November 19, 2008— -- Al Qaeda's second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, surfaced today with the release of an audio tape that harshly criticizes U.S. President-elect Barack Obama, calling him a "House Negro" who represents "the direct opposite of honorable black Americans" like Malcolm X.
"You were born to a Muslim father, but you chose to stand in the ranks of the enemies of the Muslims," Zawahiri says to Obama in the tape, which was posted with English subtitles.
Zawahiri condemns Obama's plan to move troops from Iraq to Afghanistan as a policy "destined for failure before it was born" and tells Obama that "a heavy legacy of failure and crimes" awaits him.
"And be aware that the dogs of Afghanistan have found the flesh of your soldiers to be delicious, so send thousands after thousands to them," Zawahiri states.
Providing further evidence that Zawahiri is alive and hiding, the tape comes after increased efforts by the Bush administration to hunt down al Qaeda officials. In a three-month U.S. offensive against al Qaeda's once safe haven in the tribal areas of Pakistan, the CIA's unmanned armed Predator aircrafts have carried out a major bombing campaign, hitting at least 24 suspected terror targets since August.
"We force them to spend more time and resources on self-preservation," said CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden in a speech last week. "And that distracts them – at least partially and at least temporarily for the time – from laying the groundwork for the next attack."
A second part of the U.S. offensive has been a cyber attack on al Qaeda's normal websites that began just before Sept. 11. Today's tape was released on internet message boards, a new and unusual distribution method despite U.S. Intel efforts to shut down the al Qaeda internet distribution system.
"The tape proves they can still get their videos out, which means their failure to comment before the election was likely intentional and possibly due to disagreements in al Qaeda on strategy," said former national security advisor and ABC News Consultant Richard Clarke.
Clarke said that while Zawahiri's threats in recent years have been largely empty, "the question remains is al Qaeda planning a major attack during the transition or early in the Obama administration."
The message comes after two months of silence from Zawahiri and just days after Obama's announcement that his administration will go after al Qaeda and renew efforts to capture Osama bin Laden. It is the first al Qaeda propaganda message to get out in four months.
"It's all part of the big plan to confront them, to confront them on every level," said former CIA officer and ABC News Consultant John Kiriakou.
As for bin Laden, the CIA believes he is still alive and hiding in Pakistan, where he is thought to be under siege and facing the greatest threat to his safety in years.
"Because they feel under siege and because the United States is going through a transition," said Clarke, "we are at a greater risk of attack than in some time."