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Tape Surfaces With Remarks by bin Laden

Tape Surfaces With Remarks by bin Laden

Author: David E. Sanger
Publication: The New York Times
Date: December 10, 2001

A tape of Osama bin Laden found recently in Afghanistan shows him recounting how he listened to news reports on the radio of the first plane crashing into the World Trade Center three months ago and quickly told others around him "there will be more" as he awaited the second attack.

Administration officials say they have read transcripts of the amateur videotape, which the White House is debating whether to make public, and that Mr. bin Laden seemed amused that many of the hijackers in the attacks apparently had not known they were on suicide missions.

"He suggests that they just thought they were involved in a conventional hijacking," one administration official said today.

"There is a lot of laughter on the tape," he added. "What's new is the notion that some of the hijackers didn't know they were going to die."

In fact, federal investigators have theorized for some time that the hijacking teams were divided into two distinct groups: one or two leaders on each plane who understood the mission and served as pilots, and assistants who were recruited to control the crew and passengers, but probably had no knowledge of the true goal.

American military forces or Central Intelligence Agency personnel working in Jalalabad discovered the tape, officials said, and its existence was first reported in The Washington Post this morning. President Bush has been briefed on its highlights, and today Vice President Dick Cheney and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard B. Myers, said they had read excerpts, translated from the Arabic.

But within the administration, a debate has broken out over the wisdom of making the tape public. Many in the White House argue that it will bolster the case to the Arab world that Mr. bin Laden planned the attacks and portray him as so cold-blooded that his own followers did not know their mission would result in their certain death.

Others, however, are arguing that many in the Arab world would find the discovery of the tape too convenient and charge that it was a creation of the C.I.A. and Hollywood collaborators. "The quality is not good, the images are dark, and it would open us up to charges that we fabricated it," one senior official said today.

In an interview this morning on the CBS News program "Face the Nation," Mr. Cheney called the tape "one more piece of evidence confirming his responsibility for what happened on 9/11."

But, perhaps reflecting the internal arguments within the administration about the wisdom of releasing the tape, Mr. Cheney added, "We've not been eager to give the guy any extra television time" and said he would "rely on the experts as to whether or not it would be a good idea for us to release" the video, or a transcript.

The tape in question is the second that the administration has discovered and kept to itself. The Arab television network Al Jazeera received the first of these tapes of Mr. bin Laden more than a month ago. In it, he offered extreme denunciations of the United States. But Al Jazeera decided not to broadcast it, administration officials said.

It is unclear why the network made that decision, but Al Jazeera had been sharply criticized in the West for broadcasting an earlier tape of Mr. bin Laden hours after the American bombing of Afghanistan began. The Bush administration obtained a copy of that tape, officials said, but chose not to make it public.

But in that first tape, Mr. bin Laden said nothing that would confirm he had prior knowledge of the Sept. 11 attacks, according to an administration official who has reviewed it. The latest video, obtained in Afghanistan two weeks ago, records a much more informal talk, apparently at a dinner with his supporters.

The date of the recording is not clear, officials say, although the C.I.A. has told the White House that it believes that the tape is authentic.

During the dinner talk, Mr. bin Laden recounts how he had the radio on in the hours before the terrorist attacks, apparently expecting word of the crash. "He knew when it was going to happen and tuned in," said one American official who has read the translation, "or so he said. He was saying to people around him, `Wait, there will be more,' or words to that effect."

At another point in his dinner discussion, Mr. bin Laden expressed surprise that both World Trade Center towers fell to the ground, saying he expected only the top floors to collapse. "He praises Allah for the fact that it was more successful than expected," one official said.

The deputy secretary of defense, Paul D. Wolfowitz, called Mr. bin Laden's recounting of events "disgusting."

"I mean, this is a man who takes pride and pleasure in having killed thousands of innocent human beings," he said on "This Week" on ABC.

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