When the videotape of Osama bin Laden talking about the Sept. 11 terror attacks was released by the United States government on Dec. 13, administration officials spoke at length about the extensive effort to achieve a full and accurate transcript.
The translation commissioned by ABCNEWS, however, reveals new elements that raise questions about what the government left out of the official version and why.
The new translation uncovers statements that could be embarrassing to the government of Saudi Arabia, a very important U.S. ally. Bin Laden's visitor, Khalid al Harbi, a Saudi dissident, claims that he was smuggled into Afghanistan by a member of Saudi Arabia's religious police.
He also tells bin Laden that in Saudi Arabia, several prominent clerics some with connections to the Saudi government made speeches supporting the attacks on America.
"Right at the time of the strike on America, he gave a very moving speech, Sheikh Abdulah al Baraak," bin Laden said on the tape. "And he deserves thanks for that."
Sheikh al Baraak, to whom the visitor refers, is a professor at a government university and a member of an influential council on religious law.
"It shows that bin Laden's support is not limited to the radical side of Islam but also among the Saudi religious establishment," says Fawaz Gerges, professor of Middle Eastern studies at Sarah Lawrence College. "And that is bad news for Saudi Arabia."
The new translation reveals bin Laden's intimate knowledge of the hijackers themselves. Bin Laden mentions not just the ring leader Mohamed Atta but several of the hijackers by name, including the al Hazmi brothers: "So these young men, may God accept their action, Nawaf Al Hazmi, Salim Al Hazmi
A member of the team that translated the tape for the U.S. government said the ABCNEWS translation is consistent with portions of the government's transcript that have not been released to the public.
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