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U.S. likely to release bin Laden tape

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush said a videotape of Osama bin Laden purportedly bragging about the September 11 terrorist attacks will show viewers that he is guilty of "incredible murder."

The tape will likely be released to the public Wednesday, a senior administration official said

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Should the U.S. release the videotape said to implicate bin Laden in the attacks?

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"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," Bush said Monday during a White House ceremony at which a menorah was lit in honor of Hanukkah.

Bush said the tape "just reminded me what a murderer he is and how right and just our cause is."

Before releasing it, the White House wanted to have a nongovernment translator on hand to counter possible speculation that the government doctored the Arabic-language tape, the official said.

Another senior administration official said he could not say with certainty the tape would be released Wednesday.

"There are a lot of things that need to be buttoned down," he said.

Bin Laden makes it clear in the tape, which runs about 40 minutes, that he had advance knowledge about the planning and details of the deadly attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, officials said.

He also claims the hijackers trained to fly the planes didn't know some of their colleagues on board. Some only found out what they would be doing as they boarded, the officials said.

Bin Laden jokes that some of the 19 hijackers of the four jets did not know they were going to die, but thought they were to assist in a more routine hijacking, the officials said.

"He's so evil that he's willing to send young men to commit suicide while he hides in caves," Bush said.

Bin Laden said he turned on his radio in advance of the terrorist attacks to listen to coverage of the events, and that he underestimated the damage that would be inflicted on the World Trade Center, sources said.

Sources also said that voice identification tests were performed on the tape, confirming it was bin Laden speaking. The tape was described as amateurish, leading to concerns that its release might cause some people to question its authenticity. The sources described the tape's setting as a party atmosphere with bin Laden speaking on the floor amid pillows.

The videotape was made in Kandahar, Afghanistan, with the date of November 9 on it, but officials aren't sure it was made that day.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the tape was found in a private residence in Jalalabad, but he declined to say just how the United States came to possess the tape or what it knew about who shot it and when it was recorded.

Release of the videotape has been the subject of much debate within the administration, pitting concerns over protecting U.S. intelligence sources against the goal of building the public case against bin Laden.

"The president wants to share as much as possible with the country, to be as forthright as possible and to let people come to their own judgments by seeing things for themselves," Fleischer said. "The president also wants to make certain that the ability to see things in the future is in no way impaired as a result of sharing something now."

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz echoed Fleischer's remarks.

"We're working right now with the rest of the U.S. government, particularly the intelligence agencies, to make sure if we do release it, that we haven't in any way compromised sources and methods," he told reporters.

The administration has cautioned media outlets against airing past videotapes bin Laden has provided to the Al-Jazeera network, suggesting there might be coded messages to terrorist "sleeper cells." There are similar concerns about the new videotape, but less so because it is a recording of bin Laden talking and not a "prepared propaganda tape," Fleischer said.


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