Released Videos Show bin Laden Stil Played Active Role in al-Qaida

WASHINGTON, May 7, 2011 — Five video clips released to reporters today at the Pen­ta­gon show that Osama bin Laden was still an “active play­er” in al-Qai­da oper­a­tions, a senior intel­li­gence offi­cial said.

Since bin Laden’s May 1 death at the hands of Amer­i­can forces inside his com­pound in Abbot­tabad, Pak­istan, a mul­ti-agency task force has worked around the clock to sift through “the most sig­nif­i­cant amount of intel­li­gence ever col­lect­ed from a senior ter­ror­ist,” the offi­cial said.

“Mate­ri­als reviewed over the past sev­er­al days clear­ly show that bin Laden remained an active leader in al-Qai­da,” he added, “pro­vid­ing strate­gic, oper­a­tional and tac­ti­cal instruc­tions to the group.”

From dig­i­tal audio and video files, and from print­ed mate­ri­als, com­put­er equip­ment, record­ing devices and hand­writ­ten doc­u­ments, ana­lysts are learn­ing that “bin Laden con­tin­ued to direct even tac­ti­cal details of the group’s man­age­ment and to encour­age plot­ting,” he said.

In a state­ment released today, CIA Direc­tor Leon Panet­ta said, “The mate­r­i­al found in the com­pound only fur­ther con­firms how impor­tant it was to go after bin Laden.” Panet­ta added that, “Since 9/11, this is what the Amer­i­can peo­ple have expect­ed of us. In this crit­i­cal oper­a­tion, we deliv­ered.”

A CIA-led mul­ti­a­gency task force is triag­ing, cat­a­loging and ana­lyz­ing the mate­ri­als, draw­ing on exper­tise from the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty, the Defense Intel­li­gence Agency, the Office of the Direc­tor of Nation­al Intel­li­gence, the FBI, the Nation­al Media Exploita­tion Cen­ter, the Nation­al Coun­tert­er­ror­ism Cen­ter, the Nation­al Geospa­tial Intel­li­gence Agency, the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Agency and the Trea­sury Depart­ment.

In a com­pound the senior intel­li­gence offi­cial char­ac­ter­ized as “an active com­mand-and-con­trol cen­ter for al-Qaida’s top leader,” bin Laden focused on inspir­ing and engi­neer­ing inter­na­tion­al ter­ror­ism and on attack­ing the Unit­ed States, espe­cial­ly trans­porta­tion and infra­struc­ture tar­gets, the offi­cial said.

“The mate­ri­als have already pro­vid­ed us some impor­tant insights and we expect to learn more about al-Qai­da and its affil­i­ates, their plans and inten­tions, and any threats they cur­rent­ly pose,” he said.

The five short videos released today all show the al-Qai­da leader deliv­er­ing mes­sages to his audi­ence, but in these ver­sions the sound has been removed.

“It would be inap­pro­pri­ate to spread the words of ter­ror­ists and their pro­pa­gan­da mes­sages,” the offi­cial said, “espe­cial­ly Osama bin Laden’s.”

The first video is a com­plete but unre­leased mes­sage by bin Laden to the Amer­i­can peo­ple, pro­duced some­time between Oct. 9 and Nov. 5, 2010, the offi­cial said.

In the video bin Laden has trimmed and dyed black his nor­mal­ly gray beard.

His mes­sage con­demns U.S. pol­i­cy and den­i­grates cap­i­tal­ism, the offi­cial said.

The sec­ond video shows a gray-beard­ed bin Laden in a room, watch­ing live or taped video clips of him­self, pos­si­bly from news out­lets, on a tele­vi­sion.

The intel­li­gence offi­cial said the date of the video can’t yet be deter­mined, but he not­ed that bin Laden’s beard was gray at the time of his death.

“In this video he has not dyed or trimmed his beard,” the intel­li­gence offi­cial said, “sug­gest­ing that this prac­tice was one he reserved for films he planned to dis­trib­ute.”

Bin Laden, the offi­cial not­ed, “jeal­ous­ly guard­ed his image.”

The final three short clips show brief video rehearsal ses­sions of a black-beard­ed bin Laden.

“The col­lec­tion is large and is prov­ing valu­able, and it will take time to go through it,” he said. “But we are already dis­sem­i­nat­ing intel­li­gence across the U.S. gov­ern­ment based on what we’ve found.”

Bin Laden’s iden­ti­ty was con­firmed in sev­er­al ways, the offi­cial said.

A woman in the com­pound iden­ti­fied him to the assault team as Osama bin Laden, and CIA spe­cial­ists com­pared pho­tos of the body and of bin Laden, using facial recog­ni­tion meth­ods that match points of sim­i­lar­i­ty of unique facial fea­tures, includ­ing the size and shape of a per­sons eyes, ears and nose.

With this method, the offi­cial said, “we were able to deter­mine with 95 per­cent cer­tain­ty that the body was his.”

DNA analy­sis con­duct­ed sep­a­rate­ly by Defense Depart­ment and CIA labs pos­i­tive­ly iden­ti­fied Osama bin Laden, he added, as did DNA sam­ples col­lect­ed from bin Laden’s body and com­pared to a com­pre­hen­sive DNA pro­file derived from bin Laden’s large extend­ed fam­i­ly.

Al-Qai­da released its own state­ment May 6 acknowl­edg­ing bin Laden’s death.

It is note­wor­thy, the offi­cial said, “that the group did not announce a new leader, sug­gest­ing it is still try­ing to deal with bin Laden’s demise.”

So far, the senior intel­li­gence offi­cial said, there is no indi­ca­tion that Pakistan’s gov­ern­ment was aware that bin Laden was at this com­pound in Abbot­tabad.

“We’re ask­ing some ques­tions, and the Pak­ista­nis them­selves have said that they’re ask­ing ques­tions of them­selves,” he added, not­ing that the U.S. rela­tion­ship with Pak­istan is impor­tant and com­pli­cat­ed.

“It’s impor­tant that we find ways in the future to work togeth­er, espe­cial­ly on the coun­tert­er­ror­ism front,” he said.

“This is a com­mon fight,” the offi­cial added. “Bin Laden is respon­si­ble for sup­port­ing oper­a­tions that have killed scores of Pak­ista­nis as well, so there is a mutu­al inter­est in us work­ing togeth­er.”

Going for­ward, he said, “we need to find ways to solid­i­fy that rela­tion­ship.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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