Articles

Sep 11, 2003

New Bin Laden tape

HEADLINE: Analysts Scrutinizing New Bin Laden Tape, CNNfn

GUESTS: Peter Bergen, Ross Margolies

BYLINE: Christine Romans

BODY:
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNNfn ANCHOR, STREET SWEEP: While the world remembers September 11th, the hunt is still on for Osama bin Laden. Wall Street especially is keen for updates on the hunt’s progress. At this time yesterday, markets tumbled after television networks aired a new tape apparently of the al Qaeda leader. Analysts are poring over the tape which they’re hoping will shed light on his whereabouts. Peter Bergen is CNN’s terrorism analyst. He joins me now to talk about this.

Peter, thanks for being here.

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Hi, Christine.

ROMANS: It’s so interesting the way the markets are just zeroed in on what happened to bin Laden. It’s almost as if he’s sort of a — I don’t know, a talisman if you will of what happened here on September 11th. Even if capturing him wouldn’t make any difference in the war on terror, assuming the markets are very closely watching. Where are we in the hunt for him?

BERGEN: I think we’re sort of back at square one, more or less. You know, he’s not doing the kinds of things that get you caught. There are basically three ways people usually get caught. Somebody drops a dime on you to pick up a cash reward. That’s worked with other terrorists in the past. There’s been a cash reward for bin Laden since ’99, $5 million. It went up to $25 million after 9/11. The people around him clearly aren’t motivated by that cash. We don’t obviously have a mole within al Qaeda. And finally, bin Laden is not yapping away on his sat phone, the kinds of signal intelligence that might lead to his location. So I’ve talked to numerous U.S. officials and also officials in the Afghan/Pakistan region. I actually went back there for “Vanity Fair” recently to see how the hunt was going. And I think that they really don’t have much in terms of finding bin Laden or even Al Zawahiri the other guy we just saw in that videotape.

ROMANS: What do you make of that videotape and the timing of its release? Was it meant do you think to upset Americans who are clearly looking at a mournful day here today?

BERGEN: Undoubtedly. You know, last year we saw, also the same video, sort of the propaganda arm of al Qaeda releasing audiotapes and videotapes from the group. We expected something, Christine at this time. What was surprising to me was not that we got new audiotapes but we actually had new video. And we haven’t seen bin Laden you know, since late 2001 in any videotape, and I think that was quite surprising. Obviously, he’s not in poor health. There were erroneous reports that he was suffering from kidney disease. I think those pictures will put that idea to rest. He may not be in perfect health, but he’s certainly able to walk around those mountaintops as we saw yesterday on the videotape.

ROSS MARGOLIES, SALOMON BROS. ASSET MGMT.: Pete, it’s Ross Margolies. Do you think that bin Laden and the top people in al Qaeda are in control of the network now or is it in more of a dormant stage?

BERGEN: I think al Qaeda the organization was severely disrupted by what the United States and its coalition allies have done since 9/11. However, al Qaeda is not like the Gambino crime family, where if you arrest all the Gambinos, it goes out of business. It’s also an ideology and a lot of people have signed up for that ideology and we’ve seen attacks that really don’t have that much to do with al Qaeda in Indonesia recently, in Morocco, in Saudi Arabia, that may be more linked to al Qaeda, but the fact is, a message has gone out, and even if you get rid of bin Laden, and Al Zawahiri, the people at the top, unfortunately, I think we’ll be dealing with the al Qaeda phenomenon or the al Qaeda movement for quite a long time.

MARGOLIES: In the U.S., there’s some sensitivity to the way al Qaeda is treated in the Arab press, in the Arab media. What’s your view of that? Are we being too sensitive to it or is it basically a conduit for information?

BERGEN: The Arab press in general?

MARGOLIES: Al-Jazeera?

BERGEN: I actually, I know some of those Al-Jazeera reporters. I think they present themselves, and I take this sort of at face value, we’re just interested in getting scoops and the same way any journalist is. A lot of them come out of the BBC. Of course, there are views in the Middle East that are going to be different from, let’s say, an American perspective, since a lot of them are, we aren’t Syrian, Palestinian. They’re going to have a different take. But the notion that they’re sort of al Qaeda propaganda arm I think has really not been proven at all. There was a recent arrest of an Al-Jazeera correspondent in Spain for doing things for al Qaeda. Not clear exactly what’s happened with him right now. But I think in general, Al-Jazeera is interested in doing what CNN is doing, which is getting the story out.

ROMANS: Right. Peter, you mentioned in the beginning you think we’re back to square one in terms of searching for Osama bin Laden. But two things have changed, you know, the war in Iraq, the situation in Iraq is one of them. And also, you’ve got the issue of what the rest of the world thinks of the United States. Two years ago, there was a lot of sympathy because of what had happened here right in the our backyard, literally where we sit right now. Has that changed as well?

BERGEN: I think it’s evaporated. You know, after 9/11, there was a huge — “Le Monde,” which is hardly a sort of pro-American newspaper in France, had a banner headline, “We Are All Americans Now.” Of course and it’s not just the French who I think have changed their views. There was a very useful poll by the Pew Charitable Trust, in Indonesia you’re seeing very low rates of approval, 15 percent. Also places in Pakistan, Morocco. All sorts of countries around the Muslim world, which are basically, by the way, allies of the United States. Indonesia, has usually been very pro-American; Morocco the same. Pakistan has been our ally basically the last two decades. So we have seen that kind of trust sort of evaporate. And interesting enough, when you ask the question, who do you trust more? Osama bin Laden or President Bush? The numbers are overwhelmingly in favor of bin laden in many countries in the Muslim world.

ROMANS: Peter Bergen, CNN terrorism expert. Thanks you so much for joining us.

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