Copyright 2002 N.Y.P. Holdings, Inc. All rights
The New York Post
November 14, 2002, Thursday
SECTION: All Editions; Pg. 008
LENGTH: 452 words
HEADLINE: BIN LADEN TAPE: VOICE
SQUAD SCOURS AUDIO FOR 'PRINTS'
BYLINE: NILES LATHEM Post
WASHINGTON - U.S. intelligence agencies are employing an exotic forensic science
that can turn a few mumbled words into detailed patterns like a fingerprint on a
computer to determine whether terror master Osama bin Laden is dead or alive.
Analysts at the CIA and the National Security Agency are comparing the voice
purporting to be bin Laden's on a recent audio cassette, given to the Arabic TV
station Al-Jazeera, to other recordings of bin Laden diatribes to determine
whether it's authentic.
The process is known as voice-print identification or acoustic analysis and is
considered so accurate that it has been used as evidence in more than 7,000
criminal cases across the country since it was first developed for police in the
late 1960s. "It is very accurate. All you need is about 15 words to make a
match," Steve Cain, head of Forensic Tape Analysis
Inc. in Lake Geneva, Wis., told The Post in a telephone interview.
The science is based on the premise that every person has individual voice
characteristics based on the construction of one's mouth, nasal cavities and
"The likelihood that two people - even siblings - would have all their vocal
cavities the same size and configuration is very remote," Cain added.
To match the voice on the latest bin Laden tape to others, the intelligence
agencies are using sophisticated software that measures frequencies and
amplitude of similar words and phrases used in each tape recording.
The software translates what is being heard on the tapes into "prints" that can
be seen on spectrographs.
Cain said the types of high-speed computers and programs available to the CIA
and NSA are much more sophisticated than what is being used by law enforcement -
making the process quicker and more reliable.
Cain also said the CIA would need an Arabic translator familiar with the nuances
of bin Laden's Saudi speech and linguistic patterns to help in this case.
THE OSAMA UPDATE
What the audiotape delivered to Al-Jazeera tells U.S. intelligence analysts:
1. Osama bin Laden is alive.
2. He recorded his anti-Western diatribe two weeks ago.
3. Portions of the message were given at different times, and some statements
were made or recorded over the telephone.
4. Bin Laden doesn't want to reveal his appearance, either because he is
seriously ill or has changed his looks.
5. Some of his sentences were short, and at times he appeared out of breath, a
possible indication he is sick.
6. The tape was delivered to Al- Jazeera in Pakistan, a country where bin Laden
is likely hiding.
7. He is likely signaling that a new major terrorist strike - possibly in Europe
- is imminent.