Washington, Feb. 15 (Reuters): A CIA technical analysis of an audiotape aired on al Jazeera satellite television channel this week shows “almost certainly” it is of al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, a US intelligence official said yesterday.
“The technical analysis tells us it is almost certainly bin Laden,” the intelligence official said, adding the audio was of better quality than a tape released last November.
Another US official said “fairly sophisticated” means were used to compare the recent audiotape with past samples known to be of bin Laden’s voice.
US intelligence analysts familiar with bin Laden’s voice had earlier this week determined the tape was probably of the al Qaida leader, but it could not be determined to a greater degree of probability until the technical analysis was conducted.
The US has blamed al Qaida for the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon that killed about 3,000 people.
The US government recently raised its national alert to the second-highest level of orange after intercepted communications of suspected al Qaida operatives and other intelligence information suggested they were poised to strike US interests possibly as early as this week, US officials have said.
One US official said on condition of anonymity that some of the information about the al Qaida threats came from a “walk in” who approached US authorities overseas with intelligence that corroborated other information that US spy agencies were picking up.
That person, who was not identified, confessed later to lying to US authorities about a threat to a Jewish-owned hotel in Virginia Beach, Virginia, after failing a polygraph question about that piece of information, the official told Reuters.
But other information from the “walk in” matched intelligence that was coming in from multiple sources and methods, and the basis for raising the threat level to orange was not substantially based on this individual’s information, the official said.
The most recent bin Laden audiotape was released as the US amasses thousands of troops in the Gulf region for a possible war against Iraq.
On the tape, bin Laden referred to the US as “crusaders,” called on Muslims in Iraq to fight, and labelled the Iraqi government “socialists” and “infidels” but said they had common cause against America.
Some US officials have seized on the references to Iraq in bin Laden’s tape to promote their views that Baghdad has links to al Qaida. Iraq denies any ties to al Qaida.
CIA director George Tenet said earlier this week at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that bin Laden was trying to energise followers in the latest audiotape and that US intelligence agencies were analysing it to determine whether it contained hidden signals to prompt an attack.