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THE SITUATION ROOM
Terrorists on the Loose; New Government Report Cites Performance Problems
Aired September 6, 2007 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, concerns for your safety. There's a new report that's just out citing disturbing performance problems at the government agency that helps keep the homeland safe.
And 10 people believed to be terrorists are on the loose. This according to German authorities. They're looking for them.
An embarrassing security breach -- some comedians were actually able to penetrate the walls of protection surrounding President Bush in Australia. And one of the infiltrators -- get this -- was dressed like Osama bin Laden. We'll go to Australia.
And it's a message for all air travelers -- the way you wear your clothes on a flight could get you kicked off, especially if you're wearing something provocative.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
There is fear that alleged hostile acts in the Middle East might spark a fresh conflict. Syria now saying -- and I'm quoting -- "enemy aircraft from Israel flew over its territory and that Syrian air defenses shot at those planes.
Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd.
He's following this story for us.
Brian, tell our viewers what's going on.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there was an incident today and there are new tensions that could extend well beyond the Israeli/Syrian border.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
TODD (voice-over): Serious warnings about a purported confrontation between Israel and Syria.
Could it trigger something more dangerous? Syria accuses the Israelis of flying warplanes over its air space, dropping "ammunition in open areas." No injuries or damage, but it draws a warning on Syrian television.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Arab Republic of Syria warns the enemy Israeli government against this blatantly aggressive act and retains the right to respond in whatever way it finds appropriate.
TODD: A Syrian military official tells CNN Syrian forces fired back at the Israeli planes. The Israel Defense Force would not comment, but other Israeli officials did not deny it.
Western government sources and analysts tell CNN there's growing concern in Israel over what's described as a massive Syrian arms buildup since the Israeli/Hezbollah war last year.
CHUCK FREILICH, FORMER ISRAELI SECURITY OFFICIAL: Russian made aircraft, anti-aircraft missiles and anti-tank missiles. The anti-tank missiles being, certainly, one of the conclusions that they drew from the fighting last summer of just how effective they were against armored units.
TODD: A Syrian official responded by saying his government is committed to peace with Israel. Sources say the money for some of Syria's new weapons comes from Iran. An Iranian official calls that charge "baseless."
Analysts say for Israel, Syria's actions are merely a stepping stone to a larger threat -- Iran's nuclear program -- a threat that might bring an Israeli response and draw the U.S. in.
MAJ. GEN. DON SHEPPERD, U.S. AIR FORCE (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: And if Israel should feel compelled to strike because they feel their existence is threatened, then a logical reaction to the Iranians would be to try to close the Persian Gulf. They would mine the Persian Gulf. They would install -- they would fire shore to ship missiles, attacking shipping and U.S. forces.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
TODD: At that point, analysts say the world's oil supply is seriously compromised and Iran's involvement in Iraq could escalate -- more reasons why experts said the Iranian nuclear issue has to be solved diplomatically -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And there's a related development. Hezbollah in Lebanon, as our viewers remember, a year ago last summer, there was a war between the Israelis and Hezbollah.
But I take it Hezbollah has been able to build back its military capability over the past year.
TODD: They sure have, Wolf. We are told by Western government sources and analysts that Hezbollah, with Syria's and Iran's help, now has more weapons than it did before its war with Israel last year.
BLITZER: Brian Todd watching this story for us.
Brian, thanks very much.
Five days before the 9/11 anniversary, there are now some fresh concerns involving the safety of Americans.
In our Security Watch, an international manhunt underway right now for alleged terrorism plotters. German police are said to be looking for 10 people they describe as haters of the United States. Officials believe they wanted to help three others now under arrest for allegedly plotting to blow up places frequented by Americans.
Almost six years after the terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, the Government Accountability Office has now issued its review of the job the Department of Homeland Security has done so far.
Our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, standing by to tell us it's a mixed report at best -- Jean.
JEAN MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is the report card you would not want to take home to momma.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
MESERVE (voice-over): No honor roll for the Department of Homeland Security -- a Government Accountability report card says the Department met less than half of its performance objectives.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: America is a lot safer than it was on 9/11, but as this report makes clear, we've got a lot to do before we can say we are as safe as we need to be.
MESERVE: In lives and losses, Hurricane Katrina demonstrated inadequacies in emergency preparedness and response. Two years later, there is still limited progress, says GAO. The Department also got the lowest possible grade in science and technology, information technology and human capital management. There were modest achievements in border security and immigration services, according to GAO.
The only area where they found substantial progress -- maritime security.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, (R-ME), CHAIR GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: The department must pick up the pace of its progress. GAO's report should serve as a useful road map in this effort.
MESERVE: DHS highly disputes the grades.
PAUL SCHNEIDER, DHS UNDER SECRETARY: The Department continues to believe that they used a flawed methodology in preparing its report, which resulted in many of the assessments not fully reflecting the Department's progress.
(END VIDEO TAPE) MESERVE: The GAO concedes the merger of 22 agencies into one department was bound to be difficult and emergencies like Katrina made it harder still. Some have compared it to putting a new engine on an airplane while it's flying -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jeanne Meserve covering this story for us.
Let's go back to Jack Cafferty in New York with The Cafferty File.
You're not surprised that the Department of Homeland Security not necessarily getting straight As right now, are you -- Jack?
CAFFERTY: Gee, what a shock. They're doing a heck of a job.
Wolf, this is the kind of stuff that happens when his handlers are paying close attention.
The "Sydney Morning Herald" newspaper reports that when the Australian deputy prime minister asked President Bush about his stop- over in Iraq on his way to the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Summit, President Bush replied: "We're kicking ass."
That's lovely. I'd be willing to bet you that's the first time anybody has ever said that to the deputy prime minister of Australia.
And when asked by CNN, we finally got an answer late this afternoon.
Do you know what the answer is?
The White House will neither confirm nor deny the report about President Bush's comment.
And his choice of language aside, well not everybody agrees with Mr. Bush's assessment. A new report by a commission of retired senior U.S. military officers says that Iraq's army will be unable to take over internal security from our forces -- U.S. forces -- any time in the next 12 to 18 months. It also adds the nation's forces -- Iraq's forces -- cannot yet meaningfully contribute to denying terrorists safe haven.
And then, of course, there's that GAO report out this week which says out of those 18 benchmarks, the Iraqi government has met exactly three.
Despite these less than sunny assessments, it's expected General David Petraeus will deliver a more positive assessment to Congress next week, as the president gets ready to ask for another $50 billion of your money to fund the war, where we're "kicking ass".
So here's the question -- why would President Bush tell the Australian deputy prime minister we're kicking ass in Iraq?
E-mail your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile.
It's just embarrassing -- Wolf.
BLITZER: When I heard that, I said to myself, you know, why is the president speaking to the deputy prime minister of Australia?
Why not the prime minister of Australia?
CAFFERTY: Well, he was just anxious to tell somebody about all the success we're having, I guess, and the deputy was the first guy he ran across.
BLITZER: All right, Jack, thanks very much.
BLITZER: Thank you.
It's a joke that could land them in jail. Some comedians get way too close to where President Bush is in Australia right now. And part of their punch line -- one of those comedians was actually dressed up like Osama bin Laden. This is no laughing matter for the Secret Service and Australian security.
A report calls for drastic reduction of U.S. troops in Iraq. This as a prime critic of the Bush administration's Iraq policy says the U.S. looks like an occupier. Coming up, my interview with Congressman John Murtha.
And you might want to double check your outfit in the mirror before you fly. What you wear and how little you're wearing could get you kicked off a flight. Carol Costello is standing by with this story. If you fly, you're going to want to see it.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: A new report is stirring up hot debate in Congress over how quickly U.S. forces in Iraq can logically be drawn down. The report, authored by a panel made up of mostly retired U.S. military and police officers, calls for significant changes in the U.S. troop presence. Some in Congress have been beating that drum for a while.
Joining us now, Democratic Congressman John Murtha of Pennsylvania, a key critic of the president's strategy in Iraq.
I want to play, Congressman -- thanks, by the way, very much for coming in.
I want to play some of the testimony today from retired U.S. Marine Corps General James Jones, the former NATO supreme allied commander.
He was asked by Senator McCain, what would happen if the U.S. just decided to pullout from Iraq and set a time frame for a rather quick withdrawal.
Listen to what General Jones said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM CONGRESSIONAL HEARING)
GEN. JAMES JONES (RET.), FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: Senator, I'll speak for myself on this. But I think deadlines can work against us. And I think a deadline of this magnitude would be against our national interests.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Now, you know General Jones. He's a worrier.
What do you think about what he said?
REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, as a matter of fact, we funded the committee that he headed. I think a lot of him.
But, I remember when I went to Vietnam in 1966, Wolf, Westmoreland said just patience. Everything is going to be all right. That was '66. And, of course, the war didn't end until '72 for us.
And then I came back in '67 from the war and John -- or President Johnson said well, everything -- we've turned a corner, everything is going to be all right.
So rhetoric is not what wins it. And it can't be won by the American forces. It's got to be the Iraqis. This is Bush's policy and the Iraqis haven't done what they need to do internationally.
The things that I measure -- and you've heard me say this over and over again -- are still the same. What I worry about is the burnout of the troops, the fact that we can't sustain this. And, you know, I've seen the GAO report. I've seen all these other reports and they're all mixed.
So I -- all of us want stability in the Middle East. The problem is how do we get it?
And we're looked at as occupiers. We -- General Jones also said we've got to start some sort of redeployment.
Get them out -- I say get them of the Green Zone, get them out of the palaces which Saddam Hussein said -- had and make us look like less of an occupier.
BLITZER: But some of the analysts, including some of the generals who are on the scene, say the military increase, the so-called surge, is beginning to produce results and they just need a little bit more time to get it done in a proper way.
Senator McCain made that point, as well.
I'm going to play a little clip of what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM CONGRESSIONAL HEARING)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: So there's a lot of people who are armchair generals who reside here in the air conditioned comfort of Capitol Hill who somehow do not trust the judgment of some of the finest leaders that our nation has produced.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He's referring to General David Petraeus, the U.S. military commander in Iraq.
Do you trust General Petraeus?
MURTHA: Petraeus -- it's not Petraeus' policy. It's Bush's policy. It's President Bush who is the one that sets the policy. Petraeus makes recommendations.
I've heard it over and over again. I heard it in Indochina. I heard it in even Afghanistan, what the Russians are saying.
Rhetoric does not win it. It's got to be showed progress on the ground.
Now, there may be some progress, and I'm interested to hear what General Petraeus says. But in the long run, electricity six hours a day. Now, what that would mean in the United States with six hours a day of electricity. Potable water -- 30 percent of the people. Two million people have left the country, for heaven's sake. The Sunni -- they have ethnic cleansing in Baghdad. They're moving all the Sunnis out of Baghdad.
Those are the kinds of things I measure and those are the kind of things I worry about.
The military has done everything they're going to do. I'm inspired by the military. It's got to be done politically. That's the problem we have. You know, it's not a -- I'm not going to argue with the military leaders and what they say about progress here or there. What I'm going to say is the policy has to change so the international community gets involved and the Iraqis start to do what they said they were going to do, which is to start to meet the benchmarks they said they were going to meet.
BLITZER: But if the U.S. were to withdraw relatively quickly, as you would like, what about the moral responsibility to the Iraqis who worked with the United States, who fear for their lives?
This was a point that the former Arkansas governor, Mike Huckabee, made in the Republican debate last night in New Hampshire.
I'm going to play you a little clip from what Governor Huckabee said and then we'll talk. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY FOX NEWS CHANNEL)
MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, what we did in Iraq, we essentially broke it. It's our responsibility to do the best we can to try to fix it before we just turn away.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, would you agree with him or is there a moral responsibility that the United States has to Iraq?
MURTHA: What we have to do, Wolf, is what's best for the United States. The military has done everything they can do. They're trying to blame the United States. It's the Iraqis that haven't stepped up. It's the Iraqis that are not doing their job. And what happens with our policy is we fill in when the Iraqis make mistakes.
We have -- the Iraqis have to step up and change their constitution. They have to give the Sunnis some influence and they have to change the hydrocarbon law. It's not simple, but they haven't stepped up to it.
The police -- you heard what General Jones said about the police force -- it should be completely disbanded. Now, the White House disagrees with that. The Army -- I keep hearing figures as high as 300,000, 150,000.
Only the Iraqis can do it. The international community, working with the Iraqis, can help stabilize its. There's no question there's going to be chaos. But I've seen figures as high as 1,800 killed in the last month. So the figures don't tell the story. What tells the story is what's happening economically and politically in Iraq. And only the Iraqis can solve this -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Congressman Murtha, thanks for coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.
MURTHA: Nice talking to you, Wolf.
BLITZER: So who does President Bush feel especially close to?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLENN KESSLER, AUTHOR, "THE CONFIDANTE": He has told foreign leaders that she is like his sister.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Who could he be talking about?
I'll ask the author of a new and revealing book about that woman. Stand by for that.
And if you're angry with Michael Vick for running that dogfighting ring, there may be a way to put your money where your anger is. You're going to find out. Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Carol Costello is monitoring stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Carol, what's going on?
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A couple of things, Wolf.
It is harmless -- that's what officials at the United Nations are now saying about a substance found last month in a weapons inspector's office. The material had a label saying it could be a chemical agent used in World War I weapons. Hazardous materials experts later removed it and took it to a lab for testing. The results now indicate it is a non-toxic solvent.
The Humane Society of the United States is hoping Michael Vick can help it raise money to prevent dogfighting. The organization is selling what it says are notes used by Vick in a speech apologizing for his involvement in dogfighting. The group says the one page outline was found on a podium after he walked away. Vick's attorney says the notes were not written by the football star. As of now, bidding on eBay has topped $10,000.
Relatives of seven students killed in the Virginia Tech shootings are considering wrongful death suits and a federal rights claim against the state. They now have retained a firm that specializes in high profile lawsuits. Lawyers say the families think university officials could have done more to prevent the shootings. The April 16th massacre left 33 dead, including the shooter.
And in news impacting small business, most consumers are concerned about the use of their Social Security numbers, according the a new survey. Businesses often use the numbers for identification purposes, which could expose customers to identity theft. In the "Consumer Reports" survey, nearly four out of five Americans say they would prefer not to give the numbers out, but are concerned about the consequences of withholding them. There are currently few laws that limit the collection of Social Security numbers.
That's a look at the headlines right now -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Carol, for that.
So what does the leader of the free world think -- who does he think, that is, has real power?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KESSLER: He has told a journalist that she's the most powerful woman in the history of the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So who does President Bush say that woman is?
You're going to hear from the author about a new and revealing book about her.
And Osama bin Laden -- a look-alike, that is, gets too close to where President Bush is in Australia. It's an embarrassing security breach. We're going to give you the details on what happened.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, throngs of mourners swarming the cathedral in Modena, Italy to pay respects to the legendary tenor, Luciano Pavarotti, who died today of pancreatic cancer. We're going to have a closer look at the life and legacy of this tenor later this hour.
The Senate has overwhelmingly passed legislation containing large budget hikes for veterans' medical care. The Senate move comes despite earlier protests from the Bush administration. Today's vote on the measure, 92-1.
Senator Larry Craig's on-again/off-again resignation is on again. The Idaho Republican has now signaled he's likely -- highly likely, that is, to resign his seat within a few weeks. His departure in the wake of his Minnesota bathroom bust could take place as soon as October 1st.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
In Sydney, Australia today, President Bush called for help from the global community in solving the problem of climate change without hurting economic growth.
The president is Australia for an annual summit with Pacific Rim nations.
Joining in is his top diplomat, the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice. They're very close. And some suggest, as the president's approval numbers move, so do hers. Critics are looking back to see how well Condoleezza Rice has actually done on the job.
And joining us now is Glenn Kessler, the author of the important new book, "The Confidante: Condoleezza Rice and the Creation of the Bush Legacy."
Glenn, thanks very much for coming in.
KESSLER: Glad to be with you.
BLITZER: You've covered her now for a long time for the "Washington Post," as well.
A lot of people, though, suggest she's really, right now, fighting for her legacy.
In the book you write this: "As President Bush's confidante for more than seven years, Rice has failed to provide him with a coherent foreign policy vision. The results have been disappointing and sometimes devastating to U.S. interests.
What does she have to show for her, right now, almost seven years as one of the top -- if not the top -- foreign policy adviser to the president?
KESSLER: Well, one of the things at the positive side of the ledger is restoring relations with Europe after she became secretary of state. She also secured a nuclear deal with India which overturned 30 years of U.S. policy on nuclear weapons. But it was important in terms of rebuilding relations with a country that the U.S. has had very antagonistic relations with.
But on the negative side of the ledger, you have problems with North Korea, Iran, not much work on the Palestinian statehood issue. It's...
BLITZER: And a lot of people say there's a disaster in Iraq that she helped contribute toward.
KESSLER: Exactly. As secretary of state, she moved at once to try to get rid of the previous Iraqi prime minister. She has not been that involved, but certainly she was there when the decision was made to invade Iraq.
BLITZER: And she was the president's national security adviser for the first four years, before he made her the secretary of state, replacing Colin Powell. And she was one of the ardent supporters of this war. The very famous statement she made, she didn't want the smoking gun -- Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction -- a smoking gun to turn out to be a mushroom cloud. She said that in answer to a question that I asked her.
She was one of the main architects of the war.
KESSLER: Right. And she was there -- not only an architect of the war, but also in charge of the process that led the United States into that war without a plan for getting out.
BLITZER: Here's a statement -- a comment that Donald Trump made here in THE SITUATION ROOM, and I want your assessment.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP: She waves. She sits down with some dictator, 45- degree angle, they do the camera shot. She waves again. She gets back to the plane. She waves again. No deal ever happens. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Is that too harsh an assessment? Because he says she's been a disaster.
KESSLER: Well, I think that is too harsh an assessment. I mean at least the way he describes what she does. What I try to do in my book is take people inside the room when she negotiates with foreign leaders.
BLITZER: But he says she can't close a deal. She can close marginal, little deals but a big deal she can't close, like the Israel-Palestinian peace process. A lot of people say she's been missing in action.
KESSLER: Well, she's been certainly trying this year. Part of the argument that I make in my book is that she has the attributes to be a good secretary of state but she is trapped by the decisions she made as national security adviser. That's the irony. As a secretary of state, you know to be close to the president, so close that he considers you like his sister, as I say in the book.
BLITZER: But in the book, there's an interesting chapter and some comments you made about the former secretary of state James Baker when he was preparing his Iraq study group. By implication, some very harsh words about her.
KESSLER: That's right. James Baker's report was essentially not about the military strategy but about the diplomatic strategy, and it was a rebuke of how secretary of state Rice had been handling that issue.
BLITZER: A lot of people say you know they have built her up so much, the Bush administration, going into the president's first term, she was a rock star. In fact, they were talking about her as a possible presidential candidate or if Cheney were to go to become a vice president. How serious of a discussion was there as far as making her potentially the president of the United States decided to run on the republican ticket?
KESSLER: She would say she never had any interest. But there was certainly interest on the part of her staff. They, as I write in the book, they tried to create that image of her as potential presidential material in part to make her seem like a strong leader. It was a public relations exercise. I don't know if she ever took it that seriously.
BLITZER: The relationship she's had with George W. Bush, and you write about it extensively in the book "The Confidante" but I want to play a little clip. In Australia this week, the president had some fun talking about Condoleezza Rice as they were going to a state dinner. Listen.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She could be my date. BLITZER: She could be my date. You couldn't hear precisely what he said. Laura Bush couldn't make the trip to Australia. Talk a little bit about this relationship between Condoleezza Rice and George W. Bush.
KESSLER: Well, the president feels that he has a very paternal aspect, a fraternal aspect where he told foreign leaders that she is like his sister. He has told a journalist that she's the most powerful woman in the history of the world. And yet he is very much the influential person in this relationship. It's not that she is guiding him in a particular way, but it's his ideas and his advice and his way of going at things that she has adopted.
BLITZER: Do you think she can turn it around? She can in the remaining year and a half or so and leave some major mark or legacy as the secretary of state, something she could totally, totally be proud of?
KESSLER: It's going to be difficult. As she right now is trying to work on a nuclear deal with North Korea, but the problem there is it's like putting back the eggshell that was broken earlier in the Bush administration. Historians might look at it and say all she did was put back what she had broken in the first place.
BLITZER: Glenn Kessler is the author of "The Confidante, Condoleezza Rice and the Creation of the Bush Legacy." Glenn, thanks for coming in.
KESSLER: Glad to with you.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: And we could be hearing from Osama Bin Laden in the coming days as we're approaching the sixth anniversary of 9/11. A website that monitors al Qaeda and other terror operations cite now saying that Osama Bin Laden is expected to deliver what they're calling a message to the American people.
The al Qaeda leader hasn't been heard from in some time. Back in 2006, in June of 2006, he delivered a 19-minute audio tape website message. Before that, it was back in 2004, just before the elections here in the United States, he delivered another message to the American people. A year or so ago, July 14th, a year or so ago, he delivered a 19-minute audio tape but that was believed to have been done before 9/11 himself. But it is obviously parent if this information is coming from the website is confirmed, Osama Bin Laden wants to make some sort of statement to the American people as we're approaching Tuesday's sixth anniversary of 9/11. We're going to watch this breaking news for you, get some analysis of what's coming up, all that right here in THE SITUATION ROOM after a short break.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news here. A website that monitors al Qaeda and other terror groups now saying that Osama Bin Laden is planning on delivering what's being described as a video message to the American people on this the sixth anniversary of 9/11. That happens on Tuesday.
Octavia Nasr is joining us on the phone, our Arab foreign affairs editor. First of all, this website in the past, Octavia, has been pretty reliable when it comes to these sorts of announcements.
OCTAVIA NASR, CNN ARAB FOREIGN AFFAIRS EDITOR: Yes, indeed, it is reliable. I'm looking right now at the website. Usually it carries messages of al Qaeda, and this one it has the stamp of the clouds. Basically, it's saying that it is a video. They're stressing the fact this is going to be a video message and it's saying that we are going to be seeing it soon. And it's on the anniversary of 9/11. So it could be bold. The mental is from Bin Laden.
One important thing to say about the picture that's on the announcement, Wolf, because you're hearing people say this looks new and all that. The picture that they have, along with the announcement, is an old picture of Bin Laden. We've seen him back even in 2004. So we're not sure. You know, we usually are very careful not to speculate. They might call the tape new, a sixth anniversary tape. But it doesn't mean necessarily that the message we'll be hearing is necessarily a new one.
BLITZER: All right. Stand by for a moment, Octavia. Because if, in fact, we do see a new videotape of Osama Bin Laden, that would be significant. John McLaughlin, our national security adviser, the former deputy director of the CIA is joining us on the phone as well. This will be something that intelligence agencies around the world will be very anxious to scrutinize to see if, in fact, this is a new videotape, old videotape. And they'll be able to tell rather quickly, won't they?
JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: It will be apparently very quickly, Wolf, whether this is old or new. I believe what Octavia said is correct. These are not new pictures that we're seeing or new pictures that are on that particular website. As you know, the last time we saw him on video was October 2004 before the election where he tried to portray a statesmanlike image and so forth. It's not too hard to speculate about what he has to say if he has the opportunity to appear again.
BLITZER: And some people say that that videotape that emerged just before the presidential elections back in 2004 dramatically hurt John Kerry the then democratic nominee in his bid to defeat the incumbent George W. Bush.
Abbi Tatton, our internet reporter, is watching this. The web site itself, the site intelligence service site, Abbi, what are you seeing?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, this is a site institute web site, a group that monitors Jihadists forums, looks for information about this kind of thing coming. They've posted the banner which is promising, almost teasing this video appearance from Osama Bin Laden that they found on Jihadists forums. What they're saying at the site institute web site is the video isn't out there yet but on this banner is an image of Bin Laden which they say is reminiscent of his last video appearance in 2004.
One thing that's pointed out at the site institute web site is in this image of Bin Laden his beard is now completely black. Previously it was seen streaked with gray. The site institute monitoring the Jihadists forums where this banner was found promising this video is forthcoming.
BLITZER: All right. Stand by because this is potentially a very significant development. Deb Feyerick is also watching this story for us in New York. What are you picking up?
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, I spoke to a counterterrorism expert who has been monitoring some of these web sites and he said there is a lot of chatter out now there on these web forums, that there is a perception that this one feels different, that, in fact, he is going to be saying something either on September 11th or the eve of September 11th.
Effectively I asked what the web forums are discussing, what it is they're saying. They're indicating it's not going to be an audio tape. That it is going to be a videotape, that it's for the disbelievers who think that Osama Bin Laden has died, that in fact he's going to make an address, and again warning Americans to pull out of the lands that Bin Laden believes the Americans are occupying. And also it suggests, according to these web forums, that the U.S. to brace itself for a potential attack.
Again, this is what's being discussed on the web forums. There is no evidence at this point that there is going to be some sort of attack, just that there is going to be some sort of video statement on the sixth anniversary of 9/11.
And again, these web forums that are out there that are being discussed, according to this counterterrorism expert I spoke with, these are the -- the sense among these different web forums is that this, in fact, is going to happen, not an attack but a video statement from Bin Laden
BLITZER: All right. We'll see what happens on that front. Deborah, stand by. I know you're working your sources.
Octavia Nasr, our Arab affairs editor, knows a great deal. We've heard a lot and we've seen a lot from the number 2 al Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Octavia but it's a big deal if we hear from Osama Bin Laden directly, especially if we see him, a real videotape done in recent days or weeks as opposed to simply hearing some sort of audio tape.
NASR: Indeed, Wolf. And you know, the first thing that we do when we get to messages like these, we analyze them very closely for any indications of when they were taped.
Osama Bin Laden, of course we haven't heard from him in a long time, as you mentioned earlier, but usually when he sends out messages, he's very careful to give clues as to when he's recording those messages. It will be interesting. Lots has happened since the last time we heard from him, as you mentioned, the last presidential elections. And we've heard a lot from Zawahiri since.
It will be interesting to see what he has to say. But, again, these web sites have announced many, many times, they've posted dates and claimed they were new. But as soon as we look at them, we realize maybe the production itself is new but the messages in there are not necessarily new. Some of them are even older than 9/11/2001. So we have to be very careful here.
And again, I'm looking at the banner right now and it says soon, God willing, a video message from the sheikh Osama Bin Laden. And the pictures they're showing is an old picture. So we have no indication yet that this is a new tape, a new message. All we know is that they have produced something which could very well be a new production and we have no indication whether this message will be a new one or old one they're recycling, which they have been doing a lot lately just so they keep him afloat, they keep him in the picture. Osama Bin Laden, here he is, for those who want to hear from him.
BLITZER: Octavia, it won't take analysts at CIA, other intelligence agencies, very long to confirm whether or not this is a new videotape, whether this is actually the voice of Osama Bin Laden. They have all sorts of capabilities to go and take a look. Even by the nature of what he's saying, they'll be able to determine whether this is being done in relatively recent days and weeks contemporaneously or if it's old. Obviously everyone's going to be scrutinizing that new videotape, assuming it does emerge between now and Tuesday, very, very carefully.
He has, Octavia, a very distinctive voice I take it in Arabic, Osama Bin Laden.
NASR: He does. He has a very, very distinctive voice for all of us who listen to him. I've listened to hundreds of hours of Bin Laden. I've analyzed him over the years. He speaks very softly. He sounds like someone who is very shy. He doesn't raise his voice a lot. So he has a very distinctive voice. You know, even his intonation we can pick up. So he's not, for us, he's someone that's easy to identify.
CNN is very careful with this kind of information. We never confirm. We never say for sure it is him because we, as you said, leave it to the experts. The CIA has a way to conduct voice verification. And they do that. In every case we were right and they came back and said, yes, indeed, that sounded like him or, indeed, that was him.
But yes, we know him very well. We know that voice. We know his intonation. We know his accent. We know he even has favorite phrases and favorite quotes from the Koran. So Bin Laden is pretty well known to us and his speeches are very well known to us. As far as we are concerned, as soon as that tape hits the web sites, we will listen to it and immediately we will be able to tell. If it's a video we will be able to tell from the look and if it's an audio, we will be able to tell from the content if it is anything new.
I have to say, Wolf, you may remember not long ago, only a few weeks ago, there was a tape that was released. In it, there was about 40 seconds of Osama Bin Laden that we had not heard before. Everybody was very excited about that audio, that video as a matter of fact. It was him talking about martyrdom. He was talking to what looked to be his followers. He was looking down and explaining how important martyrdom is in Islam. He talked about the prophet Muhammad and how he wished to me a martyr himself.
Many people at the time said that the tape was new and it is very important to say that clip itself we hadn't heard that clip before but it dated back to even prior to September 11, 2001. The production itself was very, very new. We said that on CNN. It is very important to say these web sites have been making it their business to produce tapes, put them out there, say they're new, and then it's up to us to reanalyze them and find out how new they are, if they are new. If they're not, to basically date them and say they date back to that time or that time. But, again, the picture on that website clearly is definitely an older Bin Laden taped somewhere around 2003 or 2004 even.
BLITZER: Octavia, stand by because this is an important story that we're working on.
For viewers just tuning in, a website that monitors al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations, now reporting that the al Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden, is going to be releasing a videotape in the coming days to mark the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. That sixth anniversary happening on Tuesday.
Clark Kent Ervin is joining us right now on the phone as well. He's the former inspector general of the department of homeland security and an authority on these matters.
If this videotape does emerge, Clark, I assume it would be for propaganda purposes. Osama Bin Laden and his supporters trying to rub it in, rub it in the face of the United States that, look, I'm alive and well. I can still go on television and deliver these messages to my followers.
CLARK KENT ERVIN, FORMER DHS INSPECTOR GENERAL: Well, that's right, Wolf, if there's a tape and that if has to be stressed, and if as Octavia is stressing, the tape is new, at a minimum it would propaganda value exactly as you say indicating to his followers that he is still around and he can continue to at least inspire attacks against the United States. Of course the worst-case scenario would be if it were operational, if the tape were intended to signal the start of an operation against us here in the United States. That's, of course, the ultimate fear.
BLITZER: And in the past, have there been those kinds of messages in these audio or videotapes from Osama Bin Laden or from Ayman al-Zawahiri or other al Qaeda elements that deliver messages to launch certain attacks.
ERVIN: Well, that's very difficult to say. There have been indications of that and of course our counterterrorism experts and the government, intelligence officials, have been very careful to look for that. It's very difficult to say definitively whether that's happened but certainly it can happen. We wouldn't know whether it was happening because you would have to be privy to exactly what the code is. But certainly that's a possibility.
BLITZER: Clark Kent Ervin, stand by.
I want to bring in our senior pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre. He's watching this story for us working his sources in the national security community.
Jamie, what are you picking up?
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, so far nobody knows what to make of this announcement from a web site but I can tell you that just recently I sat down with a senior U.S. official, along with my colleague, Barbara Starr, somebody who's intimately aware of the search for Osama Bin Laden. And this official conceded to us they had not had a good lead on Bin Laden for quite some time, probably dating back to 2005. All of these reports about how the United States just missed him or came close to getting him, that's simply not the case. They really haven't had a good idea. If this tape comes out and it's new, as everyone says, they're going to be looking for clues to see where Bin Laden might be, what kind of condition he's in. There's still reports that he's suffering from some kind of kidney disease that could be debilitating in some fashion. That's never been 100 percent confirmed. So they're going to be looking for fresh clues if indeed the video surfaces and it's new. But again, this may be an opportunity for the U.S. intelligence community to try to put some more pieces in the puzzle.
BLITZER: All right Jamie. Stand by for that. We're going to stay on top of the story. A word from al Qaeda that its leader, Osama Bin Laden, is planning on producing a videotape in the coming days to mark the sixth anniversary of 9/11, much more on the breaking news. Also, Jack Cafferty right after this.
BLITZER: A terror website is now reporting that Osama Bin Laden will release a videotape message to the American people on the sixth anniversary of 9/11. That sixth anniversary is Tuesday. We're watching this story very closely. Deborah Feyerick is also monitoring this terror monitoring website that broke the news that Osama Bin Laden supposedly has a new videotape ready to go.
FEYERICK: Well, Wolf, a lot of the web forums that are out there according to a counterterrorism expert who has been monitoring the web sites says there's something different about the talk on these sites now.
Normally, experts would be skeptical about the information being put out there. But there's a lot of activity, this expert's saying, that right now cannot be ignored. A lot of people talking about the fact that Bin Laden is going to come out with some sort of a video message. Now according to the Intel Center, they believe that al Qaeda's al-Sahab, their PR wing of al Qaeda, has formally announced that within the next 72 hours that video announcement could be forthcoming. Again, all of this on the eve of September 11th. That's one of the reason it's taken on this sort of increased tension and elevation amongst those who watch these kinds of web sites.
BLITZER: Let me bring in John McLaughlin, the former deputy director of the CIA, our national security adviser. How significant would it be, John, if there is in fact, a new videotape that's confirmed that was done in recent days or weeks showing Osama Bin Laden delivering a message to the American people?
MCLAUGHLIN: Well, this would be very significant, Wolf, because it would put a cap stone on what a lot of people have now learned and assessed about al Qaeda over the last couple of years.
As the last national intelligence estimate made clear, they now are operating from a relatively secure sanctuary. They're now able to influence events in far off lands. They've increased their activities around the world. And in a way, they're back in business. So this would be Bin Laden saying, I'm back, we're influential, people should come to my banner. And he will have, in any videotape that he admits here, some predictable messages, as Octavia said. But I think some of his themes are quite easily anticipated.
Al Qaeda these days has what most people regard as a very powerful narrative. He will say things like we are bleeding the United States in the Middle East just as we bled the Soviets in Afghanistan and you know what happened to them. The United States is in a weaker position than it's ever been in the Middle East and we're responsible for that. More people should flock to our cause and should attack Americans and the United States everywhere.
So he's in the pole position right now in terms of being able to mount what al Qaeda would regard as an effective propaganda campaign.
BLITZER: We'll see if this videotape does in fact emerge. John McLaughlin, thanks very much.
I want to go to Jack Cafferty. He's in New York with the Cafferty File. Maybe we'll see and hear from Osama Bin Laden in the coming day or two.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Just in time for General Petraeus' progress report on Iraq, right?
The question this hour is why would President Bush, and he did this, tell the Australia Deputy Prime Minister we're kicking ass in Iraq? According to an Australian newspaper, a reporter overheard him say that.
Alan writes from Texas, "One need only look back to his Yale days for insight. His experience as cheerleader and regular contestant in all night risk matches prepared him to deliver such a unique comment to another world leader. It's a game of global domination played by our mental undergraduate."
Alan in California, "President Bush's involvement in ass-kicking is and always has been only as an instigator, never as a participant with skin in the game. Same is true today. President AWOL talks a big game but he's a shameless coward. Others have always paid the checks that his mouth wrote. Sadly, the almost 4,000 dead U.S. citizens are in that group."
Ken in California, "A worn-out military begs for help not coming. Troops are being recycled to Iraq month after month in a seemingly endless war, wounding them and the hearts and souls of families, and marriages. Our troops grow weary but no fresh legs come. Who's ass, Mr. President?"
Connie in Baltimore, "I'm sorry to say President Bush continues to lose his grip on reality. Somebody needs to go in person and apologize to the Deputy Prime Minister for the insensitivity of the remark. George Bush is an embarrassment to the men and women serving in Iraq and all over the world and to us as a nation."
Craig in Ohio, "Because he's still a delusional mixture of West Texas cowboy bravado and Ivy League frat boy. Bush loves to mix it up with the big boys as long as his butt isn't on the line. Other people go to war, not him."
And Paul writes, "You've taken the president's remark out of context. Wearing his flight suit and using an Australian accent, it was surely a crowd-pleaser."
BLITZER: Jack, see you back here in an hour. A lot more on the new reported videotape from Osama Bin Laden coming up in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Let's go too Lou Dobbs. He's in New York.
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