Washington Osama bin Laden says in a videotape he was pleasantly surprised by the extent of damage from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, U.S. officials disclosed Sunday. The tape also suggests that some hijackers did not know they were going to die.
Vice President Dick Cheney confirmed the tape's existence, and officials who spoke on condition of anonymity described the contents. It was obtained by Americans in Afghanistan, though the officials declined to say how.
Cheney said it provides clear proof the leader of the al-Qaida network was behind the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon that killed about 3,300 people.
"He does in fact display significant knowledge of what happened and there's no doubt about his responsibility for the attack on September 11," Cheney said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
The tape shows bin Laden being interviewed or meeting with a cleric. He speaks in Arabic and discusses the terrorist attacks, according to Cheney, who said he had seen parts of the tape.
Bin Laden appeared relaxed on the tape, Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, said on CBS' "Face the Nation." Myers is chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
President Bush ignored reporters' questions about the tape as returned to the White House from Camp David early Sunday morning.
On the tape, bin Laden recalls tuning in to news shows hours before the attacks, waiting to hear reports about the destruction, a U.S. official said. Bin Laden also says that after the first plane struck, he told those who were with him that more destruction was coming.
The al-Qaida leader expressed surprise and pleasure at the amount of damage done to the World Trade Center, the official said. Another government official said bin Laden indicates on the tape he had expected the twin towers only to collapse down to the level of where the planes struck the buildings.
Bin Laden's comments show he had specific advance knowledge of the time, method and location of the attacks, the officials said.
A third official said Sunday that the tape suggests the ringleaders of the attacks did not tell all the hijackers that their mission would end in death.
U.S. officials declined to say how the United States obtained the tape, which one described as amateurish and apparently made with a handheld video camera. The Washington Post, which first reported the existence of the video, said it was discovered during the search of a private home in Jalalabad.
Bin Laden has not publicly taken responsibility for the attacks, though he has praised them. U.S. officials have said they intercepted communications tying bin Laden or associates to the attacks, but have refused to release any materials, citing intelligence concerns.
British and Pakistani government officials have said the Bush administration provided them with evidence they say shows bin Laden's role in the attacks.
Many in the Muslim world doubt the veracity of U.S. claims. Releasing the tape could help win over some Muslim skeptics, said Sens. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., and Joseph Biden, D-Del.
"The world needs to see this," Hagel said on "CNN's Late Edition."
Gehad Auda, a professor of political science at Cairo's Helwan University, said broadcast of the tape would create a "propaganda splash" but would "not cause any turnover in public opinion."
"It won't make a difference to those who are hostile to America whether the tape is made public or not," he said. "This is a matter of belief, not a matter of clarifying information."
Cheney said it is not his decision whether to release the tape, but indicated there would be reluctance to do so. "We've not been eager to give the guy any extra television time," he said.
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz expressed irritation that anyone would doubt bin Laden's guilt.
"I don't know what it takes to convince some people," he said on "Late Edition." "We had absolutely clear-cut evidence before that tape turned up."