Is bin Laden’s concern for flood victims a ruse to destabilise Pakistan?

By Maidhc O Cathail

If we are to believe the Associated Press, that demmed elusive Osama bin Laden has spoken again.

According to the world’s oldest and largest newsgathering organization, the fugitive al-Qaeda leader, who some intelligence experts believe has been dead since December 2001, has just released an audiotape in which he calls for the creation of a new relief body to help Muslims affected by this summer’s devastating floods in Pakistan. Bin Laden, AP suggests, is “seeking to exploit discontent … by depicting the region’s governments as uncaring.”

Seemingly unfazed by news of the CIA’s 3,000-strong Counterterrorism Pursuit Teams hot on its trail, al-Qaeda, according to the AP report, has in recent weeks put out three messages, including the one featuring bin Laden, concerning the massive floods that affected around 20 million people in Pakistan, “signaling a concentrated campaign by the terror group to tap into anger over the flooding to rally support.”

AP’s sole source for the 11-minute tape, with the oddly contemplative title “Reflections on the Method of Relief Work,” is SITE Intelligence Group. The U.S.-based group, which purportedly “monitors jihadi forums,” provided AP with a copy of the message that it claims was posted on unnamed “Islamic militant websites.”

There are questions, however, about whether SITE Intelligence is the most objective source of information about terrorism.

SITE co-founder Rita Katz, an Israeli Defense Forces veteran, is an Iraqi-born Jew, whose father was publicly hanged in Iraq after the 1967 Six-Day War as an Israeli spy. Considering Tel Aviv’s obvious interest in having the world’s only superpower fight a “global war on terror” against the Jewish state’s Muslim neighbours, it somehow never occurred to Associated Press, or other mainstream media outlets, to ask the question, Like father, like daughter?

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Moreover, there are reasonable grounds for suspicion about al-Qaeda’s other pronouncements on the floods in Pakistan.

In a recent video, presumably also found online by Rita Katz’s SITE, al-Qaeda’s California-born spokesman, Adam Gadahn, castigated Islamabad for its “sluggish and halfhearted” response to the floods, and called on Muslims in Pakistan to join the Islamist militants fighting the government.

Gadahn, who has since 2001 run al-Qaeda’s media wing, As-Sahab, found his way to hpw the Islamic Society of Orange County while living with his grandfather, Carl Pearlman, a board member of the Anti-Defamation League. Ostensibly a civil rights organization set up to fight anti-Semitism, the ADL is a de facto adjunct of the Israeli government which, significantly, has been caught spying on American critics of Israel. Like grandpa, like grandson?

In a previous video, Ayman al-Zawahiri, said to be al-Qaeda’s second-in-command, also incited Pakistanis to rise up against their government due to its “failure” to provide relief to flood victims.

But when Neal Krawetz, a researcher and computer security consultant, analysed a 2006 video of al-Zawahiri for alterations and enhancements, he discovered that the logos of As-Sahab and IntelCenter (the other group supposedly tracking terrorists online) had been added at the same time.

IntelCenter is run by Ben Venzke, former director of intelligence at iDefense, a VeriSign company. VeriSign is a partner of Verint, formerly known as Comverse Infosys, which was founded by former Israeli intelligence officer Jacob “Kobi” Alexander. In 2006, Alexander fled to Namibia after the U.S. Department of Justice indicted him on multiple counts of fraud. Comverse/Verint, one of a number of Israeli eavesdropping and surveillance companies created by veterans of Unit 8200, the technology intel unit of the Israeli Defense Forces Intelligence Corps, has been widely suspected of spying on Americans.

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If, as seems likely, the al-Qaeda messages concerning this summer’s floods in Pakistan are fakes, they would seem to provide further evidence of an Israeli-inspired campaign to destabilise the world’s only Islamic nuclear power.

The question then becomes, what, if anything, Islamabad will do to counter such efforts before it too goes the way of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Maidhc Ó Cathail is a writer and educator. Born and raised in Ireland, he has been living in Japan since 1999. Inaddition to writing a monthly column for a popular Irish language magazine, his work is regularly published in Foreign Policy Journal, Islam Times, Khaleej Times, Opinion Maker, and many more. To read more of his writing, see Maidhc Ó Cathail: Writing and Analysis.

He is a regular contributor to Opinion Maker and some other publications.