Osama bin Laden always seems to be with us. Or at least with me.
I've spent the past few weeks in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan covering terrorism; before that I was in Jordan.
During this trip, I spent some time working on a CNN Presents documentary about bin Laden that will come out later this year. I talked to people who knew him in high school, in college, and in Afghanistan. Some unusual facts emerged: He used to drive a Chrysler and liked to spend time riding horses.
But the question that dominated my interviews about bin Laden concerns his significance: Is bin Laden still relevant? Or to move the discussion forward: Do tapes like the one that came out Sunday still matter?
Most of the people I spoke to would like to say, "No, he isn't relevant." And maybe bin Laden isn't significant anymore in terms of running a worldwide network like a CEO. But then you get three blasts going off in an Egyptian resort town the day after bin Laden's tape surfaces and you have to wonder if there is a connection.
It is highly doubtful, though possible, that whoever did this attack was acting directly under bin Laden's orders (or those of his Egyptian deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri). After all, bin Laden's most significant activity these days seems to be sending out audio tapes on an intermittent basis to Al Jazeera.
But think about bin Laden differently for a minute. Think of him as the face on a brand, a kind of figurehead, instead of viewing him as a CEO-type. His brand is anti-Western (what he calls the Zionists and Crusaders) and pro-his distorted version of Islam.
Viewed this way, bin Laden is able to get things done even if he doesn't have a direct hand in planning and helping carry out particular terrorist attacks. There are people who believe in the bin Laden brand enough to act upon his exhortations. That doesn't mean he has any direct connection to what happened today in Egypt. But it does mean he remains an important figure.
So back to my original question: Is bin Laden still relevant? You tell me.