The Times of London has new video of the 9/11 hijackers from more than a year prior to the attacks. Unlike other martyrdom videos that have been released, these tapes appear to have been less formal affairs. Without a soundtrack for some reason, no one can be sure what al-Qaeda’s intent was in taking them, but they look more like home movies than anything produced for a specific purpose:
It is the first time that a videotape has appeared of Mohammed Atta — who flew an American Airlines plane into the north tower of the World Trade Center — at a training camp in Afghanistan. It fills in a significant gap in the timing of the build-up to the attacks on the United States.
Dates on the tape show Atta was filmed on January 18, 2000, together with Ziad Jarrah, the pilot of United Airlines flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania after the passengers apparently stormed the flight deck.
The Sunday Times has obtained a copy of the video through a previously tested channel. The tape has no soundtrack and a US source said lip readers had tried without success to decipher what was being said.
Despite the deadly tasks the men had been assigned, they appear in high spirits, laughing and smiling in front of the camera. Only when Atta, with an AK-47 propped on a wall beside him, reads a document marked in Arabic “the will”, does he become solemn. Both are well groomed, without the haggard appearance of the identity mugshots issued after September 11.
The tapes display dates in January 2000. The Times argues that this clarifies a problem in the 9/11 timeline regarding the whereabouts of the Hamburg cell leaders, but that isn’t correct. The 9/11 report, in pages 166-167, describe very clearly the travels of Atta and Ziad Jarrah, both of whom can be seen in this tape. They left Germany in November 1999 for Afghanistan, and returned to Germany on January 31, 2000.
Whatever value is in these tapes lies in the behind-the-scenes look at the jihadis in their own environs. They look like they’re having a good time at a retreat, full of smiles and laughter while planning the mass murder of tens of thousands (the Towers would normally have held more that 30,000 people). Unlike the photographs of Mohammed Attah and Ziad Jarrah released after the attack, these two project an air of relaxed joy. We see none of the dead look in Atta’s eyes, nor the sharp figures that made his photo in particular seem so menacing. One can understand why he managed to hide himself in Western society so easily.
No one has been able to discern what the two men are saying on this tape. Apparently, AQ has issues with technical aptitude in its audio-visual department. The silence gives the video a disconcerting feel that mirrors our experience with the jihadis — a disconnect, a sense that what they have to say is so alien to us they may as well remain silent. It also reminds the viewer that their voices have been silenced … along with almost 3,000 others because of their bloodthirsty pursuit of a totalitarian vision.