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Top FBI Assistant Director to Step Down

Aired February 18, 2002 - 13:34   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.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: The FBI's mandatory retirement age is forcing one of the bureau's top people to step down next month. And you may not know Barry Mawn, but you know his work certainly. His 30- year career includes the Unabomber case, the USS Cole attack in Yemen and, most recently, the attack on the World Trade Center, which he witnessed from his office window in Manhattan.

Deborah Feyerick today and his story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARRY MAWN, FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: I was actually sitting at my desk when I heard the first plane go by. I didn't see it but I heard it and had the distinct memory of saying to myself, boy, that sounded awful close. My secretary started screaming and she was yelling World Trade Center.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): This is where you would have first looked...

MAWN: Yes.

FEYERICK: ... to see the World Trade Center, right, just sort of looking right out here?

MAWN: Yes.

FEYERICK: And it was from this vantage point almost that you saw the hole?

MAWN: I could see the north tower from here and really a huge black hole which was still, you know, some fire and smoking on the north side of the tower.

My initial thought was this was a terrible accident, but I requested that these people start to respond to the World Trade complex and that I would meet them down there. We were observing the evacuation when we actually saw the second plane come down, flying north to south, actually turn around. And then we lost it momentarily behind the buildings, and then the next time we saw it, it was headed straight for the south tower.

FEYERICK: At that moment, what did you think when you saw that second plane coming in? MAWN: At that moment, I think we all knew we were under attack. These are no accidents, that potentially we're at war here.

FEYERICK: Here you are, head of an organization that's been investigating these guys and part of a larger intelligence community at that, were you surprised in part at how these guys were able to pull this off?

MAWN: I guess I was surprised at their boldness and taking two -- well, as it turned out, four airplanes and turning those into, as we describe, weapons of mass destruction. We were talking 19 suicide victims. That was a huge number, in my view. My personal belief is neither the FBI nor the intelligence agencies knew this was coming. We obviously were aware that -- of al Qaeda and that there was information that they were planning an event. I think the vast majority of us felt that an event might be overseas.

FEYERICK: Do you look at the possibility that there could be some sort of a nuclear attack?

MAWN: Prior to 9/11, I probably would have said no. I couldn't imagine the attack on the World Trade Center, so that has opened my eyes and I believe a lot of others that, you know, nothing is beyond the realm of possibility.

FEYERICK: How big does the threat remain, that there are cells that will ultimately do something again?

MAWN: Well, I think the threat is always there. We have uncovered information and evidence that they are not just located in one place, that they are scattered throughout the world.

FEYERICK: As far as the intelligence gathering right now, it seems that you have a gold mine in Guantanamo. I mean, there you have all the guys who certainly may have had contact with Osama bin Laden.

MAWN: We are learning information that was there. Unfortunately, we never were aware of it.

FEYERICK: As far as al Qaeda, even if we get bin Laden, based on what you know, do you think it can ever be stopped?

MAWN: Even if we put al Qaeda out of business, then there is a void that develops and the next terrorist group comes along to fill that void. The good news, though, is you have disrupted an organization that is well established, in place, lines of communication. And so, in disrupting them, the new group has to set that all up.

FEYERICK: Are you going to miss this office, or are you ready to maybe have another view?

MAWN: I am going to miss this office. And, again, the New York office is a great FBI office.

FEYERICK (voice-over): Deborah Feyerick, CNN, New York. (END VIDEOTAPE)

HEMMER: Barry Mawn, good man. Gracious man, too.

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