The Obama administration has released five videos seized at Osama bin Laden’s hide-out in Abbottabad, including candid home movies of the Al Qaeda leader watching news coverage of himself on television. The videos are the first materials to be released from the alleged jackpot of computer files and documents discovered at bin Laden’s compound. Based on the home videos, bin Laden seems downright superficial. Via the Times:
“Sitting on the floor in a small room, wrapped in a blanket, he watched news clips about himself on television … Bin Laden’s beard had been dyed black to make him appear younger … Bin Laden’s concern about his appearance suggested that he was intensely interested in the image he presented to his supporters … [Other videos include] outtakes of his propaganda films and, taken together, portray him as someone obsessed with his own image and how he is portrayed to the world.”
The videos, which also depict bin Laden threatening the United States and condemning capitalism, obviously, allegedly reveal bin Laden’s significant role in Al Qaeda’s operations. “An official described the Bin Laden compound as a command-and-control center for Al Qaeda, where the group plotted attacks,” the Times reports. “The official said that Bin Laden’s concern about his appearance suggested he was deeply immersed in the propaganda efforts of the organization. That view contrasts sharply with earlier theories that he had become a marginal character who served as a figurehead for the group.” No audio has been released, but the Obama administration has briefed reporters on the contents of the tapes. We’ll update accordingly.
Meanwhile, Al Jazeera has obtained video footage of the compound, filmed “relatively recently,” and the place appears disheveled. Al Jazeera describes the hide-out as “dark, with few windows, in disrepair, with garbage strewn everywhere … though relatively self-sustainable, with plants and animals … but ramshackle, with the kitchen stripped bare, and wardrobes empty.” Thus, we can conclude that bin Laden’s apparent interest in appearance did not extend to home interiors.
Here’s one of the five videos:
Videos From Bin Laden’s Hide-Out Released [NYT]
Briefing on Bin Laden Documents [Lede/NYT]
New footage emerges of bin Laden compound [Al Jazeera]