White House: ‘Inconclusive’ Whether Osama Alive or Dead

By Jennifer Parker

May 10, 2009 10:31am

In his first Sunday interview, National Security Adviser Gen. Jim Jones told me it’s "inconclusive" whether Osama bin Laden is alive or dead.

"The best intelligence is that we, we gauge our reaction based on what intelligence we have, and it is inconclusive," Jones told me this morning on "This Week." 

"Secondly, we wait and see how long it has been before we’ve seen him actually make a statement, release a video, and make our judgments on that," he said, "The truth is, I don’t think anybody knows for sure."

If alive, bin Laden is thought to be hiding in the mountainous region between Afghanistan and Pakistan. This week during his visit to the U.S. Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai said  that he believes bin Laden is alive. But President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan said he thinks bin Laden is dead.

I asked Jones about audio tapes of bin Laden released in both January and March of this year that U.S. intelligence that were thought to be authentic.

"So what has changed since then to make the intelligence inconclusive?" I asked.

"Well, as of March, they thought it was authentic, but we don’t have any firm information that says that that has changed one way or the other.  So I think we’ll just continue to press on and we’ll see what happens there," Jones said.

"I — my gut — I would like to know conclusively if that’s not the case.  And I think we have that evidence."

Jones argued bin Laden’s death would deal a symbolic blow to al Qaeda.

"I think it matters symbolically to the movement, for sure.  But it’s clear that that movement has been resilient in replacing their leaders as quickly as we are able to capture or eliminate them. But I think symbolically it would be a very big thing if he weren’t," Jones said.

–George Stephanopoulos

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