U.S. Weighs Bin Laden's Words

The U.S. has no plans to raise the security threat level because of a new tape of Osama bin Laden saying al Qaeda is planning attacks, counterterrorism officials said Thursday.

The officials said they have seen no specific or credible intelligence to indicate an upcoming al Qaeda attack on the U.S. Nor have they noticed an increase in terrorist communications "chatter" that sometimes precedes an attack, they said.

A senior security official says that the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI will send out a bulletin to state and local officials tonight, reports CBS News correspondent Bob Orr. It will be "simply a reminder to be vigilant" and state and local governments will be reminded to "review security measures."

The audiotape, released by the Arab television network Al-Jazeera, brought new attention to the al Qaeda leader after a yearlong lull in his public statements.

"We have recognized for some time that Osama bin Laden continues to be committed in his intent to strike the United States," said Homeland Security Department spokeswoman Michelle Petrovich. "This most recent tape continues to serve to highlight that sentiment."

"He is showing 'we are still very much alive,'" said CBS News Consultant Jere Van Dyk. "It's a propaganda tape. He is addressing his people...He is saying 'we are a muslim community. We are alive here. Certainly not hiding in caves. I know what is going on in the world.'"

Homeland Security is not planning to raise the national terror threat level from yellow, the middle of five grades signifying an elevated risk of attack, said spokesman Russ Knocke. The government has raised the alert level to orange, signaling a high threat risk, seven times since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Read a CBS News translation of the Osama bin Laden tape

Michael Scheuer, a former CIA officer who tracked bin Laden for 10 years as part of a unit he created, told CBS News anchor Bob Schieffer that this

The important thing about bin Laden, Scheur says, "is that the coordination between what he says he's going to do and what he does is very nearly 100 percent over the past decade. He's a very deadly serious man."

Scheuer said the offer of a truce is "very similar to one he made to the Europeans about two years ago. They paid no attention to what he said and then, thereafter, al Qaeda did attack twice in London. I think it would be foolish not to take this as a very serious threat to the United States."

The tape, which intelligence officials believe was recorded last month, represents bin Laden's first public communication since December 2004. Since then, al Qaeda's No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, has served as the terror network's public face.

The recording was released only days after U.S missile attacks in Pakistan that Pakistani officials said killed four senior al Qaeda operatives.

CIA analysts verified the recording as bin Laden's voice. They offered no details about how they reached that conclusion, but in the past the agency has verified authenticity in part by comparing new recordings to earlier messages.

Vice President Dick Cheney said the tape showed that al Qaeda has been hobbled, because "they didn't have the ability to do anything on video" and because it had been so long since bin Laden had been heard from.

He said the tape's significance depends in part on whether it is determined to have been produced in recent days or weeks or pieced together from the more distant past.

Analysts say the 10-minute audio recording had a stamp dated Dec. 5, 2005 on it when it arrived at the Arab network Al-Jazeera and believe it was recorded in that time frame, reports CBS News correspondent Jim Stewart. It also had a specific reference in it to a story in the British press last November, which at least confirms to CIA analysts that bin Laden was alive on that date.

Some officials believe bin Laden may have released the tape now to try and reassure the al Qaeda rank and file after the U.S. airstrikes in Pakistan; others, however, think the tape was just a long time in transit and simply bin Laden's way of reasserting control, reports Stewart.

Cheney said the threat from al Qaeda continues.

"We see ample evidence of continued plotting against the United States," the vice president said in an interview with Fox New Channel's "Your World with Neil Cavuto." "I think we have to assume that the threat is going to continue for a considerable period of time. Even if bin Laden were no longer to be a factor, I still think we'd have problems with al Qaeda."

Ironically, the bin Laden tape may give the White House an opportunity to claim more justification for its secret NSA spying program, reports CBS News chief White House correspondent John Roberts. The administration Thursday rechristened that eavesdropping an "early warning system" in the war on terror.

Homeland Security officials alerted states about bin Laden's comments in a routine call Thursday morning, Petrovich said.

Sharon Gang, a spokeswoman for District of Columbia Mayor Anthony A. Williams, said the city was not raising its terror alert level. Across the Potomac River in Virginia, the information did not trigger any alarms, said Steve Mondul, the state's deputy preparedness director.

"The basic header we put on it was, everyone should be a little more alert, and watch this space for further instructions," said Mondul, who participated in the Homeland Security call and then passed on the information to Virginia law enforcement, military, health and transportation agencies.

Over the past year, there has been much speculation about bin Laden's whereabouts and even whether he was still alive.

The tape apparently provides no definitive answers to either question, but there was speculation that it might be an attempt to show supporters that bin Laden was still around.

"He has made threats before, but there hasn't been a public utterance for a long time, and for that reason no one is being dismissive of it," said one counterterror official, speaking on condition of anonymity while the tape was still being analyzed.

President Bush was told about the audiotape Thursday, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

"We do not negotiate with terrorists," McClellan said. "We put them out of business."