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Osama bin Laden "confession video" unplugged

Osama bin Laden “confession video” unplugged


September 21, 2006 – On December 13, 2001 the United States Department of Defense issued Press Release No. 630-01 to accompany the U.S. government’s release of the Osama bin Laden “confession video”.  Here is the exact text of the Department of Defense press release:




The U.S. government released today a copy of a videotape of Osama bin Laden obtained by U.S. forces in Jalalabad, Afghanistan in late November.


The video was filmed by unknown persons.


“There was no doubt of bin Laden’s responsibility for the September 11 attacks before the tape was discovered,” said Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld.


The release of the tape was made after balancing the concerns about any additional pain that could be caused by its release against the value of having the world fully appreciate what we are up against in the war against terrorism.


The tape was released with an English translation and English subtitling, prepared independently by George Michael, translator, Diplomatic Language Services; and Dr. Kassem M. Wahba, Arabic language program coordinator, School of Advanced International Studies, John Hopkins University.  They collaborated on their translation and compared it with translations done by the U.S. government for consistency.  There were no inconsistencies in translations.


The English translation is on the Web at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Dec2001/d20011213ubl.pdf.






It is important to note that in the preface of the U.S. government transcript of the videotape the government contends:


In mid-November, Usama Bin Laden spoke to a room of supporters, possibly in Qandahar, Afghanistan.  These comments were video taped with the knowledge of Bin Laden and all present. 


Please note: The assertion by the U.S. government that the bin Laden confession occurred in mid-November 2001 is a critical element of this analysis.  Also, the fact that the U.S. government found it prudent, or even relevant; to make the statement, “These comments were videotaped with the knowledge of Bin Laden and all present” is peculiar.  How did the U.S. government reach this conclusion when the video evidence suggests something else – that Osama Bin Laden was uncharacteristically neutral to the camera that was videotaping him, or that he was completely unaware of the camera’s presence?  Never during the guesthouse sections of the videotape, the confession segments, does Osama bin Laden address the camera. 


On July 18, 2006 the United States Department of Defense received an amended Freedom of Information Act request made to it by the Muckraker Report.  In this Muckraker Report FOIA request, the Department of Defense was asked to provide documents “related to the discovery of the December 13, 2001 Osama bin Laden video”; “that demonstrate chain of custody of the December 13, 2001 Osama bin Laden video from the time it was discovered in Afghanistan until it was released for media consumption”; “that reflect the purchase order and contract made by the U.S. government with George Michael, Diplomatic Language Services, and Dr. Kassem M. Wahba, Arabic language program coordinator, School of Advanced International Studies, John Hopkins University”; that demonstrate the authenticity process that the U.S. government undertook to authenticate the December 13, 2001 Osama bin Laden video”; and “that demonstrate the outcome of the U.S. government’s authenticity process.” 


On Wednesday, September 13, 2006 the Muckraker Report received a response from the Department of Defense.  Remember, the Department of Defense issued the press release that accompanied the release of this videotape.  It also is the Department in the direct chain of command of the U.S. forces that allegedly obtained the videotape in Jalalabad, Afghanistan in late November 2001.  This is the official response from the Department of Defense:


The Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs conducted a search of its files and located no records responsive to your request.  


Please note that the Department of Defense is now on record as saying that it conducted a search of its files and located no records responsive to the Muckraker Report’s FOIA request to document the circumstances, logistics and dates surrounding the discovery of the videotape, nor has the Department of Defense located records demonstrating the authenticity process and authenticity of the December 13, 2001 Osama bin Laden “confession video” – a video that the U.S. government used to fully solidify already strong American support for the invasion of Afghanistan that began 68 days prior to the video’s release. 


However, gaining a taped confession of Osama bin Laden wasn’t necessary to win support in the United States.  Bush already had a major majority of the American people’s devotion during this time period.  At home, the video only reinforced public support for the Bush Administration.  It was in many other parts of the world where skepticism was found to be persisting.  Remember the language used in Press Release 630-01: “The release of the tape was made after balancing the concerns about any additional pain that could be caused by its release against the value of having the world fully appreciate what we are up against in the war against terrorism.” 


With the admission by the Department of Defense that it lacks the records that document the authenticity and the factualness of the reported circumstances surrounding the discovery of the December 13, 2001 Osama bin Laden “confession video” - that there is not government provided evidence to accompany and substantiate what the government has told us about the “confession video” - it’s time to revisit recent history from a dutiful perspective.


Perseverance never succumbs to fatigue.  Steadfastness cannot be distracted by fancy or folly.  Pursuit of factualness is the heart of morality - for freedom abhors deceit.  Tolerance of inundatal interpretation of government provided information absent an unbiased and meaningful effort to first determine the absolute legitimacy of the information is to enable the fertilization of governmental corruption.  Apathy towards exposing purposefully placed, government-generated misinformation paraded as the complete and unadulterated truth in newspapers, and on airways and television screens, is a forewarning of a people susceptible to oppressive rule.   Adhering to an unsubstantiated belief because it is comfortably in compliance with your politics or self-designed vision of patriotism is to collaborate with a fraud.  The indiscriminate truth prevailing, even when difficult to accept or unfathomable to imagine, is paramount to the future of the United States of America. 


The morning of September 11, 2001 was a watershed moment in modern American history.  It changed the course of our nation.  It also produced an initial wave of unwavering support for the Bush Administration.  The country, shell-shocked, united behind its President.  Public discourse regarding the appropriate response to the 9/11 attacks was for all practical purposes – nonexistent.  Those decisions were left virtually unchecked, to the President.  Granted, the Bush Administration needed a seal of approval from the U.S. Congress, but given the political climate immediately after the attacks, this protocol was more of a formality than substantive.  In that moment of American history the Bush Administration and its supporters within the federal government and beyond operated with impunity.  If ever there was an opportunity for deception and exploitation of circumstances, a gateway in which to safely carry out alternative and covert agendas in the name of fighting terrorism, this was the time.  Remember, this was a modern moment in American history that compelled Republicans and Democrats to join together on the steps of the Capitol singing “God Bless America”. 


On Thursday, September 20, 2001, nine days after the attacks, President Bush addressed an anxious nation during a joint session of Congress[1].  This is some of what he had to say.


…Americans have many questions tonight.  Americans are asking, “Who attacked our country?”  The evidence we have gathered all points to a collection of loosely affiliated terrorist organizations known as al Qaeda.  They are some of the murderers indicted for bombing American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya and responsible for bombing the USS Cole.


…This group and its leader, a person named Osama bin Laden, are linked to many other organizations in different countries, including the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.


…They are recruited from their own nations and neighborhoods and brought to camps in places like Afghanistan where they are trained in tactics of terror.  They are sent back to their homes or sent to hide in countries around the world to plot evil and destruction.  The leadership of al Qaeda has great influence in Afghanistan and supports the Taliban regime in controlling most of that country.  In Afghanistan we see al Qaeda’s vision for the world.  Afghanistan’s people have been brutalized, many are starving and many have fled. 


…Tonight the United States of America makes the following demands on the Taliban:


        Deliver to the United States authorities all of the leaders of al Qaeda who hide in your land

        Release all foreign nationals, including American citizens you have unjustly imprisoned

        Protect foreign journalists, diplomats and aid workers in your country

        Close immediately and permanently every terrorist training camp in Afghanistan.  And hand over every terrorist and every person and their support structure to appropriate authorities

        Give the United States full access to terrorist training camps, so we can make sure they are no longer operating.


These demands are not open to negotiation or discussion. 


The Taliban must act and act immediately.


They will hand over the terrorists or they will share in their fate…


On October 7, 2001 the United States launched military operations in Afghanistan.  However, while the overwhelming majority of Americans didn’t question whether the U.S. government had the right man in its sights, and therefore had little doubt that the U.S. was absolutely justified to invade Afghanistan, many people around the world, particularly in the Middle East, expressed their skepticism - absent the U.S. government showing evidence of the al Qaeda / Osama bin Laden connection to the attacks. 


News reports between September 17, 2001 and October 7, 2001, before the U.S. officially invaded Afghanistan, of the Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, requesting proof of Osama bin Laden’s involvement in the 9/11 attacks before the Taliban could turn him over, presumably to Pakistan to face an international tribunal and extradition to the United States, were bluntly dismissed by the Bush Administration as an attempt by the Taliban to negotiate what the President said was non-negotiable.   However, even in European countries considered friendly to the United States, the request of proof prior to extradition – a normally common practice between nations seeking to bring international fugitives to justice – was viewed as a reasonable, procedural request. 


For example, on September 21, 2001 CBS / AP reported that Abdul Salam Zaeef, Taliban ambassador to Pakistan said, “Our position on this is that if America had proof, we are ready for the trial of Osama bin Laden in light of the evidence.”[2]  The point here is not to go into an in depth analysis as to whether the United States missed an opportunity to have Osama bin Laden handed over to it by the Taliban.  The assertion is that the Bush Administration intended to invade Afghanistan regardless – and therefore actually needed Osama bin Laden to remain alive and on the loose.  They needed him to remain a wanted man because had he been captured or killed before October 7, 2001, the invasion of Afghanistan, and for that matter, Iraq, would have been much more difficult to justify to the American people and the world. 


Which brings us to the December 13, 2001 Osama bin Laden “confession video”.  While the corporate news sources played this tape as if there were no valid concerns regarding its date, circumstances in which it was discovered, and basic authenticity, many independent news sources were not, and remain unconvinced.  The fact is that upon close analysis free from passion and prejudice, the tape raises more questions than it answers.  Many independent reporters have pointed to the physical weight of the alleged Osama bin Laden in the videotape, many independents refer to it as the “fat bin Laden” tape, as evidence that the tape is a fake.  Others have pointed at the videotape and to what looks like a gold ring on the finger of the Osama bin Laden as further evidence of a fraud.  Wearing “gold” is prohibited for Muslim men, however wearing rings is not.  The poor videotape quality makes in impossible to legally prove that the ring seen in the video is gold.  Then there’s the fact that Osama bin Laden is seen briefly writing something with his right hand when U.S. intelligence reports that he is left-handed.  While an interesting fact, it does not rule out the possibility that Osama bin Laden could have scribbled something with his right hand at that particular moment of the videotape – for whatever reason. 


While all these points raise justifiable suspicions and therefore legitimate questions, we should remain open-minded to the possibly that there are credible explanations for these types of video peculiarities, and that the man in the videotape reported to be Osama bin Laden, is Osama bin Laden; but that the date, location, how the video was actually obtained, and what it really means, is something significantly different than what the U.S. government has reported.  It’s time to set aside what we think we know, and consider other possibilities. 


Maher Osseiran, an independent investigator with whom I have had the great pleasure of communicated with extensively over the past six weeks, has spend nearly two years studying the Osama bin Laden confession video and the events surrounding its release.  I encourage everyone to take the time to read the following article by Maher Osseiran, How Osama was Really Taped Boasting of the 9/11 Attacks; Why the Release of the Tape was as Good as a De Facto Pardon[3] and a recent article about his work that appeared in The Lone Star Iconoclast titled Investigator Says Bush Administration Tipped Off Bin Laden To Sting Operation.[4]  (Links to these articles are found in the footnotes at the end of this article.) 


Before summarizing some of Maher Osseiran’s findings, it is important to point out that in The Lone Star Iconoclast piece, Osseiran said his analysis confirms what Jason Burke reported in The London Observer three days after the tape was released: “The tape, although absolutely genuine, is the result of a sophisticated sting operation run by CIA through a second intelligence service, possibly Saudi or Pakistani.” 


Here are some of the key points of the Osseiran investigation:


        The taping of Osama bin Laden (confession video) was part of a two-part sting operation that was designed to first capture bin Laden on tape talking about his involvement with the 9/11 attacks, and second, to then physically capture or kill bin Laden after the taped evidence was secured and confirmation of his departure from the guesthouse was received


        The actual date of the taped confession was most likely September 26, 2001 – not mid-November 2001 as the U.S. Government claims


        Osama bin Laden did not know he was being videotaped as the Department of Defense contends in Press Release 630-01


        The release of the video on December 13, 2001 was the result of worldwide pressure on the Bush Administration to provide “proof” of Osama bin Laden’s alleged involvement with the 9/11 attacks


        To determine the exact date of the tape, statements by Saudi authorities and the sheikh in the tape were used


o     Saudi authorities said that the visiting sheikh, Khaled Al-Harbi, to whom Osama bin Laden “confessed”, left Saudi Arabia on September 21, 2001[5]

o     On the tape, Al-Harbi gives five instances that corroborate the official Saudi date of September 21, 2001, and two of those instances indicate that the sheikh left in a hurry as soon as travel arrangements to Afghanistan were complete

o     On the tape, Al-Harbi also tells us how he reached Afghanistan: “Naturally, we were smuggled through Iran.”


It is important to note that the visiting sheikh, Khaled Al-Harbi is a paraplegic – he has no legs - and therefore travels in a wheelchair.  Consequently, he did not travel alone to meet with Osama bin Laden.  He had travel companions – men that would have served as Al-Harbi’s personal assistants and drivers – men to whom Osama bin Laden and his security apparatus might not have been adequately acquainted but carelessly granted access to bin Laden because they were part of the visiting sheikh’s entourage.  It is within the midst of these personnel that a video recording device would have had to been concealed. 


According to Osseiran, with a departure date from Saudi Arabia of September 21, 2001, an additional 2-3 travel days were required for Al-Harbi and his companions to travel by vehicle across Iran and reach the Afghanistan border.  An additional day would then have been required for them to reach the guesthouse where the taping occurred, bringing the date to September 25, 2001.  In the tape, Al-Harbi tells Osama bin Laden that he arrived at the guesthouse “the day before”.  Therefore the date of the videotaping was most likely September 26, 2001.  Why this is of significant importance is because it would prove that intelligence operatives had an opportunity to capture or eliminate Osama bin Laden twelve days before the U.S. invaded Afghanistan. 


When Jason Burke reported in the London Observer that “the tape was the result of a sophisticated sting operation run by the CIA through a second intelligence service, possibly Saudi or Pakistani” he was not merely speculating.  As Osseiran had observed, on Friday, August 17, 2001, nearly one month before the 9/11 attacks, United Press International (UPI) released a story in Islamabad, Pakistan regarding the U.S. government’s request that Pakistan provide active support for an operation inside Afghanistan to catch terrorism-suspect Osama bin Laden.[6]


According to the UPI article, the United States discussed with Pakistani officials the possibility of “using U.S. special forces” for a sting operation inside Afghanistan.  However, at that time, remember this was reported prior to the 9/11 attacks, the Pakistani government reportedly advised Washington against “a military operation inside Afghanistan because the Pakistanis believe that it will be counter-productive and further fuel religious sentiments in the region.” 


The significance of the August 17, 2001 UPI article is that the United States, prior to 9/11 and on President Bush’s watch, had enough actionable intelligence regarding the activities and regional whereabouts of Osama bin Laden to request active support from Pakistan to launch a “sting operation” inside of Afghanistan to capture or eliminate Osama bin Laden.  If independent reporters ever want to gain evidence that proves that elements within the U.S. government had prior knowledge of the 9/11 attacks but failed to defend against them, or even anticipated and then enhanced the impact of the events for future effect, then transcripts of bin Laden’s U.S. intercepted communications between January – September 2001 would most likely make the case. 


It is interesting to note that an electronic search of the entire 9/11 Commission Report[7] reveals no entries related to this particular sting operation when the 9/11 Commission references many other similar operational plans considered or conducted during the Clinton Administration.  What’s even more compelling though is that the videotape, the tape played around the world, as the final answer as to whether Osama bin Laden was responsible for the 9/11 attacks, isn’t mentioned either.  A search of the file for the date that the Department of Defense released the videotape, December 13, 2001, produced no results.  That date is not mentioned in the 9/11 Commission Report.  The location in which the Department of Defense contends the video was discovered, Jalalabad, Afghanistan, produced no relevant results either.  Why?  If the videotape is absolutely genuine, then why is it not considered hard evidence by the U.S. government?  Why is it an indictment when played by the corporate media, but not worthy of even an honorable mention by the 9/11 Commission?  Think about it. 


So what makes Maher Osseiran so certain that the videotape is authentic?  How do we get past the “fat bin Laden” issue?  The date of the videotaping could explain this inconsistency.  Many independent reporters have taken a snapshot of Osama bin Laden from the “confession video” and placed it beside a snapshot of Osama bin Laden retrieved from video suspected to have been recorded in December 2001.  They point to the skinny, pale, even frail looking bin Laden next to the healthier looking bin Laden from the “confession video”, and see obvious inconsistencies in resemblance.  However, if the “confession video” was taped on September 26, 2001 – prior to the U.S. actually invading Afghanistan, when Osama bin Laden still had his supply and communication structure intact and wasn’t yet forced to go into extreme seclusion, it stands to reason that he still had access to sufficient food, shelter, medical supplies, and even medical treatment.  No doubt, Osama bin Laden has been a man on the run for years, but his seclusion has known varying degrees.  After the Afghanistan invasion began on October 7, 2001, his security and supply concerns would have reached critical mass. 


Which brings up another point.  By mid-November 2001, the timeframe the Department of Defense indicates the videotape was produced, Afghanistan was being overrun by an avenging Northern Alliance that was by then fully powered by the U.S. military, in addition to the U.S. Special Forces themselves conducting operations across the entire country.  The Taliban and al-Qaeda had already been killed or pushed into the final retreat position of the Tora Bora region with the coalition forces closing in on their positions[8].  Major bombing campaigns in this region were well established.  Given these facts, what is the probability of a wheelchair bound sheikh traveling through the region, as coalition forces were rapidly advancing and killing the Taliban and its supporters, to sit down with Osama bin Laden to exchange niceties and amuse themselves as they reminisced over the 9/11 attacks?  If considered logically, there seems to be zero probability of this occurring.


Another revealing element of the videotape transcript is that while Afghanistan was being overrun by the North Alliance and coalition forces, the United States had boots on the ground and were swarming the entire country, massive bombardment had already eliminated most, if not all, high value targets, and the Taliban and al Qaeda positions were being rapidly destroyed, Osama bin Laden and sheikh Khaled al-Harbi supposedly sat down for a dinner in the midst of the warfare – but make no mention of the U.S. invasion and their world crumbling around them.  Remember, the Department of Defense contends this videotape was produced, most likely in a guesthouse located in Qandahar, in mid-November 2001.  The likelihood of this occurring must also be zero for it defies even the most rudimentary, tactical logic.  The most wanted terrorist in the world sits down for dinner, in a war zone, with militias and U.S. Special Forces closing in on his position, and he makes no reference to the chaos or crisis surrounding him? 


There are few viable explanations for these deficiencies.  Either the tape is a fake or it was produced prior to October 7, 2001 when the U.S. began its invasion of Afghanistan.  Either way, this tape continues to spell potential trouble for the Bush Administration – if only they were held accountable by those agencies within the federal government that are responsible for the maintenance of the rule of law in the United States.  If fake, laws have been broken.  If authentic, but filmed before the invasion of Afghanistan as part of a sting operation, then more laws have been broken because it would mean that the U.S. government had an opportunity to capture or eliminate Osama bin Laden prior to invading Afghanistan but passed on the opportunity in favor of gaining a videotape indictment of Osama bin Laden to use as promotional material for its invasion of Afghanistan, the global war on terror, and the invasion of Iraq, rather than going for the kill when given the chance.  It suggests that exploitation of the 9/11 attacks for political and geo-political gains had a higher priority within the Bush Administration than bringing Osama bin Laden to justice.


I encourage everyone to read the work by Osseiran Maher because he describes his technical analysis of the videotape in great detail.  He contends that the videotape is actually produced by two cameras and explains how he reached this conclusion.  He points to one of Osama bin Laden’s sons seen in segments of the guesthouse footage as an authenticating feature.  Also, the fact that there is no doubt regarding the identification of sheikh Khaled al-Harbi also leads to the videotape’s credibility. 


The Muckraker Report chose to focus on the political implications of the videotape in light of its recent discoveries.  Again, I encourage you to read the work of Maher Osseiran to fully appreciate this report.  Most important in this analysis is the fact that the Department of Defense claims it does not have any documentation that would verify its story regarding the logistics of the tape, or the tape’s authenticity.  If that is the case, all corporate media should immediately issue “corrections” statements.  It must be noted that if the tape were part of a sting operation, there would have been no need for the government to authentic the tape.  But if it were discovered in a house in Jalalabad as the Department of Defense maintains – an authenticity process would have been required.  Also, to have provided the Muckraker Report with the documents that demonstrate the chain of custody of the video from the time it was “discovered” until it was released to the media would have revealed dates, locations, and players that would prove to be troubling for the Bush Administration.  Remember, if Osama bin Laden is captured or killed prior to October 7, 2001, neither the American people nor the international community would have tolerated the invasion of Afghanistan.  


Some final observations:  If Osama bin Laden did not know he was being videotaped, if the taping was the result of a sting operation, then once the Bush Administration released the videotape and it was played around the world, Osama bin Laden would have discovered how close the U.S. government came to capturing or killing him.  He also would have discovered that the visiting sheikh had betrayed him, or operatives affiliated with the United States had infiltrated the sheikh’s entourage.  In either case, the release of the tape would have most certainly caused bin Laden to change his movements, behaviors, and communications.  Hardened by the revelation of his exposure and vulnerabilities, it is not unreasonable to speculate that the adjustments that would have been made by bin Laden could have resulted in unnecessary losses suffered by coalition forces. 


As for sheikh Khaled al-Harbi – he surrendered to Saudi Arabian officials in July 2004 during the Saudi government’s one-month offer of leniency to terror suspects that surrendered to Saudi officials.  The Saudi government told CNN that al-Harbi’s case is a “tricky situation” because he had not been charged with any of the attacks covered by the leniency offer.  In response to his surrender, a U.S. intelligence officer described al-Harbi to CNN as “an extremist, yes, but an operational terrorist, no”, and “not particularly significant”.[9] 

[1] CNN, Transcript of President Bush’s address, Transcript of President Bush’s address to a joint session of Congress on Thursday night, September 20, 2001.  http://archives.cnn.com/2001/US/09/20/gen.bush.transcript/, [Accessed on September 18, 2006]

[2] CBS News, Taliban Won’t Turn Over Bin Laden, September 21, 2001, http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2001/09/11/world/main310852.shtml, [Accessed September 19, 2006]

[3] Counterpunch, How Osama was Really Taped Boasting of the 9/11 Attacks; Why the Release of the Tape was as Good as a De Facto Pardon, Maher Osseiran, August 21, 2006, http://www.counterpunch.org/osseiran08212006.html [Accessed September 19, 2006]

[4] The Lone Star Iconoclast, Investigator Says Bush Administration Tipped Off Bin Laden To Sting Operation, September 11, 2001, http://www.lonestaricon.com/absolutenm/anmviewer.asp?a=493&z=40, [Accessed September 16, 2006]

[5] CNN, Saudi officials identify man on bin Laden tape, Andrea Koppel, CNN Washington Bureau, December 16, 2001, http://archives.cnn.com/2001/US/12/16/ret.tape.identity/index.html, [Accessed September 12, 2006]

[6] United Press International, U.S. Seeks Pakistan’s Aid to Get bin Laden, Friday, August 17, 2001, NewsMax.com Wires, http://www.newsmax.com/archieves/articles/2001/8/17/83103/shtml, [Accessed August 31, 2006] 

[8] The United States Army, The United States Army in Afghanistan – Operation Enduring Freedom, October 2001-March 2002, http://www.army.mil/cmh/brochures/Afghanistan/Operation%20Enduring%20Freedom.htm#p26, [Accessed September 17, 2006]

[9] CNN, Saudis: Bin Laden associate surrenders, July 13, 2004, http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/meast/07/13/binladen.aide, [Accessed September 12, 2006]

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