There is no recent credible first-hand information on when bin Laden was last seen,” writes Asia Times Online correspondent Syed Saleem Shahzad in his December 12, 2009 article, Osama Can Run, How Long Can He Hide?. This line, however, is tucked seventeen paragraphs into an article in which early on Shahzad asserts, “There is little dispute that bin Laden and his close associates, including his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, move around in the vast and inhospitable mountainous territory that straddles the Afghanistan-Pakistan border; the porous border exists only as a line on a map.”  

Shahzad quotes US national security advisor James Jones saying that “intelligence reports suggest that the Al-Qaeda chief is somewhere inside North Waziristan, sometimes on the Pakistani side of the border, sometimes on the Afghan side of the border.”  Shahzad doesn’t indicate whether or not he followed up on Jones’s statement by asking Jones how credible those suggestive reports were and why they were credible. Instead, he lends his own organization’s credibility to Jones’s statement. “Interaction with generally well-connected militant sources,” he writes, “leads Asia Times Online to believe that bin Laden, 52, is alive and healthy, despite a history of kidney trouble.”  

What kinds of well-connected militant sources are they and why should they be believed?  What proof that bin Laden is alive have these sources offered?  How has Shahzad confirmed what they told him about bin Laden being alive?

No one seems willing or able to provide proof of life or verification of bin Laden’s existence or death, yet the speeches, agendas and reporting referring to him in the unconfirmed present persist.

In his piece, Shahzad goes on to write about Bin Laden’s “numerous safe houses” and how hard it is to find the Al Qaeda leader.  “All the same,” he claims, “the net might be getting tighter.”  He draws this conclusion based on a CBS News report about a Predator drone killing “a top Al Qaeda official in the Pakistani border area.”  “Unnamed officials tell CBS News that the Al Qaeda figure killed was not Osama bin Laden nor his top deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri, but that he was “one of the top five terrorists on the US wanted list”.   The rest of the CBS report, however, is all about how the kill is unconfirmed.  In fact, the report’s title “Top Al Qaeda Official Believed Killed” carries a built-in qualifier: “believed”. So does its lead, “CBS News has confirmed a Hellfire missile was fired from an unmanned Predator Drone and likely killed a top Al Qaeda official in Pakistan”.  The only thing CBS is confirming is that a Hellfire missile was fired from an unmanned Predator Drone.  The rest is qualified as “likely” and therefore unconfirmed, even though the unnamed source calls the kill a “major hit” with a name “recognizable to many”.  CBS correspondent Kimberly Dozier further confirms that the kill is unconfirmed by reporting that officials told her “they have to study the strike zone, and the behavior of the al Qaeda operatives left behind to see either if they hold a funeral for the suspected target or somehow move to replace him to be able to confirm the target's identity.

Why is Dozier even reporting this story if the kill is unconfirmed?  Why is Shahzad using this unconfirmed report as an indication of anything?  

Asia Times Online correspondents, including Shahzad, have done a spectacular job of reporting on the Middle East in general and the Afghan and Iraq conflicts in particular.  American correspondents covering those areas would gain immeasurably from following their reporting.  But in this instance, Shahzad has fallen down the Osama rabbit hole. 

Shahzad, however, may be among the very few up to the task of actually getting to the bottom of whether or not Osama bin Laden still lives.

That’s the story to pursue.


# # # #


*Other editorials by Kristina Borjesson about unverified press coverage of Osama bin Laden can be found at http://tr.im/CHWr and http://tr.im/CI0c.

KBorjessonInternationally acclaimed for her work, Kristina Borjesson has produced for major American and European television networks and published two groundbreaking books on the problems of the U.S. press: Into the Buzzsaw: Leading Journalists Expose the Myth of a Free Press and Feet to the Fire: the Media After 9/11, Top Journalists Speak out. Her awards include an Emmy and Murrow Award in TV, and the National Press Club’s Arthur Rowse award for Media Criticism and two Independent Publishers Awards for her books.

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  1. Kristina:

    Do we know when was the last credible video or audio tape coming from bin Laden, proving he was alive near the time the tape was released? I do remember the 2004 video appeared to be credible, but I don’t remember if there is any tape after that one that had the same level of “authenticity”.

  2. The last time the MSM said they knew where Bin Laden was? Brian Ross at ABC said they had confirmed that Bin Laden had sanctuary in Pakistan. Yet, ABC management killed the story.

  3. From the Washington Post

    An apparent U.S. missile strike along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan is believed to have killed a top al-Qaeda operations planner this week, U.S. counterterrorism officials said Friday. If confirmed, this would be the second deadly attack against a senior terrorist leader this fall.

    Saleh al-Somali was one of two Arab men thought to have been killed when a pair of missiles tore into their car Tuesday near the town of Miran Shah in North Waziristan province, according to U.S. sources and Pakistani officials in the region. Local authorities said the missiles were fired by an unmanned aircraft of the type operated by the CIA inside Pakistan’s lawless tribal belt.


    Regarding bin Laden,

    He reported had kidney problems – leading all to believe he had died.

    I have listened to most of the audio from him and watched the credible videos.

    I believe Usama is alive.

    I believe his absence was because of his illness, and he received a kidney transplant.

    It’s Osama bin Laden. I’m sure they weren’t going to just let him die.
    Not with that kind of Wealth and Power.

    For a time I thought He was dead, and al-Zawahiri kept quiet about it because it played to his advantage.

    He probably wouldn’t be that hard to ‘see’ from a distance. He travels lightly with only his most devoted and trusted.

    It’s cold now so he probably wants to stay warm [in the mountains].

  4. @Miguel: That’s a good question, and I know Kristina has been following those ‘videos’ and ‘supposed video references’ very closely. Kristina?

    @Elvis: Thanks for the link.

  5. I think stories like this are a good illustration that there is a big difference between what’s REPORTED and what’s REPEATED. Most people have little or no awareness that Bin Laden repeatedly denied involvement with 9/11 on tapes and videos that have been verified as authentic, while the supposed confession tape wasn’t verified and which there is plenty of evidence to suggest that it is a forgery. That’s what Eric Margolis thinks and I’d take his word over a lot of others. He covered this in his October/09 interview on Antiwar radio along with many other topics. http://antiwar.com/radio/2009/10/30/eric-margolis-23/
    (About 25 minutes in)

    Another good example is the January/02 story on CBS news where foriegn correspondent Barry Petersen reports that Osama Bin Laden checked in to a hospital in Rawalpindi, Pakistan on Sept 10/01. You would think that the whereabouts of America’s most wanted criminal on the day of his biggest crime would be big news, and would be repeated over and over again by the media, and yet I’ll bet barely 1 person in 100 has any awareness of this story. ( Here’s the link to the written version on CBS’ site, and to a posting of a copy of the video on Youtube. Sorry, I couldn’t track down the original video on the CBS site )

    There’s a school of thought that Benazir Bhutto in her interview with Frost had meant to say Daniel Pearl instead of Osama Bin Laden, and that this would make a lot more sense given the context of the interview. I guess we’ll never know for sure now but its food for thought.

  6. mcthorogood says:

    Does anyone know anything about the “Public Intelligence Blog”?


  7. James ONeill says:

    Kristina: You are right to be sceptical. There have been so many fake videos and audiotapes of bin Laden that it is a legitimate question to ask as to who benefits from all of these “messages”.
    To my knowledge there has been only one detailed examination of the question of whether or not OBL is alive or dead and that is David Ray Griffin’s recently published book: “Osama bin Laden: Dead or Alive”. After a careful review of the available evidence Griffin comes to the conclusion that OBL most likely died on or about 13 December 2001.
    Another useful discussion is Angelo Codavilla’s article in The American Conservative entitled Osama bin Elvis in which professor Codavilla concludes that there is more evidence that Elvis is still alive than bin Laden.
    All of which raises the very interesting question: who benefits from all these fake videos?

  8. @mcthorogood

    I knew about the public intelligence website (https://publicintelligence.net/), which I check regularly, but I’d never been to their blog. So thanks for that. If you don’t already know about them here are some other interesting sites that are similar in some ways.


    (the well known)




  9. “Does anyone know anything about the “Public Intelligence Blog”?”
    Robert Steele’s blog, great website; he’s a former CIA officer and prolific amazon.com reviewer. He was recently in the documentary film “American Drug War – The Last White Hope”:

  10. Robert Steele would make a great BF guest.

  11. mcthorogood says:


    Thanks for the info about Robert Steele. I agree that he would be a great BF guest.

  12. For 50 years, The Evil Soviet Union was the boogeyman du jour, hauled out to justify increased defense spending and military adventurism across the globe by the US. Then, in 1989, the Russians deprived us of an enemy by going home. At the time, there was great talk of a “Peace Dividend” caused by the savings from reduced Defense Dept. budgets. Then, lo and behold, we had a NEW boogeyman. An amorphous, shadowy thing called “Islamic Extremism” with Osama bin Laden as it’s avatar and symbol. Like some modern-day Hassan-I-Sabah, bin Laden became, The Old Man of The Mountain”


    The new narrative proclaimed his aim and goal as the replacement of ALL governments with a world-wide Islamic Caliphate with every non-Muslim as a target. Never mind that the original Assassins targeted the people and centers of power in the Muslim world as a means of survival. In many ways, the propaganda value was even better. The Soviets, for all their so-called fanaticism for the worker’s state, were portrayed as logical, rational people who could be dealt and negotiated with. Bin Laden and his followers are portrayed as Insane Fanatics bent on the destruction of the world. So, in a sense, if bin Laden hadn’t existed, he would have been created. The new enemy was needed to continue the War On the Poor of the World. That’s what’s really going on.

  13. My reading of what’s out there is that Obama Bin Laden died at the end of 2001, probably from complications of acute kidney failure.

    He’s been kept “alive” as a useful illusive target to justify all the militarism and getting the US more entrenched in AfPak.

    This of course means that someone has been manufacturing the “evidence” that he is alive and who might that “someone” be? How does disinformation so well (or so awkwardly) and expects to pass it off as unnoticed fraud?

  14. While we’re still chasing the phantom Bin Laden, we’re preparing for the next war in South America.


  15. Test2

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