Osama bin Laden reads a message in a new tape aired Friday by Al-Jazeera.

NBC, MSNBC and news services

October 29, 2004

Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, in a videotape broadcast Friday on Al-Jazeera television, claims full responsibility for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States and warns Americans that “your security is not in the hands of Kerry or Bush or al-Qaida. Your security is in your own hands.”

U.S. officials, who said the government had obtained the tape independently, told NBC News that the message was authentic. They said, however, that there was no plan to raise the terrorist threat level, currently at yellow, or “elevated,” because bin Laden makes no specific threat.

Neither the Qatar-based channel nor U.S. officials would say how they had received the tape. 

In the tape, bin Laden — wearing traditional white robes, a turban and a tan cloak — reads from papers at a lectern against a plain brown background. Speaking quietly in an even voice, he tells the American people that he ordered the Sept. 11 attacks because “we are a free people” who wanted to “regain the freedom” of their nation.

“I never thought that the supreme leader would leave 50,000 of his people in the two towers to face the terrifying events alone at the time they were in need for him,” bin Laden says.

In no previous authenticated message — audio or video — had bin Laden explicitly stated that he ordered the 2001 attacks, which killed almost 3,000 people.

But in the new tape, he claims full responsibility. “We decided to destroy towers in America so they may taste what we have tasted,” he says, clearly referring to the World Trade Center.

In the course of his comments, bin Laden revealed just how patiently he awaited his opportunity to strike the West. He said he first vowed to destroy “the buildings of tyrants” after the devastating Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 — 19 years before he directed followers to fly four jetliners into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and an unknown third target.

“God knows that it had not occurred to our mind to attack the towers, but after our patience ran out and we saw the injustice and inflexibility of the American-Israeli alliance toward our people in Palestine and Lebanon, this came to my mind,” he says.