Negative evidence alone compels the conclusion that Osama is long since dead. Since October 2001, when Al Jazeera’s Tayseer Alouni interviewed him, no reputable person reports having seen him–not even after multiple-blind journeys through intermediaries. The audio and video tapes alleged to be Osama’s never convinced impartial observers. The guy just does not look like Osama. Some videos show him with a Semitic aquiline nose, while others show him with a shorter, broader one. Next to that, differences between colors and styles of beard are small stuff.
Nor does the tapes’ Osama sound like Osama. In 2007 Switzerland’s Dalle Molle Institute for Artificial Intelligence, which does computer voice recognition for bank security, compared the voices on 15 undisputed recordings of Osama with the voices on 15 subsequent ones attributed to Osama, to which they added two by native Arab speakers who had trained to imitate him and were reading his writings. All of the purported Osama recordings (with one falling into a gray area) differed clearly from one another as well as from the genuine ones. By contrast, the CIA found all the recordings authentic. It is hard to imagine what methodology might support this conclusion.
Also in 2007, Professor Bruce Lawrence, who heads Duke University’s religious studies program, argued in a book on Osama’s messages that their increasingly secular language is inconsistent with Osama’s Wahhabism. Lawrence noted as well that the Osama figure in the December 2001 video, which many have taken as his assumption of responsibility for 9/11, wears golden rings–decidedly un-Wahhabi. He also writes with the wrong hand. Lawrence concluded that the messages are fakes, and not very good ones. The CIA has judged them all good.
Above all, whereas Elvis impersonators at least sing the King’s signature song, “You ain’t nutin’ but a hound dawg,” the words on the Osama tapes differ substantively from what the real Osama used to say–especially about the most important matter. On September 16, 2001, on Al Jazeera, Osama said of 9/11: “I stress that I have not carried out this act, which appears to have been carried out by individuals with their own motivation.” Again, in the October interview with Tayseer Alouni, he limited his connection with 9/11 to ideology: “If they mean, or if you mean, that there is a link as a result of our incitement, then it is true. We incite…” But in the so-called “confession video” that the CIA found in December, the Osama figure acts like the chief conspirator. The fact that the video had been made for no self-evident purpose except perhaps to be found by the Americans should have raised suspicion. Its substance, the celebratory affirmation of a responsibility for 9/11 that Osama had denied, should also have weighed against the video’s authenticity. Why would he wait to indict himself until after U.S. forces and allies had secured Afghanistan? But the CIA acted as if it had caught Osama red-handed.
The CIA should also have taken seriously the accounts of Osama’s death. On December 26, 2001, Fox News interviewed a Taliban source who claimed that he had attended Osama’s funeral, along with some 30 associates. The cause of death, he said, had been pulmonary infection. The New York Times on July 11, 2002, reported the consensus of a story widespread in Pakistan that Osama had succumbed the previous year to his long-standing nephritis. Then, Benazir Bhutto–as well connected as anyone with sources of information on the Afghan-Pakistani border–mentioned casually in a BBC interview that Osama had been murdered by his associates. Murder is as likely as natural death. Osama’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is said to have murdered his own predecessor, Abdullah Azzam, Osama’s original mentor. Also, because Osama’s capture by the Americans would have endangered everyone with whom he had ever associated, any and all intelligence services who had ever worked with him had an interest in his death.
I have no doubt Osama had lots of enemies. The powerful but far away United States may have been the least of his worries. It is my opinion that we’ll never know what happened to Osama and his demise will the source of my conjecture long past when I go to my grave.
The above article is long but worth reading. It challenges many common assumptions about Osama, The CIA, and more.
Hat tip- Randy Barnett at the Volokh Conspiracy. Is it a CIA conspiracy that the comments section has been turned off to this post?