Analyst Evan Kohlmann spoke with Renee Montagne this morning about al-Qaida’s public relations arm and multimedia production team, al-Sahab, on NPR’s Morning Edition. The details about the al-Sahab’s efficiency and skill are chilling.
al-Sahab is responsible for putting out video tapes and recordings depicting propaganda and military operations. They produced a video that connected al-Qaida to the USS Cole bombing in 2000, and have since produced high-quality videos and audio tapes about al-Qaida’s activities around the world, including one recently that linked al-Qaida to the 7/7/95 London bombing.
The tapes have very professional, very high quality video sub-titling, graphics, translations and are even distributed in formats you can watch on your cell phone.
How significant that Bin Laden has not been seen lately, Montagne asked. Part of it is that he doesn’t want to be over-exposed, Kohlman said. “He saves himself for the big stuff. ” Also, releasing videos gives away information “about how you look, who you are with, where you are. The loss of Bin Laden would have serious impact on al-Qaida and I don’t think they want to chance it.”
Al-Zarqawi was captured, Kohlman said, just about a month after he was seen in a video and it is believed that the tape helped US intelligence to find his whereabouts.
Kohlmann explained that there are competing media wings within al-Qaida, but al-Sahab is strengthened by Adam Gadahn, a young American traitor, who does a lot of work for them. Gadahn was raised on a goat farm near Orange County, CA; born Adam Pearlman in 1978. His Jewish father changed the family name to Gadahn when he converted to Christianity.
He became affiliated with al-Qaida in 2000 and has since become a major influence within al-Qaida for his role in the media organization and in communicating its message to the western world. He does the professional and active translations and is involved in the production.
ABC News says “Gadahn’s career as a jihadist seems to be taking off, and his prominent role may signal a change in strategy by al Qaeda as they seek to exploit mistakes by the West and gain new recruits among populations in Europe and the United States. In his last video, Gadahn was filmed without a mask, unlike previous propaganda tapes.”
al-Sahab “even ha the “PR Newswire of terrorists” which distributes the tapes online, Kohlmann said. Their media strategy is to release videos that prove their involvement and prove that al-Qaida’s really exists and really plays a role in masterminding terrorist attacks, even today.
Hat tip to Federal Information Management