WASHINGTON - A top government counterterrorist official says the new videotape of Osama bin Laden appears to contain no specific threat but is aimed instead at showing al-Qaeda remains active and effective.
John Brennan, director of the government's leading terror-threat analysis unit, the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, told reporters Saturday that bin Laden was likely attempting to "demonstrate that al-Qaeda, as an organization, is still effective, even though they have not, in fact, been able to do something here in the states."
He said the admitted mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks was seeking to justify the continued existence of al-Qaida.
The Bush administration left the terror threat level unchanged, despite warning state and local officials that bin Laden's re-emergence could portend a new terrorist attack.
"We don't have to go to (code level) orange to take action in response either to these tapes or just general action to improve security around the country," Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said.
He urged Americans to go to the polls Election Day without undue concern. His words and appearance both seemed designed to convey a lack of alarm.
Ridge's department and the FBI issued a memo late Friday to local and state officials, hours after a new videotape of bin Laden surfaced.
"We remain concerned about al-Qaida's interest in attacking the American homeland, and we cannot discount the possibility that the video may be intended to promote violence or serve as a signal for an attack," it said.
Most of the United States has been at code yellow, the midpoint of a five-point color-coded warning scale, for much of the year.
Since August, the terror alert for the financial section in New York, Washington and Newark, N.J., has stood at orange, or high. At that time, administration officials disclosed al-Qaida had conducted surveillance of four buildings.
Injecting himself into the election, bin Laden said the United States must stop threatening the security of Muslims if it wants to avoid "another Manhattan." While he did not directly warn of new attacks, the al-Qaida leader and Sept. 11 mastermind warned: "There are still reasons to repeat what happened."
While Ridge sought to convey reassurance, he also said the government would strengthen anti-terrorism measures.
Government officials also were scrutinizing a tape aired Thursday by ABC News in which a shrouded man claiming to be an American member of al-Qaida promised attacks that will make U.S. streets "run red with blood." The speaker identified himself as "Azzam the American."
Brennan said investigators were looking "very closely" to see if the two new terror tapes were linked.
In the latest video, bin Laden acknowledged for the first time directly that he ordered the Sept. 11 attacks and said he did so because of injustices against the Lebanese and Palestinians by Israel and the United States.
"Your security is not in the hands of Kerry, Bush or al-Qaida. Your security is in your own hands," bin Laden said, referring to the president and his Democratic opponent, John Kerry. "Any state that does not mess with our security has naturally guaranteed its own security."
The television network Al-Jazeera received the 18-minute videotape at its offices in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.
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