- The White House yesterday came under pressure to give
more details of the video which purports to show Osama bin Laden admitting
his part in the September 11 attacks.
- There was growing doubt in the Muslim world about the
authenticity of the film while special effects experts said computer technology
made it possible to fake such a video. Unless the US gives more information
about how the tape was found or provides more technological details about
it, doubts are bound to linger.
- On the face of it the video is the "smoking gun"
that proves Bin Laden's part in the murder of more than 3,000 people in
the World Trade Centre and Pentagon attacks. President Bush yesterday called
it a "devastating declaration of guilt for this evil person".
- The 40-minute poor-quality tape, apparently shot with
a camcorder, shows Bin Laden telling a visiting Muslim cleric details of
the planning for the attack and his delight in the carnage.
- According to US officials the tape was found in a house
in Jalalabad, eastern Afghanistan, and handed to the Pentagon by an unnamed
person or group. Officials say Mr Bush first watched the tape in November
but release was delayed until it could be authenticated. Independent translators
were used to make sure the US could not be accused of twisting the words
of the men on the film.
- But for many the explanation is too convenient. Some
opponents of the war theorise that the Bin Laden in the film was a lookalike,
others claim images of him had been manipulated.
- It was also pointed out that it was surprising that a
man with the ability to organise the attacks on America would be naive
enough to confess on tape. And some observers point out that Bin Laden
appears to be wearing a ring on his right hand. In previous film of Bin
Laden released by him, he has worn no jewellery apart from a watch.
- Riaz Durrani, a spokesman for Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, which
spearheaded pro-Taliban rallies in Pakistan, said: "This videotape
is not authentic. The Americans made it up after failing to get any evidence
- Legal experts in the US said that prosecutors seeking
to bring Bin Laden to justice would certainly be keen to produce the tape
but might struggle to prove its authenticity.
- Henry Hingson, a former president of the national association
of criminal defence lawyers, said: "In this day and age of digital
wizardry, many things can be done to alter its veracity."
- On the other hand it would be foolish to fake a video
confession, knowing that if Bin Laden is ever tried his defence team will
have experts pore over the video.
- Sean Broughton, director of the London-based production
company Smoke and Mirrors and one of Britain's leading experts on visual
effects, said it would be relatively easy for a skilled professional to
fake a video of Bin Laden.
- The first step would be to transfer images shot on videotape
on to film tape. Distortion or "noise" and graininess would be
removed. A "morphing package" would then be used to manipulate
the image on a computer screen.
- Using such a package it is possible to alter the subject's
mouth and expressions to fit in with whatever soundtrack is desired. The
final step is to put the "noise" and graininess back on and transfer
the doctored images on to videotape.
- In a recent advert that Smoke and Mirrors made for a
US insurance company, the technique was used to place Bill Clinton's head
on an actor's body for comic effect.
- Mr Broughton said that while it would be relatively easy
to fake a Bin Laden video, to fool the top experts was much more difficult.
"There are perhaps 20 people in America who would be good enough to
fool everybody. To find someone that good and make sure they kept quiet
would probably be pretty difficult."
- Bob Crabtree, editor of the magazine Computer Video,
said it was impossible to judge whether the video was a fake without more
details of its source. "The US seems simply to have asked the world
to trust them that it is genuine."
- Mr Bush said it was "preposterous for anybody to
think this tape was doctored".
- He added: "Those who contend it's a farce or a fake
are hoping for the best about an evil man. This is Bin Laden unedited.
This is... the Bin Laden who murdered the people. This is a man who sent
innocent people to their death."
- The foreign secretary, Jack Straw, insisted there was
"no doubt it is the real thing".