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Is Charles Taylor Connected With al Qaeda?
Aired May 27, 2005 - 21:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The legacy of Taylor has been one of agony, blood, tears and horrendous abuses in the region. Taylor represents a cancer of institutionalized violence and criminalization in that region.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a very, very dangerous time and here we sit arguing about what to do. Let's do it.
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RICHARD ROTH, CNN ANCHOR: If he had his own reality TV show it might be called "The Destabilizer."
Charles Taylor was eased out of the presidency of Liberia as long as he went to Nigeria and minded his manners. But this man, David Crane, the prosecutor for the Sierra Leone War Crimes Court, claims Taylor is nothing but trouble.
Welcome to DIPLOMATIC LICENSE. I'm Richard Roth.
In a startling statement this week, new allegations that Taylor is looking to potentially help export terror, broadening his range outside of West Africa.
CNN's Jeff Koinange reports from Lagos, Nigeria.
JEFF KOINANGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was the last time most of the world saw Charles Taylor. The former Liberian president's flight into exile as rebels besieged the country's capital, Monrovia. Nearly two years later, Taylor remains as controversial in asylum in his adopted country, Nigeria, as he was as president of Africa's oldest republic.
Prosecutors at the International Criminal Tribunal in neighboring Sierra Leone are now accusing Taylor of aiding and abetting members of al Qaeda in an effort to destabilize the entire West African region.
DAVID CRANE, SIERRA LEONE TRIBUNAL PROSECUTOR: Al Qaeda has been in West Africa. It continues to be in West Africa. And Charles Taylor has been harboring members of al Qaeda.
KOINANGE: Crane says he has evidence Taylor flew in late February to Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso in West Africa, where he met one of his former advisors. Crane adds money from an al Qaeda courier was believed to have been exchanged during that meeting.
The alleged courier was a man by the name of Muhamad Mustafa Fadil, a Middle Eastern businessman who the United States is offering a $5 million reward for his capture.
He's been indicted for his alleged involvement in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombing in Africa and for conspiring to kill U.S. nationals.
ALAN WHITE, SIERRA LEONE TRIBUNAL INVESTIGATOR: It's clear that until Charles Taylor is brought to justice that he will be an immediate clear and present danger to the threat, peace and security not only in Liberia but the entire West African region.
KOINANGE: Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has refused to hand Taylor over to the tribunal, saying he gave Taylor his word. But Obasanjo has come under increased pressure from both Washington and the European Union.
In a recent visit by the Nigerian president to the United States, Obasanjo said that he talked to President George W. Bush about getting debt relief in exchange for Taylor's extradition. World leaders have been shuttling back and forth between numerous capitals trying to draw up a plan that will eventually see Taylor facing charges in front of a world court.
One possibility under discussion at the United Nations is a Security Council resolution that would praise Nigeria for taking Taylor out of Liberia, but that his regional meddling, his activities with terrorists and his alleged war crimes have left the leaders with no choice but to hand him over.
In the end, allegations of a connection between Taylor and terrorists could be the crime that forces him out of exile.
For DIPLOMATIC LICENSE, I'm Jeff Koinange, in Lagos.
Richard -- back to you.
ROTH: Joining me now, the man who has been waiting to prosecute Charles Taylor should he be brought to justice, as well as the other indictees, David Crane, is in our Washington bureau. Before his appointment as prosecutor of the special court for Sierra Leone, Mr. Crane spent more than 30 years in post for the U.S. government.
David, thank you very much for joining us.
What's your proof of the al Qaeda connection between Charles Taylor and Muhamad Fadil?
CRANE: You know, Richard, it is great to be here and I appreciate this opportunity.
When we arrived in August of 2002, we began, according to our plan, our investigations. And within a month we ran smack dab into evidence of al Qaeda's presence. Now, of course, that's not our mandate. Our mandate is to prosecute those who bear the greatest responsibility. But certainly al Qaeda has been in our investigations throughout the past two-and-a-half years and --
ROTH: Wasn't it known before that, that gems were a lucrative commodity for al Qaeda connections to use, even before you got there?
CRANE: West Africa is an area of the world that has known impunity and little accountability and the Alluvial diamonds, diamonds that leech right to the service, are readily available and are used as a frequent way to get cash and to purchase arms for whatever criminal enterprise is going on in that part of the world.
ROTH: So how do you know of the connection between Fadil and money going through Dubai to Charles Taylor?
CRANE: We've been there for three years and we've been there intentionally for three years, building a very strong case against the indictees, and we have developed a very important information network, to say the least, and individuals who are found throughout Africa and West Africa have been working with us not only to provide evidence related to our very important international criminal case, but also reporting to us for security reasons and other reasons, efforts by Charles Taylor to destabilize the region.
Charles Taylor is truly meddling in West Africa as he sits in Calabar.
ROTH: So what do you think of the fact that he's still sitting in Nigeria?
CRANE: Well, again, this is not about Nigeria, truly not about Nigeria. We have been working with Nigeria. Nigeria showed great leadership and patient in taking Charles Taylor. He had to be taken out of Liberia so peace could start.
Charles Taylor needs to be turned over to the special court for a fair and transparent trial for 17 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Did you know that even though I can't get into the individual counts, Charles Taylor is individually criminally responsible for the murder, rape, maiming and mutilation of over 1.2 million human beings in West Africa?
ROTH: Are you satisfied that the Security Council, or others, will put enough political pressure together to get a deal for Taylor to be sent to the court?
CRANE: It's not a deal. It's the international community working with ECOWAS and the African Union to develop a proper --
ROTH: Well, it may be a deal over language, as Jeff Koinange talked about. An exchange.
CRANE: Well, certainly. There will be, obviously, dialogue, important dialogue, which the Security Council rightly discussed a couple of days ago.
ROTH: And you were there, in New York, at the Council. I mean, are you pleased with their statement saying we hope that people responsible could be facing justice?
CRANE: I appreciate the Security Council's support, both for our financing, our security, as well as the transfer of Charles Taylor over to the court for a fair trial.
ROTH: All right. Well, former "Washington Post" reporter Douglas Farah wrote about Taylor in his book "Blood From Stones: The Secret Financial Network of Terror." He offers a reason why Taylor remains untouched.
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DOUGLAS FARAH, AUTHOR: I think there's one hugely complicating factor in all of this for the United States, and that is that Taylor was on the U.S. intelligence payroll in the mid-1990s at a time when some of the worst atrocities were being committed, and I think that makes it very uncomfortable for some U.S. agencies to want to deal with him extensively or have him turned over, for fear of what might be said.
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ROTH: Comment -- David?
CRANE: I really can't comment on that. Of course, my focus is on seeking a fair trial for this war crimes indictee. I have no direct knowledge of that situation.
I know that the United States is working very closely with other members of it Security Council to have Charles Taylor transferred over.
ROTH: There also is a thought raised by some who are with you, I think, in New York, lack of willingness of neighboring regional leaders in West Africa to push Taylor to the court because the climate of impunity and doing something about it, they're worried about their own hides, so to speak.
CRANE: I can't speak for those leaders, though I can say that I have met with many of those leaders who privately say that Charles Taylor needs to be handed over to the court for a fair trial.
ROTH: Your comment on President Obasanjo passing through Paris on the way back from Washington saying he'd like to see incontrovertible evidence that Taylor is indeed guilty of this before he thinks about sending and agreeing to Taylor leaving his country.
CRANE: I'm going to applaud President Obasanjo for his patience, but he has been shown that evidence by senior members of the American government and personally by my chief of investigations, Dr. Alan White. So we have given him the evidence.
ROTH: You know, when you were in New York you were kind of blunt. You were pretty upset, I think, that Charles Taylor -- and as you raised the figures here -- I mean, there were 50,000 people killed in a country in Sierra Leone, 5.4 million people, yet do you think the world has cared enough? We've shown the pictures here years ago of the machete warfare on the civilians. But you're leaving your office June 30. Are you pleased the way things have transpired?
CRANE: Yes, I am pleased the way things transpired. Of course, it's certainly not about me. It's a privilege being a small part of a great team of Africans and other internationals working hard to prosecute those who bear the greatest responsibility.
But I walk away from this with a great deal of optimism, because I do know that we are truly showing that the rule of law is more powerful than the rule of the gun.
ROTH: But as you sat in Freetown you were seeing a lot of coverage of the Iraq War, North Korea, Iran. Did people forget and want to forget about what goes on in West African warfare?
CRANE: I do want to caution your listeners that, you know, the real fight against terrorism will not be fought against some rogue nations that we have highlighted, but what I would call the dark corners of the world, places where terrorists can run and hide to refit, recoup, refinance and then move out into the world again. And unfortunately, West Africa truly is one of those parts of the world. It truly could become the next Afghanistan.
And so we really do need to ensure that the rule of law is respected in West Africa because, again, the true enemy of terrorists is freedom and democracy.
ROTH: Thanks, David Crane, the outgoing prosecutor for the special court for Sierra Leone.
This court is still desperate for money. It relies on voluntary contributions, as Mr. Crane, the court president and the registrar, Robin Vincent, witnessed firsthand, this tribunal rose out of nowhere.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If one were to stand, as he and I did, together with David Crane, looking at 11-and-a-half acres of barren land in the middle of Freetown, and be asked within three years to build a court, build a detention facility, build the offices, bring the staff in, do everything else, infrastructure, communications, and also investigate and prosecute through to the end any number of indictees, and do that for 57 million, I think the expression would be in both the United States and in the United Kingdom, a steal.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is painful, it a protracted, it is difficult to understand, even for those who participate in it, but this is the way it is.
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ROTH: And the description of how things would be by the leader of the month-long Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference proved accurate.
No dramatic action to tighten controls on nukes was adopted. Nine countries have some 30,000 nuclear weapons, a large majority of them in the United States and Russia. The failure to make progress at the conference just adding to the danger, predicted in a new article in "Foreign Policy" magazine dubbed "Apocalypse Soon."
We welcome back to DIPLOMATIC LICENSE the author of that article, Robert McNamara, best known for being President Kennedy's defense secretary at the time of the Vietnam War, but fighting another war now, even at the age of 88. He joins us from our CNN Washington bureau.
Welcome back to the program, Mr. McNamara.
ROBERT MCNAMARA, FORMER U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Thank you. I'm delighted to be here.
ROTH: Does the failure of this nuclear treaty conference to really advance things mean anything?
MCNAMARA: It certainly does. Prime Minister Blair and Mr. Schroeder and Chirac wrote an op ed piece not long ago which said that the greatest threat to security for all peoples in this 21st century is the proliferation of nuclear weapons. I think they are absolutely right.
A major objective of the conference should have been to reduce that proliferation danger. It didn't do a damn thing to address the problem of North Korea or Iran. It was a total failure in that sense. It's very, very dangerous --
ROTH: And which country is responsible? Why is it dangerous?
MCNAMARA: Well, I don't want to charge any one country with being responsible.
It's very dangerous because as we talk North Korea is developing nuclear weapons. No question about that. And Iran appears to be moving in that direction. And if they do succeed, other countries will. In Asia, for example, you will see Japan go nuclear, probably Taiwan, South Korea. In the Middle East you will probably see Egypt, perhaps Syria, Saudi Arabia.
The world will see a sharp increase in the number of nuclear powers and it is a danger to all of us, particularly to this country.
ROTH: Why are you, at 88, fighting this battle on nuclear weapons?
MCNAMARA: Because there is nothing more important to my children and my grandchildren and to me and the human race.
Blair and Schroeder and Chirac are right. The proliferation of nuclear weapons is the greatest threat we face today. Much more dangerous than, say, Iraq.
ROTH: But these countries are not exactly living up to the bargain where countries that had nuclear weapons said they will start cutting, reducing, slashing, as long as the other non-nuclear powers and countries and wannabes don't possess them.
MCNAMARA: Well, I don't want to argue that. You're quite right in one sense. Article Six of the nonproliferation treaty, which is what you are referring to, is a law. It's a law in this country. It's international law. It requires that the five declared nuclear powers negotiate in good faith toward elimination of nuclear weapons. We have not done that.
But that does not give a license to North Korea and Iran to go ahead. We have no military solution to stopping North Korea and Iranian nuclear development. We must depend on effective diplomacy. We haven't done that. We haven't been willing to negotiate with them bilaterally.
We haven't addressed their major concerns. Each of them fear we're moving toward regime change. We must --
ROTH: The United States says they don't want to talk one on one. You think that's a big mistake with Pyongyang.
MCNAMARA: It's a terrible mistake. You know, it's like saying we didn't want to talk to Khrushchev, for example, during the Cuban Missile Crisis. And, by the way, one of the requests, or demands, I should say, of the North Koreans, is that we engage in a non-aggression pact. We say, well, that would be yielding to blackmail. That's the way we prevented nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis. We gave Khrushchev a non- aggression pact. We never had intended to commit aggression, we just put it in writing.
I don't believe we ever intended to commit aggression in North Korea. Why not say so and put it in writing.
ROTH: And you've talked about how Castro said to you that he would have used nuclear weapons, it came that close in Cuba with an invasion, right?
MCNAMARA: No question about it. And at it time we were -- at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, October 27, 1962, the Joint Chiefs recommended invasion within two to three days. The reason was that at that time our quarantine to pressure Khrushchev to give up the missiles was failing. The CIS said there were no warheads for the missiles that we had photographs of on Cuba, but the first batch were coming on a ship names the (INAUDIBLE) in two or three days. The chief said we've got to go.
We didn't learn until 29 years later that at that time, 4:30 p.m., there were 170 nuclear warheads there, about 70 for the missiles, targeted on 90 million Americans on the east coast and 70 for the tactical force.
ROTH: The missiles of October.
Now these nuclear powers, they don't want to give it up. I want to ask you about a quote here off the wire, Saturday, the 28 of May, 1998, the anniversary in Pakistan of that country's first nuclear test.
This is from Mohammed Alam (ph), a gardener, quote, "It makes me feel good, feel proud. No one has the right to criticize what we do to defend ourselves. Any country should be free to defend itself."
MCNAMARA: Well, you can't disagree with any country should feel free to defend itself, but there are other ways to defend oneself with less risk to the country. I believe that both Pakistan and India are less secure today, after they have acquired nuclear weapons, than they were before.
It's a terrible mistake for those countries to go ahead.
ROTH: What are you going to do, though, to change your government, the United States? I mean, have you tried with the Bush administration, anybody you know there? They don't give any indication of trying to cutback or certainly of listening to any international organizations.
MCNAMARA: I think the United States can do more than it has. As we speak, the United States has 6,000 strategic nuclear weapons deployed, each one with roughly 20 times the power of the Hiroshima bomb that killed 100,000 people in one night.
ROTH: Why do you say the United States and NATO policies are immoral?
MCNAMARA: Well, let me characterize United States and NATO policies. They are immorally, illegal, militarily unnecessary, very, very dangerous in terms of potential accidental use or inadvertent use, and destructive of proliferation.
ROTH: Why do you say you blame a very uninformed public?
MCNAMARA: I do, and one of the reasons the public is uninformed is that our Congress has never fully debated our current or past nuclear policies. It's a disgrace. That's one of it steps that should be taken.
ROTH: Will these weapons be used? And how soon?
MCNAMARA: We have never stated, not during my seven years as secretary and not in the 40-odd years since. We have never stated we would not engage in no first use.
Today we state we have the right, the power and the plans to initiate nuclear weapons whenever we believe it's in our interest against either a nuclear power or a non-nuclear power.
ROTH: Who is the biggest threat, North Korea or Iran? And how are you going to handle this? You talk about the Security Council stepping in. This is a disorganized bunch of 15 countries that doesn't even want to act when there is genocide in Sudan.
MCNAMARA: There is no military action that you can apply to North Korea or Iran. Therefore, we need effective diplomacy. I believe that the Asian Six, which are trying to negotiate with North Korea, and the European Three, which are trying to negotiate with Iran, are helpful. But we, the United States, must engage in bilateral negotiations within the context of the Asian Six and the European Three. We haven't done it. That's a very, very important step we should take.
ROTH: Robert McNamara on the dangers, the threat ahead of nuclear weapons. He was the star, in one way, of the movie "The Fog of War," that we also had here on the program. Robert McNamara, 88, thank you very much for once again appearing here on DIPLOMATIC LICENSE. We would love to have you back.
MCNAMARA: I hope you will.
ROTH: There may be one man more angry than Robert McNamara about the world's chances for nuclear nightmare, and that's Ted Turner, who has contributed politically and financially, to anti-nuke efforts. He blasted off while sitting next to a man who used to control a huge arsenal.
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TED TURNER, MOGUL: We have to raise more hell. We've got to do like the guy did in that movie, "Network," when he said, "Let's go over and throw the windows open and stick your head out the window and shout, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore."" You know.
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U.S. SENATOR GEORGE VOINOVICH (R-OH): Too many of my colleagues are not going to understand that this appointment is very, very important to our country. At a strategic time when we need friends all over the world, we need somebody up there that's going to be able to get the job done. And I know some of my friends say, "Let it go, George. It's going to work out." I don't want to take the risk. I came back here and ran for a second term because I'm worried about my kids and my grandchildren.
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ROTH: That man's fear is not nuclear weapons but John Bolton. Who says politicians have no feelings? That's a U.S. senator for Ohio, emotional over the nomination of Bolton to be the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Republican George Voinovich is one of the few who has switched sides in this heavily partisan fight.
This week, Bolton and his supporters in the Bush White House were dealt another setback and delay as the full Senate failed to shut off debate on the nomination and have an immediate roll call vote that would have sent the controversial Bolton to the United Nations.
The Democrats first want confidential files to be turned over by the White House. No action in the Senate expected now until the week of June 7. We won't wait. DIPLOMATIC LICENSE returns next week with another program.
CNN turns 25 next Wednesday. I'm Richard Roth, in New York. Send all your gifts directly to me.
Thanks for watching.
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