- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 19, 2001

Osama bin Laden's videotaped "confession" is so lacking in new detail not already published that analysts believe he removed himself from day-to-day tactics to avoid tipping intelligence eavesdroppers to the coming calamity.
"The guy is … evil … so the fact that he's lying and sort of making up details to fill in the gaps in his knowledge shouldn't surprise anyone," a U.S. intelligence official said Monday.
Except for revealing his own thoughts, bin Laden added no facts in his extraordinary videotaped conversation that the Bush administration released last week with English and Arabic versions of its captions.
The al Qaeda leader mentioned no accomplices not already identified, no amounts of money, locations or any specific logistic detail that would clarify what U.S. investigators ferreted out in the first few days after September 11. Everything he said echoed stories in print and on CNN.
Particularly revealing was bin Laden's disclosure that he did not control the timing of attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
"We had notification since the previous Thursday that the event would take place that day," bin Laden said in disclosing he learned of the timing on Sept. 6, five days before his men killed thousands of people.
Justice Department officials believe the hijackers' attacks originally were timed to coincide with scheduled sentencings in New York on Sept. 12 and Sept. 19 of those convicted in the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. Sentencing was postponed just minutes before the September 11 attacks too late, they say.
"Bin Laden knew the plan, was intimately involved in what the plan was, its objectives, methods, and preparation but the final instructions didn't come down from some cave in Afghanistan," the intelligence official said.
"What it tells you is that they have been very good about not spreading information about their plans even in [bin Ladens] own network," said the official who suggested such messages could sound benign by mentioning the date a "birthday package" would arrive.
Albert Krieger, of Miami, past president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said bin Laden seemed to use the tone that he said gangsters affect when they call crimes "hypothetical" to guard against self-incrimination.
"He's obviously not having a confidential communication with someone to whom he's going to be giving orders or setting up a grand plan," Mr. Krieger said, pointing out bin Laden knew the camera captured every word and gesture.
"This is a piece of propaganda for publication and use among those with whom he networks," Mr. Krieger said Monday. "I think references to 'dreams' were his way to tell more spiritual loyalists they can stop denying it and go ahead and say it now."
Few U.S. officials would venture to discuss the contents of bin Laden's incriminating admission that he estimated civilian casualties in advance, deceived disciples about his sneak-attack strategy, and relived his joy while hearing the first broadcast news.
"It is what it is," said a CIA spokesman who stuck to the official administration line of not commenting.
"We'll let the tape speak for itself," a Defense Department aide said.
But the tape does not explain references to a gathering of 50 or 60 people with bin Laden the evening of September 11 when the al Qaeda leader says he chose to hear radio reports at 5:30 p.m. (9 a.m. Washington time) rather than watch television images of the New York carnage.
BBC spokesman Josh Weinberg confirmed that his network's World Service broke into shortwave radio reports with the news of the first plane crash just after 5:30 p.m. in Kabul, where three of every four Afghans depended on the BBC for news.
An Al Jazeera employee in Washington denied suggestions her Qatar-based satellite television network put subtitles on its report that would link the attacks either to bin Laden or to his references to vengeance for Palestinians.
The U.S. videotape translation quoted bin Laden's visitor as saying a video subtitle read, "In revenge for the children of Al Aqsa, Osama bin Laden executes an operation against America."
The U.S. intelligence official did not contradict the Al Jazeera worker's claim that it never appeared.
"A lot of stuff is sort of being merged together in memories, an hour later or a day later," the official said.
"The real message here is that the tape explains how tightly compartmented they keep everything. His right-hand man sitting next to him didn't know about it," the intelligence official said.

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