Skip to main content
  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print

Bin Laden is 'virtually impotent,' Bush adviser says

  • Story Highlights
  • Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden appears in new videotape
  • Homeland security adviser: No credible information about imminent attack
  • Adviser Frances Townsend calls bin Laden tape "propaganda"
  • In the tape, bin Laden encourages Americans to "embrace Islam"
  • Next Article in Politics »
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Osama bin Laden may be grabbing headlines with a new videotape, but he is "virtually impotent," said President Bush's homeland security adviser.


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

"This is a man on the run in a cave who is virtually impotent other than his ability to get these messages out," Frances Townsend said Sunday on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer."

She called the tape, which surfaced last week, "propaganda."

The U.S. is taking the tape "very seriously" and is piecing through it for clues, but the al Qaeda leader is not known to have ever used a tape "to trigger any operational activity," said Townsend.

Townsend said the U.S. has "no specific or credible information right now about an imminent attack."

She added the "ongoing plots around the world" are concerning.

"And we continue to make sure that the information is being shared not only with our agencies overseas, but our investigative agencies here at home like the FBI and local police departments."

Townsend was referring to the arrests in Germany last week of suspects planning an alleged terror plot aimed at U.S. military installations and other Western targets. Also last week in Denmark, authorities arrested eight people who were planning attacks.

In the tape, which appears recently made, bin Laden urges Americans to "embrace Islam" as a way to end the war in Iraq.

It contains no overt threats toward the U.S.

However, bin Laden does talk about his "side" continuing "to escalate the killing and fighting against you. This is our duty and our brothers are carrying it out, and I ask God to grant them resolve and victory."

John McLaughlin, the former acting head of the CIA, and now a CNN consultant, said bin Laden achieved at least two things in the tape.

"He gets to reach out to followers who, according to jihadist Web sites, have been wondering where is their leader," McLaughlin said. "And he also gets to rail against the Iraq war, which is his strongest propaganda point."

Townsend said analysts are taking care to examine all aspects of the tape.

"We are looking for things like indications about his health, indications about his whereabouts, the contents of the message. Are there any hidden meanings or messages to it? That technical analysis is ongoing," she said.

Asked why the United States has failed to capture or kill bin Laden six years after the 9/11 attacks, Townsend brought up Eric Robert Rudolph, who was convicted of several bombing attacks in the U.S., including the 1996 Summer Olympics bombing in Atlanta, Georgia.

"He was in the foothills in the Carolinas here in the United States, and it took us five years to find him," she said of Rudolph.

Blitzer responded, "But you weren't devoting the resources to finding Eric Rudolph that you're devoting to finding Osama bin Laden."

"No," Townsend replied. "But you have the counterterrorism resources that are devoted to not only finding bin Laden, but they're also devoted to preventing the next attack, to following leads, both in this country and around the world.

Democrats charged the videotape shows Bush took his eye off al Qaeda by invading Iraq.

"Every time I see that fugitive terrorist on television taunting America, I think of how wrong this president was in turning away from going after that murderer who murdered our citizens, and moving into Iraq and not having any way of getting us out," Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, said Sunday. Video Watch how fighting terrorism factors into the presidential campaign »


Townsend said "capturing and killing bin Laden is the No. 1 priority, but it's not our only priority."

"We also have to be mindful of current ongoing threats against this country," said Townsend. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About Osama bin LadenAl Qaeda

  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print