The man who sat to bin Laden's left on the infamous videotape was not to be outdone in his fulsome praise of his host. He complimented bin Laden for the "great job" of organizing the Sept. 11 attacks. He regaled bin Laden with dreams and prophesies presaging such an act and said it most certainly had Allah's blessing. But there is no such certainty about the identity of bin Laden's mysterious guest. He was first identified by Saudi officials as Sheik al-Ghamdi, a militant Saudi cleric and former professor of Islamic theology known for making firebrand anti-Western speeches. Later, senior Saudi officials said the guest was Khaled al-Harbi, a legless veteran of combat in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Chechnya, according to the New York Times and U.S. officials. In the video, the shadowy guest relays the prayers and support of several militant Saudi clerics, which suggested to some that he was a religious figure himself. The guest tells bin Laden that the terrorist is a hero to these clerics. The Times reported that al-Harbi has not been known to be on any security watch list and left Saudi Arabia ten days after the Sept. 11 attacks. "Clearly even the Saudi government is having trouble keeping track," said a U.S. intelligence official. Some officials speculated that the guest may have had a less spiritual and more practical purpose to his mission: supplying bin Laden with cash for the war in Afghanistan. Whether he is a cleric or a fighter, his presence is an embarrassment for the Saudi monarchy, which has long sought to portray bin Laden as an outcast without religious followers in the kingdom. Intelligence officials say that pinpointing the guest's identity and his relationship to bin Laden could yield valuable clues to al-Qaeda's worldwide network as well as its influence inside Saudi Arabia.
--By Daren Fonda. Reported by Scott MacLeod/Cairo and Douglas Waller/Washington