The AP brief offers potential explanations for bin Laden's silence:
He may have decided to change the messenger. His deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, has been much more vocal, issuing seven messages this year. In years past, he and bin Laden have delivered roughly the same number of messages.
Or the earthquake in Pakistan could have inhibited bin Laden's ability to transmit messages. Or a tape could have been destroyed in the rubble. Yet al-Zawahri has managed to send out a message since the earthquake, calling on Muslims to provide aid.
I've done arcane, way-out-of-the-loop commercial consulting work on marketing for several "government contractors that do support work for the intelligence community." None of them would ever use the word "intelligence" in their own positioning phrase. That's how you don't get awarded contracts -- "partnerships" in the intelligence community.
It would seem likely then that Ben Venzke is a liar, a fool, or he's feeding an unnamed AP reporter what he's been told to say by someone in "the intelligence community," in which case he'd be both.
When in doubt, google.
The most immediately visible graphic on IntelCenter's web site is a man in a ski mask wielding an anti-tank gun. Their corporate logo looks like a cross between a swastika, a film canister and a soccer ball.
Here's what this "government contractor that does support work for the intelligence community" sells online:
US GOVERNMENT (STATE & LOCAL)
TERRORISM THREAT INTEL PACKAGE
US$1,499 per user per year
This package is designed to enhance your situational awareness of the current terrorism threat environment. This package will provide you with an understanding of the types of threats you may face before they show up in your own area. Information will be provided to you on the wireless device of your choice, through email and through database access over the Internet. You will receive both Alert and Current Intelligence feeds as well as access to the full IntelCenter Database(ICD) for any research work you need to perform on various groups, individuals, incidents or other developments. Information will range from non-sensitive to law enforcement sensitive. You can order by clicking here or call 703-370-2962. All accounts will be activated within 24 hrs. of receiving your order.
Includes Full-Access to the following feeds:
- World's Terrorist Groups - Intel Update (WTG-IU)
- World's Intelligence Agencies - Intel Update (WIA-IU)
- Terrorism Threat Monitor (TTM)
- Threat & Claim Monitor (TCM)
- Terrorism Source Material - Translation Feed (TSM-TF)
- Significant Date Monitor (SDM)
- IntelCenter Database (ICD) PRO - Web & CD-ROM
And not one damn decoder ring. IntelCenter packages its media kits for "Government (Military, Intelligence, Federal Law Enforcement)" at $3,175 per user, "Corporate" for $2,175. The "here's what you get" message is identical for all three versions.
You gotta hand it to IntelCenter. They've coupled some savvy marketing with a mess of $39.95 DVD's...
Qaeda al-Jihad Organization in the Land of Two Rivers Videos Vol. 1 DVD: All Religion is for Allah - NEW
Volume 1 contains the 46-minute produced video from the Media Section of Qaeda al-Jihad Organization)...
...and there's the billions of dollars Republicans are spending for "homeland security." A small sliver of that and you can retire.
Does this mean we're in for a week or three of scary Osama stories? Maybe.
I'd bet an up-and-coming marketing geek at IntelCenter coaxed a toe-the-line AP hack into substantially boosting IntelCenter's image among backward local sheriffs and county managers looking for ways to spend some of their homeland security loot. That's kinda sorta what AP does for a living. So this "filed at 10:32 p.m. ET" Friday night story's probably not that big a deal.
On the other hand...
Later this month Verso is publishing Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama bin Laden. The Chronicle of Higher Education has a pre-review by the book's editor, Bruce B. Lawrence, professor of Islamic studies at Duke University here.
In his pre-review, Lawrence warns that bin Laden is a powerful force:
Bin Laden's project couples faith and fighting with relentless insistence on the need to act, and his messages continue to have an appeal. Tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands revere him for his bold stand against the world's sole remaining superpower and its allies, Muslim and non-Muslim.
Ironically, during the 80s the CIA helped him to become a local hero in the Afghan war against the Soviets, but during the 90s and into the new century it was media technology that made him into an international celebrity.
Bin Laden could not have achieved global prominence without audiocassettes, the Internet, and satellite television, especially Al-Jazeera.
His legacy is more secure than his life: No matter when or how he dies, he will not easily be dislodged from his perch as the most famous/infamous Arab of the 21st century.
He is far more concerned with the glories of martyrdom than with the spoils of victory. Rewards belong essentially to the hereafter.
Bin Laden's is a creed of great purity and intensity, capable of inspiring its followers with a degree of passion and principled conviction that no secular movement in the Arab world has yet matched.
So what's worse, the scary movies Ben Venzke sells or the silence of bin Laden? Take the poll!
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