"On Thursday afternoon, I met with 'a senior intelligence official' directly involved in the intelligence used to track down terrorists. It was a long-scheduled meeting, but the timing was good, since I would have a chance to ask him about the attempt to kill Ayman al Zawahiri and a new Osama bin Laden tape which had been aired just that morning. He had been out of the office all morning and did not know about the bin Laden tape, and before I could ask him about it he started telling me that it had been so long since there'd been so much as a peep from bin Laden that he was becoming increasingly convinced the leader of al Qaida was dead. I interrupted to tell him about the new tape and that ended the discussion about whether bin Laden was dead.
Only afterwards did the significance of what he was saying strike me. This is a person who sees all the intelligence on bin Laden, and he was telling me that for over a year – bin Laden's last tape appeared in December 2004 – there has not been a shred of evidence to indicate he is even alive, much less where he might be hiding. In other words, the vast $40 billion a year intelligence apparatus of the United States has not turned up a single credible report about bin Laden in over a year – despite an offer of a $25 million reward for information leading to his death or capture. During that year, the U.S. has captured and interrogated al Qaida's number three man and tracked the number two man, Zawahiri, with enough precision to launch an air strike. But nothing on the number one man – until an audio tape is broadcast by an Arab satellite network."