The alleged bin Ladin confession tape is an obvious fake.
Bin Laden in Jazeerah tape on the left. Who is this guy on the right pictured in the CIA released video pretending to be Bin Laden? Any fool with eyes can see they are not the same person.
The right-hand picture above is often used to discredit the tape, and in principle it does a good job. Do these two look like the same person? No. However, as usual, it's not quite as simple as that.
First up, the "fake bin Ladin" shot looks "enhanced" to us, as though someone has taken the original video, brightened it up, perhaps sharpened it too (which would explain the halo effect around the head, although to be fair that's also present on the other image). We’re not saying the features have been altered in any way, or that this was done with a specific intent to deceive, but it does suggest a need to look at the original footage.
To be fair, some sites do get closer to that. Take a look at this picture, for instance, from a page discussing the tape: it doesn’t have the same “processed” look, and we’d say bears a much stronger resemblance to the first bin Ladin photo.
We looked a little further, and found higher resolution shots that appear to be from the same tape.
Fuller-face pictures like this one are interesting, though.
Images like this offer a mid-point between those two top pictures. You can see how, if viewed from a particular angle and with the right lighting (and reduced in size, and poorly encoded), this could look like the supposed fat-faced "fake" image, but it could also be a match for the real bin Laden image, too.
The pictures are just one of the issues, though. Many sites point to other indications that the video bin Ladin may be a different person.
“The FBI say he’s left handed”, they point out, “and yet in the video he’s writing with his right hand”. Read out thoughts on this here.
WhatReallyHappened also point to the ring you can see the man in the image above wearing on his right hand. No other images of Bin Ladin show him wearing such a ring, they suggest, another sign that it’s a different person. Or is it? We think they’re wrong.
What you won’t see pointed out very often is that bin Ladin isn’t the only known person in the videos. Leading Al Qaeda figures Suleiman Abu Ghaith and Ayman al-Zawahiri are claimed to make make brief appearances, too. Presumably we’re supposed to believe they are also being impersonated?
Beyond the analyses, we think the idea of the tape being faked raises other questions, for which there are a distinct lack of answers.
Many of the same sites who tell us this tape is a fake, for instance, also point out that bin Ladin denied being involved with 9/11 soon after the attacks. If this is true then it suggests bin Ladin is a real, live person, out there somewhere, not doing the bidding of the US Government. In which case why has he, or some other al Qaeda spokesman, not pointed out that this tape is a fake?
Some people also point to articles suggesting the tape was translated inaccurately.
The American translators who listened to the tapes and transcribed them apparently wrote a lot of things in that they wanted to hear but that cannot be heard on the tape no matter how many times you listen to it
Very interesting, if true, but hardly support for faking, at least not by the US Government. Because if they organised the filming, why wouldn’t they have the participants saying exactly what they wanted? Why the need to play around with translations later?
Overall, we can't say with 100% certainty that the tape is real, but equally, it isn't the obvious fake some would pretend. We're not alone in this view, either. Here's a conversation between Al Jazeera London bureau chief Yosri Fouda and TBS Publisher and Senior Editor S. Abdallah Schleifer.
SAS: ...there was the much earlier amateurishly filmed video tape that the American government says they found in Afghanistan... in which a militant Saudi sheikh, visiting with Bin Ladin leads Bin Ladin into an acknowledgement that it was Al-Qa'ida operatives known only to him and a few others, who staged the operation and Bin Ladin re-enacts his great joy when the operation succeeded well beyond his expectations. My intuition as a journalist told me when I watched the tape on CNN that it was authentic and that it was Bin Ladin but my intuition also told me that the Sheikh was an intelligence agent, probably for the Americans and the their taped conversation a sting operation. A few days later a respectable British newspaper confirmed it was a sting but they said it was set up by Saudi intelligence. And certainly the former head of Saudi intelligence has made it clear in no uncertain terms that 9/11 was an Al-Qa'ida operation. Now despite all of this and other documentation, so many Arabs were in a state of denial and many are still in a state of denial, insisting that Al-Qa'ida or any Arabs for that matter could not have had anything to do with this operation, that this was a Mossad or CIA operation.
YF: ...Until I got to meet Ramzi and Khalid there was a lot of doubt as to the possibility that that tape might have been fabricated. But I got it on videotape from one of the other people from Al-Qa'ida who were there at the apartment that the tape was legitimate. I asked him whether that tape was genuine and he said it was. And in the end when I went back I put that Saudi Sheikh's video tape with Bin Ladin on and listened to it for four or five times, and certain bits and pieces that Bin Ladin said on that tape fit in very nicely with what Ramzi and Khalid had said to me. You know like the first time that they knew of the zero hour.
SAS: I understand what you are saying and I've been convinced of that tape's authenticity since the beginning. And your experience just confirms it.