Here, there were no pro forma denials: Bin Laden said he knew four days in advance what was planned, though he admitted that the scale of death and destruction astonished him.
America had tried, and failed, to kill Bin Laden before. Two weeks after the embassy bombings in East Africa, President Bill Clinton ordered a volley of more than 70 Tomahawk cruise missiles launched against Bin Laden training camps in Afghanistan and a suspected weapons plant in Sudan.
But Bin Laden escaped, having left the camp with a coterie of top lieutenants minutes before.
Under Clinton, the CIA also began to train Pakistani commandos for a covert operation against Bin Laden in Afghanistan, but the scheme foundered when the Pakistani military overthrew Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 1999.
The arc of Bin Laden's life is a tale of how a man born to great privilege and with abundant opportunities became an impresario of radical politics and violence.
Although the United States has long had enemies in the Arab world, none blended the traditional Muslim doctrines of holy war and martyrdom, a Pan-Islamic message and a loathing for the West and its way of life, with such devastating effect.
Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden was born in Riyadh, capital of Saudi Arabia, in 1957, the 17th of the 54 children of the founder of the Bin Laden Group, a construction company.
His given name means lion, the embodiment of courage and nobility. There was also a religious resonance: One of the companions of the prophet Muhammad was named Osama.
Hi father, Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden, was a Yemeni immigrant, a former laborer whose close ties to the Saudi ruling family resulted in lucrative contracts to rebuild the kingdom's roads and the mosques in Islam's holiest cities, Mecca and Medina.
The elder Bin Laden was a devout Muslim, raised in the fundamentalist Wahhabi sect. He had at least 11 wives. Osama was the only child born to Alia Ghanem, a beauty from Syria who preferred Parisian fashions to the veil. As a foreigner, she did not rank high in the family pecking order. Some members of the Bin Laden clan have said her status was so lowly that she was known as "the slave" and her son as "ibn al abida" — son of the slave.
Some sources close to the family believe his sense of alienation and rebellion began here. Others believe it arose later, when Bin Laden was maneuvered out of a major role in the construction firm by his older brothers.
In 1967, when Osama was about 10, his father was killed in a plane crash. His share of the inheritance reportedly was about $300 million.
From age 13, Bin Laden attended the Western-style Al Thagher Model School in the Saudi port city of Jidda. The teacher who tutored him in English remembers a tall, handsome and unfailingly polite teenager who stood out because of his serene self-confidence.
During his teenage years, Bin Laden also went on family vacations to Denmark, Sweden and Britain.
Some sources claim that Bin Laden spent his vacations from high school and college in the fleshpots of Beirut, drinking and womanizing.
By some accounts, Bin Laden renounced such impious behavior and began an intense study of the Koran after his father's company was awarded contracts to rebuild the Mecca and Medina mosques.
Other accounts, perhaps embellished by his admirers, claim he was already an assiduous student of his faith as an adolescent. When he was about 18, relatives on his mother's side have said, Bin Laden was sent to Syria for his first bride, a 14-year-old named Najwa.
After completing high school in 1974, Bin Laden did not follow his brothers to higher education in the West, but instead enrolled in the management and economics program at King Abdul Aziz University in Jidda.