Tomorrow's front-page story in every newspaper across America will be a new audio recording attributed to Osama bin Laden. The tape was broadcast by Al Jazeera this afternoon, and every 24-hour news channel spent the next three hours speculating about its authenticity before the CIA confirmed it.
The CIA is lying.
OK, so posting that last line on the internet will probably add a half-page to my FBI file. But someone needs to say it, and for this particular moment it's going to have to be me.
Osama bin Laden is dead.
Sure, he's recorded a dozen threats in the past five years. Every one was verified by the CIA. He's the most wanted man in the world. It would obviously constitute an enormous defeat for the Bush administration to admit they failed to catch him, that he escaped their massive charge to bring him to justice. And no one can produce his body — so for all anyone knows, he's alive and they can keep pursuing him. Politics is about polarization, and nothing polarizes a group more effectively than a common enemy.
Here's the problem. Exactly four years ago, Jane's Information Group quoted an Israeli intelligence report that Osama bin Laden died of kidney failure in December 2001.
Jane's is a solid news source, the industry leader in the field of military intelligence. They know what they're doing; they don't alternate between publicity and retractions like the Associated Press. And absolutely no one, no agency in the world knows that region better than Israeli intelligence. It's not hubris; it's necessity. They're a nation of six million Jews surrounded by 220 million Arabs who want to kill them. They're the best because they have to be. And if they say Osama bin Laden is dead, then Osama bin Laden is dead.
That report was short-lived. Obviously, the United States and Israel are close allies, and the United States has a grave stake in maintaining the perception that Osama bin Laden is alive. If you choose to believe that Mossad made a mistake, that's your prerogative. But me, I don't find it far-fetched to believe that the truth fell prey to diplomacy. I don't find it insignificant that, after years of flagrantly starring in videotapes alongside hooded Arabs and AK-47s, Osama bin Laden has only spoken via muffled audio recording since 2001. And I'm tired of dignifying the charade.
The CIA is lying. Osama bin Laden is dead. Hallelujah.