CNN LARRY KING WEEKEND
Hunting bin Laden: Interview With Lowell Bergman, John Miller, Stephen Engelberg
Aired October 20, 2001 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight: a chilling look at Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network. Who are they? What do they want? Where do they hide? And will they strike again?
In Los Angeles, he's traced the roots of Islamic fundamentalist anger: "Frontline" correspondent Lowell Bergman.
From New York: He's interviewed Osama bin Laden, ABC News law and justice correspondent John Miller.
And with him: bioterrorism expert Stephen Engelberg, co-author of the best-seller: "Germs, Biological Weapons and America's Secret War."
It's all next on LARRY KING WEEKEND.
"Frontline" has aired -- the beginning of it -- an extraordinary series of specials, the first one was called "Looking for Answers," that was a couple of years ago. That aired October 9. The first one, "Hunt for bid Laden" first started airing after the '98 bombings.
Lowell Bergman is involved heavily in that. John Miller's with us in New York, and Stephen Engelberg, too.
How did this series come about, Lowell?
LOWELL BERGMAN, "FRONTLINE" CORRESPONDENT: Well, we initially did a documentary two and a half years ago after the Nairobi bombing. And that looked for, in a sense, the reasons behind it.
KING: And that was called "The Hunt for bid Laden"?
BERGMAN: "Hunting for bin Laden." And then on the 11th -- the events of the 11th, PBS started to rerun it, changed the ending of it. And we decided to do another one; and we've actually done two since then, but the most original one was last week.
KING: October 9, that aired.
KING: And they'll repeat both of these, right?
BERGMAN: Those will get repeated, but there are more coming, though. There should be another one on the 8th of November about Iraq, and another one on the 15th about Saudi Arabia and its role in this. And actually this coming week, a profile of Mr. Ressam, who Steve Engelberg is very familiar with, who was captured during the millennial bombing crossing the border into the United States.
KING: What makes the "Frontline" special?
BERGMAN: What makes the show special?
It's really the -- one of the only broadcasts left on television -- the only documentary broadcast, first of all, series on television. And especially in this partnership with the "New York Times," an attempt to bring, let's say, the latest in print reporting on the air at the same time.
So it's a special kind of partnership, which PBS has now decided to put some more money into, so there will also be a series called "Frontline World," which will start doing more international reporting, something that CNN, but very few others have invested in.
KING: And you both produce and report?
BERGMAN: I try to do both. You know, I spent 20-some-odd years in commercial television as a producer...
KING: How well we know.
BERGMAN: ... and so it's actually kind of interesting being on both sides at the same time. I don't have to hand anybody the questions.
KING: By the way, just quick, what was it like to have Al Pacino play you?
BERGMAN: It was really -- it was an out of body experience, actually, if you can imagine having Al Pacino using your name on camera. I mean, I think that the movie itself and Michael Mann were able to raise some issues it would be very difficult to raise on commercial television.
KING: John Miller in New York, how and when, and what were the circumstances under which you got to interview bin Laden, the most famous villain in the world?
JOHN MILLER, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, that was May of 1998. We had been negotiating for that interview for a period of months because we had developed the story that a New York sitting grand jury was going indict bin Laden for a series of terrorist acts, including attacking U.S. military people in Somalia and possibly financing the World Trade Center bombing and other things.
So we wanted do get him on camera because most Americans had never heard of him. The only reason we found him was because at that point he decided he wanted us to find him.
KING: And you were doing that for whom? MILLER: That was for ABC News. It was a joint project of the ABC News law and justice unit and the investigative unit with Chris Isham.
KING: And did "Frontline" use any of that?
MILLER: Well, I believe that bin Laden's people ran their own videotape, a second camera, and recorded the entire interview. And I've seen it turn up in a number of places, so you actually see that interview, but you see the -- I guess, the bin Laden copy of it.
LOWELL: We have like a camera behind John, actually. It's their version of it.
KING: It's the same interview with a different angle...
LOWELL: Yes, they recorded the interview themselves and then, through some Saudi dissidents in the United Kingdom we were able to get a copy of it.
KING: Where did you do the interview, John?
MILLER: In a small hut on the top of a mountain in one of the three camps near a coast in Afghanistan; camps that were later destroyed at the time by 75 cruise missiles sent in by the U.S after the embassy bombings, which occurred six weeks after we sat down with bin Laden. And he essentially threatened to attack.
KING: You needed an interpreter, right?
MILLER: It was a very strange interview, Larry, because way were able to negotiate that he would agree to answer any question we asked, but when we came up with the questions they said they would not translate his answers. So of course we were allowed to ask him anything, we just weren't allowed to hear what he was saying. And I remember saying to Ayman Zawahiri, his chief aide who has now actually become kind of a household name himself, we don't work that way, because if I don't know what the answers are, I can't ask the follow- up questions. And I remember him patiently explaining to me, that will be no problem, there will be no follow-up questions.
So it was a difficult environment to work in.
KING: So he answered the question, but you didn't know what he was saying?
MILLER: Exactly. And it actually got even stranger because, of course, he would answer the question, look at me, realize I had no idea what he was talking about; so he had a tendency to look at the translator. And I realized I had a TV problem -- I was about to have about an hour-long interview with a guy who was looking somewhere else. So I engaged in eye contact with him and wouldn't look away so that he would look at me.
And of course, you know I nodded as if I understood to try to keep him engaged. And only later when I asked our translator what he said did I find out he was saying that he was going to kill as many Americans as possible, send them home in coffins and in boxes, and that I had been sitting there kind of nodding at him during the whole thing.
So again, it was a very odd circumstances in which to work.
KING: You had no control over that, right, once there?
MILLER: No. I mean, we were able to negotiate certain things. First they weren't going to agree that he would answer any question, and so on. But our bargaining power was somewhat limited. To get to see bin Laden is a whole process. And I mean, Lowell is familiar with this because he's been down this road with other people before.
They cut the cord. They pick you up in Pakistan and bring you through a process of trips by airplane, by bus, by pickup truck. And the further and further you get into that territory, the less and less contact you're able to have with anyone. So when they have you in those camps, basically they're in charge. And they let you know that.
KING: Were you scared?
MILLER: I wasn't afraid in the sense that I to thought anything was going to happen to us, because thinking politically I knew that if we were getting in there that they had a message that they were sending, and that they wanted that message to get out, or we wouldn't be there.
On the other hand, there were missteps where his own sentries, in a miscommunication, fired a large number of rounds toward the vehicle we were in, which I later found out were warning shots, because they hadn't been told we were coming up to a certain checkpoint. And that was the moment when I was really kind of trying to duck and say -- and saying, you know, this really isn't worth it.
KING: Steve, we haven't forgotten you, we're going to bring you in; this is a major discussion on lots of things. But have you ever tried to get an interview view with him?
STEPHEN ENGELBERG, CO-AUTHOR, "GERMS": No, I haven't.
KING: Would you accept, if offered?
ENGELBERG: Well, I don't think any journalist in the world would want to turn down that opportunity, although at this point I think it gets kind of tricky. I think the logistics are even more challenging than John has suggested, which are bad enough.
KING: Since the government would want to follow with you guns?
ENGELBERG: I would think that would be correct; gunships, AC- 130s, you name it.
KING: We're going take a break; we'll be right back.
In this part of John's interview with bin Laden, he talks of his hatred for the United States.
We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1998)
OSAMA BIN LADEN (through translator): We must use punishment to keep your evil away from Muslims; Muslim women and children.
MILLER (voice-over): To understand bin Laden's hatred for America, you have to put the U.S. in the context it is seen by many Muslims.
BIN LADEN: Americans Impose themselves on everyone who believes in his religion and his rights. They accuses our children in Palestine of being terrorists, those children who have no weapons and have not yet even reached maturity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "FRONTLINE")
AHMED SATTAR, SHEIKH RAHMAN FOLLOWER: The American government don't get it. He can kill Osama bin Laden today or tomorrow. He can arrest him and put him on trial in New York or in Washington or whatever. This will end the problem? No. Tomorrow you will get somebody else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: That clip was from "Frontline"'s "Looking for Answers," the correspondent Lowell Bergman talking with the Islamic fundamentalists who are saying the United States doesn't get it when it comes to understanding militant Islam. Why don't we get it?
BERGMAN: Because I don't think we're used to the idea that there is a group of people whose, if you will, goal is something that we can't reason with at this point in time, and whose grievances, at the same time -- much the same way, let's say, of the Nazis did -- resonates with a large population. You know, the seeds of most wars are in the peace of the last war, and in many ways what these people are talking about is that the seeds of this war come from the Persian Gulf War.
KING: Well put.
Stephen, as the co-author of "Germs, Biological Weapons and America's Secret War," is it your understanding that a terrorist will use anything at his other her disposal?
ENGELBERG: Well, that has not until now been the reality of it, although that's been the suspicion. I mean, we've had all kinds of reports that bin Laden and his people have been practicing with chemical and biological weapons. And until September 11 there was a theory that there were some constraints, that there was a limit to what somebody would do because they were afraid of retaliation.
Now clearly, on September 11 bin Laden sent us a message that he didn't feel that he was afraid of any kind of retaliation. That, then, opens up the question: If you believe that, then why not a biological weapon? Then it's a technical challenge; there's no sort of constraint as there might have been on, let's say, the Soviet Union or Iraq, which might have said to itself, look, we're not going to do that, we can be nuked in retaliation. Obviously bin Laden does not see it that way.
KING: As an aside, Stephen, are you surprised to see that your book is proving prophetic?
ENGELBERG: Yes, I am, actually. I mean, I think -- you know when we were writing it we obviously believed that this was a threat, but I personally saw it as something that was in the future I would not have expected. And rumors to the contrary, I don't think our publisher knew -- publishing it on sort of September 10, 11 -- that we would have anthrax letters arriving in a couple weeks.
I would have presumed that, you know, this was something that would have happened over the next decade. And the reality of it is startling even to myself and my co-authors.
KING: All right John Miller, are the goals this simple? And in talking to bin Laden, did he bring it up then -- are the goals, United States troops out of Saudi Arabia, a role to eliminate the support of Israel and lift the sanctions against Iraq?
MILLER: Those are the top of his hit parade. Recently he has reversed the order he says them in, putting the Palestinians at the top. But those have been the three goals he's enunciated since at least 1997-'98.
KING: How did you find him to be?
MILLER: Well, it was not what I expected. What I expected was a fiery orator, a pound-the-table type of guy. What I got was a guy who was surprisingly tall -- because I had never seen him standing before, I'd only seen still photographs -- 6-foot-4, towering over his own bodyguards. And a guy -- and I think you heard a little of this on that video clip you ran -- who speaks at barely above a whisper, a soft-spoken man. And when you hear the transcript of the interview, when you read the translation, when you hear the translator, you see that he, in many ways is very articulate, his thoughts are well organized, and he makes a point when he gives an answer.
KING: Is the end game, Lowell, wiping out Western society? I mean, is that the goal?
BERGMAN: No, he says that his end game is to overthrow the corrupt regimes in Saudi Arabia and Egypt in particular, because of his alliance with Zawahiri, and that it's to get the United States out of the region. They want us out of Saudi Arabia, they want control over their own resources, and they want to, in a sense, step back in time at the same time.
They don't talk about that too much, which is they're not exactly democrats. It's not a democratic revolution that they're calling for.
KING: We have not been shown the proof the government has and has shown to the alliance. Is there any question in your mind that bin Laden was involved with September 11?
BERGMAN: I don't have any question that he was involved. I think the question is: Who actually organized it and did it. There seems to be a large gap still between the actual hijackers, the people who actually did it and, let's say, bin Laden and his command group in Afghanistan. Who are the intermediaries, are there other people out there? For example, just one particular fact, there are no Afghanis who died on the 11th of September.
KING: Bin Laden isn't Afghani.
BERGMAN: He isn't either; he's Saudi. So there's an infrastructure of people out there that they're trying to find in Europe that they're developing, but we don't know the extent to which that exists and how it's organized.
KING: Stephen, do you think bin Laden is at the core of it?
ENGELBERG: Well, it's hard to argue with the sort of evidence; but Lowell is right. I mean, if you look at all of these things, even the embassy bombings, you don't find the kind of precise command and control in which you see bin Laden or Zawahiri giving an order and then we're able to sort of pinpoint who the order went to, and then it goes to a suicide bomber.
In this case we have circumstantial evidence, which is pretty persuasive. The -- you know, telling people to come home, emptying the camps, various intercepts; and you clearly have the hijackers. But what's in the middle? What's that middle layer, and are there any sort of, you know, webs that go out from that that might involve foreign counties? Iraq is obviously mentioned from time to time.
We don't know. The evidence is really very thin. And you know, remember they're still arguing about a lot of these things. World Trade Center one was 1993, people still debate who was really behind that.
KING: I mean, it must be weird, John, you're sitting with him in some cave-like area somewhere, to logically then perceive that he masterminds the incredible successful acts -- if it can be called that -- of September 11.
MILLER: Well, I mean I have to say, even sitting there on that mountaintop in this kind of dug in hut that night, reading the government documents I read later, one of the men who was charged in the embassy bombing who actually rode in the truck that carried the bomb to the embassy, detonating and killing about 230 people, later told authorities that he was there in the camps when bin Laden did the interview and then gave a later press conference and announced his threat, and that after the announcement he came to bin Laden and said, I'm looking for a mission, and that bin Laden dispatched him to Nairobi.
So I mean, I think that the lines are pretty clearly drawn in that way. In this case, we developed an informant, we code named him Max and we interviewed him and put some of that on television, who had been a student in bin Laden's espionage and intelligence training schools in Afghanistan. We showed Max the 19 hijackers and said, do you know any of these people? And he immediate pointed to two of them and said, these men were in my class.
So again, when you look at that kind of anecdotal evidence, there's a lot to suggest that bin Laden and bin Laden's organization was behind this.
KING: As we go break, one of Osama bin Laden's biggest issues is United States troops on Saudi soil. Here's a clip from "Frontline."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "FRONTLINE")
SATTAR: You send your troops to defend us. Nobody asks for the American troops to go there. You went there to protect your own interests. You went there to protect some corrupted regimes that, working against their own people. You went there not to get rid of Saddam Hussein, and if you did, it would have been very, very nice of you. But you decided not to so you can keep a foot and a hand in this area.
BERGMAN: We have our young people there, willing to give their lives, and you're saying you don't want them there?
SATTAR: No. We don't want them there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1998)
BIN LADEN (through translator): Ramzi Youssef, after the World Trade Center bombing, became a well-known Muslim personality, and all Muslims know him. Unfortunately, I did not know him before the incident. America will see many young men that will follow Ramzi Youssef.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: He's talking -- bin Laden, about Ramzi Youssef, the man who was convicted for the bombing attack on the World Trade Center in 1993.
Lowell, if bin Laden were eliminated, killed tomorrow, would that kill al Qaeda?
BERGMAN: I Don't know about al Qaeda, because I don't know how dependent they are on him in particular, although it appears that Zawahiri and some of the other people involved are really in some kind of command structure. But one of the people we interviewed said, go kill bin Laden, wipe out Saddam Hussein, and you still don't get rid of the issues, the grievances, the swamp, if you will, that is creating these pretty lethal mosquitoes.
And I think that, hopefully in what happens in the future, both from news coverage and also from political discussion in this country, we start talking about some of the underlying issues that have created this so that we can deal with them.
KING: That's -- Stephen, does that indicate to you there is no end to this? As long as there are the grievance and there are fanatics, there's never going to be an end.
ENGELBERG: Well, I don't know about never. I mean, we just lived through an epoch in which we had the fall of communism. But I do have this feeling that we may be at a kind of Berlin airlift of the 21st century -- that is to say, the beginning of a very long struggle to contain something which is difficult to contain.
I think Lowell is right. I think the breeding grounds of this came into being over a period of time, and they're not going to go away overnight or immediately. And I think anybody who feels that this is going to have some kind of sort of satisfying, movie-like conclusion -- you know, we bring down the curtain in a few months or a year -- is fooling themselves.
KING: John, what do you think?
MILLER: Well, I mean, bin Laden has access to a lot of money. If you take out bin Laden and Zawahiri, the informants that we've spoken to there -- and we ask them pointedly: Are there other people ready to step up and run al Qaeda? Do they have access to the money? Do they know where it is? And we've been told that, yes, they do, and that they are ready.
So I mean that organization will be very difficult to snuff out; and that's just one. What bin Laden has done, however, is he's brought a lot of disparate -- different terrorist groups together and essentially said, let's forget our disagreements about this or that and focus on the common enemy, which we all agree is the United States. And he's kind of created what I've loosely referred to as the Ford Foundation of terrorism. They can apply to al Qaeda for grant money, for training, for logistical support, for documents, for safehouses when they're doing an operation. And a lot of that will remain in place.
So we are, as the president keeps pointing out for people looking for a quick, satisfying solution, we're in for a long haul here.
KING: This is the same question for each of you, and all of your journalism's particular expertise: What in your report, to go this minute, Lowell, has surprised you the most?
BERGMAN: It's surprised me that he has eluded U.S. authorities, that they were so successful from Nairobi to the Cole. Remember, that was just a skiff with a bunch of explosives onboard, and took out a billion-dollar ship. To this incident on September 11, that 17 of the 19 hijackers, according to federal law enforcement, didn't even show up in their indices. So they're -- and I'm talking about all their indices.
So it's their ability to go under the radar. And I don't know whether you call that an intelligence failure, a cultural failure, or possibly we've been looking in the wrong direction.
KING: But certainly a failure.
BERGMAN: It's more than a failure, obviously.
KING: That's his surprise.
Stephen, in your research into germs and biological weapons, what surprised you the most?
ENGELBERG: Well, I think the thing that has surprised me the most, actually -- and I'm not sure we can link to bin Laden -- which is the ability of somebody somewhere to turn the country absolutely upside down with these anthrax letters. And you know, when we were doing the book research we looked at a lot of scenarios the government had put together which talked about smallpox cutting through a city, you know, massive attacks of, you know, anthrax being laid down by, you know, airplanes over Manhattan. And you know, I think it has been very surprising, when you look at six or seven or eight or 10 letters, the absolute havoc that it's caused on the psyche of people. I think that was quite a surprise.
KING: A havoc that continues to this minute.
John Miller, what surprised you the most?
MILLER: I have to say what surprised me the most was watching two planes fly into the twin towers and watching them collapse. Watching the plane fly into the Pentagon kind of made sense, al Qaeda striking out at the American military, one of their main grievances, kind of army-to-army.
But the attack on the World Trade Center shocked me the most because of the scope of the casualties. You have to remember, with a possible body count hovering you know, somewhere -- climbing to go 7,000 homicides -- between 5,000 and 7,000, bin Laden had to realize that the response to this could have been incredible, that this was now not going to be a situation where you attack an embassy here, a military installation there; you kill a few people, even a couple of hundred and you stay far enough under the radar screen in a post- Vietnam America where people are very reluctant to have ground forces go away and get involved in a quagmire.
This was our Pearl Harbor. And I'm very surprised that bin Laden, that al Qaeda would pull something on this scale knowing what the response was going to be unless that's what they intended to provoke, which is another theory. BERGMAN: You know, they seem to have this media savvy which we fall for. That's the other thing that surprised me. It surprised me not only that they did this act, as John's talking about, but then when the bombing began that they had a videotape ready and in place. That, assuming they're involved in some fashion with these anthrax letters, that they send it to the -- basically the anchors of the major networks and get maximum play from it.
KING: Kind of looks like that; kind of looks like a duck, sounds like a duck, it's kind of a duck.
BERGMAN: And it's almost like they're playing chess. You know, that they have thought this through, and they thought through what our moves will be, and we're just getting used to that.
KING: How, Stephen, did they get so good at this?
ENGELBERG: Well, I think pretty clearly they've studied us far more carefully than we've studied them.
I think John just made a really important point, which is the theory that;s out there that they are getting exactly what they want. I mean, if you look at this thing and you say OK, 5,000 casualties, overwhelming American reaction, what do you get out of that? What you get is a polarization, you get a kind of Christian world, if you will, from their perspective, against the Arab world or Muslim world.
And I think the fact that Bush used the word crusade in one of his early speeches was just about perfect for them. If you look at, you know, how we began in this, bin Laden was a kind of a folk hero -- look at where we are today. Go back -- you know, in my mind one of the comparisons to this is look at what's happened in Israel. You start in the temple mount, the day that that incident happened with an integrated -- more or less integrated society -- Palestinians and Jews more or less having an economy together. Within a year, a complete breakdown.
I think bin Laden may well have a kind of global vision of that in which he wants that kind of complete breakdown for the entire world. That's pretty heady stuff if that's what he's thinking. And I think Lowell is right: He's playing chess and we as well be playing checkers.
KING: Wow. Well take a break and come back. I'll reintroduce the panel.
As we go, another clip from "Frontline." This one tells us about bin Laden and his role with al Qaeda going back to the early 1980s. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "FRONTLINE")
ANNOUNCER: Bin Laden was already something of a local legend, but his beginnings were relatively modest. In the early '80s, operating near Peshawar, Pakistan, bin Laden had set up a complex of stations where volunteers came before pushing on to the front. To keep track of them, bin Laden recorded their names and home addresses. It was called "the base"; or in Arabic, "al Qaeda."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Welcome back to this special edition of LARRY KING WEEKEND. We are discussing -- you know what we are discussing. Lowell Bergman is with us, Frontline correspondent for the documentaries "Looking for Answers," which aired October 9, "Hunting for bin Laden," first aired in 1998. This Frontline series is in corporation with the "New York Times" and there's going to be a lot more episodes, so to speak.
In New York is John Miller, ABC's news, law and justice correspondent, who obtained an extraordinary interview with bin Laden. And Stephen Engelberg, co-author of can we say the hottest book in America, "Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War."
Are all of these people disenfranchised? Are all of them -- bin Laden, we know is a multi-multi-millionaire, right?
BERGMAN: And Zawahiri we know comes from a very prominent family in Egypt. One relative is a well-known religious figure, another is a politician.
KING: So, where does their anger come from?
BERGMAN: Well, where did the anger of the Beider-Meinhoff gang come from in Germany? I mean, the fact that wealthy people or people from privileged backgrounds may wind up in a violent terrorist organization is not new. I think what is different here is that the base from which they -- ironically, what al Qaeda means -- that they can get recruits and sympathy is so vast.
I mean, the fact that we were surprised that people -- Palestinians or some people in Egypt, or quietly in Saudi Arabia were celebrating bin Laden -- you know, when the Nairobi bombing took place and we went through East African Islamic communities as well as to Sudan and other places, what we found was he had become a folk hero -- not so much for his tactics, I think people -- anybody with a real Muslim -- with the real ethics of the religion would disown that, but more importantly that we had made him into a man who could defy the United States and get away with it.
KING: Stephen, where do you think all this anthrax is coming from, and do you directly relate it to bin Laden?
ENGELBERG: Well, I'll take the second question first. I mean, at the moment, we've got, you know, on that subject a fact-free conversation. I mean, we just simply don't know.
And I think, you know, obviously, if it isn't bin Laden you certainly have some bizarre coincidences here. You know, you have Mohammed Atta flying a mile from the first case, you have the timing. That's all very strange.
But you know, I wouldn't rule out the possibility that you've got some kind of biological Ted Kaczynski out there who has taken this opportunity to make whatever point he's making. It's curious that, you know, the bin Laden organization, the bin Laden -- none of his tapes have taken any credit for this. I mean, you'd almost think they would do so even if they hadn't done it, just to sort of, you know, point out the terror they're imposing on us.
Now, to the question of where it comes from, unfortunately, it's around. You can get it from natural places, you can find dead animals that have it, you can find it in the ground. There are many laboratories it could come from. And you know, I think, you know, we've got a very tough sort of forensic, you know, road to hoe here. Where does this come from? It could be anywhere. It could be overseas, it could be a zoo somewhere. You know, it's not that easy.
KING: John, the bomber, he had a goal, and he sent letters with his stuff, we knew the things he hated. What's the goal here? There is no --what are they saying?
MILLER: Well, I think the goal here has been reached, which is -- I mean, what we've experienced is that the anthrax attack on the media, on the government has been very unsuccessful in that it has killed one person very unfortunately, but not killed all the recipients, not even reached the intended targets to whom they were addressed -- news anchormen, members of Congress.
On the other hand, the successful part -- and you have to bear in mind that terrorism is largely theater, it is to create drama, to promote fear, to raise questions. It's been very successful because it has frightened a large number of people. People wonder about, well, can they get it into the mall, will it come through the ventilation systems, do I have to worry about my mail? And the goal of terrorism is to promote fear and to raise the questions, who are the these people and what do they want?
The third stage of that is, why don't we give it to them? They're already two thirds of the way there. People are already asking who are these people, which everybody now knows, and what do they want, which everybody now knows that too.
KING: Lowell Bergman, is it a fact of life, terrorism in the main works?
BERGMAN: Terrorism gets people's attention. Terrorism on a scale that we are used to -- remember -- has been, in fact, that's been used by all kinds of people to overthrow governments.
KING: Over centuries.
BERGMAN: Well, the Israelis used it prior to the war of independence against the British. You know, we used it on certain levels in different ways throughout our history.
KING: Rarely against civilians though, right? BERGMAN: Rarely...
KING: Then it isn't terrorism. Terrorism is only against civilians.
BERGMAN: Well, this is -- it's creating fear, whether it's fear in your armed forces, in your government, or in the civilian population. I think the difference for us is that we for 100 years since the -- 150 years since the Civil War and since the War of 1812 have never experienced this kind of hostile fire or damage to, basically, our civilian neighborhood, and that's the shock. That innocence is over.
KING: By the way, what is the next part of the special you're doing?
BERGMAN: Well, they are doing a program this coming week on Ahmed Ressam, who is the gentlemen who was picked in the Millennium bombing, and that's going to be followed by programs about Iraq, examining Saddam and is he, in a sense, the next target, or should he be, and then an in-depth look at Saudi Arabia and what's actually going on inside the country.
KING: And there is suddenly a great deal of interest in things outside the United States. We've gone beyond Gary Condit.
BERGMAN: I think that one of the problems that we have today is that we didn't look outside the United States, and that up until very recently, news organizations were cutting back on that kind of coverage.
KING: Closing bureaus?
BERGMAN: Closing bureaus, moving -- no ratings, remember? And now, it seems to be moving back in that direction.
KING: Stephen, do you think the fear is greater on the part of the public, greater fear of this, of the use of chemicals and biologicals than of a plane hitting a building?
ENGELBERG: Yeah, I do, although that, when you think about it, is really not rational. But this isn't rational. There's something about germs in particular -- we found this in researching the book and articles about this -- there's something about germs that are, you know, to use a technical term here, yucky. I mean, this notion of this sort of unseen invaders, little tiny viruses coming at you from who knows where, attacking your body, you know, as you sleep, as you breathe -- there's something that really captures people's imaginations about that.
The truth of the matter is, as John points out, if you look at the numbers, we are talking about one person who has died from anthrax and essentially in the century one other biological death, biological warfare death. This is a very low order of probability, but I think it's something that gets inside people's psyche, gets inside their heads, and they become very, very worried about it. They feel unsafe at every moment.
MILLER: And Larry, if you look at what has happened here, just to put it in perspective, as Steve points out, we have thousands of people killed in the largest homicide case in American history in the World Trade Center attacks and the Pentagon attacks and in the plane crash in Pennsylvania. We haven't mentioned three words about that in seven days because we've been focused on anthrax, which doesn't play to mass casualties but it plays to all of our fears. It's been since last Friday.
BERGMAN: And we haven't really spent much time talking about the casualties that are happening in Afghanistan. Hopefully, those casualties really are limited, because we may have to pay the price, Larry, if they're massive.
KING: We will a take a break and more from our Frontline special. Bin Laden may be hated in the United States, but to others he's a hero. Here a perspective from Kenya.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Shock over what had happened in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam became anger at America. The world was turned upside down. Bin Laden was a hero, as we were told by the chairman of the Council of Imams in Kenya.
(on camera): What is Osama bin Laden's image in the Islamic community here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a hero.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A hero? His friends have blown up two embassies. He has declared war on America, and people in East Africa think he's a hero?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not only East Africa. Everywhere. We take him as a hero for Islam, because he has declared his loyalty to Islam, but he's not a terrorist at all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bin Laden and a group of Muslim clerics have issued a fatwa, a religious decree calling on his followers to kill Americans.
OSAMA BIN LADEN (through translator): We do not differentiate between those dressed in military uniforms and civilians. They're all targets in this fatwa.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: John Miller, do they want a holy war? MILLER: I think if you analyze the scope of the attack on the World Trade Center, which could only provoke a massive response from the United States, that that's what they are trying to spur.
The people that I spoke to from bin Laden's camp when Chris Isham and I debriefed the informant who had been through his training said that they were indoctrinated to the idea that the United States wanted to kill all Muslims in the world, that that was their goal, and that it was their job to fight back. And I think if you look at this attack, to get America to invade Afghanistan, to start committing bombing, it is to make that message real. It's to convince others who might have been on the fence, see they really are out to get us.
I think that the strategy was to provoke a bigger and more immediate response than we gave. I think the administration has demonstrated a level of discipline by waiting, by moving carefully, but you still have to watch where that's going to go.
KING: What do you make of the emergence, Lowell, of Al-Jazeera?
BERGMAN: Well, I think it's one of the more positive developments, even though there's some questions about the way their coverage is slanted. The fact that, for instance, Prince Bandhar, when we interviewed him, was enraged by Al-Jazeera, because the Saudis can't control what gets into their country, similarly in Egypt and throughout the Islamic world.
So, it may be the beginning in some fashion of a democratic revolution of sorts within the Islamic world. You know, the Latin America has had one, Eastern Europe and the Warsaw Block has had one, but the Islamic community has not had a democratic revolution, and Al- Jazeera may be a good sign in that sense.
KING: What about, Stephen, the capability of distributing -- maybe we will ask John this first. You're a graduate of the Justice Department for Domestic Preparedness, aren't you, John?
MILLER: Yeah, I went through the federal government's training course for first responders to turn them into hazmat technicians to focus on chemical and biological warfare, which actually turned out to be interesting timing.
KING: You handled sarin gas, right?
MILLER: Sarin gas and VX, which is nerve gas.
KING: What was that like?
MILLER: Well, it was -- it was frightening, but I think it achieved its goal.
The first thing I asked them when we were down there -- remember, this was before there had been a biological or chemical attack on U.S. soil was, why in God's name would you use real sarin or nerve gas to train firemen, cops and FBI agents? What if there is an accident of a mistake, someone could get killed? And the director down there, L.Z. Johnson, essentially said, "look, we know that it's not a question of if this is going to happen but when, and when the police and fire people, the FBI people arrive on the scene, we don't want them running up to the door where this stuff is and backing away, saying, well, I know we trained for it, but I don't know if this equipment really works. We want them to be able to go into this situation, saying I've already confronted this stuff in real life, I have already faced it, and I have the confidence that I have the training and the equipment to get through this."
And I think right now that's proved useful to a number of graduates from that course who have been on these jobs.
KING: Stephen, when you -- truth -- when you and your co-authors wrote "Germs," did you expect it to be a major bestseller?
ENGELBERG: No. Not at all. I think we all kind of hoped that we would write a sort of modestly popular book in that little, small community of people -- you know, John mentioned, first responders, we kind of hoped maybe some firemen, policemen might want to buy it. But you know, the first printing was 15,000, I think that was probably, you know...
ENGELBERG: About right. Optimistic.
KING: Conventional war or unconventional war, Lowell? Is this, the United States -- do we have to rethink our definition?
BERGMAN: I think we have to rethink our definition of what the factors are here that are involved. You know, armament or conventional forces or unconventional special forces -- that's a choice of tools, and I think what's underlying this are a number of major issues. Oil from the Middle East, Israel and Palestine -- issues that we really haven't had a national debate over and a national discuss about in a long time.
And also, our attitude toward people in the Islamic world. And I think that until we -- that's what this all brings home. There's no way for us to understand it, given the public education that's taken place so far, and I include that the television networks as well as newspapers.
KING: John, do you think it's going to get worse before it gets better? Do you think there will be more profiling and more hindrance of civil liberties, and more fear, and more anxieties and more occurrences?
MILLER: Well, I think when you see the Justice Department round up hundreds of people on minor immigration violations and irregularities and put them in prison indefinitely, you've seen the beginning of that. And of course -- I mean, they're very upfront about this. They say we are rounding up people who have any connection to these groups or associates of this groups so that we have them off the street and we figure out who they are and why they're here.
But again, it is a very slippery slope that they are at the top of right now, and that's going to require a good bit of discipline on the part of the government, its agents and the police -- so I mean, I think that may get worse before it gets better, and I also think we are not finished here. There's two massive attacks on Manhattan and Washington, then a spate of anthrax letters, which I believe is the appetizer between courses for another attack, and I think a number of people in the government, the Justice Department, the FBI, the CIA feel that's true too.
KING: Stephen, we know that terrorism isn't just in Afghanistan. This could go on. I mean, we know there's Syria, right? And Iraq, and Iran, and probably other places, right?
ENGELBERG: There is a difference. Syria, Iran, Iraq -- you know, we are talking about people or states or state-sponsors. They have something to lose. You know, the government of Syria, the government of Iran, the government of Iraq has buildings, has banks.
The problem with al Qaeda is that it was the sort of guest of a lawless, you know, failed state that had very little to lose. I mean, the line that was in our paper early on was someone in Afghanistan saying, look, if they're going to bomb us back to the Stone Age, it's not going to take very long, it's not a big step. That's different.
Syria, Iraq, Iran, Tehran -- I mean, these are in some sense modern cities, there's something there to lose. I mean, look at Saddam Hussein. At the end of the day, you know, he held on to power. He had a strategy, you know, that old bumper sticker about Bush, you know, "Saddam Hussein still has his job, how about you?" And 10 years later, we are still talking about Saddam Hussein.
In a sense, he's a rational actor. And therefore, he can respond to certain kind of pressures, he is susceptible to certain types of pressures that these sort of stateless terrorists aren't. It's different.
KING: As we go to break, one of bin Laden's mentors is believed to be Ayman Zawahiri, a radical Islamic militant from Egypt who was imprisoned there after Anwar Sadat's assassination. Again, a clip from Frontline.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the whole world, this is our word by Dr. Ayman Al-Zawahiri.
AYMAN AL-ZAWAHIRI: Now we want to speak to the world. Who are we? We are Muslims! We are Muslims who believe in their religion! We tried our best to establish this Islamic state and Islamic society!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We have a very special musical close coming up.
I want some forecasts, if that's possible. Lowell, where do you think it's all going?
BERGMAN: I think it all depends first of all on what the results of our operations in Afghanistan are, and then whether or not the government of the United States and us as a society begin to take a longer look at the causes, the grievances, if you will, and the governments that we've been dealing with.
KING: We have to look at that side.
BERGMAN: ... and we are also doomed to repeat mistakes of the past.
KING: Stephen, where do you think it's going? In your bailiwick of specialty, where do you think it's going?
ENGELBERG: Well, you know, I think -- I would like to say that journalists are good at describing the past, mediocre describing the present and horrible at depicting the future. Having said that, you know, I think we will see more biological terrorism in this century. I think that the success of this little operation will persuade others, you know, terrorists, Islamic or otherwise, to try something worse.
And when you see the new biology and its possibilities and you see, you know, the effect that this has had, I'm afraid we may be in yet for some very bad things.
KING: Would you agree with Lowell, we don't know enough about the enemy?
ENGELBERG: Yes, I would. I think that we are -- the enemy knows a great deal more about us and our psychology and how we think than we know about how he thinks.
KING: John, where do you think it's all going?
MILLER: Well, I mean, if there's a positive out of all of this, I think what you're going to see is a lot more focus and cooperation on -- first, a lot more focus on the part of the United States on the idea that fighting the terrorists is a war, that it's on many fronts, it's not in one place, it can't be done with a single invasion or against a single enemy.
But I also think you're going to seed a melding together, a much tighter cooperation between many governments -- including governments that aren't really friends of ours who don't like this either -- in sharing intelligence, in mounting counter-terrorist operations, because I think this was a big wake up call. I think it was intended to be, but I think it was a big wake up call for the United States and the Western world to take a look at this and say, "we have got to coordinate this much better than we were before, and I think that's starting to happen now."
KING: This edition of LARRY KING WEEKEND has featured three of the better journalists around. Our guests have been Lowell Bergman, the Frontline correspondent, responsible for "Looking for Answers" which aired on October 9 and which will be repeated and "Hunting for bin Laden," first aired in 1998, and there been will be others coming. John Miller, ABC's News law and justice correspondent, a very, very talented reporter and the man who interviewed bin Laden. And Stephen Engelberg, co-author of "Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War," a major bestseller. And the Frontline series is co- sponsored, I guess, we could put it, by the "New York Times."
To close our program tonight, we've been given permission to debut "Closer," sang by Barbra Streisand. It's from her album, which won't be released until October 30, called "Christmas Memories." Months before the September 11 attacks, Barbra asked Dean Pitchford to write the lyrics for a song about losing somebody you love. On the day the production mix of the album cut was finished, she was saddened to learn that Dean's sister was one of the thousands of people missing in the wreckage of the World Trade Center.
And now, we give you a world debut of Barbra Streisand singing "Closer," set to pictures of some of the victims of that day.
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