By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 7, 2011 – Five video clips released to reporters today at the Pentagon show that Osama bin Laden was still an “active player” in al-Qaida operations, a senior intelligence official said.
Since bin Laden’s May 1 death at the hands of American forces inside his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, a multi-agency task force has worked around the clock to sift through “the most significant amount of intelligence ever collected from a senior terrorist,” the official said.
“Materials reviewed over the past several days clearly show that bin Laden remained an active leader in al-Qaida,” he added, “providing strategic, operational and tactical instructions to the group.”
From digital audio and video files, and from printed materials, computer equipment, recording devices and handwritten documents, analysts are learning that “bin Laden continued to direct even tactical details of the group’s management and to encourage plotting,” he said.
In a statement released today, CIA Director Leon Panetta said, “The material found in the compound only further confirms how important it was to go after bin Laden.” Panetta added that, “Since 9/11, this is what the American people have expected of us. In this critical operation, we delivered.”
A CIA-led multiagency task force is triaging, cataloging and analyzing the materials, drawing on expertise from the Department of Homeland Security, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the FBI, the National Media Exploitation Center, the National Counterterrorism Center, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency and the Treasury Department.
In a compound the senior intelligence official characterized as “an active command-and-control center for al-Qaida’s top leader,” bin Laden focused on inspiring and engineering international terrorism and on attacking the United States, especially transportation and infrastructure targets, the official said.
“The materials have already provided us some important insights and we expect to learn more about al-Qaida and its affiliates, their plans and intentions, and any threats they currently pose,” he said.
The five short videos released today all show the al-Qaida leader delivering messages to his audience, but in these versions the sound has been removed.
“It would be inappropriate to spread the words of terrorists and their propaganda messages,” the official said, “especially Osama bin Laden’s.”
The first video is a complete but unreleased message by bin Laden to the American people, produced sometime between Oct. 9 and Nov. 5, 2010, the official said.
In the video bin Laden has trimmed and dyed black his normally gray beard.
His message condemns U.S. policy and denigrates capitalism, the official said.
The second video shows a gray-bearded bin Laden in a room, watching live or taped video clips of himself, possibly from news outlets, on a television.
The intelligence official said the date of the video can’t yet be determined, but he noted that bin Laden’s beard was gray at the time of his death.
“In this video he has not dyed or trimmed his beard,” the intelligence official said, “suggesting that this practice was one he reserved for films he planned to distribute.”
Bin Laden, the official noted, “jealously guarded his image.”
The final three short clips show brief video rehearsal sessions of a black-bearded bin Laden.
“The collection is large and is proving valuable, and it will take time to go through it,” he said. “But we are already disseminating intelligence across the U.S. government based on what we’ve found.”
Bin Laden’s identity was confirmed in several ways, the official said.
A woman in the compound identified him to the assault team as Osama bin Laden, and CIA specialists compared photos of the body and of bin Laden, using facial recognition methods that match points of similarity of unique facial features, including the size and shape of a persons eyes, ears and nose.
With this method, the official said, “we were able to determine with 95 percent certainty that the body was his.”
DNA analysis conducted separately by Defense Department and CIA labs positively identified Osama bin Laden, he added, as did DNA samples collected from bin Laden’s body and compared to a comprehensive DNA profile derived from bin Laden’s large extended family.
Al-Qaida released its own statement May 6 acknowledging bin Laden’s death.
It is noteworthy, the official said, “that the group did not announce a new leader, suggesting it is still trying to deal with bin Laden’s demise.”
So far, the senior intelligence official said, there is no indication that Pakistan’s government was aware that bin Laden was at this compound in Abbottabad.
“We’re asking some questions, and the Pakistanis themselves have said that they’re asking questions of themselves,” he added, noting that the U.S. relationship with Pakistan is important and complicated.
“It’s important that we find ways in the future to work together, especially on the counterterrorism front,” he said.
“This is a common fight,” the official added. “Bin Laden is responsible for supporting operations that have killed scores of Pakistanis as well, so there is a mutual interest in us working together.”
Going forward, he said, “we need to find ways to solidify that relationship.”