According to a professor of Arabic language and culture at the University of Hamburg, Germany, the U.S. Department of Defense tape purporting to provide conclusive evidence of Osama bin Laden’s knowledge of the Sept. 11 attacks is “faulty,” and provides “no form of evidence” against bin Laden.
Germany has a large Islamic population, and Hamburg itself has been a center of significant al-Qaida activity.
Gernot Rotter, an orientalist at the prestigious university in the north of Germany, made the assertions in an interview to the German political science magazine “Monitor,” which was later reported on the Internet site of the newsmagazine Der Spiegel.
Rotter worked with two other “independent” translators, all of whom concurred that statements incriminating to bin Laden “did not appear in the original Arabic version.”
One of Rotter’s associates, Abdul El M. Husseini, who is identified as an “Arabist,” disputed three crucial phrases implicating bin Laden as having originated the Sept. 11 plot that resulted in the deaths of over 3,000 people.
According to Husseini, two segments indicating bin Laden’s prior knowledge of the attacks were actually not in the Arabic. About half way through the official transcript released by the U.S. government, bin Laden is quoted as saying that “we calculated in advance the number of casualties …” Husseini disputes the presence of the term “in advance.”
The following bin Laden statement contains the phrase, “We had notification since the previous Thursday that the event [the Sept. 11 attack] would take place …” Husseini denies the validity of the word “previous.”
Toward the end of the tape transcript, bin Laden is quoted as declaring that “we asked each of them to go to America …” Instead of the pronoun “we,” Husseini states that an impersonal form “it is asked” is the actual translation.
Rotter ultimately concluded that the U.S. translators “heard what they wanted.”
However, the German team’s translators may also have heard what they wanted. Both Hamburg and its university have been connected directly to the activities of bin Laden’s network immediately prior to Sept. 11.
According to a Sept. 26, 2001, report published by the Italian news daily Corriere della Sera, German police uncovered links between a “model” student at Hamburg University, Sept. 11 terrorist Mohammed Atta, and a sophisticated – and at one time very busy – German website, www.qoqaz.de, advocating the cause of Osama bin Laden and militant Islam.
The “model” student, identified as Said Bahaji, a German of Moroccan descent, apparently had obtained various forms of assistance for Atta – including housing and a credit card — during Atta’s stay in Hamburg during the latter half of the 1990s. Atta also frequently visited Hamburg University.
Before police could question him, Bahaji fled, possibly to Pakistan.
Bahaji was a frequent visitor to a German website that, up until Sept. 11, acted as a reference point for terrorist/militant Islamic information and personal connections.
The U.S. Department of Defense stated that the tape translation “does convey the messages and information flow,” but is not meant to be taken verbatim.
The U.S. government translation was confirmed by an independent translation executed by the Arabic language program coordinator, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, as well as a translator from the Diplomatic Language Services.