Missing in Action: Bin Laden Election Tape Fails to Appear

Another success in the secret U.S. campaign to silence al Qaeda.

Nov. 4, 2008— -- Unlike the last election, and despite predictions to the contrary, the Osama bin Laden 2008 election tape has yet to appear.

Senior U.S. officials say that is no accident.

Since the morning of Sept. 11, 2008, U.S. and allied intelligence agencies have largely shut down what had been al Qaeda's routine access to certain Internet sites that distributed its leaders' video messages.

"We've been able to squelch their message," said former CIA intelligence officer John Kiriakou, now an ABC News consultant. "We push al Qaeda's Web operation from country to country, to a point where they're just not able to find a country that's going to be willing to host their Web sites anymore."

CIA officials declined to comment.

Al Qaeda Propaganda Distributors Caught Off Guard as Sites Are Shut Down

The secret effort was launched just days before Sept. 11 of this year, when the group has normally posted a video celebrating the anniversary of the terror attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Al Qaeda propaganda distributors were apparently caught off guard when their normal distribution sites in Germany and Malaysia were shut down in the first week of September. The sites have not come back online since.

The cyber war attack on al Qaeda's Internet access came in coordination this autumn with stepped up missile strikes at suspected terror operation posts in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

"We know bin Laden is extremely concerned about his security, and the attacks have no doubt kept him quite pre-occupied," a senior U.S. official said.

Could a bin Laden Tape Affect the U.S. Election?

In the days before the 2004 Presidential election, a bin Laden video appeared on the Internet threatening new attacks on the United States. Democratic candidate Sen. John Kerry later said he believed the bin Laden video tipped the election in favor of President Bush, even though polling did not show a connection.

"You, the American people, I talk to you today about the best way to avoid another catastrophe and about war," bin Laden said on the tape made public Oct. 29, 2004.

"Security is not in the hands of Kerry or Bush or al Qaeda," bin Laden said. "Your security is in your own hands," he said in an obvious reference to the election.

The Obama campaign had girded for the release of a similar tape this year and has attempted to "inoculate" the public with advance effort to minimize its import or the suggestion that Republican candidate Sen. John McCain would better handle terror-related issues.

In 2004, a second tape produced by American al Qaeda Adam Gadahn was secretly provided to Fox News by Republican operatives in the Bush administration.

The tape had initially been turned over in Pakistan to ABC News, which gave a copy to the FBI and the CIA for authentication purposes.

Before the authentication was complete, and before the tape had been broadcast by ABC News, a government official leaked a copy to Fox, in the apparent belief it would help the re-election chances of President Bush.

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