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Bin Laden videotape's release postponed

Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Laden  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The release of a videotape showing Osama bin Laden purportedly bragging about the September 11 terrorist attacks was postponed Wednesday because of audio and translation problems, according to White House and Pentagon sources.

The tape could be released Thursday, White House sources said.

White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said the administration wanted to make sure it presented "an accurate interpretation of the Arabic language" -- especially since the quality of the tape is poor and because at times more than one person is speaking. The tape is said to run about one hour.

"The audio and quality are not good," Fleischer said. "And as a result, to be thorough, to be accurate, before anything is released to the world, the Defense Department has brought in four translators from outside the government to listen to every word and to make certain there is agreement on what is said on the tape."

In the tape, bin Laden makes it clear he had advance knowledge about the planning and details of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, according to U.S. officials.

Sources said that on the tape bin Laden indicates he knew for several days that September 11 would be the date of the attacks.

He also says he turned on his radio in advance to listen to coverage of the attacks and that he had underestimated the damage that would be inflicted on the World Trade Center.

U.S. officials said bin Laden even claims the hijackers trained to fly the planes did not know some of their colleagues on board and that some of the 19 hijackers did not learn they were on a suicide mission until they boarded the planes.

"I think the most striking thing about the video is it shows unequivocally Osama bin Laden's culpability in this event of 9/11," said U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who has seen the tape.

Shelby called the bin Laden tape
Shelby called the bin Laden tape "a smoking gun."  

"And what's sad about it is that he's in this meeting and he's gloating, he's laughing, he's having fun about the death and destruction that occurred in the United States of America."

President Bush said Monday the bin Laden videotape reminded him of "what a murderer he is and how right and just our cause is."

The tape's release has been the subject of much debate within the White House, pitting concerns over protecting U.S. intelligence sources and methods against the goal of building the public case against bin Laden.

"But this is a smoking gun if you've ever seen one," Shelby said. "I believe it's central to letting the people in the outside world that are saying Osama bin Laden was not involved in this. I don't know how they can be in denial after they see this tape."

A senior Bush administration official said the tape was not released earlier because the administration wanted to have nongovernment translators review the tape.

The goal with that move, the official said, would be to counter speculation the government had somehow doctored the Arabic-language tape or had twisted bin Laden's words to match the administration's view that he is responsible for the attacks.

The videotape was made in Kandahar, Afghanistan, with the date of November 9 on it. The tape was found in a private residence in Jalalabad, according to officials.


• The White House
• U.S. Department of Defense

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