A flurry of intense interest has greeted the revelation, made on October 28, that al-Qaeda had issued a videotape a few days earlier warning that the next terror attack would “dwarf 9/11.” The veiled speaker goes on to describe how “the streets will run with blood” and that America will mourn in silence since they will be unable to count the number of the dead.
Unlike the usual al-Qaeda fare distributed to Arab satellite channels, the tape is delivered in English and was apparently obtained by ABC News via a contact in Waziristan, north Pakistan, from Al-Sahab Productions, which functions as the media or public relations arm of al-Qaeda. The tape has been subsequently authenticated by the CIA and the FBI, who point to the likely date of production as late summer, due to the speaker’s references to the Darfur conflict in Sudan, the Massachusetts same-sex marriage legislation and the September 11 Commission.
The timing of the tape’s release, the language used and the unusually direct transmission of the tape to a western media company have raised questions as to the purpose of the exercise, and the target audience. The implication is that it is intended to influence the course of the U.S. presidential elections, in consideration of which the ABC network intended, unsuccessfully, to bury the story for a week.
The speaker on the tape identifies himself as ‘Assam the American’, leading to speculation that he may be the Californian Adam Pearlman (alias Adam Gadhan) identified by the FBI as privy to al-Qaeda’s intentions. However, voice analysts have detected that the accent, although American, is not native, suggesting that he may have been raised, but not born in the United States.
His profile would therefore exactly match the developing al-Qaeda strategy — as highlighted in the last issue of Terrorism Focus — of employing youths with genuine Western passports, or those who have spent enough time in the target country to pass off as a native. This element alone is enough to cause some anxiety among security agencies, fearing that the speaker, or others like him may already be active in the United States.