WASHINGTON - The CIA said Friday the purported voice of Osama bin Laden on the newly aired al-Qaida videotape probably is that of the terrorist leader, but it is impossible to determine when the tape was made.
Agency officials cautioned their analysis was not certain given the poor quality of the recording. They are more certain that another section of the audiovoiceovers that accompany the tape contains the voice of Ayman al-Zawahri, bin Laden's chief surviving deputy.
Some officials suggested the video could be years old, noting bin Laden looked a little less gray than in some other recent appearances. Al-Jazeera, when it aired the videotape Wednesday, said it was recorded in the spring but offered no proof.
U.S. intelligence analysts believe the new tape was primarily intended as an al-Qaida propaganda and recruiting tool, timed to make a media splash alongside the second anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Former CIA counterterrorism chief Vince Cannistraro said the new message could mean al-Zawahri could be taking on a greater role in al-Qaida.
"Zawahri talks all the contemporary stuff," he said. It raises the question, Cannistraro said, "Who's calling the shots now?"