come.

QUESTION: (inaudible) step one logically for many people who are not trying to play political politics -- or play politics...

MCCLELLAN: Well, remember, there's Al Qaida, there are state sponsors of terror, there are other affiliated organizations that are out there, this loose network that the president has talked about that exists, and they all share this same ideology.

QUESTION: But wasn't step one that Osama bin Laden had his minions use planes as missiles?

MCCLELLAN: Well, I think you have to understand what September 11th taught us. What September 11th taught us was that we must confront threats before it's too late, and that's what this president is committed to doing and is doing.

We must confront the threats before the attacks reach our shores.

QUESTION: One last question: Is Musharraf playing the fence? Some are questioning is he playing the fence trying to appease the United States and trying to appease those in his community? Do you think that Musharraf is distracted... MCCLELLAN: As I indicated, President Musharraf and Pakistan are a key ally in the global war on terrorism and we are working with them.

QUESTION: Is he doing enough as an ally...

MCCLELLAN: Well, all of us can do more on the war on terrorism.

QUESTION: Scott, if the tape is authentic, it shows that bin Laden is still alive. You say he's on the run right now. Would you go so far as to say he has been marginalized? Let me not put words in your mouth...


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