The videos, which were made public without sound to avoid disseminating terrorist messages, were the first materials to be released from what an American intelligence official described as the “single largest collection of senior terrorist materials ever.” The trove, which includes hundreds of computer file storage devices, hard drives, videos, documents and personal papers, was seized by the United States assault team that killed Bin Laden early last Monday.

The administration released the videos in part to promote an intelligence triumph but also to try to further diminish the legacy and appeal of Bin Laden. The intelligence official who briefed reporters at an unusual Pentagon news conference on Saturday took pains to point out that Bin Laden, who was 54 when he was killed, had dyed his white beard black for his appearances in the videos ― suggesting vanity or at least a desire to appear younger in videos made for distribution to his followers around the world.

“He took very seriously and engaged heavily in Al Qaedapropaganda operations,” said the official, who asked not to be named because of ground rules imposed by the administration. “Our takeaway is that he jealously guarded his own image.”

The official said the administration released the videos without sound to avoid the untenable scenario of the Obama administration effectively broadcasting a Bin Laden message of terrorism and anti-Americanism after his death. But the lack of sound prevented an independent assessment of Bin Laden’s actual words, phrasing and tone.

The most revealing video shows Bin Laden sitting on the floor of a small room, wrapped in a blanket as he watched news clips about himself on television. In the video, which shows an old television set with a tangle of power cords running into a control box, Bin Laden appeared to be flipping through channels on the menu screen of a satellite TV service. A rendering of Bin Laden’s compound released by the administration last week showed at least one satellite dish on top of a building within its walls.

The intelligence official said analysts had not yet determined when or where the video of Bin Laden watching himself on television was recorded. But since one of the images flickering on Bin Laden’s screen was ofPresident Obama, the video appeared to date from sometime after January 2009, when Mr. Obama was inaugurated. The video was likely recorded in Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, where he lived from 2005 until his death.

Two of the videos consisted of outtakes from Bin Laden’s recorded messages to his followers ― one in which the intelligence official said Bin Laden was misspeaking and having to start over and another in which he was said to miss a cue. The official said that in those videos, Bin Laden’s beard had been dyed black to make him appear younger. The video of him watching television, however, shows him with a mostly white beard.

The official said that Bin Laden’s concern about his appearance suggested that he was intensely interested in the image he presented to his supporters, and that he was deeply immersed in the propaganda efforts of Al Qaeda. That view contrasts sharply with earlier theories that he had become a marginal character who served as a figurehead for the terrorist group.

Echoing assessments by the Central Intelligence Agency last week, the official described the Bin Laden compound as a “command and control center” for Al Qaeda, where Bin Laden not only plotted attacks but was also deeply involved in directing the operations of Qaeda lieutenants. Those assessments differ sharply from previous views of intelligence officials, who had come to believe that Bin Laden was more of a figurehead.

A version of this article appeared in print on May 8, 2011, on page A10 of the New York edition with the headline: Videos Reveal Bin Laden’s Concern for His Image.