WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration is weighing whether to make public a videotape in which Osama bin Laden says he was pleasantly surprised by the extent of damage from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
On the tape, bin Laden recalls tuning in to news shows hours before the attacks, waiting to hear reports about the destruction, a U.S. official said. Bin Laden also says that after the first plane struck, he told those with him that more devastation was coming.
Vice President Dick Cheney said the tape shows clearly that bin Laden was behind the attacks.
Monday, the National Security Council was debating whether to release the tape, said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer. He said President Bush does not want to give bin Laden any publicity, but feels releasing the tape is important "for people to know what Osama bin Laden has said in this regard."
Fleischer said this tape is different from earlier footage that administration officials thought contained coded messages for bin Laden operatives outside Afghanistan. "This does not appear to be prepackaged propaganda," Fleischer said. "This appears to be a conversation that was taped when he was talking with other people."
Bush has seen the tape and read a transcript of its contents, Fleischer said.
A key consideration for the administration is whether releasing the tape would help win over Muslims who doubt the veracity of U.S. claims that bin Laden was behind the attacks.
Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Monday the tape should be made public. "I believe if you have a choice between treating the American people at arm's length and as adults, you treat them as adults, and they should have the opportunity to see this tape," he said on CBS' The Early Show."
"It is ... equally important that the world see this tape because there are still some places where there is suspicion about whether there is evidence to link bin Laden to the events of Sept. 11," Graham said.
The same stance was taken by Sens. Joseph Biden D-Del., who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Chuck Hagel, R-Neb. "The world needs to see this," Hagel said.
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