WASHINGTON, May 8, 2011 -- The U.S. government released five carefully selected candid videos Saturday from Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, showing the al Qaeda leader preparing a message to the United States and watching himself on television.
Click here to watch the 5 Osama bin Laden home videos released.
The videos -- with him struggling to get through a taping without a mistake, or huddled in a blanket, his undyed beard obviously gray -- present an stark image of bin Laden that the al Qaeda leader would not have released himself, knocking him down from the larger-than-life image he tried to present, terrorism experts said.
"This is someone who realized that the image he conveyed was the main value he had to his movement," former CIA analyst Paul Pillar said. "It was part of his brand."
"This was a man who was obsessed with his image and rightly so," former acting CIA Director John McLaughlin said. "In a way, al Qaeda's most powerful tool was its use of video and its use of the Internet."
This footage is among the trove of evidence found after the U.S. raid on the compound Sunday, when bin Laden and four others were killed.
"This is the single largest collection of senior terrorist materials ever,"a senior intelligence official said.
The cache includes digital, audio, video, personal correspondence and documents that "clearly show that bin Laden remained an active leader in al Qaeda strategically, tactically and operationally," and not the figurehead he was assumed to be, "making the recent operation even more essential to our nations security," the official said.
The materials reveal numerous hallmark al Qaeda plots, including plans for attacks on infrastructure targets such as water supply and transportation including rail and air, in what one official described as a "strategic guide for how to attack the U.S."
It is unclear just how active bin Laden was in coordinating any operations or in blessing overall strategies and plots. One official said bin Laden appears to have thought of himself as something of a head coach to al Qaeda.
The first of the five videos shown on Saturday was a previously unreleased message from bin Laden directed to the United States that was believed to have been filmed between Oct. 9 and Nov. 5 2010.
In the video, which begins with animated pre-production work, he appears to have dyed his beard black, is wearing a gold shawl over a white vestment and is wearing a white skullcap.
The second video, which runs over a minute long, shows bin Laden watching himself on television and holding the remote control to change the channels between what appear to be Arabic news channels.
The clip begins with a long shot of the screen, showing a list of satellite channels. The camera then pulls out and bin Laden is shown sitting down with a blanket over his shoulders and a wool cap. His beard is grey and white.
At one point bin Laden asks the cameraman to go back to the TV screen so it can focus on him holding a weapon.
It is unclear when or where this video was made and whether bin Laden was watching a live broadcast or a tape.
The remaining three videos appear to be practice sessions, possibly for the first video. In each of them he appears to stumble in his speech, stop and begin over.
The videos send a message to the others in al Qaeda that the United States now has a substantial trove of information from the very heart of the terror network.
The release says "that we have a lot of stuff that we took possession of on Sunday and that makes the other bad guys, other people in the organization fearful, uncertain and not sure what we got," Pillar said.
The DNA analysis shows unquestionably that this was bin Laden, the senior intelligence official said. Based on the DNA evidence, the odds of the person killed in the raid not being bin Laden were 1 in 11.8 quadrillion, the official said.