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Osama bin rotting?

Posted by Richard on September 14, 2007

I've had doubts about bin Laden being alive for some time now, and the two recent videos just reinforced them. This CNET News Blog post pointed out some fascinating analyses of the videos by Dr. Neal Krawetz at Secure Computing. In As Alive as Elvis, Dr. Krawetz reported his findings regarding the Sept. 7 video, which included:

The video shows Bin Laden in his white hat, white shirt, and yellow sweater. This is the same clothing he wore in the 2004-10-29 video. In 2004 he had it unzipped, but in 2007 he zipped up the bottom half. Besides the clothing, it appears to be the same background, same lighting, and same desk. Even the camera angle is almost identical.

… If you overlay the 2007 video with the 2004 video, his face has not changed in three years — only his beard is darker and the contrast on the picture has been adjusted.

What are the chances of nothing changing (except his beard) in three years? Virtually zero. The clips appear to have been recorded three years ago.

The audio does make reference to relatively current events (people and places). However, these references are ONLY made during the frozen-frame portions and only after splices in the audio track. The animated portions make no references to current events.

The big question is: is the audio from Bin Laden? I'm not an audio expert (yet) and since I don't know Arabic, I cannot tell if there is an accent or if the accent changes. I do know that the room echo and background sounds change during different audio clips. And there are so many splices that I cannot help but wonder if someone spliced words and phrases together.

In a follow-up, Bin Laden Video Image Analysis, Krawetz reported (ellipsis in original):

With regards to Bin Laden's beard… It cannot be detected with any of my tools as being digitally modified. However:

  • The whole inner frame of Bin Laden was resaved at least twice. The number of reseaves does not appear to be enough to distort significant modifications.

  • The colorful border was also saved twice. However…

  • Even though the Bin Laden frame and border were both saved twice each, they were not saved at the same time. I know this because the Jpeg artifacts (8×8 squares) are on the 8×8 grid for the Bin Laden frame, but are shifted over on the border — the border's 8×8 artifacts do not lie on the Jpeg 8×8 grid.

  • The whole video frame (border + Bin Laden) was combined from many parts. Here's the order, starting with the last thing added:
    1. As-Sahab logo, English subtitles, and text below Bin Laden (alternates between English and Arabic) was added last.
    2. "The Solution" and Arabic in the top right corner was the penultimate addition.
    3. The Bin Laden frame and border were combined.
    4. In the Bin Laden frame, there is no indication of manipulation and no indication of a chromakey replacement. In the border, the spinning globe was modified along with the strobing colors.


  • Both saturation and PCA shows fine horizontal stripes on Bin Laden and the background. These came from interlaced video sources. In contrast, the text elements and As-Sahab logo appear to be from non-interlaced sources.

FWIW, interlaced suggests (but only suggests) older video and non-interlaced suggests newer. 

If I had to bet, I'd bet bin Laden is dead, and Zawahiri, the brains behind al Qaeda, is keeping the charismatic figurehead "alive" for his PR value. 

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2 Responses to “Osama bin rotting?”

  1. Hathor said

    I thought Zawahiri was dead or is the name the same or sounds like someone else.

  2. rgcombs said

    I suspect you’re thinking of Zarqawi, the al Qaeda in Iraq leader who assumed room temperature a little over a year ago while gazing up at U.S. special forces. See He lived just long enough.

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