The White House is weighing whether or not to release a videotape of Osama bin Laden that officials said showed his involvement in the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.
White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer said the president's National Security Council is taking a hard look at all the issues involved. He indicated a decision will come sooner rather than later. "I really don't think this is going to be with us for days," he said.
But Mr. Fleischer made clear the decision-making process is not an easy one. He said there are strong arguments on both sides, and the White House is trying to balance competing concerns, the right of the public to see the tape, and the need to protect intelligence sources."The president wants to share as much as possible with the country, to be as forthright as possible, and to let people come to their own judgments by seeing things for themselves. The president also wants to make certain the ability to see things in the future is in no way impaired as a result of sharing something now," he said.
The White House spokesman confirmed the videotape was found in a private home in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. He said it is very different from the recorded messages from Osama bin Laden distributed earlier by al-Qaida to news organizations. He said the videotape now in the hands of the Bush administration appeared to show a spontaneous conversation."If this was the same prepackaged propaganda it would have already been provided by the people who did it (made the tape) to outlets in the Middle East, probably to al-Jazeera, where it would have already been played," he said.
So far, only the president and a few top aides have seen the videotape, which showed Osama bin Laden discussing the events of September 11 in Arabic with others. While not providing details of the conversation, Ari Fleischer said it validated everything the Bush administration has said about who is responsible for the terrorist attacks."There is information that is on those tapes that again showed the world just how evil Osama bin Laden is," he said.
Mr. Fleischer said he has seen a translation of the remarks on the videotape. Echoing comments made earlier by other administration officials, he said he found it disgusting that someone could find joy in the deaths of thousands of innocent people.