- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 12, 2001

Osama bin Laden cynically chuckled as he revealed on videotape that some of his terrorists did not know they were going to die until they boarded planes they were about to hijack on September 11, officials said yesterday.
The videotape, which was expected to be made public as early as today, leaves little doubt that bin Laden is the mastermind behind the terrorist attacks that killed more than 3,000 people, according to administration officials and members of Congress who have screened the footage and read the transcript.
Vice President Richard B. Cheney said bin Laden was "smiling" with "a certain amount of cynicism" as he described his unwitting followers.
"I mean, he talks about young men who were part of the hijacking crew who did not know they were going to die, that they may not all have been as committed to suicide as were the pilots," Mr. Cheney told Jim Angle in an interview with the Fox News Channel.
"So there's a degree of evil that comes through when you think about what he's saying and sort of the juxtaposition of that with his appearance," he added.
The 40-minute tape was shown yesterday to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, was chilled by the experience.
"Some of these terrorists did not know until literally the moment they got on the airplane what their role would be and that they would die," Mr. Kyl told Fox. "And he [bin Laden] was chuckling during some of this commentary."
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told reporters at the Pentagon: "I am very proud that I was not the person being taped saying what he said."
The tape, which was obtained by the Central Intelligence Agency, was translated by a variety of Arabic linguists to ensure that bin Laden's message was not distorted in any way. A transcript was compiled only after the translators reached a consensus on the English meaning of bin Laden's words.
That transcript was provided to senior administration officials and selected members of Congress, who were also provided with an oral translation as they screened the footage.
It was unclear which translation would be provided to the public when the tape is released.
"Clearly, the administration wants to get this translation exactly right because anything short of that would be a public relations disaster," said one TV news official. "But we do have our own translators and I think we would probably feel more comfortable just having a second translation."
The White House, which had warned TV news officials against airing previous videotapes of bin Laden, now appears anxious to see the new tape aired because it is so incriminating. Mr. Cheney said it shows bin Laden talking about "how he was surprised, for example, at the extent of destruction. He did not think the trade center would collapse."
Mr. Rumsfeld said there was almost no chance the tape was a fake.
"That is so remote, so unlikely from what I've seen, I think I would rule it out," he said.
Mr. Kyl said that as long as the tape was not doctored, it leaves no doubt that bin Laden was behind the September 11 attacks.
"What it shows is he is very comfortable with the bad deed that he's done," the senator said. "He's actually bragging about it to a person that he wants to make an impression on. He laughs."
At one point on the tape, bin Laden recounts how he first received word that the September 11 attacks had been successfully executed.
"He turned the radio on before it was supposed to happen, waiting for the reports," Mr. Kyl said. "After the first one came in, he was pleased, he thanked Allah and told the friend who he was with, 'Wait, there's more to come.'"

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