By Chief foreign affairs correspondent
NBC News
updated 4/15/2004 7:36:58 PM ET 2004-04-15T23:36:58

The new audio tape from Osama bin Laden was an in-your-face message to the U.S. from a defiant bin Laden.

Bin Laden’s offer of a truce to Europe from attacks like last month’s Madrid bombing is blackmail, say U.S. officials.

In interviews for European television Thursday, United States Secretary of State Colin Powell said it won’t work, “How can you make a deal with somebody who would murder innocent people at the World Trade Center and the pentagon, or innocent people in a field in Pennsylvania, or innocent People on a train going into Madrid?”

U.S. officials still say there is no evidence bin Laden ordered the attack on Madrid, but he is taking responsibility for it anyway.  Why?

If the World Trade Center was an attack on America’s economic heart, Wall Street, bin Laden now wants to also be seen as a political threat — able to influence elections like Spain’s, where the government was defeated within days of the Madrid bombing.

The release of the tape was likely timed to also influence the troubled political transition in Iraq.  And it could signal terror plots already in place.

“It means that we can expect, unfortunately, to see increase targeting of U.S. allies, not just in Iraq, but also in Europe, like we saw with the Madrid bombing, in the future,” said an Intelcenter terror expert Ben Venzke.

The tape surfaces as the CIA and FBI have been rocked by admissions of failed attempts to find bin Laden.  Now he seems to be thumbing his nose at them.

According to intelligence expert and author James Bamford, “No matter how hard you try to get me, I’m gonna be able to get my message out and I’m gonna be able to survive.”

U.S. officials are confident bin Laden’s message will not influence American allies, but it could inspire more violence especially in Iraq.

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