Published May 08, 2011
WASHINGTON -- Mysteries surrounding the life of Usama bin Laden began unraveling Saturday when U.S. officials released home videos of the terrorist mastermind at his hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan, including footage that shows him watching news coverage of himself on television.
The videos were shown to the news media Saturday by intelligence officials. The five movies offer the first public glimpse at bin Laden's life behind the walls of his compound in suburban Pakistan.
The government-selected clips also provide an opportunity for the U.S. to paint bin Laden in an unflattering light to his supporters. The 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.
One of the movies shows bin Laden, his unkempt beard streaked in gray, sitting on the floor, wrapped in a brown blanket and holding a remote control. He flipped back and forth between what appears to be live news coverage of himself. The old, small television was perched on top of a desk with a large tangle of electrical wires running to a nearby control box.
In another, he has apparently dyed and neatly trimmed his beard for the filming of a propaganda video. The video, which the U.S. released without sound, was titled ""Message to the American People" and was believed to be made sometime last fall, a senior intelligence official said during a briefing for reporters, on condition that his name not be used.
Bin Laden "jealously guarded his image," the official said.
The videos are among the wealth of information collected during the U.S. raid that killed bin Laden and four others. The information suggests bin Laden played a strong role in planning and directing attacks by Al Qaeda and its affiliates in Yemen and Somalia.
"In the intelligence business, analysts are lucky if they get one very strong report a day on these kind of sensitive issues," an intelligence official told Fox News. "When it comes to the bin Laden treasure trove, the CIA is getting useful intelligence information every hour. That figure underscores the value of this collection."
In a statement, CIA Director Leon Panetta said,."The material found in the compound only further confirms how important it was to go after bin Laden," "Since 9/11, this is what the American people have expected of us. In this critical operation, we delivered."
Already the Afghan Taliban has warned that bin Laden's death will only boost morale of insurgents battling the U.S. and its NATO allies. Al Qaeda itself vowed revenge, confirming bin Laden's death for the first time Friday but saying that Americans' "happiness will turn to sadness."
Intelligence officials said the statement was interesting because no new leader was announced, suggesting that Al Qaeda may still be shuffling in the aftermath of bin Laden's death.
Al Qaeda deputy Ayman al-Zawahri is the presumed successor but there are strong indications that he is not popular in some quarters. Officials would not confirm reports that the raid yielded clues to the whereabouts of Zawahri.
The data showed no indication that the Pakistan government was aware that bin Laden was at the compound, which was the active center of Al Qaeda.
Pakistani officials have denied sheltering bin Laden, and they have criticized the U.S. operation as a violation of their country's sovereignty.
For its part, the U.S. has already launched at least one drone strike into Pakistan in the days since bin Laden was killed, and there is no suggestion those will be curtailed at all.
The strikes are largely carried out by pilotless CIA drones, and the expectation is that they will continue in the coming days as U.S. military and intelligence officials try to take quick advantage of the data they swept up in the raid before insurgents have a chance to change plans or locations.
The raid on bin Laden's compound deep inside the Pakistan border has further eroded already strained relations between Washington and Islamabad, and angry Pakistani officials have said they want the U.S. to reduce its military presence in their country. The Pakistani army, while acknowledging it failed to find bin Laden, said it would review cooperation with the U.S. if there is another similar attack.
Obama met on Friday with the U.S. commandos who killed bin Laden after a decade-long search.
"Job well done," the president declared, addressing roughly 2,000 troops after meeting privately with the full assault team -- Army helicopter pilots and Navy SEAL commandos -- who executed the dangerous raid. Their identities are kept secret.
Fox News' Jennifer Griffin, Catherine Herridge and The Associated Press contributed to this report.