The Manipulated Bin Laden Tape
by Christopher Bollyn
January 7, 2002
German experts say the "smoking gun" videotape of Osama Bin Laden has been rigged and is of no value as evidence of guilt. Independent Arabic translators say that the most important parts of the Pentagon's translation of the "smoking gun" video of Osama Bin Laden were translated incorrectly and that incriminating words have been put into his mouth.
Two independent translators and an expert on Arabic studies carefully analyzed the Pentagon's translation of the video, which President Bush called "a devastating declaration of guilt." The experts worked from the original Arabic soundtrack and found that the government's translation of the Arabic was not only inaccurate but even "manipulated." The Arabic language experts were interviewed on the German state television show, Monitor, which broadcast the analysis of the "smoking gun" video on Dec. 20, 2001. One of the Translators, Dr. Abdel El M. Husseini, said, "I have carefully examined the Pentagon's translation. This translation is very problematic, at the most important places which have been presented as proof of Bin Laden's guilt, the Pentagon translation does not agree with the Arabic heard on the video."
The Pentagon translation has Bin Laden saying, "We calculated in advance the number of casualties from the enemy..." Alami said, "The words 'in advance are not even heard on the tape. This translation is wrong. When we take the original Arabic from the tape there are no misunderstandings which allow us to read this into the original."
At another point, the government translation has Bin Laden saying: "We had notification since the previous Thursday that the event would take place on that day is not heard in the original Arabic." The Pentagon's translation also mistranslated the sentence "We ordered each of them to go to America" in the active voice while the original Arabic is in the passive voice: they were ordered to go." The translation using "we" is wrong, Alami says.
Alami said that the following sentence that has been translated by the Pentagon, "they didn't know anything about the operation," is not understandable on the tape.
Prof. Gernot Rotter, professor of Islamic and Arabic Studies at the University of Hamburg said, "The American translators who listened and transcribed the tapes have apparently written a lot of things into the text that they wanted to hear, which are actually not heard on the tape no matter how many times you listen to it. "Regardless of whether Bin Laden or his organization was involved in the attacks or not, this tape is of such bad quality, is some places it cannot be understood at all, and those parts which can be understood are torn out of context so that the tape cannot be used as evidence to prove anything," Rotter said. Although the independent expert analysis has been widely reported in Germany, it has not been reported in the American mainstream media.