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Bush: Tape a 'devastating declaration of guilt'

Osama bin Laden, as seen in videotape released Thursday.
Osama bin Laden, as seen in videotape released Thursday.  

(CNN) -- President Bush scoffed Friday at any suggestion that the videotape of Osama bin Laden discussing the September 11 terrorist attacks might not be authentic.

"It is preposterous for anybody to think that this tape is doctored," he said during a brief photo opportunity with the prime minister of Thailand. "That's just a feeble excuse to provide weak support for an incredibly evil man."

Bush acknowledged he had mixed emotions about releasing it to the public.

"I was hesitant to allow there to be a vivid reminder of their loss and tragedy displaced on our TVs," he said. "On the other hand, I knew that the tape would be a devastating declaration of guilt for this evil person."

CNN's James Martone reports on continued Arab reaction to the videotape of Osama bin Laden discussing the September 11 attacks (December 14)

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Watch the excerpt of the video of Osama bin Laden obtained by the Bush administration (December 13)

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Mystery sheik in videotape may be Saudi cleric 

Some Muslims view tape with suspicion 

Bin Laden on tape: Attacks 'benefited Islam greatly' 
Gallery: World watches bin Laden tape 
Reaction to the tape 
Key quotes 
Chronology: Bin Laden on tape 

Bin Laden brags in the videotape, released Thursday by the Pentagon, that he knew about the attacks on the United States beforehand and says the destruction went beyond his hopes. He says the attacks "benefited Islam greatly."

The tape, which television networks aired repeatedly Thursday and Friday, elicited strong reaction across the globe.

"It seemed to me that what I was listening to and watching was one of the most detailed descriptions of a premeditated mass murder that I had ever heard," said New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who recalled his days as a prosecutor.

Retired New York firefighter Robert Thompson called the tape riveting, especially for firefighters who lost hundreds of their colleagues in the collapse of the World Trade Center.

"It was just sickening to watch him smiling -- bin Laden -- and basically the man just showed how evil he is," Thompson said. "And I'm glad the tape went on so everybody can see what kind of person he is."

Barry Pollack, an attorney, said the tape could be a key piece of evidence if bin Laden is captured and brought to trial. Pollack pointed to one sentence in the transcript in which bin Laden said of the hijackers: "We asked each of them to go to America."

Testimony would be needed from experts to say that it had not been doctored, he added.

Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, said in a written release that the tape "displays the cruel and inhumane face of a murderous criminal who has no respect for the sanctity of human life or the principles of his faith."

He adds, "Bin Laden and those he mentions in his tape are deviants and renegades who do not represent the Islamic faith or the Saudi people.

Some remain skeptical

On the streets of Cairo, Egypt, the reaction was different. "There is still no proof in America, so they come up with this tape," one man said.

Amr Hegazi, an Egyptian economist, offered similar comments.

"I really don't think that Osama bin Laden did anything from the beginning," Hegazi said.

Mohamed Kamal, a professor at the University of Cairo in Egypt, called the release of the tape a positive development that would help win the hearts and minds of many Arab and Muslim people, but he warned that it would not convince everyone.

"People will continue to be suspect of anything that is American," he said. The United States should release more information about how it got the tape, Kamal said.

Officials said the approximately hour-long tape, dated November 9 and made in Kandahar, was found in a private residence in Jalalabad, although they haven't explained details of its discovery.

Asked Friday whether he preferred bin Laden's capture dead or alive, Bush said it "doesn't matter to me," but vowed that he would not escape.

About 3,300 people were killed in the attacks of September 11 when four U.S. commercial jets were hijacked and crashed. Two slammed into the World Trade Center in New York, causing the twin towers to collapse. One hit the Pentagon and another crashed in rural Pennsylvania.


• The White House
• U.S. Department of Defense

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