July 15, 2007
A video clip featuring Osama bin Laden lauding martyrs for their contribution to the jihadist cause has surfaced on the Internet, according to news reports. The footage of bin Laden himself does not appear to be recent; a Washington organization called the SITE Intelligence Group identifies it as 2003 footage. The production itself, however, is new. It was put out by the Al Sahab media foundation, which produces Al Qaeda's media. Al Sahab has been putting out videos on a regular basis this year, most recently on July 4, 2007.
Analysts who track Al Qaeda's media take interest in both the number of productions Al Sahab is capable of putting out, as well as the sophistication of their productions. These are clues to the kind of equipment and expertise they can afford, and to the conditions under which producers may be working. At last count, Al Sahab was probably producing out of Pakistan.
But while producers are relatively underground, their productions aren't. In fact, you can find them on YouTube. A search for Al-Sahab brings up a whole page of video clips produced by Al Sahab. (Most have been subtitled in English, and make for interesting watching).
Surprise at Al Qaeda Communications Savvy May Say More about U.S. than Al Qaeda
It is something of a truism among those concerned about the ability of Al Qaeda and other groups to make use of Internet and video technology that they are 'very sophisticated.' I've heard this phrase many times in the last few years and it has always struck me as an odd thing to say coming from the United States, the most sophisticated country on earth when it comes to broadcast and Internet media. It was only recently that I realized that such comments may reveal the expectation that Al Qaeda—who, after all, have launched wars from caves—are not as primitive as the U.S. expected them to be.
Which is to say, expressions of surprise that Al Qaeda and other extremist groups have mastered contemporary communications and marketing may say more about the U.S. than about the groups themselves.