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Bin Laden's radio silence

From NBC's Jim Popkin
With the election coming to a close, it's clear there won't be any "October Surprise" as many pundits had predicted.

The political term gained currency in 2004, when Osama Bin Laden popped up in a videotape four days before the Bush-Kerry presidential election.

"Your security is not in the hands of Kerry or Bush or al Qaida," Bin Laden warned in late October 2004, in his first videotaped address in three years. "Your security is in your own hands."

Sen. John Kerry has said that the 11th-hour videotape heightened Americans' fear, and persuaded many undecided voters to stay with President Bush.

Radio Silence
But this election season, there's been almost complete radio silence from al-Qaida and its terror affiliates. There have been no threatening tapes from Bin Laden, and no election-related messages from his verbose deputy, Ayman al Zawahiri, or from Adam Gadahn, the bellicose American-born spokesman for al-Qaida.

(There was a brief reference to the current election buried in a tape last month from Abu Yahya al-Libi, a top Taliban propagandist, asking that God "humiliate Bush and his party." But the videotape was not promoted by al-Qaida, and some intelligence experts question whether "party" meant political party or just Bush's political allies. There also have been dozens of threatening messages posted by individual bloggers active on jihadist websites, as the SITE Intelligence Group recently found, but still no official statements from al-Qaida.)

The terror group's relative silence comes as a surprise to many in the U.S. intelligence community. Just a month ago, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security issued a bulletin to U.S. law-enforcement officials predicting more messages from al-Qaida in the weeks leading up to the election. "We expect al-Qaida to release additional messages before the election" for U.S. president," said the FBI/DHS notice obtained by NBC News. "They certainly want to be a topic of the election campaign," a senior U.S. intelligence official predicted at the time.

For more, read NBC's Deep Background blog.