Scott Horton Interviews Jeremy Hammond
Jeremy R. Hammond, founder and editor of Foreign Policy Journal, discusses newly disclosed documents that shed light on pre-9/11 negotiations between the Taliban and U.S. about handing over Osama bin Laden, the “warning fatigue” that lead to U.S. officials ignoring Taliban tip offs of an impending Al Qaeda attack, the competition between Unocal and Argentina’s Bridas for an Afghanistan pipeline contract, the disputed authenticity of video evidence of bin Laden claiming responsibility for 9/11, how Dick Cheney and his Office of Legal Council lackeys formulated the U.S. policy of declaring war on terrorism instead of pursuing police actions against criminals and why the 9/11 Commission Report is an interesting mix of incompetence and subterfuge.
MP3 here. (47:25)
Jeremy R. Hammond is an independent political analyst whose articles have been featured in numerous print and online publications around the world. He is the founder and editor of Foreign Policy Journal (www.foreignpolicyjournal.com), an online source for news, critical analysis, and opinion commentary on U.S. foreign policy. He was a recipient of the 2010 Project Censored Awards for Outstanding Investigative Journalism and is the author of The Rejection of Palestinian Self-Determination.
Jeremy Hammond writes:
I’d like to ask you a favor, to forward this email on to Scott for me, if you don’t mind. I’d like to thank him again for the opportunity. Also, Scott and I discussed the so-called bin Laden “Confession Video” on the show, and he mentioned a BBC special that attempts to debunk the claim this video was a fake. I was unaware of it at the time, but Scott piqued my curiosity, so I found it and watched. I have the following observations I’d like to share with him:
Their expert argues that it’s understandable people got “confused” about bin Laden’s appearance because the frame was “scrunched” to fit the subtitles. That is, that they squeezed the aspect ratio of the video to add the subs. Two observations about this: 1) the example of this “scrunching” shown is not from the original video. The BBC editors did this, by first stretching the frame, and then returning it to how it looked in the Pentagon’s release. 2) You can see from the original that the frame ratio was not changed to add subtitles. As would be expected, they simply blacked out the bottom part of the frame. I’ve taken screenshots I took from the BBC special and the original DOD release that show this I’d be happy to e-mail along upon request. Again, the only manipulation of the frame’s aspect ratio was done by the BBC editors. So this argument from the BBC’s “expert” for why it admittedly doesn’t look like bin Laden is demonstrably false. It’s odd he would make this claim, because one would presume he would actually have watched the entire video (even fast-forwarding through), in which case he certainly should have known better.
That said, I also discovered that this video was shown at the Moussaoui trial. That copy has subtitles on the right side, rather than at the bottom. The frame of this copy is indeed visibly “squished” narrow, making bin Laden look thinner. It is a much higher quality version than the one previously available to the public on the internet, and the man in this version does indeed look like bin Laden. From the trial version of the video, I’d have to withdraw my conclusion that this is a fake. It is easy to understand how people can see the original release and think it’s not the same person (myself included), but this is not because the screen was “scrunched” as the BBC’s expert argues. It seems to me to be simply a result of the extremely poor quality of the video originally released (poor resolution, low contrast, etc.), which affects the appearance of his facial features (e.g. causing the shadow under his nose to make his nose appear shorter, flatter, wider).
On the other hand, this difference in quality between the two is also puzzling. I can’t imagine what the DOD did to the original release to make it look so bad by comparison (even considering transfer from videotape to high-res digital, and then another transfer from high-res digital to low-res for release on the internet), and I have to assume the trial version has also been digitally enhanced from its original, such as by boosting the contrast, sharpness, color saturation, etc. There’s also a time/date stamp on the trial release version, which is a bit odd because we were told the original was on videotape and not digital format (and from the quality even of the trial version does certainly appear to have been recorded on VHS or other analog format), and analog videotape does not have an extra track to invisibly record/embed a date/time stamp, as digital video (closed captioning, for example, is actually recorded within the video track itself one “line 21”). To the best of my knowledge (and I’m no expert, but I do have a B.S. degree in Film and Video), this metadata shouldn’t exist, unless it was shot in some digital format, because we know from the original release this is not a simple time stamp appearing on the actual recording.. I don’t know how to explain this.
There are other oddities. The subtitles show bin Laden saying, “due to my experience in this field, I was thinking that the fire from the gas in the plane would melt the iron structure of the building and collapse the area where the plane hit and all the floors above it only. This is all that we had hoped for.” This is odd, because the Saudi bin Laden family owns a major construction company, and Osama himself holds degrees (plural) in civil engineering (according to his profile at the CFR website). He would certainly know that the structure was steel, not iron. But presuming that’s just a detail lost in translation, he would certainly know better than to think that the jet fuel would burn hot enough and long enough to melt – or even substantially soften and weaken — steel. For this not to be suspect, we have to presume (a) he meant “steel” not “iron”, (b) he meant “weaken” not “melt”, and (c) he meant the office fires started by ignition of the jet fuel and not the jet fuel itself would burn hot and long enough to cause structural weakening of the floor trusses. All this is possible, but that’s a lot of assumptions.
Being submitted as evidence in a court of law, I thought to look into the chain of custody for the tape. In doing so, I discovered what is perhaps the strangest discrepancy of all. No chain of custody documentation was apparently presented, because the defense stipulated that the videotape was authentic. But here’s the weird part. According to the DOD, this videotape was “obtained by U.S. forces in Jalalabad, Afghanistan in late November”, and it wasn’t released by DOD until December 13, as we all know. But according to the stipulation, it “is an authentic copy of a videotape of statements of Usama Bin Laden and Sulaiman Abu Ghaith that aired on the Al-Jazeera Satellite Channel in November 2001”. I don’t know how to explain that one. It seems to me an irreconcilable contradiction.
Seeing the trial version of this, I have to reconsider my previous conclusion it’s a fake based on the dissimilarity of his appearance in the original DOD release to known images of him. In the higher quality video, it does indeed appear to be him. But I’m still not totally convinced, as there are still some fishy things going on here that would seem to me to require an explanation.