Exclusive: U.S. Expects Bin Laden Message Near Election

Analysts: OBL could speak out in an attempt to prove his relevance.

ByABC News
October 30, 2008, 2:50 PM

Oct. 30, 2008— -- Multiple senior government officials tell ABC News the intelligence community is anticipating a message from Osama bin Laden before or just after the presidential election.

As we race toward Election Day, sources say a number of intelligence analysts have concluded it is critical for al Qaeda's top leader to be seen or heard, if only for public relations purposes. Those analysts believe that if bin Laden is not heard from, he runs the risk of being considered irrelevant or impotent. The U.S. intelligence community has some indication that there is some confusion among Islamic radicals about their leadership.

According to sources, the full weight of the intelligence electronic eavesdropping and human sourcing is right now desperately looking for any hint of a bin Laden statement. So far there is only rumor, no hard evidence a message is coming, officials said.

Interestingly, the U.S. government may be the reason why bin Laden could have some problems getting a message out, officials suggested to ABC News.

The United States is engaged in an intensive effort to disrupt the use of the Internet by Islamic radicals. Message boards and Web sites have been targeted. Some officials believe that if bin Laden is not heard from, some will conclude he may be dead.

Another source cautioned against such speculation, suggesting that bin Laden is most concerned about his own safety at the moment, and might increasingly fear for his life.

The sources tell ABC News the U.S. government is quietly engaged in a high-tempo moment attacking al Qaeda and Taliban leaders in the tribal regions of Pakistan, where U.S. officials fear the terrorists have found a safe haven from which to stage plots against Afghanistan, Pakistan and throughout the world, including the West.

A review of published reports about drone attacks in the tribal region suggests the United States may have more than tripled the number this year, compared to 2007, especially in recent months. One official tells ABC News, "We have killed a lot of senior leaders. They [radicals] are having a really bad month."