son of al qaeda
transcript

Son of Al Qaeda

PRODUCERS
Terence McKenna
Michelle Gagnon
Nazim Baksh
Alex Shprintsen

CORRESPONDENT
Terence McKenna

 

ANNOUNCER: Tonight on FRONTLINE: He grew up in Afghanistan with the children of Osama bin Laden.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: He had issues with his kids. The kids aren't listening. The kids aren't doing this and that. He's a father and he's a person.

ANNOUNCER: He was trained to be a terrorist.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: Three times, my father himself tried to get me to become a suicide bomber. He was, like, You know, you be our pride. In this family, you be our pride.

ANNOUNCER: But he was different.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: I don't believe in blowing myself up, killing innocent people. I just don't believe in that.

ANNOUNCER: And after September 11th, he turned against bin Laden and became an informant for the CIA.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: They said, "You'll go to Cuba. You'll be working for us there, talking to other detainees and telling us what they tell you and stuff."

ANNOUNCER: Tonight-

TERENCE McKENNA, FRONTLINE Correspondent: Is it possible that you gave them any information which ended up-

ANNOUNCER: -correspondent Terence McKenna tells the inside story of this Son of al Qaeda.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: My dad told me, "If you ever betrayed Islam or if you ever sell out on us, I will be the one to kill you."

 

TERENCE McKENNA, FRONTLINE Correspondent: [voice-over] After September 11th, 2001, Osama bin Laden and other senior figures in al Qaeda left the city of Jalalabad, Afghanistan, and fled south to the tribal areas that straddle the Pakistan-Afghan border. For years, these areas have been self-governing and self-policing, and the tribal leaders here were happy to give sanctuary to al Qaeda members and their families in exchange for cash.

There have been sporadic military offensives to look for them ever since. One such operation by the Pakistan army took place on October 2nd, 2003. Senior al Qaeda members were reported to be holed up in a house in the province of Waziristan on the Pakistan side of the border. The Pakistan army surrounded the house and demanded a surrender. An intense firefight broke out. Two Pakistani soldiers were killed.

PAKISTANI OFFICER: They are putting up stiff resistance, and the fight is still going on.

TERENCE McKENNA: The battle raged on for hours, but finally, a Pakistani helicopter gunship shelled the house. Eighteen prisoners were taken and eight bodies were pulled out of the rubble. The Pakistanis were disappointed not to find Osama bin Laden, but they did find the body of another man long identified as a senior leader of al Qaeda, a 57-year-old Canadian citizen named Ahmed Said Khadr, who was born in Egypt.

The story of this mysterious figure provides a window into the inner workings of al Qaeda and a rare look at some of the secret aspects of America's war on terror.

The new information comes from the 21-year-old son of Ahmed Said Khadr. His name is Abdurahman. He recently returned to Toronto after a stay at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo, Cuba. He calls himself "the black sheep of the Khadr family" and says he is now prepared to tell his family's full story for the first time.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: I want to show people that I'm a person that lived all my life as Ahmed Said Khadr's son, a person that, you know, was raised to become an al Qaeda, was raised to become a suicide bomber, was raised to become a bad person, and I came out to- you know, I decided on my own that I do not want to be that, and I do want to be a Muslim that's so loose, that so want to be Western. I want to be a good, strong, civilized, peaceful Muslim.

TERENCE McKENNA: Abdurahman's father was trained as an engineer in Egypt. He emigrated to Canada in 1977, where he met and married Maha, a Palestinian Canadian who grew up in Ottawa. They eventually had six children. In 1993, when Abdurahman was 11, his family moved from Canada to Afghanistan, where his father ran a charity organization devoted to the feeding and schooling of Afghan orphans. By the late 1990s, however, allegations emerged that Ahmed Said Khadr was also involved in al Qaeda. The family has always denied it until now.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: Until now, everybody says that we're al Qaeda-connected family, but when I say this, just by me saying it, I just admitted that we are an al Qaeda family, you know? We had connections to al Qaeda. My family in Pakistan, they will never admit this at all. Why? Because they're totally- you know, they are what they are, and they deny it. They'll never admit this.

TERENCE McKENNA: When we tracked down the rest of Abdurahman's family in Islamabad, Pakistan, we found a slightly different story. Abdurahman's mother and sisters are still Canadian citizens, but they have lived most of their lives in a completely different world.

MAHA ELSAMNAH KHADR, Abdurahman's Mother: We believe that death come when God have planned it before he created the humanity.

TERENCE McKENNA: His mother, Maha, on the left, and sister, Zaynab, deny that the family was ever officially part of al Qaeda, but readily admit they are sympathetic to the bin Laden organization. Maha is proud that her husband died fighting for Islam. She considers him a Shaheed, a martyr.

MAHA ELSAMNAH KHADR: So I just accept it. It hurt-

ZAYNAB KHADR, Abdurahman's Sister: And we believe that dying by the hand of your enemy because you believe in the-

MAHA ELSAMNAH KHADR: Because you [unintelligible]

ZAYNAB KHADR: -because you're doing it in the way of God, of Allah, that it's the best way to die. And my father had always wished that he would be killed, he wouldn't just die in his bed, that he'd be killed for the sake of Allah. I remember when we were very young, he used to say, "If you guys love me, [unintelligible] for me that- pray for me that I get Shahaded, which is being killed-

TERENCE McKENNA: [on camera] Become a martyr.

ZAYNAB KHADR: Yes.

TERENCE McKENNA: [voice-over] A few miles away from Islamabad, in the military hospital at Rawalpindi, was Abdurahman's 14-year-old brother, Karim, who was shot in the spine in the same battle that killed his father. He was a prisoner and paralyzed from the waist down. Abdurahman's 17-year-old brother, Omar, was shot three times in a firefight with American troops two years ago in Afghanistan and lost the sight of one eye. He is now in the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo, accused of killing an American soldier with a grenade.

[on camera] You son, Omar, in Guantanamo, is accused of killing an American soldier, a medic, with a hand grenade. If that is true, are you proud of him?

MAHA ELSAMNAH KHADR: Of course, he defended himself. He just did not give any- you know, I- I thought they were really simple kids, but it turned to be they are not so simple.

ZAYNAB KHADR: If you were in that situation, what would you have done? I'd like to ask everybody that, actually.

MAHA ELSAMNAH KHADR: I hope you don't say, "I would bow down" or "No, no, no, please"-

ZAYNAB KHADR: [unintelligible] put my hands in the air. Excuse me. I- he was bombard for four hours. Three of his friends who were with him had been killed. He is the only sole survivor. What did you expect him to do? Why is it- why does nobody say, "You killed three of his friends"? What does everybody say he killed an American soldier? Well, big deal.

TERENCE McKENNA: [voice-over] We also found Abdurahman's 22-year-old brother, Abdullah, hiding in Islamabad. He agreed to an interview only if we concealed his face because he is still considered a wanted al Qaeda fugitive in Pakistan.

[on camera] Did your father ever talk to you about the desirability of becoming a martyr for Islam?

ABDULLAH KHADR, Abdurahman's Brother: Dying- dying for Islam is hope for every Muslim, to die for Islam, every Muslim's dream of being a Shaheed to Islam.

TERENCE McKENNA: A martyr.

ABDULLAH KHADR: Yeah. Like you die for your religion. Everybody dreams of this. Even a Christian would like to die for his religion.

TERENCE McKENNA: [voice-over] How is it that a Canadian family ended up in the inner circle of al Qaeda? It all goes back to the Afghanistan war in the 1980s, when Muslims from around the world volunteered to go to Afghanistan to fight a jihad, a holy war, against the Soviet invaders. Ahmed Said Khadr from Canada was one of those volunteers, and that's when he became a close friend of the most famous of the foreign fighters in that war, the wealthy Saudi Osama bin Laden.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: They're friends. They're old friends. They're one of the- my father is one of those really old people. And it's, like, have buddy- you know, you're having buddies from your school and stuff. So they're old friends.

AHMED SAID KHADR, Abdurahman's Father: I'm Canadian.

TERENCE McKENNA: Abdurahman's father gained prominence in 1995 when he was arrested in Pakistan and accused of complicity in a terrorist bombing of the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad, a bombing which killed 15 people.

AHMED SAID KHADR: I am 100 percent innocent person.

TERENCE McKENNA: He went on a hunger strike and was interviewed by reporters in an Islamabad hospital. After an intervention on his behalf by the Canadian government, Ahmed Said Khadr was released from prison in the spring of 1996. That is when he moved his family into a large compound of houses near Jalalabad, Afghanistan. And it was there that young Abdurahman Khadr met Osama bin Laden for the first time. He says he recognized him from a picture he had seen in an American magazine.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: A magazine. And i had seen this person that was the- America's most wanted, and then the next thing I know, he's in front of me, you know? So I'm- I'm amazed. I'm, like, "Wow. This person, he's big," you know? But I would say he's- he's a normal human being. He has issues with his wife and he has issues with his kids, financial issues, you know, the kids aren't listening, the kids aren't doing this and that. So comes really down to he's a- you know, he's a father and he's a person.

ZAYNAB KHADR: It was very important for him to sit with his kids every day at least for two hours in the morning after their Fajr prayer, morning prayer. They'd sit and read a book, at least. It didn't have to be something religious. He was- he loved poetry very much. So he tried to encourage them to read, memorize or write poetry.

MAHA ELSAMNAH KHADR: And he loves sports and- how-

ZAYNAB KHADR: Yeah, he loved playing volleyball and he loved horse riding. And he'd do it- I mean, amongst people, he was not Osama bin Laden, he was just Osama-

MAHA ELSAMNAH KHADR: Just the first-

ZAYNAB KHADR: He was just a sheikh, just- and kids played around him. Kids would go shake his hand. He played volleyball with them or just horse race with them. Just- he was just a [unintelligible] person. When they'd go shooting, he'd go with them. And if he missed his shot, they'd laugh at him and stuff like that.

TERENCE McKENNA: These are three of Osama bin Laden's youngest children. There is Hamza, who likes to recite poetry, Khalid and Laden. Mohammed is an older son from an earlier marriage.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: Osama has three wives. I think he has four, but I don't know so much about the fourth wife. I know that he has three wives. From one wife, the first one, he has mostly all of his children, which I think are seven or eight. And then the second wife, there is, like, two or three. And the third wife, there is two or three from her, too. They- they lived all in the same house, his family.

[www.pbs.org: Life in bin Laden's compound]

TERENCE McKENNA: This severely bomb-damaged compound near Jalalabad is where Osama bin Laden lived with his numerous wives and children and the families of his close friends, including the Khadr family. During the years of the Afghanistan war against the Soviets in the 1980s, Osama bin Laden learned to live simply, in caves. Later, in the 1990s, as he transferred his hatred from the Soviets to the Americans, he banned all American products and even modern conveniences in his presence.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: He was against any American products. And I can tell you this. He was against using ice, and he actually forbidded it on the people that lived around him. Even if the people smuggled it in, but he had forbidded it. He had forbidded electricity, even later he knew that they needed it. But he didn't want them in any way to be spoiled because with some thing, that's how it starts, he says.

ZAYNAB KHADR: He didn't allow them to drink cold water, not because he didn't believe in using- in modern- because he wanted them to be prepared that one day, there's no cold water, they'd be able to survive and it wouldn't be so difficult for them. But-

MAHA ELSAMNAH KHADR: He did not like soft drinks, like Coca-

ZAYNAB KHADR: He didn't like to buy these American soft drinks, Coke and Pepsi and all that. But his kids sometimes would buy them. And he liked them to live more natural life.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: His idea is, "I can live anywhere. I'll live anywhere. The important thing is my cause, it's not me or where I live." And that's why he lived in a mud hut. I can tell you that. He lived in a mud house, he and his family.

ABDULLAH KHADR: He never jokes. Very quiet person, very polite. He can be a saint, something like a saint.

TERENCE McKENNA: [on camera] You- you see him as a saint?

ABDULLAH KHADR: I see him as a very peaceful man.

TERENCE McKENNA: [voice-over] Abdurahman says that in the beginning, his relationship with the bin Laden family centered on horses. He loved horses, and so did the bin Laden children.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: Their father had promised them that he would get them a horse if they memorized the Quran. So they were so anxious to finish memorizing it so they can get a horse, which shows you that they're normal children, too, you know? So yeah, and me, too, you know? Me- actually, because, you know, my father got me- I had insisted that he get me a horse, too, so he got me a horse, too. So our, you know, friendship between me and his kids was mostly the horses.

TERENCE McKENNA: The young boys in the bin Laden compound were signed up for military training camps. Abdurahman and his older brother, Abdullah, were sent off to the al Qaeda camp at Khalden, Afghanistan. Training sessions continued on and off for years.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: OK, the first time I went to training, I was 11-and-a-half years old. I was 11-and-a-half. I remember that. My brother was 12. And we went to Khalden. Since '92 until 2003, I've been to Khalden, like, five times. I took assault rifle course, explosive-making course, snipers, pistols and Pet CC, which is a course that includes all of these.

ABDULLAH KHADR: Anyone who wants to get trained can get trained in Afghanistan. Afghanistan, if you want to fire a Kalashnikov, it is like going- learning hockey. Anybody can do it. A 10-year-old boy can fire a Kalashnikov in Afghanistan. So it's not a big deal.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: I am famous in these camps. I got the most punishments in these camps. I was always trouble- you know, not doing my homework, you know, running off, speaking to the Afghans, being given punishment and not finishing off the punishment, you know? So I've always had that rebelliousness in me. There was trouble for them because everybody, you know, in these camps are very strict. They're military camps, you know? They didn't like me, but because of my father, they kept me.

MAHA ELSAMNAH KHADR: Yeah, for Abdurahman, it was mainly to teach him discipline and to keep him off the road- for Abdurahman. And he was almost kicked out. Maybe he told you that. Nobody ever accepted because he never listened and he never followed the rules and regulation. He never wakes up on time. He never memorizes Quran.

ZAYNAB KHADR: And my father would get him in the car, say "Abdurahman, we're going back," and then take him back. In a couple of days, he'd be back. It was just back and forth all the time.

MAHA ELSAMNAH KHADR: He could never be-

ZAYNAB KHADR: He tried to put him in school, he'd run away. He put him all the way in Karachi in a Quran school. He came back on a bus.

MAHA ELSAMNAH KHADR: Tried to get him a job in Kabul again. He's never on time.

TERENCE McKENNA: The rebellious behavior of Abdurahman became increasingly distressing for his father. There were intense arguments between father and son about Osama bin Laden.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: "Why do you not act like the rest of the kids, so Osama can- you know, can, you know, always mention you and you could be commander of a training camp or you can be something," you know? "Why are you different," you know? And I would tell him, "You know what? Being Osama is not going to heaven, OK, and being Osama is not being, you know, like a movie star," you know? "It's not the top of the world, OK?"

TERENCE McKENNA: In the madrassas, the religious schools, young men were trained to be devout Muslims. Many boys in al Qaeda received instruction from radical Islamic scholars who told them that suicide bombing was sanctioned by Islam.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: Three times my father himself tried to get me to become a suicide bomber. He sat me down with the al Qaeda scholar. He sat me down with the- you know, the person to train people to become suicide bombers. He sat me down with these two people and tried to convince me to become a suicide bomber. He's, like, you know, "You'd be our pride. In this family, you'd be our pride," you know, "if you do this." But I was totally against it. I was, like, "I believe in fighting, you know, someone on the ground and he shoots me and I shoot him," you know? But I don't believe in blowing myself up, killing innocent people. I don't- I just don't believe in that.

TERENCE McKENNA: [on camera] How do you look back at your father doing that to you?

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: Well, I just see that he really believed in it, and he wanted me to believe in it, too.

TERENCE McKENNA: [voice-over] This is rare video footage of Abdurahman Khadr at age 17. He had become a wild teenager- smoking, drinking and chasing girls. He was recklessly antagonistic towards al Qaeda and the Taliban regime. His father was ready to disown him.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: My father always considered me the cancer in their body, and that's why he kicked me out of the house more than once. He said, "You are like the cancer in this- in this house, and I have to cut you out right now or you're going to infect the rest of the family. You are the one that smokes, drinks, wants to- wants to, you know, work his own mind. And you're going to make your brothers like this, so I don't want to keep you because I want your brothers to be good Muslims and all."

TERENCE McKENNA: Abdurahman says that he tried to run away from his family and al Qaeda numerous times. He would disappear with friends in Pakistan for weeks on end. His father became suspicious that he might betray the bin Laden organization.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: Well, my dad told me, "If you ever betrayed Islam or if you ever sell out on us for anyone else, I will be the one to kill you. If you do something wrong, in Islam law, you're supposed to be killed. Before anyone else, I'll kill you."

TERENCE McKENNA: Osama bin Laden formally declared his war against the United States in February, 1998. He announced a fatwa, a religious decree, authorizing the killing of American civilians. Six months later, in August, came the simultaneous bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. On that day, Abdurahman says, he was in an al Qaeda guest house in Afghanistan when the news of the bombings came in.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: The leader of the guest house went outside and brought juice for, like, everybody, jugs and jugs of juice. He was just giving it out. "Celebrate, everybody." And people were even making jokes that we should do this more often, you know, we'd get free juice.

TERENCE McKENNA: As Abdurahman watched the video reports of the African embassy bombings, he says he did not feel like celebrating. When he heard that the bombing killed over 220 people, 12 of them American, and injured over 5,000, he began to have severe doubts about al Qaeda's methods.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: I thought it was horrible. True, the other people thought it was OK because the other people that were killed, lots of them Africans, were around the embassy. I was, "No, it was Muslims. Those Africans, or whatever they were- they weren't even Muslims. They were innocent people." I didn't have- I don't- I didn't think they had any right to kill all those people.

MAHA ELSAMNAH KHADR: We've been crushed for a long time. Can't you see any-

TERENCE McKENNA: Abdurahman's mother and sister saw things differently. They say that Osama bin Laden attacked the U.S. embassies for a good reason.

ZAYNAB KHADR: First of all, we thought, "Why Kenya and Tanzania?" And then they said, "Well, it's the biggest CIA" whatever-

MAHA ELSAMNAH KHADR: Military action- [unintelligible]

ZAYNAB KHADR: -in the Middle East, mainly.

MAHA ELSAMNAH KHADR: To be honest with you, we hate the Americans goofing around in our country and [unintelligible]

ZAYNAB KHADR: And he said- before he did that, when he asked so many times for the Americans- he said, "Look, every American will become a target."

TERENCE McKENNA: On August 20th, 1998, two weeks after the African embassy bombings, the U.S. government retaliated. Cruise missiles were launched from U.S. warships in the Arabian Sea. One of the targets was the bin Laden training camp near Khost, Afghanistan. Abdurahman says he was in the camp when the cruise missiles arrived.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: I noticed something in the sky. There was something that was like lightning, and you know, flashing. So I just watched it. And there was, like- there was, like, three, four camps around the area. I was in the Farouk, which was, like, second to the Americans, to hit second. Jihad Wel was the one they thought Osama was in, so they started bombing it.

You know, there was just explosives going around everywhere. After everything was done, I was the one that drove the injured people because there was, like, almost five, six injured people. I drove them back to Khost, took them to the hospital.

TERENCE McKENNA: The 1998 cruise missile attacks temporarily brought Abdurahman Khadr back into the fold of al Qaeda true believers.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: That was the day- I really hated Americans that day, when we were bombed. All these people were killed. And we were up on the mountain with guns, and we were just waiting for American soldiers to come down the mountain. I was, like, just waiting for them. We're going to shoot as much of them as we can, you know? We've been bombed, and we felt that, you know, we- you know, we wanted them to come because they wanted to have an American to kill, or an American to kill them, because kill an American, good thing. Get killed by an American, you're a Shaheed, you know, a martyr in Islam.

TERENCE McKENNA: In the year 2000, al Qaeda's war against the United States intensified. First came the suicide bombing of the USS Cole, which killed 17 American sailors. Then in 2001, those close to Osama bin Laden began to hear that big plans were in preparation for a major al Qaeda attack against the Americans.

ZAYNAB KHADR: He always used to say, "There are people outside who are working and just"-

MAHA ELSAMNAH KHADR: Make [unintelligible] for them. Pray for-

ZAYNAB KHADR: Yeah, "Pray that they are protected, that no harm should befall them." But we'd always say, "When? What is going to happen?" And he'd always say, "I don't know. I know something is happening, but I don't know what and I don't know where."

TERENCE McKENNA: Al Qaeda's elaborate plans were finally revealed on September 11th.

ABDULLAH KHADR: The thing itself was very amazing. It was very wild to see a person seeing a building in front of him, and he's going 900 kilometers per hour straight in the building.

TERENCE McKENNA: [on camera] So you felt admiration for the people who did this.

ABDULLAH KHADR: Yes, because they did some things that stunned the entire world. Everybody, for entire- like, for months was only talking about that.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: When I saw the video, I was, like, looking at it and all, and everybody was smiling, laughing, and I was just looking at it, you know? And I saw this person jumping out of the building. And I didn't think it was funny, you know? I didn't think it was smart. I was, like, more thinking about it. What was going through that person's mind when he did it, you know?

And so my father was, like, "What's your problem?" I said, "I don't know. This was not right," you know? "I don't think this was right, and this is going to cause a lot of trouble." He's, like, "Well, you know, we hit America." I was, like, "Well, you hit so much people that were in that building that didn't have anything to do- "Well, they pay taxes, and taxes get guns and the guns kill Muslims. We're hitting the American economy, and there is collateral damage." I just didn't understand it. They explained it in a hundred ways, I couldn't understand it.

TERENCE McKENNA: How did you react to the September 11th attacks when you saw them?

MAHA ELSAMNAH KHADR: To be honest with you, since I am Palestinian and I know the Americans are helping the Israelis so much, I said, "Let them have it. It's time- it's time that they"- I don't want you to think I- maybe I am- maybe I am-

ZAYNAB KHADR: Not the people themselves. You don't want to feel happy, but you just sort of think, "Well, they deserve it. They've been doing it for such a long time, why shouldn't they feel it once in a while?"

TERENCE McKENNA: [voice-over] All the al Qaeda people around Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan knew that the September 11th attacks meant that American bombs were on the way and that American soldiers would likely follow. In al Qaeda households all over the country, possessions were packed up. Families prepared to flee.

As the Khadr family prepared to hide out in the hills along the Pakistan-Afghan border, Abdurahman made a fateful decision. He would try to get away from his family and get back to Canada.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: If you go back to your family, what are you going to get? All you're going to get is running up and down hills, valleys, staying in mud huts, running for the rest of your life until you get shot. And I didn't want that anymore. I was sick of it. I was- I had had enough of it. I just wanted it to stop.

TERENCE McKENNA: Two months after the World Trade Center attack, Abdurahman was in Kabul. The Taliban were fleeing the capital, which was being taken over by the Northern Alliance, backed by the United States and Britain. In the chaos, Abdurahman became separated from his family. At that time in Kabul, any Arab was suspected of affiliation with Osama bin Laden. The Americans were offering a bounty for al Qaeda members. Arabic-looking foreigners were being rounded up. Abdurahman Khadr was arrested and released several times but ended up in an Afghan prison. After six weeks, he was handed over to the American forces.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: When the Americans started interrogating me, that's when I realized that there is no way out of this except to, like, you know, tell them, you know, OK I'll cooperate with them because this is, this was their only way. They said, you know, "You work with us, or you know what? We can keep you here. We can take you to Cuba. We can do anything with you. Right now, no one in the world cares about this."

TERENCE McKENNA: Abdurahman says that he was interrogated extensively by two American agents, one from the FBI and one from the CIA. He says that they became much more interested in him when they realized how close he had been to the very center of al Qaeda.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: In a week or two, they started trusting me more. And you know, then they asked me, "Would you like to work for us? Would you like to go with the troops that are in Afghanistan to the front lines and work for us there," and you know, to- you know, "tell us who the people we capture are." And you know, at the very beginning, it was my first time in, like, this situation, and I was scared of jail. And I said, "You know what? I'll do anything."

TERENCE McKENNA: For several months, Abdurahman says he traveled regularly around Kabul with American investigators are visitors.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: There was this tour. They called it Abdurahman tour. I was famous for that. I took, like, the people from the- people from the CIA, the FBI, the military. We'd go around in a car in Kabul. I'd show them the houses of al Qaeda people, the guest houses, the safe houses, where houses were. You know, this was the guest house they used before, this was the guest house they used later. This is the safe house they used after September 11, you know, just show them the houses. So there was that tour. And otherwise, I just told them what I knew.

TERENCE McKENNA: Abdurahman says he lived for nine months in a CIA safe house near the American embassy in Kabul. In the summer of 2002, he says, he received a financial offer from the CIA.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: They brought me a paper. They said, "$5,000 bonus for you being very cooperative. And from now on just by, you know, working with us, just answering our questions, you get paid $3,000 a month until you stop working for us." The paper said I would get paid until someone found out about this. Now, the account was under my name. It was a CIA account somewhere. I don't know where. But the money went to my account. And whenever I want my money, I can ask for it.

TERENCE McKENNA: [on camera] Did the paper say that- say Central Intelligence Agency? Did it say who you'd deal with?

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: Yes. You'd be working for the CIA.

TERENCE McKENNA: [voice-over] During the months that Abdurahman was in the CIA safe house, suspected al Qaeda members were being rounded up all over Afghanistan. Hundreds of the prisoners were put on planes and flown to Cuba, to Camp X-Ray at the U.S. Naval base at Guantanamo. The world could see that the prisoners were being treated harshly, but Abdurahman says he didn't know any of that when the CIA proposed a new plan to him. They would plant him as one of their spies in the prison population and he would funnel information to them. He says the plan was explained to him by his favorite CIA agent.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: She said, "Well, you'll go to Cuba. You'll be working for us there, talking to other detainees, you know, meeting other detainees and stuff, and telling us what they tell you and stuff." I said, you know, "How much- how long is it going to be?" She told me it would probably be from three to six months. I said, Well, you know, faster. So I said OK.

TERENCE McKENNA: Abdurahman says he was told that he would have to be treated like any other prisoner on the way to Guantanamo to avoid suspicion. He was taken to the Bagram air base near Kabul, where the Americans had built a processing center for suspected al Qaeda captives. Here he began what he calls the longest and most painful ordeal of his life. He had no idea what he was getting into.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: They took off my clothes and everything. And they started taking pictures of me, pictures, like, of my face and then pictures of my- my private parts, like my- my back, you know, my- my penis, my- you know, just taking pictures of every part of my body. And they-- you know, they check your- your- you know, your anus. They put their fingers inside to check it out. You know, all of that is humiliation to any person, you know? They put me in the orange suit, and then they took me into a room and they put me on the ground- again, hands, legs, everything cuffed, and my face covered. And I was kept on the concrete with nothing but that orange suit for 24 hours.

So I stayed in Bagram for 10 days, and you could not move. You could not move your back, so you couldn't bend or straight. There's one position, you stay in it. If you move, they hit you or they push you. So they tell you not to move. After that, they put us in a truck for an hour or two, the same position. Then they took us out of that to the plane. They tied us up in the plane, cuffed us up and everything in the plane.

TERENCE McKENNA: After 10 days of captivity in Bagram, that plane trip to Cuba would last more than 15 hours. By the time the aircraft landed, Abdurahman says, he was a broken man.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: There was points, you know, I just- in my heart, I just wished to God, I wished to God that one of these MPs would go crazy and then shoot me, just get up and shoot me. I was so depressed. I was so sick of anything. It was the only time in my life that I really wished for a bullet. You know, I was, like, "Please, God, do something, but just take away my life," you know?

TERENCE McKENNA: Like all other prisoners, Abdurahman spent his first month in Guantanamo in complete isolation. He says he was occasionally told by his jailers that they knew he was on a CIA mission. It was barely enough to restore his hope. And then he was moved into the prison's general population.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: Their hopes was, when they take me into Cuba, they could put me next to anyone that was stubborn and that wouldn't talk, and you know, I would talk him into it. Well, it's not that easy, first thing, because lots of people won't talk to anyone because everybody in Cuba is scared of the person next to him.

TERENCE McKENNA: By this time, Camp X-Ray had been replaced by the newly constructed Camp Delta, which was designed to be more comfortable and secure. At one point, Abdurahman heard that his younger brother, Omar, was just 50 feet away in a neighboring yard. They could yell to each other in Arabic.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: So I asked him, "How are you? How is everything?" And he told me, you know, "Just stay with the original story. We have an organization and all." I said, "How is your health?" And he said, "It's OK. I'm just losing my left and eye and all. They don't want to operate on it."

TERENCE McKENNA: [on camera] Omar said to you, "Stick to the original story." What does that mean?

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: Original story, we have an organization. We don't have anything to do with al Qaeda. We don't have anything to do with al Qaeda members and all. We just stick with that story.

[www.pbs.org: More on Guantanamo]

TERENCE McKENNA: [voice-over] The U.S. Army conducted public relations tours to exhibit the cells at Camp Delta. Each prisoner was provided with a Quran and a Turkish toilet. Despite the more comfortable conditions, suicide attempts by the prisoners became a common occurrence. Abdurahman says that he once came close to that himself and demanded to be removed from the prison population.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: After three months of being in the general population, I just couldn't take it anymore. I said, "You know what? You have to move me out of here now."

TERENCE McKENNA: Abdurahman says that by mid-2003, the CIA realized that their plan was not working out very well. They agreed to remove him from the prison population, even though he was now talking to other prisoners, and transfer him to more luxurious quarters.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: Normal rooms split into half. Half of it is a bedroom and the bathroom, and the other half is a living room and a kitchen and TV. And they moved me into this room. I was kept in this room for five months. During that period, they had people- psychiatrists come to see me, doctors, other- a lot of people from the CIA.

TERENCE McKENNA: Abdurahman says that once he was released from the detention area, the CIA and the military people he dealt with were very nice to him. He says that one day, they even took him down to the beach, where no other inmate was ever allowed, for a swim and a barbecue. He says he told them it had been a huge mistake for the U.S. military to offer large cash rewards for the capture of al Qaeda suspects because the vast majority of the inmates in Guantanamo didn't belong there.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: There's only, like, a 10 percent of the people that are really dangerous, that should be there. And the rest are people that, you know, don't have anything to do with it, don't even- you know, don't even understand what they're doing here.

One story, the famous story, I remember- two, actually. One is the father that was brought by his own son. The son gave him a gun and took him up to an American base and gave him up there and took $5,000 for him. That's one story. The second story is of a drug user, a person that, you know, was sitting next to me, not worried about being in jail, not worried about what's going to happen to his family, not worried about what he's going to get. All he's worried about and every time he asks the MPs to come around, asking them for a smoke, asking them for some hashish, for- you know, for marijuana, something like that, you know? Not even- he doesn't even know what he's doing here. Truly a drug addict, not al Qaeda at all.

TERENCE McKENNA: Abdurahman says that he spent five months in his Guantanamo guest quarters near the prison. He says the CIA considered moving him to several international destinations to gather information about Islamic radicals. Finally, the focus shifted to al Qaeda activity in Iraq. By that time, the U.S. had occupied Iraq for six months and desperately needed more intelligence about the insurgents.

Last September, Abdurahman says, the CIA provided him with a training course in undercover work, a course given by one of the most experienced trainers in the CIA.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: He lived in Morocco and Algeria, so he spoke Arabic. He liked Arab culture. We started training with the normal things, mostly how to, like, do a dead drop or to- like, where you go and you check out a restaurant or a location to meet someone, if you're, like, an agent, to meet your officer, or if you're an officer and want to check out a place to meet an agent, so how you'd go. You go inside, you check the tables, you check the streets outside, you check, you know, the exits, the bathrooms, the location, the table exactly where you're going to sit, what the weather is going to be that time when you go to meet this person. Then the cultures of that area, people, do they shake hands, do they talk, are they nice, are they rude, do they like jokes? So to find out everything about this place you're going to. And you go to a meeting at one time, and then you just- you know, you drop that place and go to the next place.

TERENCE McKENNA: Abdurahman says that at the end of the training course, he was told that he would be leaving Guantanamo soon. He says that his CIA handlers gave him a tour of the base, that he was issued a guest pass and checked in and out through the visitors' gate. Then he was told that his next stop would be Bosnia. He says the CIA gave him a false passport.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: They made me a Moroccan secondhand passport, a forged passport. And they said, "When you go to Bosnia, when you get in the pipeline, you just use this passport. You say, you know, 'I got this passport when I was coming. I got it in Turkey, and I paid $200 for it, and I want to use it to get back into- to, like, Iraq.' "

TERENCE McKENNA: Abdurahman says that on the day he left Guantanamo, CIA officers took him for a tour of the harbor by speedboat. Then, he says, he was taken to the airstrip and that a CIA agent put him on a small jet aircraft.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: I asked him what was it, and he said it was a Gulfstream IV. So he told me, "Just take your bag. Go inside."

TERENCE McKENNA: [on camera] How many people were on board?

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: On board were four security people, was the higher-up, the person- the CIA one, and there was an officer and the pilots, two pilots, I think, or three pilots.

TERENCE McKENNA: [voice-over] Abdurahman says that he spent nearly 14 hours on the CIA jet. After a refueling stop in the Azores in the mid-Atlantic, he landed at an American base not far from Sarajevo. Bosnia is well known in intelligence circles as a major center of al Qaeda activity. Many former fighters from the Afghanistan war and other conflicts have settled here. The Americans believe that Bosnia had become the pipeline for al Qaeda volunteers who wanted to join up with the resistance in Iraq.

Abdurahman says that the CIA asked him to blend in with the transient Muslim population in Sarajevo.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: You meet people. You sit with them and you- you watch them. You see how much people are working with them, what they're doing, they're buying weapons, they're selling weapons, they're recruiting people. You know, information, just any information at all.

TERENCE McKENNA: Abdurahman says the CIA asked him to go down to one of the largest mosques in Sarajevo, the King Fahd mosque, which they believed was a beehive of al Qaeda activity. He became friendly with a suspected recruiter for al Qaeda operations in Iraq.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: I took his name and all and gave it to them, and they said, "Well, this is a very good contact." They were very happy that I made this contact. They told me just to stay in touch with him and go slowly on him, and then in due time, a week or two, tell him that you want to go to Iraq, you know, that you changed your mind about going back to Canada, you want to go to Iraq.

TERENCE McKENNA: [on camera] If al Qaeda people in Bosnia found out about you, what do you think would have happened?

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: They would have shot me.

TERENCE McKENNA: Was this not at the back of your mind?

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: It was always in the back of my mind, and that's what I always told the CIA. "You know what? You're bribing me money, and you think it's a lot, but you know, there is that risk that I'll get shot," you know? "So don't think you're doing me a big favor by giving me that money. I'm doing you a big favor by working for you because if I have a million dollar and I'm dead, I can't use those million dollar."

TERENCE McKENNA: [voice-over] Abdurahman was in Bosnia in the fall of 2003, when news arrived of the military attack in Pakistan which killed his father.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: My reaction was, as my father, I love him and I will always love him as my father, but not as what he did. But you know, I've gone through so much that when they told me about it, I didn't even- you know, there was no reaction. There was no emotion. I don't know why because I've seen so much people get killed in front of me in Afghanistan, so I've been through so much with- you know, I reacted with lots of people that totally no emotions were left.

TERENCE McKENNA: [on camera] Is it possible that you gave them any information which ended up in your father being killed?

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: No.

TERENCE McKENNA: Why do you say that?

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: I didn't know anything about my father. For two year, I didn't talk to him. I didn't communicate with him at all. So how could I know anything about him or where he was staying?

TERENCE McKENNA: [voice-over] After his first week in Bosnia, Abdurahman says that the CIA asked him to actually go into Iraq with al Qaeda forces so that he could provide information to the American military. They told him it would be dangerous.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: They really trusted that I would do this for them. But really, when- later, they suggested that, "You're going to be in a gun fight. You're going to be in the middle of the storm. Do you understand what you're going through?" And that's when I thought, "You know what? Stop this. This is a good time to stop."

TERENCE McKENNA: Once he decided to get away from the CIA, Abdurahman made a call to Toronto, to his grandmother.

GRANDMOTHER: I said, "Is this Abdurahman?" He said yes. "Where are you?" And he said, "I'm"-

TERENCE McKENNA: He told her that he desperately wanted to come back to Canada. He told her to tell the media that the Canadian government was not helping him.

GRANDMOTHER: They said, "Go. Anyway, we don't care about you."

TERENCE McKENNA: Abdurahman felt that going public with his story would force the Canadian government to allow him to return to Toronto. After the news about him broke in Canada, Abdurahman says that he was brought to a CIA safe house in Sarajevo. He says the Americans agreed to let him go back to Canada, and he promised he would not tell anyone of his relationship with the agency. He says the CIA never paid him the promised monthly salary, that they took away his false Moroccan passport and then dropped him off at the Canadian embassy.

When he arrived back in Canada in November, he was met by his grandmother. Shortly afterwards, he held a press conference and told lies about what happened after his release from Guantanamo.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: OK, from Afghanistan - I was released there - the American authorities-

TERENCE McKENNA: He stuck to the story he says was dictated to him by the CIA.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: I don't have any connections to al Qaeda or to any of those people.

TERENCE McKENNA: A month later, he began telling us the full story.

[on camera] Why are you telling this story now?

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: Why am I telling this story right now? Because I do not want to keep this in my heart anymore. I cannot keep it in my heart anymore. I got to tell the people I- you know, I lied to them in the beginning, and I want this to go out. I want- I want the people to learn that I lied for a reason and I'm sorry to have lied then, and I want to tell them the real story, what really happened.

[www.pbs.org: Read the extended transcript]

TERENCE McKENNA: [voice-over] FRONTLINE officially asked the CIA to confirm or deny Abdurahman Khadr's story. The agency declined to comment.

Abdurahman had mentioned that he was twice subjected to polygraphs - lie-detector tests - by the CIA. We asked him if he would submit to another series of polygraph tests for us, and he immediately accepted.

POLYGRAPHER: Regarding your activities with the U.S. intelligence, do you intend to answer truthfully each question about that?

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: Yes.

TERENCE McKENNA: The professional examiner asked him about working for American intelligence in Guantanamo, being paid for it and being flown on a small jet to Bosnia for his mission there. On all major aspects of his story, he passed the polygraph.

In Toronto this winter, as thousands of Muslims gathered for prayers to mark the end of the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, Abdurahman Khadr was among them. He was volunteering at his local mosque and looking for a job. He wanted to be an accepted member of the Muslim community here, but he was worried about what the reaction would be when his story was eventually broadcast, especially the reaction from his own family.

Every day in Islamabad, his mother, Maha, would carefully fold up a treasured family heirloom, the partially burned, blood-spattered vest her husband was wearing when he was killed last October. Abdurahman's family did not yet know the full story of his cooperation with the CIA. They had told us that they would be deeply ashamed of him if he collaborated with the enemy.

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: They will dread me. My mother, especially, she will dread me for doing this. She will totally dread me for doing this.

TERENCE McKENNA: [on camera] What will she say?

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: She'll say, "You left us. You sold out on your father. You sold out on your people." You know, "You told a story." "You," you know, "worked with the CIA. You did this and you did that."

TERENCE McKENNA: "How could you do such a thing?"

ABDURAHMAN KHADR: "How could you do such a thing?"

ANNOUNCER: This is a special edition of The National.

NEWSCASTER: Tonight, al Qaeda family. A Canadian man admits his family's ties to al Qaeda and-

TERENCE McKENNA: [voice-over] After the broadcast of his story in Canada, Abdurahman's grandmother kicked him out of the house, and he was disowned by the rest of the family. He feels ostracized by most of the Muslim community here, some angry at him because he was part of al Qaeda, others because he cooperated with the American forces.

Two weeks ago, his mother returned to Toronto with his paralyzed younger brother to seek medical attention. The family has now begun to reconcile. Abdurahman is trying to start a new life. He says that one day, he would like to write a book about his personal journey from Osama bin Laden to the CIA.

 

SON OF AL QAEDA

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ANNOUNCER: There's more to explore at FRONTLINE's Web site, where you'll find in-depth interviews with Abdurahman Khadr, his mother, sister and brother, a closer look at members of the extended Khadr family and the glimpse it offers of the world and mindset of al Qaeda followers, a chance to view this program on line in streaming video and more. Then join the discussion at pbs.org.

Next time on FRONTLINE: In 1999, Texas governor George W. Bush had a revelation.

VOICE: He said, "I believe that God wants me to be president."

ANNOUNCER: FRONTLINE follows the president's journey.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: Faith can change lives. I know because it changed mine.

ANNOUNCER: And how his religion has rallied the faithful.

VOICE: My God, you could win the White House with nothing but evangelicals.

ANNOUNCER: The Jesus Factor. Watch FRONTLINE.

 

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