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Bin Laden called ‘virtually impotent’
Al-Qaida leader unable to do much beyond hiding and spreading propaganda, Bush aide says

By Ben Feller
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON — Seemingly taunting Osama bin Laden, President Bush’s homeland security adviser said Sunday the fugitive al-Qaida leader is “virtually impotent” beyond his ability to hide away and spread anti-American propaganda.

The provocative characterization came just days after bin Laden attracted international attention with the release of a video in which he ridicules President Bush about the Iraq war and reminds the world that he has not been captured.

Ahead of the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist strikes, White House aide Frances Fragos Townsend made a clear attempt to diminish the influence — or the perception — of the man who masterminded those attacks.

“This is about the best he can do,” Townsend said of bin Laden. “This is a man on a run, from a cave, who’s virtually impotent other than these tapes.”

In appearance on two Sunday talk shows, she used the “virtually impotent” reference both times, suggesting the language was chosen with careful purpose.

“We know that al-Qaida is still determined to attack, and we take it seriously,” Townsend said. “But this tape appears to be nothing more than threats. It’s propaganda on their part.”

Townsend was considerably more direct than even Bush in rebuking bin Laden. The president responded to bin Laden’s tape last week by saying it was a reminder that the world is dangerous and that Iraq is part of the war against extremists. He never identified bin Laden by name.

The consensus of the nation’s top intelligence analysts is that bin Laden’s terrorist network is anything but impotent.

Terrorism experts say the network is regrouping in the lawless Pakistan-Afghanistan border region.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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