Skip to main content
U.S. Edition


Return to Transcripts main page


More al Qaeda Video Released; Five Years Later: Are we Safer?

Aired September 8, 2006 - 23:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening tonight from Kabul, Afghanistan. Nearly five years after 9/11, nearly five years after the Taliban were driven from power here in Afghanistan, they are back. They are again on the rise. NATO today saying they need more troops to deal with the Taliban resurgence in the south of Afghanistan.
And we got evidence here in the capital of Kabul on Friday of the power of the Taliban and their increasing use of al Qaeda-style tactics. A car bomb destroying, hitting a U.S. military convoy, killing two U.S. soldiers, killing some dozens of Afghan civilians, wounding up to 27. It was a bloody scene. Blood on the streets, body parts and pieces of vehicles scattered in a wide radius around the bomb site.

This, on the same day where more information from Osama bin Laden, more information from a tape of Osama bin Laden was released. In particular, we hear in this new tape from Adam Gadahn, the so called American Taliban, the young California man who has joined al Qaeda. Now today, we hear him for the first time, praising the 9/11 hijackers. Listen.


ADAM GADAHN, AMERICAN AL QAEDA MEMBER: All the brothers who took part in the raids on America were dedicated, strong-willed, highly motivated individuals, with a burning concern for Islam and Muslims. And they had to be, to be chosen for such a difficult mission. They were definitely not failures looking for a way out.


COOPER: Adam Gadahn, the American Taliban, praising the mass murders, the 9/11 hijackers. We're going to have extensive coverage over the next several days from here in Kabul, Afghanistan.

How is it possible that the Taliban has come back? Why are they once again on the rise? Who is to blame for it? We'll be looking at all of that. Our special editions of 360 begin Monday at 10:00 p.m., Eastern. We hope you join us for that.

Tonight for the rest of 360 we are taking a look at what has happened in the last year since 9/11. Five years since 9/11, are we any safer? Billions of dollars, tens of billions of dollars have been spent on security. The question is, where has the money gone?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ANNOUNCER: From the airports to the harbors and all across America, tonight the state of our security, a reality check on the risks and the threats.

They are the new voices of hate. 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.

ANNOUNCER: And, hard targets. In a country still vulnerable, we'll show you what may be the two most dangerous miles in the nation. A terror attack would be catastrophic, and it could be near you.

This is a special edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360. "Five Years Later, Are We Safer"?

COOPER: 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?

ABDULLAH: 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-Zawahiri, 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 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.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 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.


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.


CNN TV E-mail Services CNN Mobile CNNAvantGo Ad Info About Us Preferences
© 2007 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines