WASHINGTON (AP) -- From a shabby, makeshift office, he ran a global terrorist empire. The world's most wanted man watched newscasts of himself from a tiny television perched atop a rickety old desk cluttered with wires.
For years, the world only saw Osama bin Laden in the rare propaganda videos that trickled out, the ones portraying him as a charismatic religious figure unfazed by being the target of worldwide manhunt.
On Saturday, the U.S. released a handful of videos, selected to show bin Laden in a much more candid, unflattering light. In the short clips, bin Laden appears hunched and tired, seated on the floor, watching television wrapped in a wool blanket and wearing a knit cap. Outtakes of his propaganda tapes show that they were heavily scripted affairs. He dyed and trimmed his beard for the cameras, then shot and reshot his remarks until the timing and lighting were just right.
The videos were among the evidence seized by Navy SEALs after a pre-dawn raid Monday that killed bin Laden in his walled Pakistani compound. The movies, along with computer disks, thumb drives and handwritten notes, reveal that bin Laden was still actively involved in planning and directing al-Qaida's plots against the U.S., according to a senior U.S. intelligence official who briefed reporters Saturday and insisted his name not be used.
"The material found in the compound only further confirms how important it was to go after Bin Laden," said CIA director Leon Panetta in a statement Saturday. "Since 9/11, this is what the American people have expected of us. In this critical operation, we delivered."
The videos were offered as further proof of bin Laden's death. President Barack Obama decided this week not to release photos of bin Laden's body, which were deemed too gruesome to reveal. The U.S. has said it confirmed bin Laden's death using DNA. Al-Qaida has confirmed the death of its founder.
Officials said the clips shown to reporters were just part of the largest collection of senior terrorist materials ever collected. The evidence seized during the raid also includes phone numbers and documents that officials hope will help break the back of the organization behind the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Among the material handed out was a propaganda video, apparently intended for public release, entitled "Message to the American People." The U.S. government released the video without sound and said it was likely filmed sometime last fall. Bin Laden has not released a video since 2007.
U.S. intelligence official would not confirm that the video of bin Laden in the makeshift office was filmed at the Pakistani compound, but they have said they believe he has been holed up there for as long as six years.
The video clearly shows the terror leader choosing and changing channels with a remote control which he points at what appears to be a satellite cable box. U.S. officials have previously said there was a satellite dish for television reception but no Internet or phone lines ran to the house. Cellphones were prohibited on the compound.
Bin Laden and four others were killed in a daring pre-dawn raid Monday after U.S. helicopters lowered a team of SEALs behind the compound's high walls. The terrorist leader's death leaves al-Qaida with an uncertain future and represents America's most successful counterterrorism mission.
Copyright Associated Press
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