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Bush Discusses Bin Laden Tape with Advisors


President Bush has met with senior national security advisors to discuss the newly-released videotape from al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. The Bush campaign says Democratic challenger Senator John Kerry is trying to use that tape to influence the outcome of Tuesday's U.S. presidential election.

On a secure video link from the campaign trail, President Bush discussed the bin Laden tape with his attorney general, the heads of the CIA and FBI, and his director of Homeland Security.

National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice is traveling with the president, and was also involved in the discussions. White House Spokesman Scott McClellan says the president told his aides to make sure the government is taking all action that might be necessary in light of the tape, which includes threats of more terrorist attacks.

Mr. McClellan says there are no current plans to raise the national terror threat level, but that is something that is always under review.

The release of the bin Laden tape just days before the U.S. presidential election has both candidates talking tough about fighting terrorism.

Bush campaign Communications Director Dan Bartlett says Senator Kerry is trying to score some political advantage from the tape by continuing a line of attack that Mr. Bartlett says is just plain wrong.

Senator Kerry regularly criticizes the president's handling of the hunt for the terrorist leader following the fall of the Taleban in Afghanistan, saying U.S. troops allowed Afghan militiamen to search for bin Laden in the mountains of Tora Bora, instead of going after him themselves.

President Bush says U.S. troops were actively involved in the search at Tora Bora, and that American commanders had intelligence that Osama bin Laden may not have been in those mountains anyway.

The president told Republican supporters Saturday that his Democratic challenger has a fundamental misunderstanding of what is needed to fight terrorism.

"It's the worst kind of Monday morning quarterbacking [second-guessing]. It is especially shameful in the light of a new tape from America's enemy," the president said. "Our commander in Afghanistan, Tommy Franks, recently said the Senator's understanding of events does not square with reality."

In the videotape, Osama bin Laden tells Americans their security does not depend on President Bush or Mr. Kerry, or al-Qaida, but will depend on government policies.

President Bush says voters have a clear choice in this election, and choosing him, he says, will keep Americans safer from terrorist attack.

"Americans will go to the polls in a time of war and ongoing threats unlike any we have faced before," he said. "The terrorists who killed thousands of innocent people are still dangerous and determined to strike. The outcome of this election will set the direction of the war against terror. The most solemn duty of the American president is to protect the American people."

With three days to go before Election Day, President Bush is campaigning Saturday in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Florida. Senator Kerry is campaigning in Wisconsin, Iowa and Ohio.

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