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If the Administration has a videotape with what amounts to a confession by Osama bin Laden for the 9/11 attacks, you might think that it would broadcast the video far and wide. Today's Washington Post quotes senior government officials claiming that they have just such a videotape, retrieved from Jalalabad, showing Mr. bin Laden using "language that indicated he was familiar with the planning of the attacks". On NBC's Meet the Press today, Dick Cheney confirmed the story and described the video to Tim Russert this way:
It's pretty clear, as described to me, that he does in fact display significant knowledge of what happened and there's no doubt about his responsibility for the attack on September 11th.Mr. Cheney also proposed a reason for not releasing the videotape:
We've not been eager to give the guy any extra television time than he could obtain for himself.The wisdom of the original policy may itself be open to question, but even if you believe that censoring Mr. bin Laden is a good idea in general, it would seem that a televised confession is something that the U.S. would want to publicize widely. In fact, according to the Washington Post, the White House P.R. operation headed by Karen Hughes wants to release the tape, but is concerned that Arab audiences would not find it believable if the tape was known to have come from Washington.
Fair enough, this is certainly a reasonable concern. It may have made sense to slip the video quietly to Pakistan for initial publication, or mail it anonymously to Al Jazeera, or something like that. But then why was the story leaked to the Washington Post?
In any case, now that the story is out, there seems to be no reason to delay the release of the incriminating portions of the tape, at least. Much of the world lacks faith in the Administration's assertions of culpability by Mr. bin Laden, and any substantiation could be helpful.
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