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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Five Years Later: Are we Safer?
Aired August 23, 2006 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: From the airports to the harbors and all across America. Tonight, the state of our security. A reality check on the risks and the threats.
They are the new voices of hate. What may be the new breading ground of al Qaeda. Free to worship bin Laden and hoping for another September 11th.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ABU ABDULLAH, MUSLIM CLERIC: Three thousand people was like a drop in the ocean compared to the millions of Muslims that are being killed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: And hard targets. In a country still vulnerable, we'll show you what may be the two most dangerous miles in the nation. A terror attack would be catastrophic, and it could be near you.
This is a special edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360, "5 Years Later: Are we Safer?"
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Five years since 9/11. On that terrible day, it has been said we changed forever.
Five years since 9/11, and Osama bin Laden is still wanted, still continuing to haunt Americans. Officials say they're making the country safer from an attack, but are they?
Billions have been spent on that promise. Are we really safer, however? Tonight we check the facts on the nation's security.
We begin, however, with a new voice of hate. It's from London where one man is preaching for the destruction of America, praying for another attack and insisting every one of us is fair game.
CNN's Dan Rivers reports.
DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What was your reaction, for example, on September the 11th?
ABU ABDULLAH, MUSLIM CLERIC: Every (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Muslim was pleased because America deserved a punch in the nose, you know?
RIVERS: Three thousand people died that day.
ABDULLAH: Three thousand people was like a drop in the ocean compared to the millions of Muslims that have been killed.
RIVERS (voice-over): Abu Abdullah calls himself a cleric, but his extremist views may be repugnant to the vast majority of Muslims, in fact, anyone who believes in God.
One of the most outspoken Muslims in Britain, he's an associate of convicted Terrorist Abu Hamza who is serving seven years in prison for inciting racial hatred and soliciting murder and is wanted in the United States for trying to establish terror camps in Oregon.
But Hamza's friend Abu Abdullah is still free, despite expressing views that come very close to inciting and glorifying terrorism. But he hasn't been charged with any crimes.
ABDULLAH: My honorable Sheikh Osama bin Laden, and Sheikh Ayman al-Zawahiri, I love these people dearly for the sake of Allah. I couldn't express how much I love these people.
RIVERS (on camera): You love Osama bin Laden?
ABDULLAH: I love him more than myself.
RIVERS (voice-over): Abdullah tries to use the Koran to justify terror.
ABDULLAH: The Muslims that have the obviously want to take up arms against the West, it's their Islamic right to do so. Islam is a peaceful religion, but at the same time, Islam is allowed to defend itself.
RIVERS (on camera): It's allowed to defend itself, you'd say. Is it allowed to attack the West?
ABDULLAH: Absolutely. If this person is killed by the West, then we have our rights to take it out on the West. Those mainly the army, the British or the American army, government buildings, where they legislate from, banks.
RIVERS: So it's their fair game?
ABDULLAH: Well, it's absolutely. Of course it's fair game for the Muslims.
RIVERS: So Tony Blair is a legitimate target? George Bush is a legitimate target?
ABDULLAH: Absolutely, absolutely, yes.
RIVERS: Do you think that America and Britain will be subjected to further attacks?
ABDULLAH: They should be. RIVERS: A lot of people will be horrified by what you're saying. They think that you are bringing nothing but chaos and death and destruction and misery.
ABDULLAH: Well, I'm not here to please the West or to please people's understandings. My people are being killed. All over the world in many, many countries.
RIVERS: That doesn't justify killing other people.
ABDULLAH: It does justify, of course, it justifies. When is it going to stop? You people need to know, we're not going to take it anymore. You want to know why Muslims in this country are understanding what they understand, they're sick of the West. They're sick of it. I owe this country nothing.
RIVERS (voice-over): And this from a man born and brought up in the United Kingdom, who only converted to Islam later in life.
(On camera): But do you think God really wants Muslims to go out and kill innocent people?
ABDULLAH: God doesn't instruct Muslims to go out and kill innocent people.
RIVERS: But that's what you're advocating.
ABDULLAH: No, no, no, that's what you're saying. That's the terminology you're using and the words that you're actually using.
RIVERS: Well, let's clarify this. Are you saying...
ABDULLAH: We call it self-defense. The difference between me and you is faith. The difference between me and you is trying to enjoy the right and forbid the evil. The difference between me and you, I live for the sake of God, and you live for the sake of the devil.
RIVERS (voice-over): Dan Rivers, CNN, London.
COOPER: Calls for Jihad in Europe aren't unique to London. But in France, young Muslims are focusing anger inward. But if ignored, experts warn their hatred could spread beyond.
Once again, here's CNN's Dan Rivers.
RIVERS: For several weeks last year, largely Muslim neighborhoods across France became fierce cauldrons of anger and frustration. Gangs of young men rampaged through the streets, burning cars, buildings, anything in their path.
Although much of the population here is Muslim, residents say the unrest is not a result of world politics, but rather economic problems.
These places are still considered dangerous to walk around with a camera. But we were given a rare glimpse inside one of the most deprived areas by two residents, Osdu (ph), a Muslim, and his Christian friend, Musa (ph).
They showed me inside the apartment block where every wall is covered in graffiti. They say the lights don't work, there's no elevator, there are no doors on some apartments, and it's infested with rats.
He says, I live in this mess, I live in a dust bin. That psychologically provokes the people into violence, provokes problems.
This teenager says if the authorities are looking for it, yes, there will be more problems. There will be a war.
I try and ask about their opinion of the U.S., what's happening in the Middle East, Osama bin Laden. But all they're interested in discussing is their miserable living conditions in Clichy Subwa (ph).
He says, you try living here. I'll pay you. How much would you want to live here?
Beur FM is a station that serves the immigrant community. Talk Show Host Ahmed (ph), he says after the discovery of the alleged terrorist plot in Britain, his mostly Muslim listeners are worried they'll face further discrimination.
(On camera): Is there a risk that this alienated youth will be exploited by extremist groups?
AHMED (ph), TALK SHOW HOST: It may be a problem. When you have young people without any perspective, without activity, without hope, they are subject to any influence.
When they burned cars seven months ago or eight months ago, it was to say, it was an S.O.S. Please treat us as citizens who have the French nationality. We are part of this country. And we want to be treated as French citizens. They don't think all the time about (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and going to fight somewhere. I mean, this is really nonsense.
RIVERS (voice-over): France has refused to deploy troops in the so-called war on terror, which takes some of the heat out of Muslim fundamentalism here. It's also taken a tough line against extremist clerics, expelling dozens of them in an effort to protect its massive Muslim population which is the largest in continental Europe.
But for the people here, the horrendous living conditions mean events in the Middle East aren't exactly the primary burning issue. They say it's the discrimination they face each day and the deprivation in their own backyard which people want to address first.
Dan Rivers, CNN, Clichy Subwa (ph), Paris.
COOPER: The call to jihad could come at any time. And it may be answered by sleeper cells across the world, perhaps even here at home. We don't know where they are, but we know where the seeds of their holy war were first planted.
CNN's Tom Foreman reports.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The worldwide war on terror has certainly heard al Qaeda, government officials say. After 9/11, Afghanistan's Taliban government was crushed. Al Qaeda's leaders, without the Taliban's protection, went on the run. And the group's far-flung cells became isolated, unable to coordinate major attacks.
But security experts and Osama bin Laden himself say al Qaeda is trying to rebuild.
We have seen explosions in many European countries, he says. As for similar operations taking place in America, it is only a matter of time. They are under way, and you will hear about them soon.
So where would those attacks come from? The great Muslim populations are concentrated in North Africa, the Middle East, and Indonesia. But security analysts say radical, violent Islamic leaders, those most dedicated to striking the United States, continue to base their operations out of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Now, terrorists know full well that whenever somebody travels from one of these regions or the Middle East, the United States, they are scrutinized carefully by U.S. security. So, analysts say, leaders there are reaching out to the millions of young Muslims who have immigrated to Europe.
Troubles in both England and France have underscored the frustration of many young Muslims there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you expect us to do? Be quiet and be calm and turn the other cheek? We're not Christians, we're Muslims.
FOREMAN: Terror groups use the Internet and personal connections to seek out such people and see if they might be converted to the radical cause.
GABRIEL WEIMANN, INTERNET TERRORISM EXPERT: The Internet is an ideal tool to reach the communities, to reach the people that will fund them, that will be trained by them, that will support them and will act for them.
FOREMAN: Last year's attacks in England suggest the overall recruiting effort is paying off for terrorists. And suggest the next major attack on U.S. soil may well begin in a country that America considers a friend.
Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.
COOPER: Joining me now is CNN Terrorism Analyst Peter Bergen and Gary Bernsten, a former CIA officer and author of the book, "Jawbreaker," which is the name of the CIA unit that he led in Afghanistan after 9/11. Their mission was to capture or kill bin Laden in Afghanistan.
Guys, thanks for being with us.
Peter, let me start off with you. How do you think al Qaeda has changed since 9/11? Is it still this centralized organization or has it sort of evolved into a global network of more loosely linked cells?
PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, I think it's changed significantly. This is the most bureaucratic terrorist organization in history. There are application forms to join it, you know, vacation policy...
COOPER: Wait a minute, they have a vacation policy?
BERGEN: Oh, yes. Well, you know, you had to apply two and a half months early to get their vacation. And in fact, their vacation policy was more generous than CNN's, speaking as a longtime employee of CNN.
So, this was a highly bureaucratic organization on September 11, 2001. Now, of course, that's all gone away. But I think it's not -- the organization has shown some resilience, so, particularly in a place where there is a Pakistani diaspora, as there is in Great Britain, I think that al Qaeda continues to be able to reach out to the West and try and plan attacks. Because basically it's rebased itself in Afghanistan, its top leaders are living in Pakistan.
COOPER: Do you think that's true, Gary? I mean, do you see Pakistan as the hub of this new al Qaeda?
GARY BERNSTEN, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: It has reestablished itself along the Afghan-Pak border in a very serious way. The planned attacks against the airliners from Britain to the United States demonstrates that. It is as important as it ever was to find and eliminate bin laden and end this now.
COOPER: How do you think bin Laden is living and Zawahiri? I mean, you see some of these tapes. It doesn't look like they're being shot in a cave somewhere. It looks like they're in their house with computer access.
BERNSTEN: There are many, many compounds, large compounds, in that area, in the federally-administrated tribal areas of Afghanistan.
COOPER: Sounds like something which a predator drone with, you know, eyes in the skies could see and that the U.S. would know about and some special forces team or CIA team... BERNSTEN: No, they know we're using those sorts of predators and overhead technology. So they're going to function in an environment which avoids detection. They're going to be staying indoors. They'll have passageways underground. You know, they will have, have -- they've made the adjustments.
COOPER: And Peter, increasingly it seems as though Europe is sort of this new breeding ground for homegrown terrorism. How has that evolved over the past five years?
BERGEN: Well, I mean, it's a problem, and it's a problem particularly in Britain where you've got, you know, 27 percent unemployment rate among young British Muslims, a lot of angry guys who are looking for a cause. And the story, of course, is not just in Britain, you see that story in France, in Spain, in the Netherlands.
In country after country, there has been some serious terrorist plots that have been averted or actually happened post-9/11. Thankfully it has not happened here because I think the American Muslim community here is just, it's more affluent, it's better educated and it's more integrated.
COOPER: How do you hunt al Qaeda today?
BERNSTEN: Well, you have to hunt it globally, and you have to be thinking in advance. We have to be worried about the fact that al Qaeda will begin to fish in ponds outside of Western Europe and the United States. They'll look at Latin America. They'll look at Africa. They'll look at other places where there are large transplanted communities of Muslims who are disaffected.
COOPER: Peter, you spent a lot of time in Pakistan. Are they serious, is the Pakistan government serious and capable of hunting down al Qaeda?
BERGEN: Well, it's a mixed picture. I mean, you know the fact that they averted this airline plot, Pakistan played an enormous role in that. That sort of speaks for itself. But I think you just have to read bin Laden's polling numbers to realize that no Pakistani politician is really going to get serious about finding bin Laden himself. It would be political suicide. You know, in 2004, bin Laden was polling favorability ratings of 65 percent in Pakistan.
COOPER: What do you think, Gary, about Pakistani intelligence?
BERNSTEN: I think that Pakistani intelligence has been cleaned up in a sense that, you know, years ago there was greater concern of higher cooperation with radicals. I think Musharraf has probably gotten his house in order within the intel service there. The problem, again, is as Peter said, is that bin Laden has a broad base support within Pakistan.
COOPER: And crossing the border from Pakistan to Afghanistan, back and forth, no problem for al Qaeda?
BERNSTEN: They're doing it, clearly. COOPER: Peter, let's talk about Osama bin Laden. Is he still the leader? I mean, is he still the architect? He shows up in videos. So does Zawahiri. Often it's sort of glomming on to other world events, sort of trying to claim credit, you know, taking a piece of Lebanon, events in Iraq. Are they still leading events or are they just sort of the spiritual leaders of this thing?
BERGEN: Well, I think it's both. I mean, I think that bin Laden can release a tape and people will act on it. I mean, a concrete example is in December 2004 bin Laden called for al Qaeda to attack oil facilities in Saudi Arabia. And recently we saw an attack by al Qaeda inside Saudi Arabia against arguably the most important oil facility in the world. Thankfully it didn't work out.
So, you know, I think yes, he is glomming on to some of these things like Lebanon, but he still remains capable of directing his followers, and he certainly remains capable of inspiring people around the world.
BERNSTEN: He doesn't have to be one or the other. He can do both simultaneously. Direct operations himself and inspire others to do it. He can do both.
COOPER: And you think no doubt he's in Pakistan?
BERNSTEN: I'm sure.
COOPER: Sure of it. Peter, you too?
BERGEN: No doubt.
COOPER: Fascinating discussion. Peter Bergen, thanks very much, and Gary Bernsten, thanks very much as well.
BERNSTEN: Pleasure being with you.
BERGEN: Thank you, Anderson.
COOPER: So where are we vulnerable to a terrorist attack? Are America's airports truly safer? And what about the sea ports, the railroads and other potential targets? We'll check the facts ahead.
Plus, the most dangerous two miles in America. A place potential terrorists likely know all too well.
You're watching a special edition of 360.
Terrorism Poll, August 16-20.
Terrorism in the U.S. in the next several weeks? Likely, 54 percent; not likely, 44 percent.
COOPER: It is, of course, a fact of life that another terror attack could come at any time virtually anywhere. Skyscrapers, sports arenas, energy plants and mass transit systems are just some of the potential terror targets here in the U.S.
We asked CNN's Tom Foreman to look at where we are the most vulnerable.
FOREMAN: All over the globe, the war on terror rages. Some attacks succeed, others are thwarted.
PAUL STEPHENSON, LONDON METROPOLITAN POLICE: We have disrupted a plan by terrorists to cause untold death and destruction.
FOREMAN: But fear in America remains. Government officials say stepped-up security measures have undeniably reduced the terror threat here.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But obviously, we're still not completely safe. Because there are people that still plot. And people who want to harm us for what we believe in.
FOREMAN: And a key problem is the extraordinary number of potential targets, energy, water and food supplies, transportation and communications systems, landmarks and citizens remain in the bull's- eye. For all the progress officials have made in protecting America...
MICHAEL WERMUTH, RAND CORPORATION: We are infinitely vulnerable.
FOREMAN: Michael Wermuth is the director of Homeland Security for the Rand Corporation.
WERMUTH: It will never be perfect. We can spend ourselves into oblivion from a government standpoint, from a private sector standpoint, and there's no such thing as perfect defense.
FOREMAN: The country's sheer size is an issue. Airport security has improved, but there are 5,000 airports to watch, 141,000 miles of railroad 12,000 miles of coast with 11 major sea ports. And a seemingly limitless number of paths swirling around the borders.
REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: The main thing is we need more -- we need more personnel. Again, we've tripled the number of Border Patrol agents in the last five years, but I think we have to add significantly more.
FOREMAN: Attacks on energy supplies remain a concern, from oil rigs in the Gulf to the nation's 6,000 electric plants. The half million miles of bulk transmission lines and the more than 100 nuclear reactors.
(On camera): And what about all of the landmarks in places where we naturally gather? Look at Chicago alone. There's the lakefront, the museums, the Sears Tower, right downtown. There are more than a half dozen sports arenas all around the city, and look at the shopping centers. Each and every one, a potential target for terrorists.
(Voice-over): So many targets, so many towns. What can be done?
WERMUTH: If we can continue to enhance our intelligence efforts, that's where the big payoff is really going to be.
FOREMAN: And officials say we can be ready to respond. When someday, somehow, terrorists, once again, strike.
Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.
COOPER: Those 11 major sea ports Tom just mentioned in his report, well, they're one of Homeland Security's biggest nightmares.
Coming up, what's to prevent a terrorist from hiding, say, a dirty bomb in a massive shipping container? 9 million of those containers enter the U.S. each year.
Plus, terrorism experts call it the most dangerous two miles in America. We'll explain why and what's being done to protect it when this special edition of 360 continues.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, I'm Randi Kaye. A special edition of 360, "5 Years Later: Are we Safer?" continues in a moment.
First, some of the headlines we're following.
Sonoma County, California, authorities found John Karr had a fascination with the murders of JonBenet Ramsey and Polly Klaas back in 2001. But a sheriff's spokesman says there was no indication Karr knew details about JonBenet's death that were not already public knowledge, and no confession was uncovered. At the time, Karr was being investigated on child porn charges.
Twelve passengers on a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to India are under arrest after a U.S. official says the men had been talking on their cell phones and appeared to be trying to pass the phones to other passengers. The pilot made a u-turn, and the plane returned to Amsterdam under fighter jet escort.
El Paso County, Colorado, an intruder with very sharp teeth and claws. That's it right there in the window. There it goes. It breaks free. That is a mountain lion just visiting, of course. Thankfully, no one was hurt.
In a moment, more of "5 Years Later: Are we Safer?" A special edition of 360.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN GRAPHIC)
Terrorism Poll, August 16-20.
Federal government prepared to prevent terrorism? Yes, 43 percent; no, 55 percent.
COOPER: Welcome back to this special edition of 360, "5 Years Later: Are we Safer?"
In a moment we'll uncover some disturbing new facts about just how insecure air travel is after 9/11. But first the nation's ports. It may seem hard to believe, but only a fraction of the cargo that enters America's harbors is checked. Given that, it doesn't take much to imagine what would happen if al Qaeda got their hands on, say, a dirty bomb.
CNN's David Mattingly investigates.
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the port of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the nation's biggest container port. Forty-three percent of all the goods that come into the U.S. by water in shipping containers come through here.
(On camera): It is one of the single biggest engines driving the U.S. economy, a gateway to more than $200 billion in annual trade, with more than 5,000 ships unloading over nine million cargo containers a year.
If the numbers don't impress you, consider this. Without this port, store shelves would empty, factories would close, and untold thousands would find themselves out of a job.
(Voice-over): If terrorists inserted one of their agents somewhere into the long chain of companies involved in sending a product from a factory in South China to the United States, they would be in a position to get a nuclear device into a box.
Then onto a container.
Into the frenzy of commerce heading west. And onto a ship headed for California. And the device would not have to detonate to blow a hole in the U.S. economy.
If authorities got a tip about a nuclear device in one of these boxes, they might well shut down the port to find it.
STEPHEN FLYNN, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: And so if you shut down this port, you're talking about -- these are the warehouses for the entire national economy. We don't have big warehouses anymore. It's in this transportation system. NOEL CUNNINGHAM, FORMER CHIEF OF OPERATIONS, PORT OF LOS ANGELES: I worry a lot. Never in all my days that I thought in my lifetime that I would be concerned about dirty bombs and international terrorists.
MATTINGLY: Noel Cunningham is the former chief of operations for the Port of Los Angeles.
CUNNINGHAM: I really believe that somewhere in this country it will happen.
MATTINGLY: A dirty bomb blowing up in the port, threatening surrounding neighborhoods is one terrible possibility.
But there's one much worse. In this scenario, a bomb, similar in size to those used on Japan in World War II, comes into the L.A. port in a container and is loaded onto a truck. The truck drives into downtown Los Angeles, and the bomb is detonated by remote control.
MATTHEW MCKINZIE, NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL: Thirty-two thousand people would die. These people would die as a result of the intense blast, high winds, intense heat radiation from the firebomb. A further 160,000 people, though, could die as a result of exposure to fallout.
MATTINGLY: Matthew McKinzie is a physicist working for the Natural Resources Defense Council. Using the same special software that helps the federal government gauge the impact of a nuclear war, he can create a model for a catastrophe. Just enter the city, the date, and the size of the bomb, a simple point and click for the ultimate terrorist attack.
MCKINZIE: What the code shows is a hole basically, burned and blasted out of the center of Los Angeles.
MATTINGLY (on camera): What about the radiation?
MCKINZIE: The radiation, the fallout plume, impacts a much larger area of Los Angeles.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): But experts say it doesn't have to be Los Angeles. It could conceivably be any city in the nation's vast and ever moving supply chain, anywhere linked by rail or road to one of the nation's ports.
David Mattingly, CNN, Atlanta.
COOPER: There are some places in the country where potential terror targets sit virtually side by side.
CNN's Randi Kaye discovered one stretch of real estate some have called the most dangerous two miles in America.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In New Jersey, the two-mile stretch from Newark Airport to Port Elizabeth has been dubbed by terrorism experts the most dangerous two miles in America.
RICHARD CANAS, DIR. NEW JERSEY HOMELAND SECURITY: It's the consequence of -- that frankly scares the pants off of us, you know. When you think about what might happen in such a congested area.
KAYE: On this swathe of land, chemical plants, rail yards, rail lines, refineries, an international airport and the third largest port in the country.
(On camera): In all, there are more than 100 potential targets in this two-mile stretch. Some more deadly than others. New Jersey's Homeland Security director says just one chlorine gas plant, if attacked, could bring lethal harm to more than 12 million people in a 14-mile radius.
(Voice-over): But the massive port, Port Elizabeth, is Director Richard Canas's main concern. Why? Because more than 4 million containers arrive here each year. The problem is what's really in them. After call, containers are inspected, not on the way in, but on the way out.
CNN Security Analyst Clark Kent Ervin.
CLARK KENT ERVIN, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: First of all, we need more money. Secondly, we need more and better technology. Third, we need to have a requirement for better perimeter security.
KAYE (on camera): But Director Canas got only 10 percent of the $800 million he requested to secure the state. So the port relies on tips from the public.
But the fact is, this year Homeland Security received one tip about a suspicious vessel at Port Elizabeth. And when it comes to the chemical plants, Canas says only a fraction of the security requirements is mandated by the state of New Jersey. But most is left to the companies themselves.
Why is the responsibility falling to them to protect their areas?
CANAS: I would say 90 percent of these companies have recognized and invested some of their own money into upgrading their security. Are they all complying? No, no. There are some that claim that it would break the bank to put up a fence or upgrade, buffer, without federal or state assistance.
KAYE (voice-over): Many of the potential targets fall in Kearny, New Jersey, where Jack Corbett is deputy chief of police.
(On camera): How many people do you have patrolling this area, and is it enough?
JACK CORBETT, DEPUTY POLICE CHIEF, KEARNY, NEW JERSEY: We have adequate patrols down there. You know, could we staff that area 24 hours a day with 100 people to try and keep terrorists away? I don't think that's possible. KAYE (voice-over): Is it possible to protect against a terrorist attack? Even the railways are vulnerable given the passenger train bombings in India and London. Director Canas has added rail marshals and is increasing training for transit police.
But is this enough to deter terrorism? There is a reason they call this the most dangerous two-mile stretch in America.
Randi Kaye, CNN, on the New Jersey Turnpike.
COOPER: Those two miles may be the disaster waiting to happen.
Our airlines, however, have already been hit. Coming up, how much safer are the nation's airlines five years after 9/11? Is it just a matter of time before terrorists figure out some new way to slip through airport security? We'll explain when this special edition of 360 continues.
COOPER: Welcome back to this special edition of 360, "5 Years Later: Are we Safer?"
Earlier we showed you the gaping security holes at the nation's ports after 9/11.
Now we're going to take a close look at air travel. Recently British police uncovered what they said was a plot to bomb passenger planes heading to America. That led to even more changes at the airport. Changes that, as you're going to see, may have little impact on reducing the actual risk of terror in the sky.
CNN's Jeanne Meserve reports.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Gels and liquids are being confiscated from carry-ons because the Transportation Security Administration doesn't have any way to screen them to see if they are dangerous or not.
It is one of several technological gaps in aviation security, experts say. Another, those puffer machines that can detect explosive residues. Only 93 are currently in use at only 36 airports.
THOMAS KEAN, FORMER 9/11 COMMISSION CHAIRMAN: It takes effort. It takes priorities. And it takes some money, frankly, to have these things deployed at airports. And until they are, we're not going to be as safe as we should be.
MESERVE: Among the other holes in aviation security, experts say, most air cargo is not screened. There is no system to ward off attacks with shoulder-fired missiles. Some airport personnel with access to secure areas and even aircraft don't have to pass through security checkpoints.
And over and over again, the government's own security watchdogs have smuggled prohibited items past screeners and their machines.
One expert is most horrified by this. The airlines, not the government are checking passenger names against the no-fly list.
JAMES CARAFANO, THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Here we are, we'll be at the fifth anniversary of 9/11, and we'll still haven't done the one kind of practical common sense thing we could do to keep terrorists off the airplanes.
MESERVE: A member of the commission that investigated 9/11 says aviation security is rife with questionable decisions and pork barrel spending. And, he fears, there is again, a failure of imagination.
TIM ROEMER, FORMER 9/11 COMMISSION MEMBER: Creative thinking outside the box, red teaming these things, thinking like future terrorists and al Qaeda people.
MESERVE: The head of the Transportation Security Administration says his agency is doing that, but, he says, with a constantly changing threat environment, absolute security is impossible. He argues that federal air marshals reinforced cockpit doors, combat air patrols and technology provide layers of security that are effective if routines are varied.
EDMUND "KIP" HAWLEY, DIR. TRANSPORTATION SECURITY ADMINISTRATION: What we don't want is to allow a terrorist to be able to engineer his process knowing exactly what we're going to do.
MESERVE: Hawley also is expanding the training of security personnel to recognize suspicious behavior. He says it is inexpensive, yet effective.
HAWLEY: We'd rather put the effort into that security which guards against any kind of threat, rather than spend millions of dollars, wait many years and then only deploy it where you can afford it.
MESERVE: Hawley and his critics agree on one point, that intelligence is a critical ingredient in aviation security. The proof? Intelligence is what thwarted this latest plot to blast airliners out of the sky.
COOPER: Jeanne, U.S. intelligence-gathering operation was pretty criticized after 9/11. What changes have taken place since then?
MESERVE (on camera): Well, the big change was forming the director of National Intelligence. They had hoped that that office would bring together these very incoherent and disparate intelligence operations across the federal government and bring some cohesion to it. But now there are critics, people who even supported the formation of that office, who say that John Negroponte really hasn't taken the reins the way they had hoped that he would, that things still aren't as coherent as they should be.
Another aspect of this is whether states and locals are hearing what they think they need to hear. Most of them say the intelligence flow has improved, but is not yet what they wish it was.
COOPER: And the Homeland Security Department, obviously criticized after Katrina, but in terms of its counterterrorism role, how is that done?
MESERVE: Well, you know, no one thought this was going to be easy. I remember when the department was set up, someone said, forming this department while it's trying to protect the nation is like trying to put new engines on an airplane while it's in flight.
But even given that, people look at that Katrina response and say that's sort of emblematic of the problems within the department, that there hasn't been a coherence of mission, that they took together a lot of dysfunctional agencies and put them under one umbrella without properly resourcing them. And so you haven't got the kind of synergy, the kind of cooperation that people wish they had had.
The administration says, hey, there hasn't been an attack since 9/11. We're doing something right. Most people will concede that we are safer than we were after 9/11, but nowhere near safe enough.
COOPER: There are those who charge that lawmakers in Washington, in Congress, are moving far too slowly. What do you think are the key areas that need Congressional attention?
MESERVE: Well, first of all, Congress didn't reorganize itself to provide proper oversight of the Department of Homeland Security. And secondly, they haven't moved in some key areas. There has been legislation up there on port security and chemical plant security. This stuff is stalled. It's not going anywhere in part because of turf battles. And frankly, the White House hasn't been willing to come in and knock heads together to make sure things get done.
COOPER: There's a lot of people who criticize this White House for their use of 9/11, for their use of terror alerts and threats. Do those allegations stick? And when you look at the timing of terror threats, when you look at how they have used it and/or benefited from it?
MESERVE: Listen, I think it really depends on which side of the political spectrum you sit as to whether you think there's any validity or not. Certainly, in this last instance, this was a foreign terror threat, something happening overseas. Clearly a threat to U.S. aviation. In this instance it appears to be justified at least.
COOPER: Jeanne, thanks.
MESERVE: You bet. COOPER: Well, since 9/11, there have also been big changes at the FBI, some not for the better. A big problem is the brain drain. Big names taking big, high-profile jobs in the war on terror in the private sector. A look at how it is impacting the FBI and our security coming up when this special edition of 360, "5 Years Later: Are we Safer?" continues.
Terrorism Poll, August 16-20.
War in Iraq made U.S. safer from terrorism? Yes, 37 percent; no, 55 percent.
COOPER: The so-called war on terror is supposed to be keeping the country safe. But what about its unintended effects? Like this one. Counterterrorism can be a very lucrative business. Private security companies know that. They also know that some of the best minds on fighting terror are in Washington working at the FBI. So they're offering those people big jobs. And that is leading to a brain drain at the agency.
CNN's Kelli Arena reports.
KELLI ARENA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An FBI agent for 31 years, Ronald Nesbitt, has decided to call it quits.
RONALD NESBITT, FORMER FBI AGENT: I knew that I had to make a decision while I was still relatively young, while I was attracted to the private sector and not much later in my career.
ARENA: Nesbitt, who is 52, ran the counterintelligence unit for the FBI's Washington field office. He says he was happy at work and wasn't job hunting, but got offers anyway. In the end, he says he did what was best for his family and accepted a security job with a large corporation.
NESBITT: I have two daughters that are adults, and one is graduating, one is still a sophomore in college. I have a young daughter still. So I was really looking at expenses.
ARENA: Nesbitt is just one of several top officials giving into the lure of the private sector.
Gary Ball, the top counterterrorism chief, also left recently to work in security for a cruise line. In fact, since the attacks on September 11th, at least six top counterterrorism officials have left, alarming some members of Congress.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These are critical jobs at a critical time. ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR: I understand what you're saying. And it is an issue we're wrestling with.
ARENA: The FBI points out the officials who left spent decades working at the FBI and says it's well prepared to replace them.
MIKE MASON, FBI EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: We know what the dynamic is in terms of the average retirement age of senior bureau employees. And as a result, are working hard to develop the bench we need to develop.
ARENA: But according to a study requested by Congress, the high turnover at the top makes it harder for the FBI to make necessary changes. Tim Roemer was a member of the 9/11 commission.
TIM ROEMER, FORMER 9/11 COMMISSION MEMBER: When you have six managers in the counterterrorism area in five years and you don't have that experience and that leadership at the top, even when you're bringing in creative new people, you are going to have significant morale and transfer and turnover problems at the bottom.
ARENA: Nesbitt says in his case, there wasn't much the FBI could do. It came down to needing the money.
(On camera): The salary for his government position tops out at $165,000. But in the private sector, his expertise commands a whole lot more.
Kelli Arena, CNN, Washington.
COOPER: It is a simple and disturbing fact. Homeland Security doesn't have enough people protecting our borders. Coming up, we're going to show you a perfect example of the shortfall. A U.S. border crossing in Minnesota where there are no border guards, just the honor system, when this special edition of 360 continues.
Terrorism Poll, August 16-20.
Worried about being victim of terrorism? Yes, 36 percent; no, 65 percent.
COOPER: It's a chilling fact that the next terrorist to target the U.S. may already be in this country, living and working among us. If he's not already here, what's to keep him or her, for that matter, from getting in five years after 9/11? Well, much has been made of making America's borders safer. Which is why this next story is so disturbing. It's about a checkpoint where practically no checking actually takes place. CNN's Gary Tuchman explains.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's late afternoon, rush hour in many places, but not here. On this desolate roadway in the Canadian province of Manitoba, where a monument separates Manitoba on the left from Minnesota on the right, a sign warns that you're about to arrive to the official U.S. border checkpoint. And then there it is, the Jim's Corner immigration customs reporting station, which looks like a shack and operates on the honor system. Two sheriffs on the American side are not happy about it.
(On camera): What percentage of people in general do you believe check in there?
SHERIFF DALLAS BLOCK, LAKE OF THE WOODS COUNTY, MINNESOTA: I believe it's less than 30 percent, maybe even far less than that.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): When we entered Lake of the Woods County, Minnesota, from Canada, we went through the rather unorthodox process.
(On camera): Push the call, push the American flag.
Inside the shack a video phone connected to a border agent 50 miles away.
Hello U.S. Customs. I'm at the Jim's Corner. My name is Gary Tuchman. I think you'll find a have a clean record.
The agent looks at you through the camera and you look at the agent. What is your name?
OFFICER JOHNSON: Officer Johnson.
TUCHMAN: Hello, Officer Johnson.
Officer Johnson would have no way of knowing if people were just driving by the shack without stopping, which indeed often happens, because many honorable people can't be bothered with the video phone that often doesn't work. I'm going to hold you up my passport first. Can you see it?
TUCHMAN: That's me.
(Voice-over): We were approved to enter the U.S. in a most unusual tourist town called Angle Inlet. It's actually an enclave not physically connected to the rest of the U.S. You have to drive 40 miles within Canada to the northern side of the Lake of the Woods to get there. There are far more deer than people who live here. The town is the state's only remaining one-room public schoolhouse.
But amid the charm of this tranquil town, the sheriff of Lake of the Woods County says drug dealers drive past Jim's Corner and then take boats in the summer or snowmobiles in the winter into the heart of the U.S. And he says there's even more.
(On camera): It is your professional opinion that terrorists have gone through Angle Inlet into the mainland United States?
BLOCK: Yes it is.
TUCHMAN: And that's through intelligence?
BLOCK: Yes, we have pretty accurate, pretty reliable intelligence that that has happened. I don't think Osama bin Laden is going to check in there, but so you're really on your honor system.
TUCHMAN: It's 6:00 p.m. on a chilly day, so most of the boaters have gone back to shore for the evening. This lake is very empty. But even in the summer in the middle of the day, it is very uncrowded on this lake which makes it easy for people who might be up to no good to go relatively unnoticed.
(Voice-over): Some of the year-round residents are concerned all this talk could scare away tourists. Jerry Stallock owns a restaurant.
JERRY STALLOCK, OWNER, JERRY'S RESTAURANT: I personally don't think this is as big a threat as some of the other people.
TUCHMAN: But the sheriff says in this post-9/11 world, one cannot be too careful, although he does admit to a transgression.
(On camera): Do you stop at the border station?
BLOCK: I do. Sometimes.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): U.S. Customs and Border Protection tells CNN its officers, who periodically visit this border area, will start making more frequent visits and better technology will be added, including cameras providing surveillance over the area, not just inside the shack.
We did encounter one man from Manitoba who did stop at the video phone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No luck.
TUCHMAN: But it didn't work so he called on a pay phone...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, John Funk (ph) reporting in at Young's -- at Jim's Corner.
TUCHMAN: ...to report his arrival into the United States of America.
Gary Tuchman, CNN, Angle Inlet, Minnesota.
(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: We'll have more of this special edition of 360 in a moment. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: America is safer than it has been, but it's not yet safe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Terrorism Poll, August 16-20.
U.S. safer from terrorism than before 9/11? Safer, 43 percent; as safe/less safe, 57 percent.
COOPER: Well five years after 9/11, those numbers say a lot. More than half of the people polled by CNN do not think the U.S. is safer from terrorism than it was before 9/11.
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