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America's New War: Largest Investigation in U.S. History

Aired September 18, 2001 - 05:43   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Now last Tuesday's terrorist attacks have triggered the largest investigation in U.S. history and it's starting to pay off.

CNN's Eileen O'Connor says that federal agents are learning the importance of pilots in Osama bin Laden's organization.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

EILEEN O'CONNOR: FBI and ATF agents pursuing leads - hitting pay dirt. In custody Zacarias Moussaoui who came into the United States in February on a student visa for flight school. Picked up by the INS on August 15th for visa violations he was still in custody when the attack on the World Trade Center began.

Investigative sources say he made have been involved with associates of Osama bin laden including those involved in the attack. He has now been transferred to New York for questioning where sources say he is not cooperating.

Moussaoui was studying, according to sources, at this flight school in Oklahoma. That interested investigators because a person linked to bin Laden, Ihab Ali, also studied at the school a few years before.

Testimony by government protected witnesses at the trial of those accused in the bombing of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya indicated Ali trained at the Oklahoma school at the request of bin Laden to be a pilot in his private jet fleet.

The strategy by bin Laden of training pilots for use in terrorist attacks uncovered at the trial appears to have been repeated in preparation for the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. Hani Hanjour, one of the dead suspected Pentagon hijackers studied here in May at Freeway Airport in Bowie, Maryland - 25 miles from Washington, DC and the White House.

UNKNOWN MALE: Take a look inside - get the general look and feel of this type of trainer.

O'CONNOR: Hanjour wanted to rent a Cessna 172, says owner, Marcell Bernard. But he needed to prove he was good enough and went up three times with two instructors. MARCEL BERNARD, FREEWAY AIRPORT: On the last flight they made it clear to him that they felt that his overall proficiency was so poor that they were going to insist that he do a little more flying with us and get some additional training before they would allow him to rent an aircraft.

O'CONNOR: Hanjour didn't come back. And while landing a Cessna is far different from landing a 757, Bernard says keeping it in the air isn't.

BERNARD: We believe that even though he didn't necessarily have experience in jets that once the airplane was airborne that he could have easily pointed it in any direction he want to and crashing it into a building or whatever could be a real feasibility - a real possibility.

O'CONNOR: A possibility that apparently became a reality at the Pentagon.

Eileen O'Connor, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

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