AFP - Poor video and audio quality, not an
effort to spare Saudi Arabia is the reason for gaps in
the government-issued transcript accompanying a
videotape showing Osama bin Laden gloating about the
September 11 terror strikes, the White House said.
The Pentagon has declined to release a more complete
version of the transcript, despite claims in the US
press, corroborated by independent translators who
studied it carefully, that the gaps coincide with
information that could embarrass Saudi Arabia, an
important US ally in the Middle East.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the government
was satisfied with the tape from an intelligence
standpoint, though he declined to elaborate.
As far as further revisiting its translation, the
secretary said "we are not trying to go back and get
another version for the public."
The Department of Defense "said it up front all
along" it would not release a verbatim transcript
because of flaws in the recording, White House spokesman
Ari Fleischer noted, reading the full warning aloud to
journalists Friday morning.
to the quality of the original tape it is NOT' -- and
that's in large letters -- 'NOT a verbatim transcript of
every word spoken during the meeting, but does convey
the messages and information flow," the spokesman
Any missing words from the transcript released
December 13 are "a function of interpreting and
translating tapes that are in many places hard to hear,"
Fleischer told reporters.
Speaking earlier, Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria
Clarke said "the tape is what it is."
"The translation is what it is. We made it very clear
the tape is not a literal translation," she said,
answering a question whether the Pentagon planned to
work at a more complete translation with an emphatic
US television networks late Thursday reported their
translators had uncovered gaps in the recording, which
many administration officials view as the "smoking gun"
tying the Saudi-born militant to the attacks.
ABC News reported the Pentagon had omitted sections
that "could be embarrassing to the government of Saudi
At the start of the tape, a Saudi identified as
Khalid al-Harbi speaking with bin Laden "seems to claim
he was smuggled into Afghanistan by a member of Saudi
Arabia's religious police," according to ABC's
The Saudi man also said certain religious leaders in
Saudi Arabia, some of them close to the government, had
hailed the attacks in their sermons.
In the transcript released by the Pentagon, bin Laden
named Mohammed Atta as one of the suicide plane
hijackers. But in the ABC version, he also mentioned
Saudi nationals Nawaf al-Hazmi and Salim al-Hazmi as
part of the operation.
A member of the team that translated the tape for the
US government told ABC News the network's translation
was consistent with portions of the government's
transcript that had not been released to the