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Crocodile Hunter Remembered; Is America Safer Five Years After September 11?

Aired September 4, 2006 - 22:00   ET


Tonight, nearly five years after 9/11, a 360 investigation: Are we safer?

First, though, the death of a larger-than-life character -- Steve Irwin, the crocodile hunter, dead at the age of 44.


ANNOUNCER: A family man who lived on the edge, killed off the Great Barrier Reef.

JOHN STAINTON, BUSINESS MANAGER OF STEVE IRWIN: He died what he did -- he loved doing best.

ANNOUNCER: Tonight, Jack Hanna and Jeff Corwin on the crocodile hunter's legacy and the dangers of the wild.

They're the new voices of hate -- from what may be the new breeding ground of al Qaeda, free to worship bin Laden, and hoping for another September 11.

ABU ABDULLAH, MUSLIM CLERIC: Three thousand people was like a drop in the ocean, compared to the millions of Muslims that have been killed.

And, from the airports, to the harbors, to across America -- tonight, the state of our security. We will have a reality check on the risks and threats.


ANNOUNCER: Across the country and around the world, this is ANDERSON COOPER 360.

SANCHEZ: I'm Rick Sanchez. Anderson will join us shortly.

We begin tonight with the death of somebody who seemed, to most of us, invincible. Steve Irwin, the crocodile hunter, has died at the age of 44. He was working on a TV segment in the Great Barrier Reef, when he was literally spiked in the chest by a stingray.

Tonight, Australia and the rest of the world is stunned. Hard to believe that a man with so much life in him is truly gone.

Here is CNN's John Vause.


STEVE IRWIN, CROCODILE HUNTER: That means the crocodile has come up here just moments before I got here.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the end, Steve Irwin, it seems, just got too close, not to the jaws of a crocodile or one of the world's most deadliest snakes, but to a stingray. Normally considered placid, unless it feels threatened, the triangular-shaped venomous fish lashed out with its swordlike tail, according to witnesses, piercing Irwin's heart.

JOHN STAINTON, BUSINESS MANAGER OF STEVE IRWIN: He came over the top of a stingray, and a barb -- the -- the stingray's barb went up, and went into a chest, and put a hole into his heart.

VAUSE: Marine experts suspect it was the trauma of the wound, combined with the release of toxins, that was fatal. The man best- known and best-loved for his passion for Australian wildlife had spent a week on the Great Barrier Reef, filming a documentary called "The Ocean's Deadliest," with Philippe Cousteau, grandson of the famous Jacques Cousteau.

But bad weather had kept Irwin inside. So, instead, he headed to shallow waters to film a segment for a kid's TV show featuring his 8- year-old daughter, Bindi. She wasn't there at the time of the attack, but those who were say Steve Irwin never regained consciousness.

STAINTON: And I don't think -- I hope he never felt any pain.

Irwin's support crew made a desperate 30-minute dash by boat to a nearby island and a waiting medical chopper. But, in the end, there was nothing that could save the Crocodile Hunter. Despite a lifetime seemingly so close to the edge of death, Irwin's passing was met with stunned disbelief across Australia and around the world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His life was so amazing. I can't believe that it has ended so tragically.

VAUSE: Irwin's American wife, Terri, was on a hiking trip in Tasmania when she received word, but has now returned with their two children to their home at Australia Zoo, where flowers have been left by fans. And such was Steve Irwin's appeal. Tributes have come from ordinary Australians and from the country's prime minister as well.

JOHN HOWARD, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: He was a well-off character, and he wasn't just a character for Australians. He was a character for lots of people around the worried.

VAUSE: With this thick Australian drawl, broad smile, and endless enthusiasm, he taught his audience about the creatures around us in life, and now in death as well.

IRWIN: Hey, you're the stars now.

VAUSE: John Vause, CNN, Brisbane, Australia.


SANCHEZ: As you may have seen in that report, one of Steve Irwin's best friends and his manager was John Stainton. He was there, in fact, when it happened.

He's good enough to join us now by phone. He's in Cairns, Australia.

First of all, our condolences to you.

STAINTON: How are you?

Can you hear us?

STAINTON: I can hear you, yes. How are you?

SANCHEZ: Our condolences to you, as I said to you just moments ago.

And if you would be good enough to describe to us this attack.

STAINTON: I just missed that little bit. I'm on a really bad line. But...




SANCHEZ: We will -- we will -- we will do the best we can. Maybe I will be a little clearer.

Can you describe to us, as best you can, what happened,what happened during this attack?

STAINTON: It was a mistake.

Steve -- we were out on the barrier reef, and we were filming a documentary for Animal Planet called "Ocean's Deadliest," which is ironic. But we had, had bad weather for a couple of days, with heavy winds and overcast, scattered showers. So, we hadn't been able to do very much filming.

And, yesterday morning, the sun came out for the first time in three or four days, and we decided that we would take advantage of it. And Steve said he would go and do a couple of little segments for Bindi's new TV show for kids.

And he and a cameraman went off to the reef in a -- in a rubber ducky to do a couple of little animal pieces, like stingrays or fish and coral and stuff that they could find. And Steve did piece on a -- on a big manta ray -- not a manta ray -- a stingray that, you know, in a lot of places in the world, people actually hand feed them. In -- in many places I have been to, we have seen tourists hand-feeding them.

SANCHEZ: How big was it, by the way?

STAINTON: It probably was about a -- to be honest, I don't know, probably a meter, three, four -- three feet across, four feet maybe.

SANCHEZ: So -- so, that's a large stingray. Manta rays or large stingrays usually aren't that large. This was a big one.


STAINTON: It's a stingray, yes.

It -- it was -- it looked large. It probably was three feet, yes.

SANCHEZ: He was literally...


SANCHEZ: He was literally swimming over it; is that right?

STAINTON: He came up, yes, around behind it. And, as he came up over the tail, it shot its tail up to barb, and it hit him in the chest.

SANCHEZ: So, did the spike, which is, I guess, one of the ways to describe that barb, actually go into his chest?

STAINTON: I don't know. I wasn't there.

SANCHEZ: I under...

STAINTON: I wasn't underwater.

SANCHEZ: I -- I understand that this was being filmed at the time. Have -- have you or has anyone else seen this film?

STAINTON: I can't watch it. And it's -- it's in police custody.


STAINTON: I -- and I don't want to see it. But, yes.

SANCHEZ: I'm -- I'm only asking this question because we would like to clear up something. There's a report out there that he actually reached out and -- and -- and grabbed the barb, being the courageous fellow that he was, and took it out after the -- after it happened. Is that true?

STAINTON: Don't you hear a lot of rumors and -- and stuff that goes around on these things? And it's just absolute rubbish.

SANCHEZ: That's not true?

STAINTON: Oh, of course it's not true. I'm offended that you even mentioned it to me, to be honest.

SANCHEZ: Now, just was he unconscious for any period of time after that? How -- how long did it take to get help? Was -- was -- what -- what happened afterward?

STAINTON: There was -- there was probably a gap of some 50 minutes to get to the medevac helicopter, because we were a fair way out on the reef. And there was a 30-minute travel time to get to the -- an island where the medevac chopper could land, the emergency rescue.

And that -- that was probably a critical time, but everyone kept working on him to keep him alive.



STAINTON: And that -- that was -- unfortunately, by the time we got there...




SANCHEZ: We're -- we're -- we're -- we're down to just a couple of seconds. I know we have a bad connection.

But what -- what was the last conversation you had with him? What did he say?

STAINTON: That he was having a good time in life. He felt at peace, and what a great time he's just had on -- on the last few days.

So, he went -- he went out on a really, really high note. He -- he was loving life, and he was at a good place.

SANCHEZ: You're his best friend, a good friend, obviously enough. And we thank you for taking time. We apologize for the bad connection, but we certainly thank you for taking time to talk to us today, John Stainton, his manager.


STAINTON: Thank you for taking the time, too. Thank you.

SANCHEZ: All right.

In Steve Irwin's world, danger was part of the territory, and, we suspect, part of the thrill for him as well.

Joining us now is Jack Hanna, director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo, and, like Steve Irwin, an animal handler and conservationist. And by phone now, from Nome, Alaska, is Jeff Corwin. He's the host of two shows on the Animal Planet, "Corwin's Quest" and "The Jeff Corwin Experience."

Gentlemen, thank you so much for being with us.

Jack, let's start with you.

You knew Steve Irwin. What did you make of his shows, his persona, and some of the different things that he did with animals? Did you ever have a conversation with him...


SANCHEZ: ... about what he was doing?

HANNA: No, not really what he was doing. Obviously, we weren't social friends. But we knew each other from the standpoint of what -- what our jobs were.

But we did a one-hour special on Steve about seven years ago over there. And I must say, when he woke up in the morning, he was just like what he was -- what he was like on TV, until he went to bed at night. So, the -- the difference is, as I have said in a lot of interviews today, is that Steve loved what he did. He loved animals. He loved conservation. And I have no problem with people doing what Steve does.

And, of course, he's the one that took the risk when he -- when he talked about conservation and when he presented himself with the animals. But he did it in -- in raising awareness of the animal world, as well as giving back a lot of money towards his zoo, as well as conservation projects.

But, as I said before, what worries me today is -- is some maybe crocodile hunter people want to be like Steve Irwin, when they're -- they're not really there, as far as their love of conservation or what Steve has given to conservation. And that's where, hopefully, you know, people won't take about what he does and think they can do it themselves, because animals are -- and I -- I don't like the word dangerous, by any means, with animals, but animals are -- are unpredictable at times.

And -- and you have to know what you're doing, whether it's Jeff Corwin or Steve Irwin or Jim Fowler or Jack Hanna. You...


HANNA: ... have to know what you're doing with these creatures.

SANCHEZ: Let's bring in Jeff.

Jeff, he was a gutsy guy. Did -- did you ever have a conversation with him, say, you know, my friend, maybe you're pushing the envelope a little bit too much here?

JEFF CORWIN, HOST, "THE JEFF CORWIN EXPERIENCE": Well, you know, I never sort of looked at what he does with regard to pushing the envelope. I sort of looked at what Steve did as his style, and then I have my style, and everyone has their own way to sort of interpret the natural world.

What really struck me about Steve is his incredible knowledge and his enthusiasm, and his ability to sort of enlighten the audience, and bring them in, and build a bridge from the natural world to the human world.

SANCHEZ: You -- you both work with dangerous animals. When you hear something like this, does it make you rethink what you do, or perhaps how you do it?

Jeff, let's start with you.

CORWIN: Not at all.

You know, the truth is, is, there's always risk whenever you work with wildlife. What you should do is take all the precautions, do your research, your -- your background work. And, hopefully, you know, with all those preparations in place, things will go smoothly.

But wild animals can be unpredictable. And you -- and you can never forget that. I never forget that. I know Steve didn't. And I'm sure Jack doesn't, whenever you work with wildlife.

But you can get into a car, and you can put on a seat belt, and you can, you know, dot your I's and cross your T's, and still have a bad accident. You know, this was just a terrible tragedy.


You know, Jack, you certainly know a lot about animals, and certainly enough about stingrays, to know that you usually don't think of stingrays as killers. Dangerous, yes, but not killers, right?


You know, a lot of people said that they thought that Steve Irwin might meet his demise with a crocodile or a deadly reptile or something like that. And, of course, none of us ever thought it would be a -- a stingray.

But I have filmed stingrays in Australia and the Caribbean and all over the world. And these animals are anywhere from a foot wide to maybe eight to 10 feet wide. And, of course, from what I just heard on -- on your show is that he was in the -- I guess the wrong place at the -- at the wrong time, you know? And, as he went over the top of the animal, the -- the -- the barb came up and hit him right in the chest, which is -- you know, how many times would that happen? Who would ever think that would happen?

And, of course, I -- you know, I have gotten a lot of calls today from people who said, oh, my gosh, we can't go in the ocean. The stingrays might us.

And, if you know about animals, and the stingrays, that's the last thing you have to worry about. You know, you will get hit -- hit by lightning before you get hit by a stingray, probably. So, just as -- as -- as Jeff said, learning about what you're going to do -- and Jeff is much more of a hands-on person than I am. I'm a little older than both these guys. And, when you get my age, you don't want to take any chances.


SANCHEZ: Jack, we heard what you think his legacy ought to be.

Jeff, how about you? What do you think Steve Irwin's legacy ought -- ought to be?

CORWIN: Well, his legacy is that he introduced a generation to the natural world.

He took, you know, people who had a sort of despotic look at reptiles, and -- and who looked at them with -- you know, with irreverence, and -- and didn't appreciate their beauty, and he was able to wake them up to that. And, again, I think the last thing that Steve would want to us do is vilify stingrays.

And Jack brings up a very good point, that stingrays, when they do sting, it is totally out of defense. And it's not an offensive move. It's not used for hunting. And this is just one of those terrible tragedies, where the numbers, the bad numbers lined up, and this is what it equated.

But I think the most important thing to remember is that, while the world loses this great communicator, naturalist, and pioneer, a wife loses a husband...


CORWIN: ... and two children lose a father.

And what people don't -- a lot of people don't know is, as good as he was with crocodiles, he was probably even better as a parent.

SANCHEZ: Every single person...

CORWIN: And that's a huge loss.

SANCHEZ: Every single person that has talked about him has said those exact same words, what a wonderful father he was to his children.

Gentlemen, we -- we thank you both for taking time to talk to us tonight. And continue the good work that you do.

One reason Steve Irwin's death is so shocking to so many is -- is the stingray part of the story. Though a cousin of sharks, they don't have a reputation as being killers. Dangerous, yes. In fact, Australian media say, Irwin is only the second known swimmer in that country to be killed by a stingray. The first was a boy who died 18 years ago. The truth is, most people who brush up against these creatures live to tell about it. And what they say is, it can be excruciatingly painful. Here's CNN's David Mattingly.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Behind glass at the world's largest aquarium, schools of stingrays glide in and out of view. And it's a show that has been taken in by millions. Such graceful creatures, they don't seem the least bit aggressive, even when surrounded by much larger fish. But, the instant a ray feels threatened, it can strike, and in a very painful way.

RAY DAVIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF ZOOLOGICAL OPERATIONS, GEORGIA AQUARIUM: They're not designed to attack people, but they also have a defense mechanism. And we need to understand, it's a defense mechanism that's going on here.

MATTINGLY: That defense mechanism is a bony spike at the base of the ray's tail, up to twice as long as your index finger. It's sharp enough to plunge deep into a human body.

To make things worse, it carries venom, and its edges are shaped like a pointed spear. Pulling it out can tear open tissue and make a nasty wound. Ray Davis of the Georgia Aquarium knows how painful that can be.

DAVIS: I was collecting stingrays for exhibit, and I wasn't careful, and got a spine in my hand. It was very painful. I would rather have my hand hit by a hammer than what I felt.

MATTINGLY: The danger in most cases is infection. The venom has been known to cause nausea, headaches, even arrhythmia. But the message Davis wants to send to the public is to be respectful, not fearful, of stingrays.

The Georgia Aquarium has an exhibit where even children are invited to touch rays as they swim by.

DAVIS: What do they feel like?

MATTINGLY (on camera): Very soft.

(voice-over): These rays have had their spikes trimmed back, and are harmless. They seem to have no problem being touched and rubbed by anyone who rolls up a sleeve.

(on camera): These don't seem aggressive at all.

DAVIS: And that's one of the things we keep trying to emphasize. The barb at the base of the tail is for defense. These animals feed on shrimp and crabs, clam that are buried in the sand.

MATTINGLY: Hundreds of people are stung every year by stingrays, and that's just in the waters off the United States. Most cases are easily treatable. The victim usually just walks away with some incredibly vivid memories of some terrible pain. (voice-over): But, in those rare cases when a stingray strikes a vital organ, the way Steve Irwin was hit in the heart, death can follow.

Irwin achieved stardom by bringing us so close to a litany of the world's most deadly animals. And, yet, his life was tragically ended by a creature that some experts say would never be placed on that list.

David Mattingly, CNN, Atlanta.


SANCHEZ: That's an interesting point.

So, which creatures do make the list? In Australia, there are plenty of deadly animals, but stingrays aren't anywhere near the top of that list. Here, some "Raw Data" for you.

The deadliest animal in Australia, by one estimate, is the box jellyfish. Number two, another type of jellyfish -- it's called the Irukandji. Next, the saltwater crocodile, followed by the blue-ringed octopus, and then a stonefish. Those are the top five. The rest of the top 10 list includes spiders, snakes, and, of course, the great white shark.

Steve Irwin may have tempted fate with his career choice, but the risks he took produced results. Coming up, we're going to take a look at his remarkable life and unusual path to stardom.

Plus, a special edition of 360 -- five years after 9/11, are we any safer from terrorism? Anderson joins us just ahead.



STEVE IRWIN, CROCODILE HUNTER: And this isn't some giant ego trip. Uh-uh. It's just that I have got to get the camera. I have got to be right in there. I have to get right, fierce smack into the action, because this day has come where the audience, you, need to come with me and be there with that animal.

If there's whales dying on the beach, on the western side of Tasmania, I want to share it with you, because, if we can touch people about wildlife, then they want to save it.


SANCHEZ: A lot of us got to know Steve Irwin through his show on Animal Planet. Well, tonight, the network added some hours of "The Crocodile Hunter" to its schedule. It plans to air a more complete tribute this coming Sunday.

Irwin's show may have been his ticket to stardom, but it was just a small part of a life dedicated to nature. Here is CNN's Tom Foreman.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If Steve Irwin's childhood pictures tell a tale, they say, his love of nature began at birth, born to parents who adored the outdoors, raised in a zoo founded by his father.

IRWIN: Growing up at the reptile park is something that is really hard to describe. I was surrounded by wildlife. My whole aim as a kid was to find animals, and particularly venomous snakes and lizards, so I could show my dad. And, so, my whole life, I would just had to go out there and make dad proud.

FOREMAN: Irwin's path to fame, like his childhood, was unusual. He went from chasing critters to running his parents' zoo. He met and married an American. And, in 1992, the TV channel Animal Planet picked up a small show he was producing, "The Crocodile Hunter."


IRWIN: I'm Steve Irwin, and these are highly venomous sea kraits.


FOREMAN: The program centered around Irwin's almost unreal enthusiasm for real danger.


IRWIN: You're all right, sweetheart. You're all right. You're all right.


FOREMAN: He was bitten time and again, and his audience ate it up. He always got excited with the animals...


IRWIN: Oh, crikey.


FOREMAN: ... but never angry.


IRWIN: I know that, if I'm respectful and I understand, and I'm well researched, and well rehearsed, that the animal is not going to just swing around and knife me in the back, unlike some people would.

(END VIDEO CLIP) FOREMAN: Human reactions fed a scandal two years ago. Irwin offered a piece of meat to a croc with his month-old baby in hand. And critics attacked.

RON MCGILL, MIAMI METRO ZOO: ... take a -- an infant, your own infant, and put him in that type of dangerous situation was just ludicrous.

FOREMAN: Irwin apologized for scaring his audience, insisted the child was never in danger, but was wounded by the harsh words.


IRWIN: Mate, I wasn't just shocked. I was absolutely devastated. I was taken to the lowest point of my entire life. The Irwin family is steeped in tradition.


FOREMAN: Still, the scandal, like his many scars, faded quickly, as if his freewheeling love of nature could not be put down. That's what co-workers remember.

ANNIE HOWELL, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT OF COMMUNICATIONS, DISCOVERY NETWORKS: He was that way. What you saw is -- is what he was. He's a very special man.

FOREMAN: What the world saw was a man who loved all the life around him...


IRWIN: Oh, mate.


FOREMAN: ... and shared that love every single day.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


SANCHEZ: And, to a younger generation, he was a character, a larger-than-life character. My own 15-year-old said to me tonight, "Dad, I kind of feel like Mickey Mouse died."

Larry King's 2004 interview with Steve Irwin coming up at midnight Eastern.

Still to come: Nearly five years after 9/11, are we any safer now? From airports and planes, to ports, to our nation's borders, we will put our nation's security to the test. Anderson will be here for a special edition of 360.

I'm Rick Sanchez, and that's just ahead.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Five years since 9/11 -- on that terrible day, it has been said we changed forever.

But, five years since 9/11, and Osama bin Laden is still wanted, still continuing to haunt Americans. Officials say they're making the country safer from an attack, but are they?

Billions have been spent on that promise. Are we really safer, however? Tonight we check the facts on the nation's security.

We begin, however, with a new voice of hate. It's from London, where one man is preaching for the destruction of America, praying for another attack, and insisting every one of us is fair game.

CNN's Dan Rivers reports.


DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What was your reaction, for example, on September the 11th?

ABU ABDULLAH, MUSLIM CLERIC: Every sincere Muslim was pleased, because America deserved -- deserved a punch in the nose, you know? As many...


RIVERS: Three thousand people died that day.

ABDULLAH: Three thousand people was like a drop in the ocean, compared to the millions of Muslims that have been killed.

RIVERS (voice-over): Abu Abdullah calls himself a cleric, but his extremist views may be repugnant to the vast majority of Muslims, in fact, anyone who believes in God.

One of the most outspoken Muslims in Britain, he's an associate of convicted terrorist Abu Hamza, who is serving seven years in prison for inciting racial hatred and soliciting murder, and is wanted in the United States for trying to establish terror camps in Oregon.

But Hamza's friend Abu Abdullah is still free, despite expressing views that come very close to inciting and glorifying terrorism. But he hasn't been charged with any crimes.

ABDULLAH: My honorable Sheik Osama bin Laden, and Sheikh Ayman al-Zawahri, I love these people dearly, for the sake of Allah. I couldn't express how much I love these people.

RIVERS (on camera): You love Osama bin Laden?

ABDULLAH: Oh, yes. I love him more than myself.

RIVERS (voice-over): Abdullah tries to use the Koran to justify terror. ABDULLAH: The Muslims that have the -- obviously want to take up arms against the West, it's their Islamic right to do so. Islam is a peaceful religion, but, at the same time, Islam is allowed to defend itself.

RIVERS (on camera): It's allowed to defend itself, you would say. Is it allowed to attack the West?

ABDULLAH: Absolutely. If this person is killed by the West, then we have our rights to take it out on the West, those -- mainly the army, the British or the American army, government buildings, where they legislate from, banks.

RIVERS: So, they're fair game?

ABDULLAH: Well, it's absolutely -- of course it's fair game for the -- the Muslim.

RIVERS: So, Tony Blair is a legitimate target? George Bush is a legitimate target?

ABDULLAH: Absolutely, absolutely, yes.

RIVERS: Do you think that America and Britain will be subjected to further attacks?

ABDULLAH: They should be.

RIVERS: A lot of people will be horrified by what you're saying, that they think that you are bringing nothing but chaos and death and destruction and misery.

ABDULLAH: Well, I'm not here to please the West or to please people's understandings. My people are being killed, all over the world in many, many countries.

RIVERS: But that -- that doesn't justify...

ABDULLAH: It's not stopping.

RIVERS: ... killing other people.

ABDULLAH: It does justify. Of course it justifies it. When is it going to stop?

You people need to know, we're not going to take it anymore. You want to know why Muslims in this country are understanding what they understand? They're sick of the West. They're sick of the -- I owe this country nothing.

RIVERS (voice-over): And this from a man born and brought up in the United Kingdom, who only converted to Islam later in life.

(On camera): But do you think God really wants Muslims to go out and kill innocent people, in the name of...


ABDULLAH: God doesn't instruct Muslims to go out and kill innocent people.

RIVERS: That's what you're advocating.

ABDULLAH: No, that's what you're saying. That's the terminology you're using and the words that you're...

RIVERS: Well, let's clarify it.

ABDULLAH: We call it self-defense. The difference between me and you is faith. The difference between me and you is trying to forbid evil. The difference between me and you I live for the sake of God and you live for the sake of the devil.

RIVERS (voice-over): Dan Rivers, CNN, London.


COOPER: The call to jihad could come at any time, and it may be answered by sleeper cells across the world, perhaps even here at home. We don't know where they are, but we know where the seeds of their holy war were first planted.

CNN's Tom Foreman reports.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The worldwide war on terror, government officials say, has certainly hurt al Qaeda, government officials say. After 9/11 Afghanistan's Taliban government was crushed.

Al Qaeda's leaders, without the Taliban's protection, went on the run. And the group's far-flung cells became isolated, unable to coordinate major attacks.

But security experts and Osama bin Laden himself say al Qaeda is trying to rebuild.

"We have seen explosions in many European countries," he says. "As for similar operations taking place in America, it is only a matter of time. They are under way, and you will hear about them soon."

So where would those attacks come from? The great Muslim populations are concentrated in North Africa, the Middle East, and Indonesia. But security analysts say radical, violent Islamic leaders, those most dedicated to striking the United States, continue to base their operations out of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

(on camera) Now, terrorists know full well that whenever somebody travels from one of these regions or the Middle East to the United States they are scrutinized carefully by U.S. Security. So, analysts say, leaders there are reaching out to the millions of young Muslims who have immigrated to Europe.

(voice-over) Troubles in both England and France have underscored the frustration of many young Muslims there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you expect us to do? Be quiet and be calm? Turn the other cheek? We're not Christians. We're Muslims.

FOREMAN: Terror groups use the Internet and personal connections to seek out such people and see if they might be converted to the radical cause.

GABRIEL WEIMANN, INTERNET TERRORISM EXPERT: The Internet is an ideal tool to reach the diaspora communities, to reach the people that will fund them, that will be trained by them, that will support them, and will act for them.

FOREMAN: Last year's attacks in England suggest the overall recruiting effort is paying off for terrorists. And suggests the next major attack on U.S. soil may well begin in a country that America considers a friend.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Joining me now is CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen and Gary Berntsen, a former CIA officer and author of the book "Jawbreaker", which is the name of the CIA unit that he led in Afghanistan after 9/11. Their mission was to capture or kill bin Laden in Afghanistan.

Guys, thanks for being with us.

Peter, let me start off with you. How do you think al Qaeda has changed since 9/11? Is it still the centralized organization, or has it sort of evolved into a -- into a global network of more loosely linked cells?

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, I think it's changed significantly. This is the most bureaucratic terrorist organization in history. There are application forms to join it, you know, vacation policy. They have...

COOPER: Wait a minute, they have vacation policy?

BERGEN: Oh, yes. Well, you know, you have to apply 2 1/2 months early to get your vacation, and in fact their vacation policy was more generous than CNN's, speaking as a long-time employee of CNN. So this was a highly bureaucratic organization on September 11, 2001. Now of course, that's all gone away.

But I think it's not -- the organization has shown some resilience. So particularly, in a place where there is a Pakistani diaspora, as there is in Great Britain, I think that al Qaeda continues to be able to reach out to the west and try and plan attacks, because basically it's rebased itself in Afghanistan. Its top leaders are living in Pakistan.

COOPER: Do you think that's true, Gary? Do you see Pakistan as the hub of this new al Qaeda?

BERGEN: It has -- has re-established itself along the Afghan-Pak border in a very serious way. The planned attacks against the airliners from Britain to the United States demonstrates that. It is as important as it ever was to find and eliminate bin Laden and end this now.

COOPER: How do you think bin Laden is living, and Zawahiri? I mean, you see some of these tapes. It doesn't look like they're being shot in a cave somewhere. It looks like they're in their house with computer access.

BERGEN: Bill, there are many, many compounds, large compounds in that area, in the federally administrated tribal areas of Afghanistan.

COOPER: Sounds like something which a Predator drone with, you know, eyes in the skies could see and that the U.S. would know about and some special forces team or CIA team...

BERGEN: They know we're using those sorts of, you know, predators and overhead technology. So they're going to function in an environment which avoids detection. They're going to be staying indoors. They'll have passageways underground. You know, they will have -- they've made the adjustments.

COOPER: And Peter, increasingly it seems as though Europe is this new breeding ground for homegrown terrorism. How has that evolved over the past five years?

BERGEN: Well, I mean, it's a problem, and it's a problem particularly in Britain, where you've got, you know, 27 percent unemployment rate amongst young British Muslims, a lot of angry guys who are looking for a cause.

And the story of course is not just in Britain. You see the story in France, in Spain, in the Netherlands, in country after country there has been some serious terrorist plots that have been averted or actually happened post-9/11.

Thankfully, it has not happened here, because I think the American Muslim community here is just -- it's more affluent, it's better educated. And it's more integrated.

COOPER: How do you hunt al Qaeda today?

GARY BERNTSEN, AUTHOR, "JAWBREAKER": Well, you have to hunt it globally, and you have to be thinking in advance. We have to be worried about the fact that al Qaeda will begin to fish in ponds outside of Western Europe and the United States. They'll look at Latin America. They'll look at Africa. They'll look at other places where there are large transplanted communities of Muslims who are disaffected. COOPER: Peter, you spent a lot of time in Pakistan. Are they serious? Is the Pakistani government serious and capable of hunting down al Qaeda?

BERGEN: Well, it's a mixed picture. I mean, the fact that they averted this airline plot, Pakistan played an enormous role in that. That sort of speaks for itself.

But I think you just have to read bin Laden's polling numbers to realize that no Pakistani politician is really going to get serious about finding bin Laden himself. It would be political suicide. You know, in 2004 bin Laden was polling favorability ratings of 65 percent in Pakistan.

COOPER: What do you think, Gary, about Pakistani intelligence?

BERNTSEN: I think that Pakistani intelligence has -- has been cleaned up in a sense, that years ago there was greater concern of higher cooperation with radicals. I think Musharraf has probably gotten his house, you know, in order within the intel service there.

The problem, again is, as Peter said, is that bin Laden has broad-based support within Pakistan.

COOPER: And crossing the border from Pakistan to Afghanistan back and forth, no problem for al Qaeda?

BERNTSEN: They're doing it. Clearly.

COOPER: Peter, let's talk about Osama bin Laden. Is he still the leader? I mean, is he still the architect? He shows up in videos. So does Zawahiri. Often it's a sort of glomming on to other world events, sort of trying to claim credit, you know, taking a piece of Lebanon, events in Iraq.

Are they still leading events, or are they just sort of the spiritual leaders of this thing?

BERGEN: Well, I think it's both. I mean, I think that bin Laden can release a tape, and people will act on it.

I mean, a concrete example is in December of 2004, bin Laden called for al Qaeda to attack oil facilities in Saudi Arabia. And relatively recently, we saw an attack by al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia against arguably the most important oil facility in the world. Thankfully, it didn't work out.

So you know, I think yes, he is glomming onto some of these things like Lebanon, but he still remains capable of directing his followers. And he certainly remains capable of inspiring people around the world.

BERNTSEN: It doesn't have to be one or the other. He can do both simultaneously. Direct operations himself and inspire others to do it. He can do Boeing.

COOPER: And you think no doubt he's in Pakistan?

BERNTSEN: I'm sure.

COOPER: Sure of it. Peter, you, too?

BERGEN: No doubt.

COOPER: Fascinating discussion. Peter Bergen, thank you very much. And Gary Berntsen, thanks very much.

BERNTSEN: Pleasure to be with you.

BERGEN: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: So where are we vulnerable to a terrorist attack? Are America's airports truly safer? And what about the sea ports, the railroads, and other potential targets? We'll check the facts ahead. You're watching a special edition of 360.


COOPER: It is, of course, a fact of life that another terror attack could come at any time, virtually anywhere. Skyscrapers, sports arenas, energy plants, and mass transit systems are just some of the potential terror targets here in the U.S.

We asked CNN's Tom Foreman to look at where we are the most vulnerable.


FOREMAN (voice-over): All over the globe the war on terror rages. Some attacks succeed. Others are thwarted.

PAUL STEPHENSON, LONDON METROPOLITAN POLICE: We have disrupted a plan by terrorists to cause untold death and destruction.

FOREMAN: But fear in America remains. Government officials say stepped-up security measures have undeniably reduced the terror threat here.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But obviously we're still not completely safe. Because there are people that still plot and people who want to harm us for what we believe in.

FOREMAN: And the key problem is the extraordinary number of potential targets. Energy, water, and food supplies transportation and communication systems, landmarks and citizens remain in the bull's eye. For all the progress officials have made in protecting America...

MICHAEL WERMUTH, RAND CORPORATION: We are infinitely vulnerable.

FOREMAN: Michael Wermuth is the director of homeland security for the Rand Corporation. WERMUTH: It'll never be perfect. We can spend ourselves into oblivion from a government standpoint, from a private sector standpoint. And there's no such thing as perfect defense.

FOREMAN: The country's sheer size is an issue. Airport security has improved, but there are 5,000 airports to watch, 141,000 miles of railroad, 12,000 miles of coast with 11 major seaports, and a seemingly limitless number of paths swirling around the borders.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: The main thing is we need more -- we need more personnel. Again, we've tripled the number of Border Patrol agents in the last five years but I think we need to add significantly more.

FOREMAN: Attacks on energy supplies remain a concern: from oil rigs in the gulf to the nation's 6,000 electric plants, the half million miles of bulk transmission lines and the more than 100 nuclear reactors.

(on camera) And what about all of the landmarks and places where we naturally gather? Look at Chicago alone. There's the lakefront, the museums, the Sears Tower right downtown. There are more than a half dozen sports arenas all around the city. And look at the shopping centers. Each and every one a potential target for terrorists.

(voice-over) So many targets, so many towns. What can be done?

WERMUTH: If we can continue to enhance our intelligence efforts, that's where the big payoff is really going to be.

FOREMAN: And officials say we can be ready to respond when someday, somehow terrorists once again strike.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Coming up, how much safer are the nation's airlines five years after 9/11? Is it just a matter of time before terrorists figure out some new way to slip through airport security? We'll explain when this special edition of 360 continues.


COOPER: Welcome back to this special edition of 360. Five years later, are we safer? Earlier we showed you the gaping security holes at the nation's ports after 9/11.

Now we're going to take a close look at air travel. Recently, British police uncovered what they said was a plot to bomb passenger planes heading to America. That led to even more changes at the airport, changes that, as you're going to see, may have little impact on reducing the actual risk of terror in the sky.

CNN's Jeanne Meserve reports. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Gels and liquids are being confiscated from carry-ons because the Transportation Security Administration doesn't have any way to screen them to see if they are dangerous or not. It is one of several technological gaps in aviation security, experts say.

Another: those puffer machines that can detect explosive residues. Only 93 are currently in use at only 36 airports.

THOMAS KEAN, FORMER 9/11 COMMISSION CHAIRMAN: It takes effort. It takes priorities. And it takes some money, frankly to have these things deployed at airports, and until they are we're not going to be as safe as we should be.

MESERVE: Among the other holes in aviation security, experts say, most air cargo is not screened. There is no system to ward off attacks with shoulder-fired missiles. Some airport personnel with access to secure areas and even aircraft don't have to pass through security checkpoints. And over and over again the government's own security watchdogs have smuggled prohibited items past screeners and their machines.

One expert is most horrified by this, the airlines, not the government are checking passenger names against the no-fly list.

JAMES CARAFANO, THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Here we are. We'll be at the fifth anniversary of 9/11 and we still haven't done the one kind of practical common sense thing we could do to keep terrorists off airplanes.

MESERVE: A member of the commission that investigated 9/11 says aviation security is rife with questionable decisions and pork barrel spending. And he fears there is again a failure of imagination.

TIM ROEMER, FORMER 9/11 COMMISSION MEMBER: Creative thinking outside the box, red teaming these things, thinking like future terrorists and al Qaeda people.

MESERVE: The head of the Transportation Security Administration says his agency is doing that. But he says with a constantly changing threat environment absolute security is impossible. He argues that federal air marshals reinforced cockpit doors, combat air patrols, and technology provide layers of security that are effective if routines are varied.

EDMUND "KIP" HAWLEY, DIRECTOR, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY, ADMINISTRATION: What we don't want is to allow a terrorist to be able to engineer his process knowing exactly what we're going to do.

MESERVE: Hawley also is expanding the training of security personnel to recognize suspicious behavior. He says it is inexpensive yet effective.

HAWLEY: We'd rather put the effort into that security which guards against any kind of threat rather than spend millions of dollars, wait many years, and then only deploy it where you can afford it.

MESERVE: Hawley and his critics agree on one point: that intelligence is a critical ingredient in aviation security. The proof? Intelligence is what thwarted this latest plot to blast airliners out of the sky.


COOPER: Jeanne, U.S. intelligence-gathering operation was pretty criticized after 9/11. What changes have taken place since then?

MESERVE: Well, the big change was forming the director of national intelligence. They'd hoped that that office would bring together these very incoherent and disparate intelligence operations across the federal government and bring some cohesion to it.

But now there are critics, people who even supported the formation of that office, who say that John Negroponte really hasn't taken the reins the way they hoped that he would, that things still aren't -- aren't as coherent as they should be.

Another aspect of this is whether states and locals are hearing what they think they need to hear. Most of them say the intelligence flow has improved but is not yet what they wish it was.

COOPER: And the Homeland Security Department, obviously criticized after Katrina, but in terms of its counterterrorism role, how is that done?

MESERVE: Well, you know, no one thought this was going to be easy. I remember when the -- when the department was set up someone said forming this department while it's trying to protect the nation is like trying to put new engines on an airplane while it's in flight.

But even given that people look at that Katrina response and say that's sort of emblematic of the problems within the department, that there hasn't been a coherence of mission, that they took together a lot of dysfunctional agencies and put them under one umbrella without properly resourcing them.

And so you haven't got the kind of synergy, the kind of cooperation that people wish they'd had.

The administration says, "Hey, there hasn't been an attack since 9/11. We're doing something right." Most people will concede that we are safer than we were after 9/11 but nowhere near safe enough.

COOPER: And there are those who charge that lawmakers in Washington, in Congress are moving far too slowly. What do you think are the key areas that need congressional attention?

MESERVE: Well, first of all, Congress didn't reorganize itself to provide proper oversight of the Department of Homeland Security. And secondly, they haven't moved in some key areas. There has been legislation up there on port security chemical plant security. This stuff is stalled. It's not going anywhere, in part because of turf battles. And frankly, the White House hasn't been willing to come in and knock heads together to make sure something gets done.

COOPER: There's a lot of people who criticize this White House for their use of 9/11, for their use of terror alerts and threats. Do those allegations stick? And when you look at the timing of terror threats, when you look at how they have used it and/or benefited from it?

MESERVE: Listen, I really think it depends on which side of the political spectrum you sit as to whether you think there's any validity or not. Certainly in this last instance, this was a foreign terror threat, something happening overseas, clearly a threat to U.S. aviation. In this instance it appears to be justified, at least.

COOPER: Jeanne, thanks.

MESERVE: You bet.

COOPER: We'll have more of this special edition of 360 in a moment. Stay with us.



BUSH: America is safer than it has been, but it's not yet safe.


COOPER: Five years after 9/11 those numbers say a lot. More than half of the people polled by CNN do not think the U.S. is safer from terrorism than it was before 9/11.

Officials say they're making the country safer. They've spent billions of dollars on it, but clearly many of us don't feel any safer. Maybe it's just not possible, after something like 9/11, to feel the kind of security, false as it was, that we once felt.

This ends our special edition of 360. Thanks for watching.



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