We now know, for example, bin Laden was meeting with Imad Mughniyah, Hezbollah
security chief. Mughniyah, until yesterday, had killed more Americans than bin
Laden, had wounded more Americans than bin Laden. Mughniyah was involved with
the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, the takeover of TWA 847,
and the murder of Navy diver Robert Stethem, the apprehension of several
Americans who were held hostage in Beirut, Lebanon.
So this is an individual who has been aggressive in his attacks against
America. And we now know through testimony that came out in the trial in New
York City on the bombing of the U.S. embassy, that Mughniyah was the mentor,
the ideological inspiration, for Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden saw Mughniyah as
one who used violence to force the United States to retreat from Lebanon. And
he believed that that same model could be used against the United States to
force it out of Saudi Arabia and to punish it.
Let's break that down. How does that lesson get learned? It starts, as you
say, earlier, circa the millennium?
In the millennium we still did not know that.
So, at the millennium, what do we know?
Well, at the millennium, we know that [bin Laden is] holed up in Afghanistan.
He is working with ideological sympathizers, some who have their roots with the
Egyptian Islamic Jihad, some who have their roots with the armed Islamic group
of Algeria. They've sort of merged together. Because although they come from
different countries, they share a common vision of destroying the United
States, eradicating the stain of U.S. influence that they view as sinful. And
you've got to confront the sin by destroying it.
So we thwart some efforts. Does that diminish our anxiety about his
capabilities? Does it make us complacent?
No. ... It sounds counterintuitive. On the one hand, we spend so much time
talking about [bin Laden] that we elevate his status to this invincible sort of
person. And yet, at the same time, the individual who's carried out the most
spectacular terrorist attacks, or is tied to individuals who have carried out
the most spectacular terrorist attacks, in the last nine years is Osama bin
Laden. So you have to find the balance. And unfortunately, while the U.S.
intelligence community is trying to watch and trying to monitor, the U.S.
intelligence community and, frankly, other intelligence organizations are not
set up or designed to penetrate groups like Osama bin Laden's.
So we come to the USS Cole incident. Briefly describe what happened there.
How did that put bin Laden back on the radar?
Well, bin Laden, because of his ties to Yemen by virtue of his mother and the
ties to some people that are sympathetic to his vision of Islam, sympathetic
and supportive of his fatwahs, calling for the death of Americans. Again, you
saw a sophisticated -- sophisticated in the sense that Arabs traditionally in
conducting maritime terrorist attacks have been abysmal failures -- in this
case, they were able to load sufficient explosives in a boat and have some
notion about the damage that would do to a ship and were able to get close.
Now, I still maintain that even though bin Laden was planning that kind of
attack and was hoping for success, I think failure of security measures on the
part of the U.S. captain of that ship contributed to it. That was not the
finding of the review board. But nonetheless, when you don't impose any kind
of security parameter, you create opportunities for these people.
I think lurking in the mind of bin Laden and the al Qaeda group is the notion
you're going to strike a blow so decisive, so terrible, it will cause the
collapse of the society that they view as hollow. Western society is evil. It
is based upon liquor and prostitutes and not being faithful to Allah, as they
interpret Islam. And therefore it's a shell that once you attack it, and hit
it in its right spot, will collapse.
So with the USS Cole, with that attack, what did that tell us about bin
Laden's capabilities, about his organizational structure, and about al Qaeda?
I think we're still trying to sort that out. Because we got ourselves in a bit
of a trap, and that trap is this: We're looking for evidence that will stand up
in a U.S. court as opposed to taking information and intelligence that gives
you a reasonable basis for belief and action. And in the process of waiting to
develop evidence that you can present in a U.S. court, you end up tying your
hands. You can't take preemptive action because you want this case to go
And I firmly believe in the importance of ... prosecutions as a way to try to
eviscerate or try to weaken these people. But as we've seen in the events of
yesterday, with the attack on the World Trade Center, we have reached the point
now where we can no longer afford that luxury. We do have enough information
about bin Laden and his ties, at least in the embassy bombing in East Africa.
The ability to be patient and say, "Let's wait and see if the Taliban will
extradite him," is over.
How much do we really know about the Cole investigation? Set aside the
legal questions. From an intelligence perspective, how much did we really learn
about him? How much do we know in terms of his involvement in that operation?
I think there's a gap between what the intelligence community knows and what
the criminal investigators know. The criminal investigators have more
information that is not necessarily being passed to the intelligence community,
because the criminal investigators do not want that information to be tampered
with or tainted in any way, so that if it does come to trial, they can get a
conviction. And so you wind up with this interesting possibility that has
happened in the past, where the CIA has actually less understanding of what's
really going on, in the evidence side, than does the FBI. And the FBI is in a
position to know, but does not or cannot share.
So, do we know whether bin Laden was responsible [for the Cole attack]?
I cannot sit here and say definitively bin Laden was responsible, no.
Now, there was this Internet video where he seemed to claim some credit for
that particular event.
Well, and that's where I come back and say, do I know that there's sufficient
criminal evidence saying bin Laden did it? No. But looking at it logically
and circumstantially, he did not take the opportunity in that video to say,
"Oh, this is an abhorrent act. I reject it." No, he celebrated it and
affiliated himself with it. Now, maybe he's like the rooster taking credit for
the sun rising. In any event, he not only associates himself with the act,
takes credit for the act, but then continues to call for further acts of that
nature against the United States, and with other evidence of training in
Afghanistan, albeit crude, but training designed for one purpose and one
purpose only, to kill Americans, to destroy the United States.
So when you put together the entire picture, starting with the World Trade
Center, running through the attacks in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, up to and
including the bombings of the U.S. embassies in East Africa and finally, with
the USS Cole, once you see that the person, the same person is at least popping
up with a relationship in each of those acts -- while he may not have been [the
one] to place the explosive, he may not have been the one that came up with the
original idea -- if everyplace I go there's a fire, at some point people are
going to say, "When I see you, a fire breaks out. Let's talk to you about
arson." And so from that standpoint, he's not a suspect because he looks the
villain; he is a suspect because he is the "here's Waldo" of terrorism. He pops
up [wherever] there's a terrorist incident of some significance against the
How difficult is it to then take action? In the case of the Cole, in a
place like Yemen? And how important is it to a bin Laden or somebody else to
take a terrorist action in a place like Yemen?
Well, the issue in Yemen, from the standpoint of criminal prosecution, it's a
problem of the FBI and how they conduct themselves overseas. Despite repeated
incidents overseas, the FBI still has not set up a specially trained cadre of
people with language capability and cultural sensitivity who know what it's
like to go operate in Yemen. Instead, they put together a group, and it's like
an old Mickey Rooney and Andy Hardy movie. Let's put on a show.
And so you pull people, special agents, some come from Louisiana, and when they
go to Yemen it's their first time outside of the United States. You know, the
only other time they've been outside of Louisiana was when they went to
Quantico for training. So now they're in Yemen? And, you know, these are
foreigners. And they don't do things the way they do in Louisiana or Texas or
Missouri or Michigan.
Then after two or three weeks in that place, they're homesick and they want to
get home and see their families. They don't speak the language. And they
don't necessarily have the proper cultural cues for working with the locals.
And so it's no surprise that you wind up with these frictions where the Yemenis
are not bending over to cooperate. Because they're feeling mistreated.
And you find the same experience in Kenya, the same experience in Tanzania, the
same experience in Saudi Arabia.
How important is cooperation in these other countries?
The FBI still has not learned the lesson that was demonstrated in the movie
"Die Hard," where they show up and they take control and they completely trample
over the local police. They do that in the United States and they do that
overseas. And it's not because they're trying to be bad guys. It's just that
that's their culture. And they have yet to say, "Let's put together a special
investigative response unit. Let's put together ... one that speaks Arabic,
one that speaks Spanish, one that speaks Chinese."
You put together groups that speak other languages, so that when you have
incidents in a particular area, you can pull that group together, send them
there with a reasonable degree of certainty that they're going to know how to
live in the culture, how to speak the language, and they're specially trained
for it. And consistently, what the FBI has done, even in the latest incidents
with the USS Cole, was take a group of people that have no country knowledge,
no language knowledge, [and] throw them into the mix.
Did we take anything from the USS Cole experience? Did we take away any
particular lessons about the modus operandi of bin Laden or his willingness to
I don't know what the government took away. What I observed is someone who
continues to be creative at using low tech in an efficient manner. And again,
to say that it's sophisticated, it's not sophisticated to put a large amount of
explosives in a boat. You've got to have the ability to multiply, divide, and
run the conventional equations for predicting the effect of an explosive at a
certain distance and maybe have conducted some tests.
So that means you've got to arrange some [place] where you can do this, that
you've got access to water where you can do this. And you're willing to
conduct some experiments and you've got sufficient explosives to do that.
That's not terribly sophisticated. But that does mean that you have to have
some local cooperation or own a vast isolated stretch of an island or a
coastline somewhere where you can work on that without being detected.
The trial of the accused in the embassy bombings in East Africa seems to
present some opportunities to learn more about the organization of bin Laden.
Well, it reflects that the U.S. knew a lot more about it from the FBI side that
was allowed to come out in public. The source that the FBI used to reach the
plea agreement, he'd served in the U.S. Army. He was an Egyptian. And he'd
also apparently been an FBI source at some time. His plea bargain with the
FBI, with the U.S. government, was sealed. But what was released to the public
was extremely revealing. It showed for the first time a confessed link between
bin Laden, Mughniyah, and the Iranians. Now, up to this point, the
intelligence community, and I know the National Security Council under
President Clinton, believed that someone like a bin Laden would have no
connection or ties to Iran, [that he would be] diametrically opposed to [Iran]
because the Taliban are opposed to the Iranians.
But when you see someone like Mughniyah meeting with bin Laden, and Mughniyah
moves freely back and forth between the Bekaa Valley and Iran -- and the Bekaa
Valley is where the explosives come out that end up destroying the U.S. housing
complex in Saudi Arabia -- and that the individuals who are involved in that
bombing attempt in Saudi Arabia again show up having links and ties with bin
Laden, all of a sudden, you need to step back and say, "okay, maybe this is not
quite as we pictured it."
Maybe bin Laden is not just this freelance artist being tolerated by the
Taliban. Is it possible that he's operating as an agent provocateur under a
false flag? He may think he's working for someone else, when he's doing the
bidding of Iran. That's a possibility. What is clear is -- whether he's doing
it on his own or with the encouragement of a state that's staying behind the
scenes -- he is willing to use violence to destroy what he believes, what he
genuinely believes, is evil.
Help me understand who is Imad Mughniyah?
Imad Mughniyah, Hezbollah security chief, planned and directed some of the most
astonishing terrorist operations until bin Laden came along. The bombing of
the U.S. embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1983, the bombing of the U.S. Marine
barracks [in 1984], which until yesterday had caused the largest loss of life
in any single terrorist attack against the United States, the hijacking of TWA
847, and the murder of U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem, the kidnapping of
several Americans that were held hostage in Lebanon for a while, such as Terry
So this is an individual who continues to operate in the Bekaa Valley of
Lebanon, continues with ties to Hezbollah, continues to be supported and
protected by the Iranian intelligence organization. And here he is meeting
with bin Laden. And, according to the source, ... the basis of the plea
bargain is that everything he's saying in this is true, that bin Laden modeled
himself after Mughniyah. ...
And what did we learn about their relationship and how well connected they
Well, we learned publicly in the trial that there's a relationship that was not
probed. And we do not know what's in the sealed parts of the indictment. This
much is known. There's a sealed indictment in the United States against Imad
Mughniyah that still has not been brought public. So the fact that those two
are tied together, when you step back and look over the last 20 years of
all the significant terrorist attacks against the United States in which
Americans were killed or injured, you discover -- I ran the numbers -- it's
roughly 72 percent of all Americans killed and wounded in international
terrorist attacks since 1968 have been carried out by these two individuals,
Mughniyah and bin Laden.
So, we're not looking at a global threat. We're not looking at multiple
groups. This notion that all terrorists want to kill Americans, not true. If
that's true, why haven't FARC [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia] and ELM
[National Liberation Army of Bolivia] been out attacking American targets and
killing Americans? They'll blow up oil pipelines, but they shy away from
killing Americans. Kurdish Workers Party in Turkey, no compunction about
killing Turks in Europe. Very hesitant to kill Americans in Europe or in
What about Hamas and Hezbollah? Even Hamas with its suicide bomb killing, would
kill Americans who happened to be onboard buses, but not because they were
Americans. And they reached a point at which, [with] the death of Americans
and such, they backed away from the suicide bombing campaign.
The only one who's really been consistent with his actions to kill Americans
has been bin Laden over the last eight or nine years, and those who have
affiliated themselves with him.
Now, would bin Laden have taken more than just inspiration from Mughniyah?
Logistical support perhaps? What do we know?
Well, there was also testimony in this sealed document, or what was unsealed in
the plea agreement, that Iran was providing weapons and training along with
encouragement through Mughniyah. So, weapons, explosives, training. So it was
not Osama bin Laden, the lone wolf. But rather, he at least had some ties from
a country that has been very active in terrorism over the last 20 years.
How would that affect somebody like bin Laden who's up in the hills in
Afghanistan? Would that embolden him?
It would reaffirm in his mind the righteousness of his cause, that he is doing
something that within his skewed religious vision is not only correct and
proper, but is righteous and deserving of God's blessings ... Allah's
blessings, not Allah's curses.
So we have the USS Cole, we have evidence coming out of the East African
embassy bombings that would suggest that bin Laden is not only more active, but
fortified with accomplices and help.
Well, we need to keep in mind that while bin Laden is definitely a kind who is
willing to carry out spectacular acts with no regard for civilian casualties,
nonetheless he's not able to conduct these on a weekly or a daily basis. He
has been thwarted on several occasions. And when you look at the period from
1998, in August of '98, when U.S. embassies were bombed in East Africa, until
October of 2000, over 24 months passed before he could carry off another
terrorist spectacular. And here we are almost 12 months [later].
So we're looking at an individual who's got a network, but getting that network
set up and in place and ready to carry out these actions, so far he has not
demonstrated the ability to do it with any greater frequency than once a year.
That's the good news. The bad news is, in the history of terrorists, there is
no one that has come up with the vision of destruction and the willingness to
carry it out like him -- if in fact the ones responsible for this latest attack
in New York are proven to have links to bin Laden.
Leading up to this latest attack, [were there] any inklings? If you've got
a guy that you think is on your radar once every 12 months, 24 months, one
would think, you'd look at your watch and say, "Hey, it's about time he's going
to pop up again." Any indications that that might happen?
No. Because ... let me put it this way. I understand that there was
intelligence information pointing to supporters or adherents of bin Laden who
were receiving training in aviation operations. But not the specifics of,
they're going to infiltrate the United States, they're going to fly out of
certain airports, they're going to hijack [planes], and they're going to crash
them into major buildings. You know, no one connected those dots. I've
listened to some of the pundits who claim to be experts saying that they were
not surprised by this at all. Not even Tom Clancy in his wildest fantasies
came up with something this heinous and this outrageous.
And so then, to step back and recognize when you're dealing with individuals
who are willing to die, and are willing to kill thousands of others without any
regard for the consequences, we have entered a new realm -- they've ratcheted
up their activity to a level that they want to make sure it succeeds, and with
the belief that in succeeding they're going to destroy the United States.
If you look at the loss of life yesterday, and if it approaches 14,000 or more,
in one day you've had more people killed in this incident in the World Trade
Center than have died from all international terrorist attacks since 1968
worldwide. Americans, people from all other countries, more people died
yesterday in the United States from this single act than have died in all
previous international terrorist attacks in the last 32 years. That is
astonishing. That takes us ... that's like trying to compare a bullet to a
It is of a magnitude and a dimension that the world has not seen heretofore. It
is a wake-up call for the world -- if it's ultimately proven bin Laden's hand
is in it, and I think it will be. When he attacked the U.S. embassy in Africa,
he wanted to kill Americans; he didn't plan to kill almost 300 Kenyans. And
when you kill 300 Kenyans, all of a sudden you've got a new enemy. And now
when you kill not just Americans, but the French, English, Germans, Russians,
Swiss, Italians, Nigerians, Brazilians, you know, run down the list of
countries, Chinese, Japanese. ... You've killed people from other countries.
And they don't have to come out and come after you to punish you for killing
Americans. They come after you because you've killed their citizens.
And in that sense, we need to avoid portraying [bin Laden] as this master --
he's not the Gary Kasparov of terrorism. He's not this chess master who's
thinking two or three steps ahead. He is more like an impulsive teenage boy
who acts on emotion and acts on conviction without fully weighing the
consequences of his actions.
All he's guaranteed himself out of this is not a victory in the Islamic world
-- he'll even gain the condemnation of most of the Islamic world -- but he's
guaranteed the opposition of the rest of the world. And I don't care who you
are. You cannot stand up against the world with that kind of pressure. ...
Prior to the [latest attacks], there didn't seem, as you said, to be any
solid information. But at the same time, if there's intelligence about some of
the bin Laden organization taking flying lessons, how does it work inside the
intelligence community? What kind of alarms does that signal? And what happens
to that information? What's made of it?
When it's turned over to the analysts, the analysts have to sit down and say,
"What are the possibilities here?" And I'm sure you're going to find that
nobody in the analytical community sat down and said, you know, "What [are
they] preparing to do? They could possibly be preparing to come in and
commandeer an aircraft and then take control of that aircraft and crash it into
the World Trade Center or the Pentagon" -- nobody foresaw that. So you can
call that an analytical failure. And that may be too harsh, because ... this
is asking people to imagine the unimaginable. But at the same time, while it's
unimaginable or at least was unimaginable, it is nonetheless something that is
within the realm of capability. As opposed to the scenarios about nuclear
weapons or chemical and biological weapons, which are much more difficult to
get access to and to use.
And part of the problem comes back to the nature of the sourcing of this
information. I don't know if this is signal intelligence. I don't know if it
was human intelligence. But when an analyst sits down and weighs it, it
depends very much on the source.
And really the fundamental problem the United States faces in dealing with
entities like bin Laden and his supporters is that the existing intelligence
apparatus is still organized to defeat a conventional Cold War enemy. And that
means your intelligence operatives are going out in other countries to recruit
people who are at cocktail parties and diplomatic functions and official
government functions. You're looking for people who are in positions of power
in the other government who can tell you what's going on.
How do you penetrate an organization which is largely ideological and bound by
religious fervor? They don't have a membership. You don't have to fill out an
application. It's not like joining a country club. You are brought together
by the commonness of belief that is shared in worship. And in the faithful
application of your religious faith.
So how do you penetrate that? Well, then you have to have people who speak the
language and who can come off as committed enough on that religious front. And
then ultimately, you may be asked to demonstrate your faithfulness by
participating in some act of terrorism or killing somebody. And at that point,
our intelligence apparatus goes, "Wait a minute. We're not going to do that."
And it's the classic problem of, you've got rats, they live in the sewer, but
you don't want to get in the sewer because it's dirty. It smells. And you
might get sick from being around it. So you want to stay out of the sewer and
try to kill the rats. And you know what? You've got to make a choice. Either
you've got to get into the sewer or you've got to learn to live with the rats.
And we don't want to get in the sewer?
We made the decision about 10 to 15 years ago not to get in the sewer. And the
push has been more and more away from the sewer. I mean, again this is not to
justify what has taken place in Peru, in the case of [Vladimiro] Montesinos,
the intelligence chief there. But recently, you've seen a big uproar about,
What was the CIA doing? And who were they talking to? And why was this guy
stealing money? With hindsight we're geniuses. But when you're trying to
collect information and keep track of what someone's doing, you sometimes have
to be willing to do things which may not pass the Nobel Prize human-rights
But we've got to decide. If we want to win the Nobel Prize for human rights,
that's OK. That's a noble goal. But that will not allow you to have
intelligence operations that will anticipate and detect terrorist plots like
the one that brought down the World Trade Center.
Or maybe we're just asking too much of the intelligence community.
No, I don't believe that. It's not that we're asking too much of them. It's
that they structurally are not set up and organized, they're still like someone
sitting in a wheelchair being asked to run a marathon. ... So it means you've
got to get them out of the wheelchair, get the legs functioning, which requires
a complete structural change, and it's not easy.
And the only advantage, if there is any silver lining in this disaster of
yesterday, when those planes flew into the World Trade Center, is this may be a
sufficient catalyst to force changes in the intelligence community and in the
defense community that the United States has been unwilling to address in
How do you respond to this, if it is in fact bin Laden? How easy is it to
find him? Why haven't we found him? And what about this friend of his,
I believe it's easy to find anyone if you're willing to pay enough money. And
we have not yet been willing to pay enough money. I don't think anyone has
gone yet to the CIA and to the operations unit and said, "OK, we don't care
how much it costs. We're not going to look over your shoulder and criticize
you. We want you to take as much money as you need and get this guy. And if
you need a year, that's fine. If you need two years, that's fine. But get
him. You set a date, but get him."
And with that amount of money in place, it reminds me of the line from "The
Godfather" where Al Pacino made the point, you can kill the president if you
really want to. So I don't think it's outside the realm of possibility. But
we have got to be willing to play the game in a way that we're not willing to
play right now. Because right now how is it done? Well, first let's have that
budget appropriation. Tell me how you're spending the money. And then let's
make sure that nobody is making something on the side. And then let's make
sure we account for every penny. We want to be IRS accountants in chasing a
guy that's killed 20,000 Americans.
So I go back to the rats in the sewer. We've got to figure out, do we want to
get rid of the rats? Or do we want to stay out of the sewer? And so far our
choice has been we want to stay out of the sewer. We want to stay clean. But
we'd sure like to get rid of the rats.
Did the bombings yesterday change that?
We'll see. I have talked to too many friends who have far more experience with
the operations community than I do and who are experienced operators and who
have run some of the most sensitive programs overseas. They say the agency is
broken. It needs to be dismantled and something new put in place. And I'm not
just talking about the isolated opinion of one person, but several.
So put yourself in the mind of bin Laden right now, the day after. What's
He probably feels like the Baltimore Ravens after they won the Super Bowl.
Only he's not going to Disneyland. He may think about that as his next target.
But he thinks he struck a blow. And again, a lot of this depends upon how much
information gets to him. Because ... he's not living like a drug lord in
Colombia with satellite televisions and hot tubs. He remains very much an
ascetic who lives a monastic lifestyle.
And so consequently, he may not be fully in touch with what's going on and how
the world's reacting. But as that information filters in, there will be
suddenly this realization that instead of being applauded, instead of the
Muslims of the world rising up and saying, "Bin Laden, you're right. Let's
kill the Americans." Instead, he'll say, "My God, most of the Muslim world is
standing there in shock saying, 'What have you done?'" And with that, his
ability to move and operate in other places will be circumscribed. ...
So his mistake was being too successful?
Yes. This ... I would describe yesterday as his pyrrhic victory. He has won a
tremendous battle and it will lead to his downfall. And it's unfortunate that
it's taken so many lives to accomplish that.
You mentioned at the time [of our previous interview] that we were
making too much about bin Laden at that time. That if he had the wherewithal
to kill Americans and attack U.S. targets he would do so, but he hadn't. What
What changed is, I think he came to believe our propaganda. Our focus, by
making bin Laden so important a target and the constant emphasis -- if you
recall earlier this year, in the face of threats, it wasn't just that we close
civilian institutions, but the U.S. Seventh Fleet puts to sea, Marines are
withdrawn, U.S. military forces go into the duck and cover. At that point, if
I'm bin Laden, I'm saying, "If my threats force the military to retreat, what
will my actions do?" And, you know, up until the attack ... on the World Trade
Center [he had not shown] a willingness to really incur the casualties of lots
of Americans -- men, women, and children.
And I don't know if it was a frustration that the other attacks were not
achieving his objective and that in that frustration he's overreached, but this
much is certain: By killing so many people and by destroying the World Trade
Center towers, whatever measure of success he wants to take from it, he has
galvanized a level of opposition and intensity against him that did not exist
before. And by crossing that threshold, by now deciding that he's willing to
kill Americans regardless of whether they're military or diplomats, but just
common people going to work, that he's made himself enemies that he did not
You said [in our previous interview] "... Osama bin Laden in my view has not
been a very effective organizer or leader. He talks a great game."
Yeah. Well, he repeatedly calls "Muslims of the world unite." He doesn't have
a great following. He has a fervent following. Those who do enlist and sign
up with him are true believers. But at the same time, and let's take the
picture that was presented in the case of the East African embassies. Here
again, while bin Laden is described as this guy with this incredible
international organization, multi-millionaire, the picture that emerges is of a
guy who's tight-fisted, sends his people out to live in places where they don't
have enough money or enough to eat and they're always scrounging around.
And it's not that they're trained with the latest technology and the best
weapons and the best clothing and the best hotels and the best of anything --
it's enough to get by. And if they can be effective, great. And if not, you
know, you go on to the next target. You saw it again with the failed
millennium plot. I mean, these individuals, they're going to go to LAX and
blow up the airport. Where are they going to place the bomb? Well, they're
going to figure that out when they get there.
Well, if you're going to do proper target attack, you recon your target first.
And you figure out where you can get access. Plus, the way the guy was
handling explosives raises questions about whether he was properly trained.
Because he was lucky he didn't blow himself up at the border.
So you're describing somebody who has an organization that seems moderately
effective. And yet, how does that compare with what just happened?
Again, you saw the same pattern yesterday. Here again, the individuals who
carried out the attack, they leave their car with all the Arabic flight manuals
visible at Logan airport, easy to find. The impression that this was a highly
sophisticated operation, that only the greatest criminal mastermind could pull
off, I dispute that on several accounts. If you've got a credit card, you can
buy the plane tickets for the four aircraft. And let's be generous. Let's say
there were five persons per plane. That's twenty tickets. You can buy those
within two hours. And you can do it over the Internet. That's number one. So
you've got your tickets.
Then you've got to make sure that you've got at least one person, and more
likely two people, per team who can maintain flight speed and can turn a rudder
right and left. That you provide some basic flight training. It doesn't have
to be terribly sophisticated. But you're not trying to say, "OK, we want you
to be able to take off and land the aircraft." If you're talking about that,
then you're talking a level of sophistication that did not occur.
Weapons. The initial reports are that in neither case do they go to the effort
of getting weapons smuggled onboard the aircraft, but rather they used either
knives that were allowed to be on the plane or could be jury-rigged in
such a way that it could represent a threat but would pass security. ...
The reason I don't think it's sophisticated [is that] it didn't require a lot
of time or money to buy the tickets. It didn't require a lot of time or money
to train people to maintain air speed and figure out which way to turn the
aircraft. It did require some effort to figure out how to get the people into
the country. But that is not, particularly in the United States, an impossible
task. And if you've got enough money to forge passports, which bin Laden does,
that's not difficult either. So it requires a basic ability to organize. But
in organizing, again, these people didn't organize themselves in such a way
that when they carried this out their tracks were so well covered that the
investigators are sitting there scratching their heads. Instead, they left
footprints the size of elephants.