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Taking the fat out of the fat bin Laden confession video

Taking the fat out of the fat bin Laden confession video


March 7, 2007 – For millions of people seeking the truth about September 11, 2001, the videotape released by the Department of Defense on December 13, 2001 in which Osama bin Laden confesses to prior knowledge of 9/11 has been a powerful talking point when making the case that the government is covering up what actually happened on that notorious day. 


Many in the global movement to discover the truth about 9/11 have referred to this video as the fat bin Laden video, including yours truly.  When we see frames from the video such as in Figure 1, any person with eyes can look and see that the bin Laden in the video appears much fatter than any other known image of Osama. 

Figure 1

Center frame depicts an image of a person that is recognizably fatter than other bin Laden photos

However, when one or even a few frames are taken from a 35-minute segment of video, and those selected frames exploit the least recognizable images of bin Laden while hundreds of other frames resemble him more closely, it is a misrepresentation of the truth.  Clearly, the center frame above is one of those frames in the video that least resembles Osama bin Laden - yet has been picked and published as if the entire video reveals bin Laden in this distorted image, when it does not

For example, the image below (Figure 2) is from the same video and clearly resembles Osama bin Laden more than the center frame referenced in Figure 1. 

Figure 2: Click on image for larger view

Left: Suleiman Abu Ghaith, Center: Osama bin Laden, Right: Khaled Al-Harbi

Figure 3: Chrome parts with visual gold tint

Click on image for larger view.

Some people have pointed to the rings seen in Figure 2 and concluded that the rings were made of gold.  Since Muslim men do not wear gold rings, they do wear silver rings though, the truth seekers have concluded that this is another clue that the Osama bin Laden in the video is an impostor.  However, this conclusion that the rings are gold rather than silver, based on the black and white frames of this video, is highly speculative.  


Depending on the quality of film or video, silver or chrome often appears with a gold tint, especially when published on the Internet.  Figure 3 is a picture of chrome motorcycle parts that clearly has a visual gold tint – but is actually bright, silver chrome.  Of all the claims that this video is a fake, I always thought the "gold ring" argument was the weakest. 

Prior to being introduced to the research of Muckraker Report contributing writer, Maher Osseiran, who is responsible for my finally studying the entire “confession” tape for myself rather than repeating what others in the independent media have concluded about the tape, I struggled with a conflict about the “fat bin Laden” I could not resolve.  What I could not explain is the fact that if the Osama bin Laden in the video was fake, what about everyone else in the video?  How could bin Laden be an impostor while everyone else’s identity in the video remained unchallenged?  For example, in Figure 4 we see two individuals sitting to the left of Osama bin Laden who is off screen.  Their identity is clear – to the left in this frame is the paraplegic sheikh – (Saudi) Khaled Al-Harbi and to the right in this frame is bin Laden’s number two man – (Egyptian) Ayman Al-Zawahiri. 


Figure 4: Click on image for larger view

Left: paraplegic sheikh (Saudi) Khaled Al-Harbi, Right: Second in command (Egyptian) Ayman Al-Zawahi

In Figure 2 we see Suleiman Abu Ghaith (Kuwaiti spokesman of Al-Qaeda sitting to the right of Osama bin Laden, and (Saudi) Khaled Al-Harbi sitting to bin Laden’s left.  To the best of my knowledge, no “fat bin Laden” supporter has challenged the identity of these individuals, which begs the question – Is it possible that Suleiman Abu Ghaith, Khaled Al-Harbi, and Ayman Al-Zawahiri sat down for dinner with a fake bin Laden to discuss and reminisce about the events of September 11, 2001?  The answer is no.  It is not possible.  Either everyone in this video is fake, or everyone is real.  We cannot cherry pick in this regard and expect to be taken seriously. 

Before I tackle the explanation of the “fat” in the video, I need to address the last clue some people have used to fortify the perception that this video is a fake, and that is the apparent height of Osama bin Laden.  Independent media outlets have pointed to how short bin Laden appears while sitting down for dinner in the video, when compared to the others in the room.  We all know that Osama bin Laden is approximately 6 foot 6 inches tall.  Figure 5 shows Osama bin Laden entering the room.  Please note how much taller he is next to the others and that he has to duck through the doorway. 

Figure 5

C-SPAN Video

So how do we explain those frames in the video where Osama bin Laden doesn’t really look like Osama bin Laden, but rather like a fat impostor?  We all had the “fat” part correct –clearly in some frames bin Laden looks fatter than in others.  We just missed something that can no longer be ignored – the explanation as to why he looks fat – and its not because he’s fake. 


On February 27, 2007 I received an e-mail from George Tremblay in Colorado.  George has demonstrated that he has the experience and technical expertise to make this analysis and reach the conclusions he has reached.  I spoke with Mr. Tremblay on the phone today and he shared with me that prior to reading Maher Osseiran’s work on the Muckraker Report, he was a “fat bin Laden” believer too!  George is now convinced that the Osama bin Laden in the “confession video” is absolutely Osama bin Laden.  He wrote:


While reading some of the coverage and investigation done by Maher Osseiran on the bin Laden confession tape, and his assertion that the tape is likely actually a tape of bin Laden himself, it occurred to me that since the tape was recorded in the Pakistan region, it was likely recorded in PAL video format.  In the United States, we use the NTSC format.  The difference is primarily that the standard PAL format has the same spatial resolution horizontally, but vertically it has a higher spatial resolution (720 x 576 for PAL – 720 x 480 for NTSC) than doe NTSC.  Many PAL and NTSC converters simply eliminate the extra horizontal lines from the PAL format in order to conform to the NTSC format.  This results in an image that appears to be ‘squashed’ along the vertical axis…making people and objects look fatter after the conversion. 


Using video provided to him by Maher Osseiran, Tremblay suspects that a linear interpolation PAL to NTSC conversion method was used in this instance.  This method basically eliminates every fifth scan line from the PAL video, thus matching it to the number of scan lines for the NTSC video standard (480 lines for NTSC versus 576 for PAL).  Besides linear interpolation, there are other conversion methods and software that might have been employed to accomplish the same distorted effect on the original video. Tremblay is basing this conclusion on the following probabilities:


a.      The video was made in Afghanistan or Pakistan and therefore was likely shot in PAL standard format


b.      The video that was delivered to him is now in NTSC digital format, so at some point it was likely converted from PAL to an NTSC


c.      If one assumes that linear interpolation was used to sample down the PAL image to fit the NTSC format, and since scaling the vertical dimension of the video appropriately reestablishes the known proportions of the people who are purported to appear in the video, then he personally finds that sufficient confirmation that this process (or a similar process) was indeed applied to the original video causing it to be out of proportion in the vertical dimension.


Basically, the reason why Osama bin Laden looks fat in the video, and in some frames particularly fat, is because of the camera angle, shadowing and lighting, and the fact that the PAL to NTSC conversion squashed the vertical by 17 percent  while the horizontal proportion remained the same as the original. 

Tremblay has provided approximately 25 corrected frames to the Muckraker Report that demonstrate clearly that this PAL / NTSC conversion created the “fat” Osama bin Laden.  The following conversion then corrected aspect images came from the frame 50 minutes 45 seconds into the C-SPAN video that Maher Osseiran provided. 

Figure 6: Incorrect aspect

PAL to NTSC converter squashed vertical. Click on image for larger view.

Figure 7: Aspect corrected.

Vertical aspect has been corrected. Click on image for larger view.

You can learn more detail about the PAL / NTSC conversion by clicking here. 

Figure 8: Converted NTSC Aspect

Corrected PAL Aspect

Finally, with the aspect corrected, the dimensional features of Osama bin Laden match other known images of him as illustrated in Figure 9.  The image on the right is from the C-SPAN video with a corrected aspect.  The facial features scale and align.  This is Osama bin Laden. 

Figure 9

Side by side facial feature matching

It is Osama bin Laden, as well as Suleiman Abu Ghaith, Khaled Al-Harbi, and Ayman Al-Zawahiri in this video.  The video was most likely taped on September 26, 2001.  The taping was a sting operation that involved U.S. and Saudi and/or Pakistani intelligence – which means that the United States had Osama bin Laden in its sights prior to the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan but passed on capturing or killing him in favor of invading.  This is paramount!  If bin Laden would have been captured or killed prior to the invasion of Afghanistan there would have no justification remaining to invade Afghanistan.  If the independent media can further substantiate the actual taping date and that the taping was indeed part of a sting operation – what we will have on our hands is a provably case of high treason against the Bush Administration that will not be easily dismissed. 

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