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INSIGHT

Aired June 5, 2002 - 17:00:00   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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JONATHAN MANN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Forewarnings and hindsight. Washington weighs a mountain of information and conflicting accounts of what officials knew before September 11 and what they should have done about it.

GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT: In terms of whether or not the FBI and the CIA were communicating properly, I think it is clear that they weren't.

MANN: Could the attacks have been prevented?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Hello, and welcome.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, are all enormous bureaucracies that can get buried in their own information.

Right now in Washington, a group of lawmakers is going digging, trying to see if they find clues the agencies overlooked, opportunities they missed, and a way to avert the attacks of September 11 that might have been wasted.

Over and over again, the Bush administration says there was no way to predict or avert the four hijackings that day, or the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center. But the official version is being amended over and over again as new clues emerge from within the agencies involved, and from countries around the world.

The United States Congress is now hoping to settle on what was known, what was done, and what can be done in the future.

On our program today, second guessing September 11.

First, though, a look at some other stories making headlines this hour.

(INTERRUPTED BY NEWS UPDATE)

Now news of a warning from another country, the Philippines. United States officials believe that a Kuwaiti man who was one of the key planners of the September 11 attacks had long-standing links in the Philippines, and the former Filipino president says information Manila offered the FBI could have been crucial.

CNN's Maria Ressa has the details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARIA RESSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): U.S. investigators say this man, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, a Kuwaiti lieutenant of Osama bin Laden's, is one of the key planners of the September 11 attacks.

Long on the FBI's Most Wanted list for his role in a 1995 plot to bomb U.S. airliners in Asia, Pakistani investigators say he is the uncle of Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of that plot.

Both men were key figures in the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993. Although they failed to bring the buildings down then, they didn't stop trying.

Two years later, Yousef had another plan, outlined in this 1995 Philippine intelligence report obtained by CNN: "He will board any American commercial aircraft pretending to be an ordinary passenger. Then he will hijack said aircraft, control its cockpit and dive it at the CIA headquarters. There will be no bomb. It is simply a suicidal mission."

Other targets named: the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.

The information is from Abdul Hakim Murad, who said he did structural studies for Yousef of the World Trade Center. He is also a pilot trained in four U.S. flight schools, among the first recruited for that suicide mission.

He wasn't the last. Arrested by Philippine police in 1995, Murad talked about other friends training in U.S. flight schools in transcripts of his interrogation obtained by CNN. All this information and more, says the Philippine president at that time, was handed over to the FBI.

(on camera): Could U.S. authorities have done more to prevent September 11 with the information from the Philippine authorities?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I think they should have done some more.

RESSA (voice-over): The FBI did investigate the flight schools named in the documents, but said it found no evidence of other planned attacks.

Still, Philippine intelligence sources tell CNN the 1995 Yousef plot may have been the blueprint for the September 11 attacks -- more so if one of the leaders then, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, was a key planner for September 11.

(on camera): He is not the only link between that 1995 plot and September 11. Another man involved then, Hambali, is now al Qaeda's main operator in southeast Asia. He was videotaped meeting with two of the September 11 hijackers in Malaysia in 2000 -- more evidence, investigators here say, that al Qaeda operatives may take years to work out the kinks of a plan until it finally succeeds.

Maria Ressa, CNN, Manila.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MANN: CNN's David Ensor has been following the trail from Manila, and other snippets of information from outside the United States, including that apparent warning from the Egyptian president.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID ENSOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Well, let me start with Mubarak.

United States officials say to me that they were mystified by the "New York Time's" piece on the interview they had with Mubarak. They felt that, and they say that Egyptian officials also did, to be very frank about it, "The New York Times" wrote a story based on more than Mubarak actually said.

In fact, I gather that Mubarak was trying to say, and Egyptian officials called the newspaper later and tried to convince them to soften the story, but failed, that there had been cooperation between the Egyptians and the United States, and the Egyptians had supplied some information about possible terrorist activities in January of that year, not a week or two before September 11.

It was not specific. It does not mention airliners. United States officials I have spoken to have said it was useful, but in a very general way. It certainly didn't help at all towards stopping September 11.

Now, on the Philippine material, of course, that was made available to the United States in the mid-'90's, and much of that material was in the public eye. We talked about it. We've done stories about it for years, frankly.

So, everyone -- all your viewers who wanted to, could have known that at one point Ramzi Yousef and some others were allegedly plotting to fly an airliner into the CIA headquarters in the United States, that, in fact, the idea of using an airliner as a weapon, that idea at least, had already been aired.

MANN: Did the Philippine government, though, in fact, point Washington towards the mastermind of September 11? Was the information that important?

ENSOR: Well, first of all, let me tell you that the stories that have been describing Khalid Shaikh Mohammed as the mastermind of 9/11 are, according to the officials I speak to, incorrect. He was not the mastermind, they are telling me. He was, however, a key figure, an instrumental figure, in the 9/11 plot. And they are learning a lot more about that from Abu Zubaydah, the top al Qaeda official who they have in United States hands, who has been being interrogated now for months.

Now, they're very suspicious of everything Abu Zubaydah says, but he has given them some information about this particular individual, about Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, that they've been able to cross-check against other intelligence information, and it is now leading them to a broader view, a greater understanding, of the role of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, in the plot.

They do now think he was one of the key players, an instrumental player in that plot, but not the mastermind.

MANN: Do they know who the key players are? Do they understand the plot? Do they know where they ought to be looking to get the men responsible?

ENSOR: The officials I talk to say Osama bin Laden, Mohammad Atef, who is now dead, who was killed during the United States bombing of Afghanistan -- Ayman al-Zawahiri, the sort of ideological chief of Al Qaeda, Abu Zubaydah, the operations chief after Mohammad Atef took over, and a very key person before he died -- I mean, after Atef died -- before and after Atef died.

Those were the key figures, and in addition they're now saying Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, whose specialty was finance, but also was in somewhat on the planning, was an important part of the plot.

But to say there was one mastermind, they don't think is correct.

MANN: CNN's David Ensor in Washington, thanks very much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

We take a break, and then a slippery slope on Capital Hill. Powerful committees demand explanations on issues that make the administration and investigators equally uncomfortable. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MANN (voice-over): The other face of the FBI: Colleen Rowley is an FBI attorney who says the agency's headquarters stymied efforts to investigate a key suspect before September 11. She says that since September, the FBI has misrepresented what in fact it new.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Welcome back.

Colleen Rowley did not make her opinions public. They stayed inside the agency, but went in a letter to its director; a challenge to official policy that many people in Washington are calling nothing short of courageous.

Lawmakers on Capital Hill are now meeting with Rowley as part of their investigation into what happened.

CNN's Jonathan Karl joins us now from Capital Hill with more.

What's going on? How big is the investigation? How deep? Take us through it.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Well, Colleen Rowley clearly is a key figure, at least right now, one of many key figures that we'll eventually see run before this committee.

What's happening right now, as we speak, is down at FBI headquarters, Colleen Rowley is meeting with investigators with the Senate-House Intelligence Committee, the special joint committee that's been setup to investigate what went wrong on September 11.

It's a secret session, but tomorrow Colleen Rowley will be before a public session. This session today is the first time she has met with congressional investigators since May 21. May 21 was the day that she hand-delivered that letter to Robert Mueller, the FBI director, and to committee investigators at the end of an interview, that 13-page now-famous letter where she talked about how the FBI bungled that investigation of Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker. And also in that letter, she essentially accused Dir. Mueller and other very senior officials of the FBI of conducting something of a whitewash to downplay the problems at the FBI that may have led to September 11.

Now, what's interesting is she'll come before the committee publicly tomorrow, a different committee, the judiciary committee, before the cameras, her first appearance in public to talk about all of this, and at the very same hearing, we're also going to hear from Robert Mueller, the director of the FBI, who she singled out in that letter. And also, by the way, from the inspector general of the Justice Department, who Mueller has assigned to conduct an internal investigation into what went wrong.

The chairman of that committee, Patrick Leahy, was on CNN earlier today and gave somewhat of a preview of what he expects to find out at that hearing. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY, U.S. SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIR: Obviously, the thrust of our questions tomorrow to the inspector general, to the director of the FBI, and to Ms. Rowley is going to be did people connect the dots, did they put two and two together? And if they did, why did this ever happen?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: Now, Rowley has said that because this is an open session, cameras will be there, the public will be there, that she does not want to answer any questions specifically about the Moussaoui case, because she does not want to jeopardize that investigation. But she's expected to talk about cultural problems at the FBI, systemic problems with the FBI headquarters and its efforts, she believes, to thwart investigations done by the field offices.

She, by the way, of course, is a field agent out there at the Minneapolis field office -- John.

MANN: Let me ask you to put this in context for us. Lawmakers in the United States, like in many other countries, hold hearings on all kinds of issues, and then there are the hearings that really stand out in the history of our times: the Watergate hearings, or the Whitewater hearings. How big, how sweeping, how important, is the congressional effort that's now underway, do you think?

KARL: Well, this is clearly seen in that context, as another one of those grand investigations that are done that have the highest stakes. These members of Congress saying this is not merely about finding out what went wrong on September 11, although that is their mandate, but also trying to figure out what lessons can be learned about what went wrong on September 11 to protect America from a future terrorist attack.

So the stakes couldn't be higher. You're going to see the top officials in the government eventually come before this committee: the attorney general, the FBI director, the CIA director. And not only the current directors in those positions, but also previous directors, like Louis Freeh, who was the director of the FBI under Bill Clinton, John Deutch, who was the director of the CIA under Bill Clinton. They will also be called before this committee.

But, John, what's interesting about this is most of these hearings before this intelligence committee are going to be private hearings, closed hearings, conducted in the most secret room, the most secure room in the capital, S407, back right near the Capitol Dome, behind me.

So we're not going to hear a lot about what's going on. Some of the hearings are going to be public, but a lot of them, because they deal with such classified information, will be closed and kept secret.

MANN: Jonathan Karl, on Capital Hill, thanks very much.

Another break, and then an effort to gather clues more carefully in the future. There could be a new kind of airport welcome for Muslims and men visiting from the Middle East.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MANN (voice-over): Pointing fingers. The Bush administration is introducing something new for visitors from outside the United States. Some of them will be fingerprinted and photographed when they arrive. They'll also have to have their passports photocopied, and they would have to submit their travel plans when they arrive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Welcome back.

Right now, only citizens of Iraq, Iran, Libya, and Sudan have to do all of that. Washington says those are states that sponsor terrorism. But soon men from a number of other countries will have to do it too.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN ASHCROFT, U.S. ATTNY. GEN.: By running the fingerprints of entering aliens against the prints that have been collected in the databases, we will be able to stop terrorists from entering the country.

In addition, we will run the fingerprints of incoming visitors against the database of wanted criminals. And finally, we'll be able to stop terrorists from entering the United States a second time using forged documents.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MANN: Joining us now to talk about all of this is Angela Kelley, deputy director of the National Immigration Forum and Advocacy Group, that encourages United States openness to people from other countries.

Thanks so much for being with us.

These are very serious times, and serious measures are being contemplated. Do these seem like appropriate ones to you?

ANGELA KELLEY, NATL. IMMIGRATION FORUM: Well, quite frankly, we think it goes too far. We don't think that this is going to make a very effective us of INS resources. We don't think that this is going to be a way to stop terrorism.

What we think that this policy is likely to do is to blossom and to mushroom and to make it such that nonimmigrants from many, many countries are going to have to register when they come here. They're going to have to register after 30 days. They're going to have to register every year. And if they fail to do this quite frankly just administrative task, they're going to find themselves thrown into the database with the FBI's most wanted criminals, and there will be state and local police that are now going to be empowered to arrest them.

So we think that it indelibly marks the foreign-born in this country. And does it in a way that won't fight terrorism. It doesn't get at the intelligence gathering that needs to happen, the information sharing that we've learned more and more in recent weeks: with the FBI, the CIA, who need to work more cooperatively together.

In the days after September 11, Congress passed the United States Patriot Act. Recently, the president signed a Border and Visa Security Act. We think that those are effective measures that Congress has passed, that the White House has endorsed -- that the attorney general has not begun to use the arsenal that he already has.

MANN: Angela Kelley, I'm going to have to interrupt you for a moment there. We're going to break away to go to Cape Canaveral, Florida to look at the shuttle taking off.

(INTERRUPTED BY BREAKING NEWS)

MANN: Let's go back to Angela Kelley and talk about travelers coming into the United States.

Sorry about that. Thanks for being so gracious and waiting with us while we watched.

Attorney General John Ashcroft announced the measures today, and said that he wouldn't discuss who he intends to target with them -- who in fact will have to go through this process. Was he being disingenuous? Isn't it obvious who in fact they're going to use these new measures against?

KELLEY: Yes, I mean, I think we can all guess who it is going to be. He certainly has already indicated it's going to be five of the seven countries that are considered to sponsor terrorism, and last fall, it was indicated that 26 countries would have their visa applicants, those folks that are trying to come to the United States, would have to answer more questions, experience longer delays, a heightened scrutiny for those 26 countries.

So I would expect, and based on the conversations that we've had within the Justice Department, that it's going to be those countries next.

MANN: Which countries are those? Muslim countries? Middle Eastern countries.

KELLEY: Exactly. Arab countries. Yes, exactly -- 26.

MANN: Does that make sense to you, as an American? Does that seem an appropriate designation of the target threat?

KELLEY: Well, it's not a sure bet that that's going to make us any safer from terrorism. The shoe-bomber didn't have nationality, wasn't from any of those countries. So we don't know, quite frankly.

And I think that's really the problem with this proposal, is that it doesn't begin to get at who the bad guys really are. What it does is it casts such a broad net for all people coming from this country, men and women alike, coming to study, coming to do business, coming to visit Disney World, and they're going to have to register when they get to the airport, they're going to have to register once they've been here for 30 days. They're going to have to register every year after that.

Now, if they fail to do this, they're going to be put into this database that is maintained by the security agencies and by the FBI, that all state and local police have access to. And they become immediately subject to arrest, immediately subject to deportation, inadmissible from being able to come back into this country. We treat them as criminals. We treat them as terrorists.

That's the message that we're going to be sending to these communities. That's the message we're going to be sending to these countries who we need to partner with us in fighting terrorism, not alienate them.

MANN: One last question for you. We have just a moment. It's clear what could happen to the men concerned. What about the agencies? Can local police departments, can the INS, handle more paperwork and more responsibilities to it?

KELLEY: Excellent question. Upwards of 1 million people could potentially be required to register under this program. The INS already has lines that start 5:00 a.m. They can't handle people who want to naturalize, asylum-seekers fleeing persecution, family members seeking to bring in a close family member -- they can't do their basic functions now. How will they possibly be able to meet this mandate?

We're going to have those resources, those investigators, looking after people to make sure that they've done their fingerprints correctly. Not a good use of resources.

And then we're going to have our police officers looking suspiciously upon anyone who might be from these countries, and looking to see if they're in this database and being able to arrest them for not having filled out a form, not having been able to give the fingerprint.

It doesn't see like a wise use of resources and, quite frankly, it's out of step with an administration with a president that wants to be pro- immigrant, that's trying to court these newcomers as new voters. And it seems to me that the attorney general is doing this president a grave disservice by this policy.

MANN: On that note, Angela Kelley of the National Immigration Forum, thanks so much for talking with us.

KELLEY: Thank you.

MANN: That is INSIGHT for this day. I'm Jonathan Mann.

END

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