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Mike Boettcher: Jordanian anti-terrorism and the al Qaeda manuals

Mike Boettcher is a national correspondent for CNN. Boettcher is the recipient of numerous awards, including two national Emmys, two National Headliner awards and the highest honor from the National Society of Professional Journalists. He joined the chat room from CNN Center, Atlanta, GA.

CNN: Thank you for joining us today, Mike Boettcher, and welcome.

MIKE BOETTCHER: Hello to everyone, and it's very good to be here.

CNN: What exactly would al Qaeda accomplish by attacking Jordan?

BOETTCHER: Number one, to destabilize the kingdom of Jordan. Number two, revenge for Jordan's role in thwarting previous attacks.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Is there any risk of internal destabilization of the current regime in Jordan by al Qaeda members?

BOETTCHER: I do not think there is a risk in the short term, but that is why Jordan has built up such a vigorous intelligence service. Because of their peace treaty with Israel, and involvement in the Mid-East peace process, they consider themselves a constant target of destabilization.

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CHAT PARTICIPANT: Mike, do you believe that Jordan can prevent other terrorist attacks?

BOETTCHER: I believe it is very likely that Jordanian intelligence is in a position to prevent future attacks, yes.

CNN: How did CNN get access to the al Qaeda terrorism manuals, how large are they, and how would you describe the quality of the information in them?

BOETTCHER: From intelligence sources who are part of the anti-terror coalition. There are now 11 volumes, including the newest chem-bio volume. The information in them, according to former Special Operations people who have seen them, is very good and very detailed.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Mike: Was the discovery of these manuals a big surprise to everyone or was it not unexpected?

BOETTCHER: The existence of the 10-volume encyclopedia of jihad has been known for quite some time. Intelligence agencies had their hands on it. It is just that no one has been able to see it before, until we were given permission to videotape sections of it. The manual on chemical and biological warfare did come as a surprise. It was not known that they had put together a volume that was a repository of their knowledge of chemical and biological weapons. It should be pointed out that the chem-bio manual instructs operatives in the manufacture of agents that can be easily put together in the field with ingredients readily available.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Were these documents used in September 11 training?

BOETTCHER: In terms of planning, security, surveillance and choosing targets, yes, I believe the manual played a role. In terms of how the targets were specifically attacked, there is no instruction in the manual about flying planes into buildings.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: With the information in the 11 volumes, can future attacks be predicted, or preventive arrests be made?

BOETTCHER: Yes, it gives intelligence agencies a view into the mind of their adversaries. It gives them a glimpse of their tactics, how they prepare for an operation, the kinds of targets that they look for. So, in that sense, yes, it is very helpful.

CNN: Does anyone know how many of them have been published, and thus distributed around the world?

BOETTCHER: No, we do not know how many have been published. The original ten-volume encyclopedia of jihad has been around for a number of years, although the public was never allowed to see it. So it is believed that there was wide distribution of it on CD-ROM. The newer chem-bio manual, which was only discovered in October, and is also available to al Qaeda members on CD-ROM, probably has less distribution, according to my sources.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Mike, how much of the material contained in the manuals could be easily attained from the Internet, etc?

BOETTCHER: Well, I would say that a good deal of the information could be found on the Internet, but you'd have to look really hard. A lot of it is contained in classified manuals used by special forces in the West, as well, which aren't available on the Internet. Some items were probably obtained in the late 1980's, when the CIA was involved in helping to train and equip the Mujahedeen during the Soviet-Afghan war.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Mr. Boettcher, is it likely that this manual could be available to terrorist groups other than al Qaeda ?

BOETTCHER: Yes, very likely. As we have reported, al Qaeda has associations with a number of terrorist groups around the world. Those groups have sent people to train in al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, and they would have access to those manuals. For example, in the African Embassy bombing case, a smaller version of the manual was introduced as evidence. That particular manual was recovered in the United States.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Is there evidence that bin Laden ordered the compilation of these terrorist manuals?

BOETTCHER: We do not know who wrote them. We do not know who ordered them published. In the preface, there are passages honoring Osama bin Laden. My best assumption from the information I have is that they were supervised by the military wing of al Qaeda, which was led by Mohammed Atef, who was reported killed this week.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Are there any references to a particular religion - are they similar to the manuals for jihad?

BOETTCHER: One of the names given to them is Encyclopedia of Jihad, but the more precise title would be the Encyclopedia of Afghan Resistance. Once you get past the preface, however, there is no talk of religion. Only technical speak about tactics and weapons.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Mike, do the manuals speak of firearms training in country of residence and the availability of firearms and shooting ranges in United States?

BOETTCHER: Not that I have read specifically, but there are precise instructions in how to fire a wide variety of weapons. How to use them in ambushes. How to fire a weapon in various positions, sitting, standing, crouching, lying down.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Is there information in the manuals on the code they use?

BOETTCHER: It does not describe specific codes to use. It gives recommendations on when and how to use codes, and that codes should be agreed upon in person before an operation begins.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Mr. Boettcher were they commercially printed? If so can they be traced?

BOETTCHER: The volume I saw was commercially printed. I have been told that they know where they were printed, but they would not give me that information.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Will any of this manual help with airport security?

BOETTCHER: Yes, in the sense that the manual describes how to conceal weapons, and that will help airport screeners.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Are the manuals dated?

BOETTCHER: In terms of the expertise provided, no, they are not dated. The information included in the volumes is still current to this day. There was no date on the manuals. Not that I saw.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Mike, Does text speak of physical training, exercise, running etc?

BOETTCHER: Yes, there is a section on keeping fit. There's another section about first aid. There are other sections about how to blend in in a foreign country. It touches on the whole variety of things that an operative would need to know.

CNN: Do you have any closing comments to share with us?

BOETTCHER: These manuals have spawned a series of shorter booklets that are used by al Qaeda operatives around the world, but they are the template of al Qaeda operations, and recent discoveries in Afghanistan of training centers used by al Qaeda point to the fact that the manuals have been used extensively in the training process of that organization.

CNN: Thank you for joining us today

BOETTCHER: Good bye, it was great chatting with you. We will keep digging. I look forward to speaking with you in the future

Mike Boettcher joined the chat room by telephone and CNN provided a typist. This is an edited transcript of the interview which took place on Tuesday, November 20, 2001.


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