UC Davis religious studies professor Flagg Miller has listened to hundreds of hours of tapes confiscated from bin Laden’s former residential compound in Qandahar, Afghanistan.
"This is the kind of thing that bin Laden does not make public."
The tapes include everything from lectures and sermons to…
"…trivia contests that training camp leaders give to recruits to kind of build enthusiasm and sharpen their knowledge."
There’s also poetry. Here’s bin Laden reciting a poem from an audio cassette dated 1996.
"The poem talks about a youth, a young man or woman who plunges into the smoke of war with glee. And this is the same type of message he was constantly pitching in the late ‘80s about the way martyrdom is glorious experience."
These tapes were first acquired by a CNN producer and Afghani translator in the weeks after the Taliban’s evacuation from Qandahar in December of 2001. The FBI had the tapes for a while, turned them over to a research institute in Massachusetts who then submitted them to Miller – a trained linguistic anthropologist.
He says the tapes show bin Laden’s evolution as he sharpened his political message. Back in the 1980s he used to call non-Muslims “dogs”. Today, says Miller….
"…he very much comes across as a diplomat, kind of a statesman who is making comments about U.S. electoral campaigns or Danish cartoons or so forth. But his early years really represent a more marginal figure and certainly a more militant figure."
Miller has spent the past five years listening and studying bin Laden’s cassettes. Now Miller says he plans to start work on a new book about the tapes.