Videotape of Osama reportedly gloating could be released today
By John J. Lumpkin Associated Press, 12/12/01
WASHINGTON -- Pentagon officials brought in translators to listen to a videotape of Osama bin Laden made just days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. President Bush's spokesman said Wednesday that Bush wants to ensure accuracy "before anything is released to the world."
U.S. officials who have seen the tape say it proves bin Laden was behind the attacks.
Four nongovernment translators are listening to the tape to interpret bin Laden's spoken Arabic and agree on a uniform version of his remarks, said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.
He noted that the quality of the video footage is not good, and the step was taken "to be thorough, to be accurate, before anything is released to the world."
He said Bush has sought advice from top aides about releasing the hourlong tape, but has made no decision about it. If it is released, officials will provide versions in Arabic and in an English translation, Fleischer said.
"Clearly the president hopes that information can be shared with the public," Fleischer said. "The only thing that would stand in the way is if there is anything from intelligence or security that can be compromised. That is not looking like it is likely."
Senators who have viewed the tape say it will convince the rest of the world that he is responsible for the terrorist attacks that killed thousands in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and aboard four hijacked jets.
"What's on it is a frightening display of evil. Here are three men, sitting in what looks like a common room for that part of the world, calmly discussing the events of Sept. 11 like it was last weekend's golf game," said Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., after viewing the tape. "Osama bin Laden is laughing, grinning and marveling at the destruction and death of Sept. 11."
Officials had hinted they might make the tape public Wednesday. But at midday, Fleischer said the translators' work was continuing.
The amateurish video -- apparently meant for internal al-Qaida use -- records a conversation between bin Laden and a Saudi Arabian sheik, whom officials know little about and have declined to identify. Two bin Laden associates -- spiritual adviser Ayman al-Zawahri and spokesman Abu Ghaith -- also appear in the tape, Durbin said.
Several members of the intelligence committee have called on the Bush administration to release the tape, which was found in an abandoned residence in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.
"This is a basic acknowledgment by Osama bin Laden of his central role in the 9-11 planning of the events at the Trade towers and the Pentagon," said Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., vice chairman of the intelligence committee. "I believe the tapes ought to be released. The timing is up to our policy-makers and the president. I believe it would explain to a lot of people that have been doubting Osama bin Laden's culpability that it's there."
Other senators expressed similar sentiments.
"It tells me that he is culpable, that he clearly knew that Mohammad Atta was the leader, that he clearly knew what was going to happen before it happened," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. "The inference was that there was a plan to make it happen."
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said he hopes the tape will refute claims from bin Laden's supporters that he was not behind the attacks and end rumors that other groups were responsible. He cited suspicions in Pakistan suggesting the attack was a Jewish plot to draw the United States into a war on Islam.
"This video will open a lot of eyes," Wyden said. "The world will see that you are dealing with the level of pathology ... that is very, very twisted and sick."