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CNN'S AMANPOUR

Ali Soufan Replay; Guido Westerwelle Replay

Aired May 11, 2012 - 15:00:00   ET

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


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CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, I'm Christiane Amanpour and welcome to our program.

Something new we're doing on Fridays. We want to show you the interviews that stood out for us this week with people at the center of the biggest stories.

Guido Westerwelle is the foreign minister of Germany, a leader struggling to keep the Eurozone in one piece after voters in France and Greece swept their governments from power. We'll hear from him later in the program.

But first, a man who has tracked Al Qaeda across the world, Ali Soufan is a former FBI counterterrorism agent who sat down to tell me the story of his battle to catch one of Al Qaeda's top killers.

His name is Fahd al-Quso. He's a Yemeni, and we now know that he is a top leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the most dangerous terrorist threat to the United States and the rest of the world right now. He had a $5 million price tag on his head, put there by the U.S. government because his crimes go all the way back to the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole.

And most importantly, he was the key link between Al Qaeda and the 9/11 attacks.

Ali Soufan, welcome.

ALI SOUFAN, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: Who is al-Quso and tell us about how you interrogated him all that time ago?

SOUFAN: Well, we first identified Fahd al-Quso as being a member of the cell that conducted the U.S.S. Cole attack team. We were able to arrest him and interrogate him. And he provided significant amount of intelligence about his connections to Al Qaeda, about Al Qaeda's role in the U.S.S. Cole bombing and the murder of 17 sailors at Aden, and also about his relationship to Osama bin Laden.

He also provided us some information about a meeting that took place in southeast Asia, where he delivered $36,000. We know -- we now know that that meeting was actually a planning summit for the 9/11 attack. So he is as dangerous as you can get.

AMANPOUR: Now he's dead. Do you believe that his -- the attack that killed him, the drone attack, was actually linked to this bomb plot?

SOUFAN: I will be surprised if it is not, because Fahd, since he left the Yemeni jail, he has been planning very hard to conduct attacks, not only inside Yemen, but also outside Yemen. And his name has been linked to many attacks.

You know, he was 25 years old when I interviewed him as part of the U.S.S. Cole. And later, it's that individual, this, you know, silly smirk on his face every time he's talking to you, he is being called the Al Qaeda sheikh. So he became --

AMANPOUR: So a top leader?

And how did that happen? Because you had him in your grasp, as we say, there were mistakes made.

SOUFAN: Well, we had all of these guys. I mean, the picture that now you're showing, are basically pictures of him at the court in Sana'a when we prosecuted him --

AMANPOUR: In Yemen?

SOUFAN: -- in Yemen, in Sana'a, Yemen, him and Jamal Badawi, his friend and colleague in the Cole attack. There was a deal between the U.S. government and the Yemeni government -- because they were Yemeni citizens, we will prosecute them in Yemen.

And we had to go to Yemen and prosecute them over there with the help of the Yemeni government. They were convicted and then they were able to escape from jail, few times they escaped, actually, from jail. And until now, you know --

AMANPOUR: He's been at large (ph).

SOUFAN: Exactly, exactly.

AMANPOUR: So tell us how dangerous is Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, based in Yemen?

SOUFAN: As you know, there's many Qaedas. There's Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Al Qaeda in Iraq. I think the most dangerous one is Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. And the reason Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is the closest to bin Laden's version of Al Qaeda. Many Qaedas around the world joined the franchise of Al Qaeda.

They never went to Afghanistan, met bin Laden. Those individuals basically are the real deal. Nasir al-Wuhayshi, the head of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, he used to be the chief of staff of Osama bin Laden. We know him as Abu Basir Yemeni.

We also prosecuted him in Yemen, and he was able to escape. Qassim al-Raimi was also the military commander now for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. He was also in Afghanistan. The number two guy, al-Shihri, he escaped from Saudi Arabia, went to Yemen and became the number two in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. So this is the closest to Al Qaeda you have.

AMANPOUR: And just to get it straight, you wanted to bring him back to the United States?

SOUFAN: Well --

AMANPOUR: Quso?

SOUFAN: Absolutely.

AMANPOUR: When you had him in your grasp, what was the decision process? Why did they decide to leave him there?

SOUFAN: It was way higher than our pay grade at the time. It's something that happened between the U.S. government and the Yemeni government. And the Yemenis insisted that because of Quso and Badawi are both Yemeni citizens, their constitution prohibit them being rendered to the United States for prosecution.

So the United States government at the time agreed that we will go to Yemen and help the Yemenis prosecute them in Yemen.

AMANPOUR: When you were interrogating him, did you have a sense that he would become this now top leader in the Yemeni franchise of Al Qaeda? What was he telling you back then?

SOUFAN: Honestly, when I was interrogating him, the only thing I can say to myself that this guy would never see the day of light again. I mean, you know, he was admitting his involvement in the murder of 17 sailors.

AMANPOUR: And you had fully expected him to be locked up and --

SOUFAN: Absolutely, absolutely. And we did that before with the East Africa embassy bombing, for example, with al-Owhali, with Mohammed Atef, all these individuals who were involved and we were able to catch them, they were prosecuted and they will never see the light of day again.

So that's what I was thinking. And he was very cooperative. I mean, he provided significant amount of intelligence and information.

AMANPOUR: Quso was cooperative?

SOUFAN: Absolutely. That could have --

AMANPOUR: Why?

SOUFAN: -- in a way stopped -- it's the way, you know, we interrogate people. We interview people. You know, you have to have deep knowledge of the group.

You have -- I mean, Quso at one point -- and I mention it, actually, in many of my statements, at one point when I was interrogating him, he went like this, and he said, "Now I remember you. You were in Kandahar. You were in our guest house." He thought I was undercover. That's why we know everything that we know about Al Qaeda. So he --

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AMANPOUR: And you speak Arabic.

SOUFAN: And I speak Arabic. So he started trying to recall everything that happened when he was there in order to prove to me that he was cooperating. And he gave us one main piece of evidence that linked that thing to Nanidabad (ph).

AMANPOUR: When you see and when you've read about this bomb plot that was foiled, where do you think these bomb plots could lead? Look, we've been hearing -- and I can quote any number of officials who've said, Al Qaeda is on its last leg, Al Qaeda is just in survival mode. We've devastated Al Qaeda.

How much of a threat does it remain to the United States? And do you think this bomb plot was designed to attack the United States?

SOUFAN: Yes, absolutely, and I think we have to give a lot of credit to the intelligence community and the men and women of the CIA and the other government agencies, who did not, you know, focus anywhere else and kept focusing on Al Qaeda.

Look, you know, yes, we devastated Al Qaeda. But we had a lot of tactical wins against Al Qaeda. The ideologies are still there. What --

AMANPOUR: Key to the organization, that people have talked about now, bin Laden is gone, there's nobody really to have that charisma and that magnetic direction that he did.

SOUFAN: The global organization of Al Qaeda doesn't exist as much as it used to exist before 9/11. However you have these branches of Al Qaeda, and some of them, like Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, are mini-bin Laden Qaedas, and they are trying to do whatever they can do in order to remain relevant (ph).

Just one thing, bin Laden, his declaration of jihad in 1996 was expel the infidels from the Arabian Peninsula. Those individuals believe it is their duty. They are Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

AMANPOUR: As we've been saying, Al Qaeda is not totally down. But while the war against them continues, so do the challenges over how to try the highest profile cases in military tribunals at the much despised Guantanamo Bay prison facility, cases such as the self-confessed terrorist and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Back in 2007, at his first court appearance, he seemed to cooperate with the court.

A year later, he actually pleaded guilty. But that trial was halted when President Obama decided to move the case to the federal court in New York. A storm of public criticism forced the case back to Guantanamo and back to a military tribunal. And now the defendants are no longer cooperating, calling into question the legitimacy of the process.

And another question hangs over the tribunal: how can it proceed, say some, given that torture was used on people like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?

But what about if they don't cooperate, which right now Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, public enemy number one, mastermind of 9/11, is not cooperating, having already pled guilty, the first time around, and now he's not cooperating. What will that mean?

SOUFAN: Well, we have a lot of evidence on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed that, with his cooperation or without his cooperation, the proceeding can go. We have interviews that he did to media channels, talking about his role in 9/11. We have a lot of investigation that took place, that conducted by the FBI and other agencies. So we have a lot of harsh evidence and documentation to prove his connections.

AMANPOUR: Will that possibly be tainted by the fact that he will probably come in and his defense lawyer will say, well, hang on a second, he was waterboarded 183 times. So no matter what he says, the whole thing is -- I mean, can -- is that a risk?

SOUFAN: This is what I testified to in the Senate, you know, when we're talking about the end game of the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques. I mean, this is one of the problems. I mean, the 600-pound gorilla in the courtroom is the word that nobody else is allowed to say publicly. It is waterboarding and it is torture.

However, we should not forget that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed conducted 9/11, that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was the subject of a lot of investigations and there's a lot of professional people in the U.S. government, CIA, FBI, DOD, who did their job, collected evidence, collected intelligence. And a lot of these things did not come out of the 183 water session, waterboarding.

Actually, what we know now from the DOD, from everyone else, that basically he did not cooperate and he provided false information about the 183 sessions of waterboarding.

AMANPOUR: We are still going to be watching this, of course.

As for Europe, the German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle is struggling to hold the Eurozone together in the midst of sweeping political change. We'll be right back.

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AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. In both France and Greece this week, voters made a clear statement borne from economic pain. They soundly rejected the austerity measures put in place to deal with Europe's debt crisis. It's an agenda that has been spearheaded by Germany, and as voters in France and Greece were heading to the polls, I sat down with Germany's foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle.

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AMANPOUR: Foreign Minister, good to have you into the studio.

GUIDO WESTERWELLE, GERMAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: What do you think President Hollande would do in regards to the economic situation? He's already said that he wants to give Europe a new direction, and he even wants to renegotiate the pact that Chancellor Merkel and the other euro member states negotiated.

So what if President Hollande wants to renegotiate, that he insists he will?

WESTERWELLE: It cannot renegotiate this fiscal compact because we think what would this send as a signal, for example, to Italy. I mean, Italy, Spain, Portugal, they all implemented these reforms. They know that they cannot survive with their economy with always new debts. They all did what is necessary. And I think the ratification already started.

Once again, our offer to France, our offer to all our friends in the European Union is let us implement the fiscal compact because this is necessary to overcome the debt crisis, and let us also add a growth compact to this present -- onto this present situation.

AMANPOUR: So explain this to me, though, because Chancellor Merkel, President Sarkozy were very insistent that it was about austerity or it was about getting debt down. And now we see that those governments who have tried to do that, let's say, in Britain, we've seen that growth is not happening.

It's become very flat. We've seen a double-dip recession in several countries, and we've seen quite a lot of Europe in recession still. Doesn't this mean that your chancellor's policies simply have not worked?

WESTERWELLE: No. I think it is obvious that it works, because we went through this valley (ph) a few years ago, and we had to answer our recession few years ago with structural reforms because this is the only sustainable way to solve this crisis. Of course we can spend more money. The only result will be more debts. And then we are once again in the same difficulty, in the same problem.

So there is a cliche in some countries that Germany only asks for austerity, and this is not the truth. If we look to this map here, I know them very well, and these are very good friends of Germany, all these capitals, all these governments, these people are very good friends of Germany.

And we see, for example, Greece. Greece does not have the problem that the structural reforms do not work. I think this was a brave and a courageous government which brought through the reforms.

The problem for Greece is that they have a lack of competitiveness. They have excellent services. They have a wonderful landscape, they have beautiful coasts (ph). But what they need are companies, small and medium- sized companies, which are the backbone of the economy in our philosophy.

AMANPOUR: Many of the Greek people -- and I'm just reading, Mr. Hollande also says, basically it is not up to Germany to decide for the rest of Europe. We are all our own countries as well. There seems to be a backlash against your country, whether it's in Greece, whether it's Mr. Hollande, and many of the French people, people are fed up. They're saying austerity hurts too much.

WESTERWELLE: I mean, if we go to Germany and to our example, we do not ask any of our partners to do more than we did. For example, when we are living in a society where the average of the people is becoming older, which, of course, is a wonderful thing that we all can live a long life.

But on the other side, we know we -- this means consequences to the retirement or to the pension age. And we have to realize this. So we have to face reality.

AMANPOUR: And yet you have a real crisis in Europe, and that is this massive unemployment, I mean, at record levels. I mean, in Spain, for instance, amongst the young people, it's something like 50 percent more young people are out of work than in work. How is that going to be solved, if indeed Europe is to remain competitive?

WESTERWELLE: With all modesty, we went through this, as Germany, 10 years ago --

AMANPOUR: But what did you do?

WESTERWELLE: Yes, 10 years ago, Germany was the sick man of Europe. And we understood that the best medicine does not have to taste very well. The best medicine is what works but really helps you. We learned in Germany that the backbone of a successful economy are the medium and smaller-sized companies. And this meets our priority. This is what we did. And this is what we advise to our partners.

AMANPOUR: This is what I don't understand, austerity has been tried, the things that you've implemented and negotiated have been tried. And yet in some of these key economies, growth is flat, if at all.

WESTERWELLE: Without strategic patience, these reforms cannot work. I mean, the idea that we decide fiscal discipline in this month and next month -- we have what we call in the '50s ruchasmunde (ph) in our German language, which means, once again, a growing economy and everything is perfect like it has been, is an illusion.

AMANPOUR: Does it not worry you -- does it not worry Chancellor Merkel that governments are falling precisely because of this policy of austerity?

WESTERWELLE: I think some of these governments came out of the office because they work too slowly. There were --

AMANPOUR: They didn't do austerity fast enough?

WESTERWELLE: They didn't do the reforms fast enough. Once again, our policy is more than austerity and fiscal discipline. Our policy is both, growth and fiscal discipline. These are two sides of the same coin.

Just go to Italy for example. The last prime minister, Berlusconi, he was from the position of the Italian people, he works too slowly, because he said, well, he started the reform policy and then he saw there was some relaxation on the markets.

And then he said, well, probably I do not mean it as serious as I said yesterday. And these mixed signals to the markets and to the people have brought him into difficulties.

AMANPOUR: Do you see the European Union splitting apart?

WESTERWELLE: No.

AMANPOUR: No default, messy or otherwise?

WESTERWELLE: No.

AMANPOUR: Greece?

WESTERWELLE: No. I think that the European Union will manage this crisis because it is not a crisis of the European Union. It is not a crisis of the euro. The euro is very stable, very successful. It's an excellent currency. It is a crisis of debts. It's a debt crisis, what we have in the European Union.

And because I know how it was in Germany a few years ago, I know we are able to manage this and the European Union is a success story. It's not only the answer to the darkest chapter in our history. It is also our life insurance in times of globalization.

AMANPOUR: You talk about the darkest chapter of your history, the fascism, the Nazism. Today in parts of Europe a type of neo-fascism, a type of really serious right-wing nationalism is rising again, and many are blaming these terribly difficult economic times.

How hurtful is it for you, when you see pictures of Chancellor Merkel, pictures of your finance minister, basically dressed up as Nazis in elements of the Greek press?

WESTERWELLE: This is hurtful. I cannot deny that. This is hurtful, especially for someone of my generation and, I mean, the whole -- our whole engagement in Europe as Germans was always to draw the consequences of this darkest chapter in our history. I think we learned our lessons.

But we also know to prevent extremism you need a social and economic participation of the people, especially the less privileged people. And the best thing what we can do is create jobs, create perspectives for the young generation. So economy, the economy is not everything. But it's a key to solve this crisis.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Foreign Minister, thank you very much for joining me.

WESTERWELLE: Thank you.

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AMANPOUR: Later this month, Westerwelle will be coming back to the United States to the G-8 summit, where he'll talk with the allies about how to deal with the global economic crisis, which is also threatening the United States, and political upheaval isn't unique to Europe. It did happen right her in the American heartland this week. And we'll have that story when we come back.

But as we head to break, join us at the social media site, Pinterest, at amanpour.com/pinterest. We're pinning up all sorts of news that's catching our eye, and we're sharing reports from this show. So join in. We'll be right back.

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AMANPOUR: A final note before we leave you tonight. An important change occurred in the United States this week, a long respected American politician, a man known around the world, is leaving office just as in Europe America's economic woes have brought a sharp change at the voting booth here.

Imagine a world without Richard Lugar. After 36 years in the U.S. Senate, the 80-year-old Republican from Indiana lost in a landslide to his right-wing Tea Party-backed opponent.

In his long career, Lugar cast more votes for Ronald Reagan than any other senator, but he also worked with Democrats, like Sam Nunn on arms control and he was a trusted friend and mentor on world affairs to a young senator, Barack Obama. Many on the Right never forgave him for that.

First elected in 1976, he influenced American foreign policy more than practically any other senator. And in an increasingly polarized U.S. Congress, he was one of the last lions to prowl both sides of the aisle, seeking bipartisan support. Richard Lugar will be sorely missed.

And that's it for tonight's program. Thank you for joining us. Goodbye from New York.

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