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Bin Laden's Felt-Skinned Henchman
From: InfoSec News <isn () c4i org>
Date: Fri, 12 Oct 2001 06:44:51 -0500 (CDT)

Forwarded from: Bronc Buster <bronc () attrition org>

Althought not really security related, this is a pretty interesting
story. And heck, who knows, maybe Kimble is funding all this and it's
really a covert operation? :)


Bin Laden's Felt-Skinned Henchman

Thursday, October 11, 2001
By Michael Y. Park

NEW YORK -- Do the global terror links reach even as far as Sesame
Street? Is Bert the Muppet a henchman of terrorist mastermind Usama
bin Laden?

The answer is clearly no, but puzzled newspaper readers are still
wondering how the Sesame Street icon ended up in a news service
photograph of a pro-bin Laden protest in Bangladesh. The pictures
clearly showed demonstrators holding up a large poster in which bin
Laden and Bert are standing next to each other.

The picture quickly began making the e-mail rounds Wednesday morning,
astonishing and provoking laughter from Los Angeles to Switzerland to
South Korea.

The poster is a collage of pictures of bin Laden in white robes,
camouflage fatigues and lecturing with a microphone in his hand, all
ringing a large portrait of the bearded Saudi exile. Along the bottom
is printed "Usama." On the right side of the picture, just past the
right shoulder of the large portrait, is irascible Bert, bosom buddy
of Ernie.

The photographs do not appear to have been doctored. They were taken
by news photographers covering at least two different demonstrations
from different angles on at least two separate days.

The first known Bert-bin Laden posters appeared on Oct. 5 in the
Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, and photographs of them were printed by
the Dutch news service Algemeen Nederlands Persbureau and the
Associated Press and Reuters news services. At least one other
photograph including the posters was taken at another location by
Reuters photographer Rafiqur Rahman on Oct. 9.

Reuters spokeswoman Felicia Cosby said the photos were authentic.

"We've just noticed it ourselves, since you queried, that there is
Bert on that poster," she said. "I don't know if they're
mass-producing these posters, but what I can say is that it is
definitely our policy not to doctor photographs."

Associated Press spokesman Jack Stokes said the AP photographs were
also untouched.

"We haven't changed the photo at all," he said. "We have very strict
editing guidelines."

The AP photographs were taken by Pavel Rahman. Stokes said he did not
know if Rahman was another name for, or related to, Rafiqur Rahman.

Cosby said Rafiqur Rahman, a native Bangladeshi, did not know that he
was photographing a Muppet when he covered a prayer demonstration for
bin Laden's health Oct. 9.

"The photographer is as bemused as we are," she said. "He didn't know
what that furry creature was."

Rahman is going to a local marketplace to hunt down more Bert-bin
Laden posters Wednesday, Cosby said.

The creator of a parody Web site dedicated to "Evil Bert" said he had
a theory about how an associate of Kermit the Frog, Big Bird and
Snuffleupagus had been recruited into the Al Qaeda cause.

For several years, Dino Ignacio, 27, a San Francisco 3-D animator, had
been maintaining a humor Web site that purported to "prove" that the
bad-tempered, banana-shaped Jim Henson creation was connected to evil
causes from Hitler and the JFK assassination to the stolen Pamela
Anderson sex tapes and Kevin Costner movies. But he stopped
maintaining the site when he lost interest in 1998.

A week after the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, someone
e-mailed him an altered picture of bin Laden standing next to Bert
wearing a trenchcoat and looking very angry. Ignacio didn't post the
picture on his site out of respect for victims of the terror attack,
but the picture began showing up on Bert fan sites and in other odd
corners of the Internet.

"What I'm thinking is that [someone there] has access to the Internet,
got this picture to pop up off of Alta Vista or Google and put
together this collage," he said.

Of course, the other explanation might be that Bert has finally
ditched Ernie, canceled his account at Mr. Hooper's shop and taken his
Kalashnikov to the other side of the war.

Sesame Workshop issued a statement saying it was very unhappy with the
sudden connection between a lovable character with a penchant for
pigeons and bottlecaps and the most wanted man in the world.

"Sesame Street has always stood for mutual respect and understanding,"
a spokeswoman said. "We're outraged that our characters would be used
in this unfortunate and distasteful manner. This is not at all
humorous.The people responsible for this should be ashamed of
themselves. We are exploring all legal options to stop this abuse and
any similar abuses in the future."

When asked about Bert's current whereabouts, however, the spokeswoman
replied: "No comment."

Regardless of the explanation, Ignacio said he doesn't find his "Evil
Bert" idea very funny right now.

"It's weirding me out," he said. "It's like reality imitating the Web,
but it's taking something that I did so much further. I don't want to
get into this one because it's too real."

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