WASHINGTON — Osama bin Laden's Pakistan home was al-Qaida's command and control center where he directed subordinates and proposed attacks against the United States, a senior intelligence official told reporters Saturday.
The briefing covered some of the details that officials have gleaned from thumb drives, computers, notes and videos obtained during the raid on the home early Monday that killed bin Laden. It's the greatest intelligence success perhaps of a generation, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity at the Pentagon.
The government also released five short clips it obtained from the home in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
The videos, viewed together, showed bin Laden both as a frail man and as the polished al-Qaida leader who took care with his appearance and image.
One showed bin Laden sitting on the floor, a remote in his hand, watching a video of himself. Wearing a black cap and wrapped with a brown blanket, he is seen stroking his gray beard and directing a cameraman to film images from the television.
Wires from a cable box hang off the wall. The television and the satellite input box sit on a shaky computer desk. Next to bin Laden is a pillow. The room is barren, with what appears to be peeling paint on the wall.
Some of the videos of bin Laden showed him giving speeches or practicing them. His beard was dyed black. The official said bin Laden's beard was gray when he was killed.
In the speech videos, bin Laden wears a white robe, usually with a yellow covering over it, and a white cap, called a taqiyah, which is commonly worn by Muslims in that region.
The release of the five videos appeared to be an effort by the government to confirm bin Laden's death and show the extent to which he'd remained a threat.
"This mission goes to the heart of what the CIA is all about: protecting America and building a better world for our children," CIA director Leon Panetta said in a statement Saturday. "It demonstrates the perseverance, skill, and sheer courage of the men and women who stand watch for our nation, day in and day out. And it is a model of seamless collaboration, both within the intelligence community and with the U.S. military.
"The material found in the compound only further confirms how important it was to go after bin Laden," Panetta added.
The director general of Pakistan's military-run intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, or ISI, was scheduled to arrive in Washington on Saturday for meetings with Panetta. He was expected to face questions about what his agency knew about bin Laden's presence.
On Saturday, the senior U.S. intelligence official who spoke to reporters rejected suggestions that bin Laden was just a figurehead, calling him instead the nexus of operational planning.
Officials so far haven't given any evidence of plans for a specific attack. The intelligence official, however, said that transportation and infrastructure continued to be al-Qaida's targets.