Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Gray vs. Black Beard: It Mattered to Bin Laden, New Videos Show

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Gray vs. Black Beard: It Mattered to Bin Laden, New Videos Show

Article excerpt

US offers peek at 'treasure trove' of materials seized from bin Laden compound - the largest haul of 'senior terrorist materials' ever. Videos show a bin Laden careful with his public image.

US officials released five videos of Osama bin Laden Saturday, part of what they called "the single largest collection of senior terrorist materials ever" seized.

Recovered during the Navy SEAL raid of Osama bin Laden's compound almost one week ago, the "treasure trove" of documents, thumb drives, and videos demonstrate that the suburban house inhabited by bin Laden "was an active command and control center for Al Qaeda's top leader," according to a senior intelligence official, who briefed reporters on the condition that he not be named.

"He was far from a figurehead," the official said. "He was an active player" whose role was "to encourage plotting."

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The videos, released without audio, include the image of a gray- bearded bin Laden wrapped in a blanket, TV remote in hand, watching news footage of himself on television in a room with blacked-out curtains.

Some of the clips "are clearly outtakes," the official said, as reporters in a Pentagon briefing room viewed images of bin Laden rehearsing his televised messages in front of a wrinkled baby-blue sheet and a large armoire believed to be located at the compound.

Another video showed bin Laden missing his speaking cue as a light malfunctioned, clips promptly dubbed "bin Laden's bloopers" by reporters.

One of the videos, which was labeled a "message to America," was recorded between Oct. 9 and Nov. 5, 2010 - the only video that was dated among the five that were released. In it, bin Laden is shown "condemning US policy and denigrating capitalism," the official said.

The official told reporters that the audio was removed from the videos because it is "inappropriate to spread the message of terrorists."

While US intelligence officials continue to catalog the material from the compound, "the treasure trove of information has provided some golden nuggets," the official added.

As US authorities cull through the cache, "identifying imminent threats in plotting is of course our top priority," the official said. …

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