A Newsweek article by Mark Hosenball wondered whether "Osama bin Laden [is] going to weigh in on the midterm elections," citing a bin Laden tape released before the 2004 presidential election. But in citing reports that bin Laden wants to be "relevant" to the U.S. electoral process, Hosenball told only part of the story, ignoring evidence that bin Laden's 2004 videotape was intended to assist in the re-election of President Bush.
In an article for the November 6 issue of Newsweek, titled "Al Qaeda: Plans for an October Surprise?" Newsweek investigative correspondent Mark Hosenball wondered whether "Osama bin Laden [is] going to weigh in on the midterm elections." Hosenball wrote that bin Laden released a "rare" videotape "just before the 2004 presidential vote" as evidence that he might similarly be heard from before the 2006 elections. But in citing reports that bin Laden wants to be "relevant" to the U.S. electoral process, Hosenball told only part of the story, ignoring evidence that bin Laden has a clear idea of how he wants to be "relevant": The CIA reportedly determined that bin Laden's 2004 videotape was intended to assist in the re-election of President Bush, despite prior assertions from Bush administration officials and conservative media personalities during the 2004 presidential campaign that terrorists preferred the election of Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) as president.
Asking if bin Laden would surface before this November's midterm elections, Hosenball referred to bin Laden's videotape, released on October 29, 2004, adding that unnamed counterterrorism officials "believe Al Qaeda wants to be 'relevant' to the U.S. political process":
Is Osama bin Laden going to weigh in on the midterm elections? A senior counterterrorism official, anonymous, like other officials Newsweek spoke to, because the subject is sensitive, says that based on previous patterns -- such as the release of a rare bin Laden tape just before the 2004 presidential vote -- a message before Election Day wouldn't be surprising. Private expert Evan Kohlmann, who consults for the Feds on terror probes, says Al Qaeda has lately released tapes at a rate of two or three per month. This month, he says, they are "short by one or two," so he thinks a pre-election message is a "very good likelihood." Another U.S. official says intel experts believe Al Qaeda wants to be "relevant" to the U.S. political process.
But the article did not mention, as Media Matters for America has noted, that according to investigative reporter Ron Suskind's book, The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America's Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11 (Simon & Schuster, June 2006), CIA analysts agreed that "bin Laden's message was clearly designed to assist the President's reelection" (pp. 335-336). Suskind's reporting undermined claims by Bush administration officials -- including Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice -- that terrorists might take actions to ensure Kerry would defeat Bush, and declarations from conservative media figures that the 2004 bin Laden videotape in particular demonstrated that bin Laden preferred Kerry.