The U.S. government is running a full-court press to prevent Osama bin Laden from becoming a hallowed martyr by using what are essentially out-takes of videos made by bin Laden to paint him instead as a vain, pathetic old man, experts said today.
Of the five videos made public by the White House this weekend, perhaps the most remarkable shows bin Laden huddled under a blanket, watching himself on television with a remote control in his hand, changing the channels whenever he sees pictures of president Obama.
"He's always been very careful about controlling his image and here was nurturing his image, watching himself on television in what was the most revealing, most human, least controlled moment of his entire career," Lawrence Wright, Osama bin Laden expert and author of "The Looming Tower," said.
The out-takes reveal bin Laden's fully gray beard, apparently dyed jet black for his on-camera appearances set behind four different makeshift backgrounds.
"[This is] just a guy who wants to be seen, who wants to be known," Wright said. "Very pathetic in a way."
In another sequence, there are technical difficulties, as a light goes out and the world's most wanted terrorist loses his concentration.
The release of the videos are "part of the U.S. government's effort to discredit him after his death so... he doesn't become a martyr in the eyes of the Arab youth," said former White House counterterrorism official and ABC News consultant Richard Clarke.
But while the outtake video may be embarrassing, there's nothing funny about the other, much more sinister material gathered in bin Laden's compound, revealing a level of plotting and activity from here that has surprised U.S. officials.
"He was engaged not just in being a symbolic leader of al-Qaeda, but he was involved in the strategic and operational leadership," National Security Advisor Tom Donilon said on ABC News' "This Week With Christiane Amanpour."
One Expert Hopes Al Qaeda Deputy Takes Over
Experts said the question of who will replace bin Laden is an important one, with some actually hoping it will be his controversial deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri.
"Zawahiri is a very polarizing figure," Wright said. "He ran his own terrorist organization al Jihad into the ground and we should only be so lucky that he would take over al Qaeda."