After a relatively long video absence since October 2004, Osama bin Laden resurfaced on September 8. In the wake of his speech, jihadi forum users continue to discuss his statement and are eagerly analyzing whether the speech contained codes about a possible upcoming large-scale terrorist attack.
The responses to bin Laden’s speech on the forums are ranging from prayers for his ultimate triumph over the “Jews and Crusaders,” to various translations of his text in order to reach as many audiences as possible. Two users, however, posted some interesting interpretations of his speech on the http://muslm.net forum. A user by the name of “al-Asadi” claimed that, for the first time, al-Sahab productions incorporated a code into bin Laden’s video, which contained a special encryption sequence only available to a few al-Qaeda operatives. Al-Asadi further stated that since bin Laden only mentioned once that his speech was the last ultimatum to the United States and its allies means that a new terrorist strike is imminent. Al-Asadi then boasted that his own posting also contains codes, and claimed that “the signs of the raging storm that precedes the calm are materializing.” He then mocks the director of the CIA and warns that “we will see you in 2008,” and signed his name as “Asadi, the Amir of Washington.”
In addition to al-Asadi’s postings, another user by the general nickname “Windows XP” attempted to “break” bin Laden’s supposedly coded speech. XP makes note that after 2:08 minutes into the speech, bin Laden says, “The effects and signs of that are not hidden. Since the 11th…” Then the video-feed pauses until 2:15, while the audio feed continues. XP claims that these numbers are significant and must be a signal to mujahideen in the United States. The user makes a number of similar claims throughout his posting, while ending on a final point that refers to 14:00 minutes into the tape, when the picture goes stagnant and bin Laden mentions the Kyoto Protocol for global warming. XP claims that the letters in “Kyoto” and the timing refer to some sort of coded instructions. While some forum users agreed with his analysis, others found the hypothesis of a “coded speech” ridiculous.
In response, some users reacted angrily at the discussion of the possible codes, and argued that revealing jihadi secrets in public forums would damage the jihad. Instead, they encouraged all users to disseminate bin Laden’s speech to the American people through English-language forums in order to bypass “American censorship.” A number of users acquired the English version of bin Laden’s speech and posted it on the forum boards so that it could be distributed. On the http://muslm.net forum, users posted the English version and then posted various responses from Americans from English-language forums. They then capitalized on instances where some people in the English-language forums appeared to agree with some points in bin Laden’s speech, and they included the following posting: “As for what Osama says in this latest speech, I agree with a couple of things: mainly concerning the fact that we haven’t held any of our leaders accountable for atrocities they have committed or allowed, that the American people ignored intelligence and allowed the Bush administration to take hold as it has, and that the American people stupidly elected this man into office twice, pretty much sealing our fate and the fates of our soldiers.”
In conclusion, although the analysis of bin Laden’s speech by various jihadi users is probably baseless, it portrays their strong desire to see mass terrorist attacks against the United States. On the other hand, the attempts to circulate bin Laden’s ideas in American forums is a new trend and, if sustained, could mount to a form of psychological warfare against U.S. citizens.