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White House Plans to Release Videotape of Osama bin Laden

By Walter Pincus

The White House plans to release a tape of Osama bin Laden discussing the World Trade Center attack later this week and is studying whether subtitles should be added to translate from Arabic so as to avoid charges that the soundtrack was doctored, senior administration officials said.

The 40-minute videotape, in which the bin Laden discussed his advance knowledge and responsibility for the attacks, was made by an amateur hoping to document an al-Qaida dinner last month honoring an older mullah, officials said. The tape’s sound “is spotty and garbled and one part is taped over,” according to one official who has seen segments of the tape and been shown the transcript.

On the tape, bin Laden praises God that both towers collapsed when he had expected more limited destruction, according to officials who have seen the tape or read a transcript.

As the group sits on the floor eating from bowls and being served from silver trays, bin Laden jokes that his own press aide, Sulaiman abu Ghaith, had no advance knowledge of the attacks and rushed to tell him when news reports first came in.

Bin Laden also tells the group he knew Mohamed Atta was in charge of the hijacking group and that some of the “brothers” who conducted the operation did not know the nature of the work they were tasked to do, according to the official. Bin Laden says on the dinner tape, “They were only told at the time they boarded the planes,” the official said.

President Bush said the portions of the tape he saw reinforced his will to pursue bin Laden’s al-Qaida network. “For those who see this tape, they’ll realize that not only is he guilty of incredible murder, he has no conscience and no soul, that he represents the worst of civilization.”

Intelligence officials, who recently obtained the tape in a private home in Jalalabad, have checked it with experts and last week told the White House they considered it authentic.