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THE SITUATION ROOM
New Video Shows bin Laden Planning 9/11 Attacks; Former Clinton Aides Outraged About New ABC Mini Series
Aired September 7, 2006 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou. And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Standing by CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you tonight's top stories.
Happening now, al Qaeda marks the 9/11 anniversary. A video shows Osama bin Laden and some of the hijackers apparently planning the attacks on America. A chilling look back at history, is it also an ominous hint of what may lie ahead?
Former Clinton aides are outraged over a new mini series, which suggest they missed chances to head off the 9/11 attacks, but is ABC's fictionalized history missing key facts? I will ask former defense secretary, William Cohen.
And they never miss a chance to insult America. Now they may have a chance to do it in person. The leaders of Iran and Venezuela plan a visit.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
It looks like a 9/11 rehearsal. Al Qaeda commemorates the anniversary of the attacks with never-seen-before images showing Osama bin Laden meeting a key planner of the attacks along with some of the hijackers. Could it also signal though a new threat even as militants make a comeback in the mountains of Afghanistan?
CNN's Jamie McIntyre is standing by at the Pentagon. Let's begin our coverage though with our justice correspondent Kelli Arena -- Kelli.
KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you know this is not the first time that al Qaeda has released a tape around the time of the September 11th anniversary, but these images may be the most haunting of all.
ARENA (voice-over): It's as if the 9/11 hijackers have come back to taunt us from the grave, an al Qaeda videotape allegedly showing the planning of the September 11th attacks just released on the Arab network Al-Jazeera. Osama bin Laden asks supporters to pray for the hijackers and their deadly mission. UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): And I strongly advise you to increase your prayers for them and beseech Allah the exalted in your prayer to grant them success.
ARENA: Hijackers Hamza Alghamdi and Wail Alshehri speak before their suicide attacks with the video of the results eerily super imposed behind them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): If struggling jihad is not mandatory now, then when is it mandatory?
ARENA: Alshehri was on American Airlines flight 11. Alghamdi was on United Airlines flight 175, the planes that hit the Twin Towers, 9/11 planner Ramzi Binalshibh is seen with Osama bin Laden the first time the men are shown together. Binalshibh is still alive living now in a wire mesh cage at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, where he was just transferred from a secret CIA prison.
PAT D'AMURO, CHAIRMAN, GIULIANI SECURITY AND SAFETY: The reason for this tape coming out now is to show that al Qaeda feels they can be victorious against the United States by going back to the events of 9/11 and try to recruit additional individuals to enter the jihad against the United States.
ARENA: Some suggest a more ominous reason. Al Qaeda tapes and messages have been coming fast and furious. Latest -- the last released just this weekend, leaving some to speculate an attack could be imminent.
ARENA: You know in the past, Wolf that has happened a video preceded an attack. But today I had the opportunity to interview FBI Director Robert Mueller who told me that there is no intelligence to suggest that any attack is imminent. Let's hope he's right.
BLITZER: I assume the U.S. law enforcement intelligence officers are looking at this videotape just to confirm its authenticity.
ARENA: You know Wolf they always do. And not only to confirm authenticity, but to look for you know any intelligence clues that they may pick up as to you know location or possibly any hints that they're sending messages.
BLITZER: Kelli than you. Kelli Arena is our justice correspondent.
The new videotape of Osama bin Laden comes as NATO's top commander is now calling for more troops to be dispatched to Afghanistan. Our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre joining us with details -- Jamie.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, the four-star commander in charge of NATO issued some blunt statements today conceding that the Taliban is stronger than he thought and complaining that his NATO troops aren't getting all the fire power they need.
MCINTYRE (voice-over): NATO's top general says his troops in Afghanistan are being tested by a stubborn Taliban resistance, which is showing a surprising willingness to stand and fight, instead of taking pot shots and running away as NATO expected.
GEN. JAMES JONES, SUPREME NATO COMMANDER: Certainly, the tenacity of the resistance is a little bit of a surprise. And the southern region has turned out to be more than we expected but certainly by no means, unmanageable.
MCINTYRE: Jones said NATO it would stir up a hornet's nest when it began its southern offensive this summer, but the Taliban flushed with drug cash from a bumper harvest of opium are well armed and inflicting heavy casualties. At least 35 British and Canadian troops have died in the past five weeks and a town in the south has fallen to Taliban control.
Meanwhile, NATO commanders have only 85 percent of the troops and equipment they were promised. NATO has failed to come up with a squadron of attack helicopters and several C-130 transport planes that General Jones says his ground commander needs for additional flexibility on the battlefield.
Currently there are about 19,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan, of which about 1,000 are American and 6,000 are in the south. In addition, the U.S. has another 20,000 troops under American command. General Jones says the need for reinforcements is urgent but not dire.
JONES: So it's not a reinforcement in a desperate sense, but it is prudent military advice that adds a certain measure of guarantee and cushion to the forces that are already performing very well on the scene.
MCINTYRE: General Jones says he did not use the term reinforcements because that connotes a panic and desperation he says is unwarranted. He insists NATO will still prevail. And he called Afghanistan in his words a success story in progress -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right Jamie thanks very much. Jamie is at the Pentagon.
For more on the situation in Afghanistan, I talked with CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen in Kabul.
BLITZER: You have been there for a few days now Peter. You've been in Afghanistan many previous occasions since 9/11. Does it look like a success is in the making right now?
PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: I think if we had this conversation in 2002 or 2003, Wolf, it would be a lot more optimistic. You know millions of refugees returning. There was a successful presidential election, parliamentary election in the 2004-2005 timeframe, but frankly the last year has been quite disappointing. Ninety-two percent of the world's heroin is produced here, a record- breaking crop.
The Taliban are back. As Jamie pointed out in his piece, and I have been embedded with some of the commanders here, the Taliban are standing up and they're fighting. That's proving pretty costly for them. By speaking to U.S. military officials here they estimate at least 1,000 Taliban have been killed in the last three months.
NATO says just 200 in the last week. But these guys are fighting and one of the commanders I spoke to is in Iraq said these guys are actually more prepared to engage directly than the Iraqi insurgents who rely on IEDs and tactics, which are sort of stand-off tactics rather than standing up and really engaging. And the Taliban, of course, the resurgence has come at the same time that the drug trade has exploded.
There is clearly a relationship between that, but the one line -- the one word explanation for a lot of this is Pakistan. You know you can't talk to a U.S. military commander here at least off the record without them mentioning the Pakistan problem that the senior leadership of Taliban, they have the two most important councils, one is in Bajara (ph), a town in northwest frontier province of Pakistan. One is in Quetta and Baluchistan and many of the senior leaders in fact don't even come into Afghanistan, they're so comfortable in their situation in Pakistan.
And you -- Wolf, you know, no doubt about this peace agreement that the Pakistani government has just concluded with militants in the tribal areas. Well there is a concern -- U.S. military officials here are concerned that that peace agreement will allow not only the Taliban to sort of have a breathing space, but also al Qaeda itself to regroup in those tribal territories -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Peter Bergen on the scene for us in Kabul, Afghanistan. Those new developments come in the middle of a White House campaign on terror including President Bush's third speech in as many days citing progress in the overall war on terror. The president speaking in Georgia just days before the 9/11 anniversary says the enemy is determined to strike again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our enemies have fought relentlessly for the past five years and they have a record of their own. Bin Laden and his deputy Zawahiri are still in hiding. Al Qaeda has continued its campaign of terror with deadly attacks that have targeted the innocent, including large numbers of fellow Muslims. The terrorists and insurgents in Iraq have killed American troops and thousands of Iraqis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The president speaking in Georgia earlier today. Jack Cafferty has the day off. He will be back on Monday.
Coming up, is it history or is it fiction? Would you watch a movie about the facts of 9/11, a movie that's also filled apparently with some major fictional scenes. That's what ABC is planning to air. Some former Clinton administration officials are furious.
And guess who might be coming to the United States? Imagine hosting two men who call the U.S. evil and if they feel that way, why are they so anxious to come to New York City?
And reporters under attack, we're going to show you the occupational hazards journalists face when they try to cover or uncover the truth.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad soon may be coming to New York City to address the United Nations in a visit that is sure to goad the Bush administration.
CNN's Zain Verjee has the story -- Zain.
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: He may be coming to America, Wolf, even though he's not welcome by Washington. Iran's president may stop over first to see some of his friends whom the U.S. doesn't like.
VERJEE (voice-over): Cuba's Fidel Castro, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, three men opposed to America. Many Americans believe the goals of these leaders are the same, challenge, criticize, embarrass and thwart the United States whenever possible.
The three may meet later this month in Cuba at a meeting of the non-aligned nations. Chavez and Ahmadinejad are expected to go to New York City for the start of the U.N. General Assembly. Ahmadinejad wants to speak on the same day as President Bush, September 19, but Iran's president doesn't have a visa yet.
SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: If there's, of course, a visa application, we will take a look at it.
VERJEE: There's no precedent for refusing a visa to a head of state to the U.N. meeting and no reason to believe that it won't be issued.
MCCORMACK: Iran is a member state of the United Nations and there are certain obligations as the host country that we have with respect to the United Nations and visitors to the General Assembly and to the United Nations.
VERJEE: The idea of an anti-Semitic, anti-American leader strutting the global stage angers Jewish groups here and some U.S. senators. Ahmadinejad is also again daring Mr. Bush to debate him, saying he's ready to spar. It's not clear if Ahmadinejad is serious or if he's just being provocative. But the White House isn't having any of it.
Press Secretary Tony Snow says there's not going to be a steel cage grudge match between the president and Ahmadinejad. And this is not going to be a U.N. version of "CROSSFIRE".
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not true.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't understand it.
VERJEE: The White House has rejected calls for a debate with President Bush before, calling it a diversion from the nuclear issue.
VERJEE: And should Americans shell out the cash to protect the Iranian leader in the U.S.? Any head of state who visits this country gets security from the Secret Service, which is funded by the taxpayers -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Zain, thank you. And by the way, Ahmadinejad won't be the first foreign foe to come to New York and the United Nations. Our senior analyst Jeff Greenfield joins us with that -- Jeff.
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Wolf, when Iran's president, Ahmadinejad comes to the United Nations this fall, he will be just the latest in a long line of foreign leaders who have come to the U.N., who have been adversaries, if not enemies, of the United States and that's made for some memorable moments.
GREENFIELD (voice-over): It's hard to top what happened in 1960 when Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and Cuba's Fidel Castro who by then had openly declared himself a Marxist Leninist, came to New York. Khrushchev met Castro at Harlem's Theresa Hotel and later at the U.N. answered a speech by the U.S. by banging his fist and then his shoe on the table.
That same year, Castro gave the U.N. a sample of his endurance by delivering a four-hour, 27-minute speech, still the longest in U.N. history.
GREENFIELD: There have been plenty of others. PLO chairman Yasser Arafat spoke to the U.N. in 1974 at a time when the U.S. branded his group a terrorist organization. He wore a pistol holster, but also said he offered an olive branch.
Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega, leader of the leftist Sandinista government spoke in 1987, the same year Congress was investigating the Reagan administration's decision to aid the anti-Sandinista Contras in spite of a congressional ban on such aid. And last fall, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, an ally of Fidel Castro, assailed U.S. military and economic policies and even proposed moving the U.N. to some other city, perhaps the only Chavez proposal that some American conservatives would perhaps embrace.
But it doesn't take a head of state's visit to produce fireworks. During the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, U.N. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson demanded that his Soviet counterpart answer a pointed question.
ADLAI STEVENSON, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: Do you, Ambassador Zorin, deny that the USSR has faced and is facing medium and intermediate range missiles and sites in Cuba?
VALERIAN ZORIN, USSR'S AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: You will have your answer in due course.
STEVENSON: I'm prepared to wait for my answer until hell freezes over.
GREENFIELD: And while the United States has no power to keep foreign leaders away from the U.N., it's officially international territory, that doesn't apply to its immediate surroundings. For instance, in 1995, then New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani personally ordered Yasser Arafat thrown out of a Lincoln Center event.
GREENFIELD: And speaking of possible presidential candidates, Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney apparently took a leaf from the Giuliani playbook when he refused to provide police protection for former Iranian President Khatami during his visit to Harvard. Maybe this fall if we see Mayor Mike Bloomberg of New York personally ticketing Ahmadinejad's motorcade we'll know that he too is developing some presidential ambitions -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I suspect we won't see that though Jeff. Thank you very much, Jeff Greenfield reporting.
Still to come tonight right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, is art imitating or repudiating real life? We will tell you about an ABC movie about 9/11 that some former Clinton administration officials say is simply plain wrong.
And you rely on reporters to bring you the truth, we're going to show you what happens sometimes when they try to do precisely that.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Welcome back. Mary Snow is joining us with a quick look at some other headlines making news -- hi Mary.
MARY SNOW, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there Wolf. A taped statement attributed to the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, urges followers to kill at least one American in the next two weeks. Part of the audiotape was broadcast on Al-Jazeera today. The tape was also posted on Islamist Web sites. And the speaker said to be al Qaeda leader Abu Hamza Al-Mujahir. CNN is unable to independently verify the speaker's identity.
A big announcement today by British Prime Minister Tony Blair. He says he will step down within the next year, but he refused to set a departure date. Blair's popularity began sagging when he committed his nation to the U.S.-led war in Iraq three years ago. His Labor Party is now trailing the opposition conservative party in opinion polls.
And BP is taking the blame for failing to prevent a major Alaskan pipeline from becoming crippled by corrosion. Some BP executives told a House panel today their failures are unacceptable and they said they're doing everything possible to prevent further problems. BP was forced to cut production in half last month at the Prudhoe Bay facility after inspections revealed severe corrosion.
And NASA will try again tomorrow to launch the Space Shuttle Atlantis. Atlantis was set to lift off yesterday, but the launch was delayed because of a fuel cell problem. About 90 minutes ago, NASA announced it plans to go ahead with the launch. Liftoff is set for 11:41 a.m. Eastern Time -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. We'll have coverage of that. Thanks very much, Mary reporting. Just ahead, what's in a new 9/11 mini series that has some former members of the Clinton administration crying foul? We're going to show you what the controversy is all about.
And there are details of what prompted this violent attack on a television news reporter. It was pretty horrible.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM where new pictures and information arriving all the time. Happening now, President Bush says the U.S. is killing or catching all of the terrorists, as many as it can find. But al Qaeda says it won't be silenced. Days before the fifth anniversary of 9/11 anniversary, al Qaeda appears to be out with a sort of terror how-to video.
The tape purports to show members who are planning the 9/11 attacks. Also, some Clinton administration officials are asking what's more important to ABC? Showing what really happened surrounding 9/11 or including made-up scenes to make the story seem more dramatic. We'll tell you about the controversy over an upcoming mini series that ABC -- that many people are saying is simply unfair.
And the ingredients for success, take one highly sought after position, add some very determined candidates and stir things up. We're going to tell you now who is the presidential flavor of the day that many Republicans, you might be surprised.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
At this hour, movie madness, there's furry over a movie that will tackle one of the most painful events in American history. And some former Clinton administration officials hope you won't be watching the upcoming ABC mini series about 9/11.
Let's get the latest from CNN's Brian Todd -- Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, ABC is making it very clear this is a dramatization and it's still being edited, but it's depiction of real people in controversial scenes has upset some very powerful people.
TODD (voice-over): President Bill Clinton's former national security team taking ABC to task over the network's dramatic mini series, "The Path To 9/11". A letter sent from Clinton's attorney and his former aide Bruce Lindsey to Robert Iger, CEO of ABC's parent company, the Walt Disney Corporation reads quote "ABC has gotten it terribly wrong. It is unconscionable to mislead the American public about one of the most horrendous tragedies our country has ever known."
Former Clinton aides say although they have not seen the film, ABC should revise or remove part of it before it airs next week. Among the proposed scenes upsetting them, a portrayal of a 1998 CIA- led operation in Afghanistan. In the scene, CIA operatives have Osama bin Laden cornered and are poised to capture or kill him until national security adviser Samuel Berger refuses to give the go-ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're ready to load the package. Repeat. Do we have clearance to load the package?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stand by.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our officers are in place, sir. They're in danger.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understand that, Patricia, but I don't have that authority.
TODD: Berger, other top Clinton national security aides and members of the 9/11 Commission say none of that ever happened.
TIM ROEMER, 9/11 COMMISSION MEMBER: There were plans, not an operation in place. Secondly, Osama bin Laden was never in somebody's sights. Thirdly, 100 -- page 114 of our report, we say George Tenet took responsibility for pulling the plug on that particular Tarnac Farms operation.
TODD: In his own letter to Robert Iger, Berger writes the scene, quote, flagrantly misrepresents my personal actions.
It's unclear at this point whether this scene or a different version of it will be in the final cut. Another segment in dispute shows then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright insisting she alert the Pakistani government before the U.S. launches a 1998 missile strike against bin Laden.
Albright claims she never insisted on that notification, writing the Disney chief, quote, the scene as explained to me is false and defamatory. Albright and 9/11 commissioners say U.S. military officials alerted the Pakistanis when the missiles were already in the air. Albright, Berger, and Clinton's other aides are also upset that they never got to see an advanced copy of the film.
ABC representatives did not specifically respond to our questions. But in a statement, ABC Entertainment says, the path to 9/11 is not a documentary of the events leading to 9/11. It is a dramatization, drawn from a variety of sources, including the 9/11 Commission Report, other published materials and personal interviews.
As such, for dramatic and narrative purposes, the movie contains fictionalized scenes, composite and representative characters and dialogue and time compression. No one has seen the final version of the film because the editing process is not yet complete.
Still observer say ABC is taking a chance by using the real names of those key players.
HOWARD KURTZ, CNN'S RELIABLE SOURCES: A lot of people watching that are going to think that this is reality when in fact it is just Oliver Stone type fiction.
TODD: Another controversy, ABC enlisting 9/11 Commission chairman Tom Kean, a Republican as an unpaid consultant with a production title. Kean tells CNN he had seen the script and informed ABC the scene depicting Berger hanging up the phone on a CIA agent who had Osama bin Laden in his sights was inaccurate. Kean says ABC responded that it would revisit the scene.
TODD: Kean tells me he believes the writers and producers did their best to depict everyone fairly and he urges President Clinton and his former aids to watch the film. In his words, it's an effective piece of work. This note Wolf, ABC did not consult a Democratic member of the 9/11 commission for this film.
BLITZER: Brian Todd, thank you very much. So did the Clinton administration miss a chance to kill Osama bin Laden? A short while ago I spoke with Richard Miniter. He's the author of the book, "Losing bin Laden."
BLITZER: Was Sandy Berger defamed in this scene?
RICHARD MINITER, AUTHOR, "LOSING BIN LADEN": Well, that's a legal question. But certainly if I was the producer I wouldn't have gone with this scene because there's no factual basis for it. It seems to be drawn from an Internet myth. From a profound misunderstanding of what actually happened. If people wanted to be critical of the Clinton years there's things they could have said, but the idea that someone had bin Laden in his sights in 1998 or any other time and Sandy Berger refused to pull the trigger, there's zero factual basis for that.
BLITZER: You've heard other 9/11 Commission members saying it wasn't Sandy Berger who pulled the trigger, it was George Tenet the CIA director. Based on what you know, is that accurate?
MINITER: Even that's not accurate. We just never had eyes on bin Laden in the pre-9/11 situation. The 9/11 Commission investigated this. The House and Senate Joint Committee investigated this and published a 1,000-page report. I looked into it extensively. Most of my source for my book, "Losing bin Laden," are Clinton administration officials. There's no basis for this at all, none.
BLITZER: In his letter that Sandy Berger writes to ABC, he says, "In no instance did President Clinton or I ever fail to support a request from the CIA or U.S. military to authorize an operation against bin Laden or al Qaeda." Based on your research that accurate?
MINITER: No, that's not accurate because the CIA wanted to send in 1998 a special collection team to set up listening posts in non- Taliban territory to try to figure out the movements of bin Laden and that took a very long time for that request to go through and it took the personal intervention of Bill Clinton to make that happen. So they didn't support every single CIA request, but they did support many.
BLITZER: But Bill Clinton was, as far as your investigation was concerned, he personally wanted to capture Osama bin Laden and whenever recommendations came to his level he said do it.
MINITER: He did personally again and again say from 1993 onward that he wanted to get bin Laden. Tony Lake, his national security adviser, and Sandy Berger, both said that as well.
However, the bureaucracy behind him, the rules that he'd established, made it very difficult to do that. There was no information sharing on intelligence. There were other technological problems. It took them a very long time to move the Predator over Afghan territory. If that was done much earlier, we might have had other opportunities.
BLITZER: Let's flash forward to the first nine months of the Bush administration before 9/11. The president took office on January 20th, 2001. On 9/11/2001 we all know what happened.
Listen to this exchange that Richard Ben-Veniste, a Democratic member of the 9/11 commission, had with Condoleezza Rice, who was then the national security adviser.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD BEN-VENISTE, 9/11 COMMISSION MEMBER: Isn't it a fact, Dr. Rice, that the August 6th PDB warned against possible attacks in this country? And I ask you whether you recall the title of that PDB.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: I believe the title was "Bin Laden Determined to Attack inside the United States."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: PDB is the Presidential Daily Brief, the most sensitive intelligence document that reaches the president's desk every day.
I guess the bottom line, and I think you'll agree with me on this, looking back, there's plenty of blame to give the Clinton administration and the Bush administration, certainly with 20-20 hindsight before 9/11, that they both missed major opportunities to capture or kill or derail al Qaeda.
MINITER: Well, I think you're misinterpreting the Presidential Daily Brief of August 6th. That title, the titles in PDBs usually reflect the request made by the president or top national security officer for a question to be answered. After July, when they learned of al Qaeda plots against the president while he was traveling in Italy, they commissioned that presidential daily brief.
The CIA came back with old intelligence and talked about hijackings in Egypt and Pakistan not inside the United States. So only the title, nothing else in this presidential daily brief has since been declassified. Well, certainly, yes, you can fault the Bush administration for a few things, but remember, there was a party shift in control of the senate, they couldn't get a lot of their people confirmed, and they were very new getting in. They were in office less than nine months.
Bill Clinton had eight years. The first al Qaeda attack on the United States was February 1993, less than 30 days after he's sworn in as president.
BLITZER: Richard Miniter is the author of "Losing bin Laden." Richard, thanks for coming in.
MINITER: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: And in just a moment we will get the response from inside the Clinton administration. The foreigner defense secretary William Cohen, who served during the Clinton administration will tell us about the role, that would be president Clinton's role, in hunting down Osama bin Laden.
Plus, is there a new Republican front runner in the race for the White House? We are going to show you the results of a brand new CNN poll and you might be surprised about a gap that is developing between number one and number two.
BLITZER: More now on that developing story we're following, the real events leading up to 9/11 and ABC's depiction of them in a new miniseries. The only way really to know what happened is to talk to some of the people who were directly involved. CNN's world affairs analyst, William Cohen, was a Clinton defense secretary. He's also chairman and CEO of the Cohen Group here in Washington.
BLITZER: I take it you have not seen this movie?
WILLIAM COHEN, WORLD AFFAIRS ANALYST: No, I have not seen it. I have not been consulted. I haven't talked to anyone about it. Only what I've read. Howie Kurtz had an item in the press which I've looked at. And based on that article I can say that what I have seen is inaccurate to say the least.
BLITZER: And you haven't spoken to former President Clinton or Sandy Berger?
COHEN: I haven't talked to anyone about it. Just based on reports. And according to ABC, they're in the process of editing. If what I've read is accurate in terms of what they intend to include in that docudrama, which I think is a good deal of fiction, from what I've read, it would be well to edit it out.
BLITZER: Because if you're Sandy Berger and you see a scene in which a character, an actor, plays Sandy Berger and he says don't do it -- CIA operatives have Osama bin Laden potentially available to kill or capture and he says stop don't do it, you're going to be pretty angry. As far as you know, that never happened?
COHEN: That never happened. As a matter of fact, I never saw or heard Sandy Berger do anything of that nature, saying don't do it. We did have information from time to time from the CIA in which they would say we're not sure and make a call not to take action because we didn't know exactly who we're dealing with. But Sandy Berger in my presence certainly and my understanding never made such a statement.
BLITZER: There's apparently another scene in this film -- and we haven't seen it -- that depicts Madeleine Albright, the former secretary of state, as basically tipping off the Pakistanis that missiles were on the way and that presumably word got to Osama bin Laden and he escaped because of that tip-off, some sort of internal word. What do you remember about that incident?
COHEN: That also is false. What took place is we asked General Ralston, Joseph Ralston, who was then the vice chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And in full disclosure -- he's part of my firm, the Cohen Group now, so take that into account.
But we asked General Ralston to fly over, to meet with his counterpart in Pakistan, to sit and make sure that when he was with his counterpart, when those missiles were going overhead, if they were detected to make sure that the Pakistanis understood these were not coming from India. They were coming from us and they were heading for bin Laden. And by the way, this is not a capture situation. We didn't have any handcuffs on those missiles. They were designed to kill all those in the region. So we missed bin Laden, not for want of trying.
BLITZER: But the point was that you wanted to make sure the Pakistanis didn't think this was India launching an attack because both of these countries have nuclear arms.
COHEN: And might set off a war. And as a matter of fact, they were not alerted to this until such time as the missiles were well over the territory on their way to the target. So there was no way that we were tipping off the Pakistani military. They may have gotten information in some other fashion. They didn't get it from the military. They didn't get it from Madeleine Albright either.
BLITZER: Everyone agrees with hindsight if we knew after 9/11 what we knew before 9/11 we would have done things differently. In the 9/11 Commission Report this reference to you, and I'm sure you've seen it. But I want you to see and our viewers what was going on in your mind and the mind of the then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Hugh Shelton.
It writes this, the 9/11 Commission Report: "Defense Secretary William Cohen told us bin Laden's training camps were primitive, built with rope ladders. General Hugh Shelton called them jungle gym camps. Neither thought them worthwhile targets for very expensive missiles. President Clinton and Sandy Berger also worried that attacks that missed bin Laden could enhance his stature and win him new recruits." You remember those days vividly.
COHEN: Sure, absolutely.
BLITZER: Explain what was going on in your mind.
COHEN: Actually, what we said was these are training camps, they're very rustic in nature, they're very primitive, and we're going to hit a lot of empty things, but it's still worth doing to send a signal that we're coming after you.
So the other half of that story in terms of the testimony and the truth is we recommended to the president that they fire those missiles to make sure that we send a message to bin Laden.
We know that you bombed our embassies in East Africa, we are coming after you. Whenever we can find you, we're coming after you. That was the message, even though that particular statement's only half of the story.
BLITZER: We just heard Richard Miniter, the author, say that a month after Bill Clinton, back in 1993, took office there was that first attack on the World Trade Center. There were numerous opportunities over eight years to capture, destroy, kill Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda. Looking back -- and you know this story as well as anyone -- would you have done things differently knowing what you know now? COHEN: We would. If we had had the information that we have in retrospect, obviously, we would have tried to do things differently. Given the facts that we had at the time, we were not able to locate him and to target him to take him out.
I think all of us understand -- Richard Clarke testified to this as well -- all of us are responsible. We didn't do enough to prevent bin Laden from carrying out his mission. That applies to the Clinton administration, to us, to the Bush administration as well.
BLITZER: Not only is William Cohen a former defense secretary and our world affairs analyst, he's also an author in his own right. You've got a hot new book, a novel, called -- there it is up on the screen -- called "Dragon Fire." It's become a best-seller. I started reading it myself. Congratulations on this book. I'm sure a lot of our viewers will like it.
COHEN: It is fiction.
BLITZER: And it is fiction. Make no mistake about that. William Cohen, thanks very much.
COHEN: Thanks very much, Wolf.
BLITZER: We're also learning publishing giant Scholastic has ended its partnership with ABC. Scholastic also pulled high school teaching materials it had prepared to coincide with the release of the miniseries, saying the documents failed to meet the company's quote, "high standards for dealing with controversial issues." So what happens now? Jacki Schechner with the story -- Jacki.
JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Well, this is the magic of the Internet. Nothing is actually gone forever. This is the page that Scholastic had put online asking students to please watch this film, or asking teachers, rather, to encourage students to watch the miniseries.
And it has language on it that says things like the film details the "historical events" leading up to 9/11. There were also downloadable resource materials and discussion guides, and one of the questions in it was "What facts did learn from the film that you didn't know before watching it?"
The bottom of the resources materials was the ABC logo and the phrase "Generously sponsored by."
Well, Scholastic has taken those old materials offline. They're going to put up a new guide tomorrow that will not have the ABC logo, and will not be sponsored by ABC.
Now, Scholastic has acknowledged in part that the reason they took it down was that the language contained in the old materials was somewhat inaccurate, and they also say there wasn't enough emphasis on the old materials on the differentiation between a docudrama and a documentary. ABC's is calling this miniseries a docudrama.
The new materials will also talk about the background of 9/11, and they will discuss the conflict in the Middle East in general.
Now, we posed to ABC if they had any comment on the announcement by Scholastic. They did not respond. And as for why Scholastic is doing anything at all, they say they don't want teachers to shy away from controversial topics -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jacki, thank you.
Up ahead, who do Republicans want on their presidential ticket in 2008? The latest answer may surprise you. We have a new poll.
Also, shocking video, a reporter trying to get a story becomes the story. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: How big is the tent of the Republican Party? Might a man who supports gay marriage, abortion rights, affirmative action, gun control win the hearts, minds and votes of Republicans enough to become the 2008 GOP presidential nominee? Let's bring back Mary Snow. She's in New York with details -- Mary.
SNOW: Well, Wolf, some are surprised by the results, but Rudy Giuliani is emerging as the Republican favorite for 2008, with a new CNN poll showing him gaining a wider lead over Senator John McCain.
SNOW (voice-over): Can his popularity as America's mayor following the September 11th attacks translate into America's presidency? A new CNN poll shows former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani as the early Republican favorite for the 2008 GOP nomination over Arizona Senator John McCain. Opinion Research Corporation compiled the numbers among Republican voters, showing Giuliani with 31 percent, 11 points ahead of McCain. That surprises some political observers.
LARRY SABATO, UNIV. OF VIRGINIA: At first glance, it seems far fetched that someone so liberal on social issues could be the Republican nominee for president.
SNOW: Political observers say Giuliani's popularity increases around the anniversary of the September 11th attacks. But some predict it will only last if national security becomes the top priority.
SABATO: If there's another terrorist attack, Rudy Giuliani may gain more than President Bush. Giuliani may gain more than any other candidate on the Democratic or Republican side for the nominations.
SNOW: But on social issues, it's no secret Giuliani will have a hard sell to Republicans since he supports abortion and gay rights. He hasn't said he's definitely running for president, but in trips to places like Iowa in May, he hasn't ruled it out either.
RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER MAYOR, NYC: I'm interested in public service again. I've always said that. I don't know exactly when or exactly which one.
SNOW: He has hit the campaign trail for conservatives like Ralph Reed, seen as a sign he's cozying to the right to win over the party faithful. At the same time, Senator John McCain made friends with conservative Reverend Jerry Falwell. The big question is, will the party faithful anoint a candidate based on social issues, or issues of national security?
SNOW: While it's hard to picture Republicans choosing a social liberal, some predict that if the Republicans are in big trouble, they may see someone like Giuliani as the way to win the general election -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Mary, thank you. Mary Snow in New York. So what about the other side? Hillary Clinton is dominating the field among Democrats. Our new CNN poll shows that the senator from New York is the top choice among Democrats to be their presidential nominee. Former Vice President Al Gore and the 2004 ticket of John Kerry and John Edwards round out the top four in our new poll.
And there's a new development tonight in the CIA leak case. That would be an apology. Richard Armitage, the former deputy secretary of state, now offering an indirect apology for leaking the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson to the columnist Robert Novak. Armitage tells CBS, and I'm quoting now -- 'I feel terrible. Every day I think I let down the president, I let down the secretary of state. I let down my department, my family and I also let down Mr. and Mrs. Wilson."
Asked if he felt he owed the Wilsons an apology, he replied, and I'm quoting once again, "I think I have just done that."
Once again, the former deputy secretary of state, Richard Armitage, apologizing publicly for starting the CIA leak scandal, in effect confirming he was the source for Robert Novak, saying he did it inadvertently. No charges have been filed against him.
Let's find out what is coming up right at the top of hour. Paula is standing by with that -- Paula.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf. Thanks so much.
We are going to go in-depth in our top story coverage of the night. That never-before-seen videotape of Osama bin Laden and some of the 9/11 hijackers right before the attacks on the U.S. Also, today's top story in crime fighting. Find out why an arrest in Phoenix may end up being linked to a string of rapes and serial killings. We are going to go in-depth on that at the top of the hour and a whole bunch of other things. But I don't have time to tell you about all of it, so you'll just have to drop by.
BLITZER: We certainly will, Paula. Thanks very much. Paula, coming up in a few moments. Still ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, reporters under attack. There's a violent incident caught on videotape, but guess what, it's hardly isolated. CNN's Jeanne Moos standing by with a closer look. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: A warning: Some of what you're about to see is graphic. It's a videotape of a TV reporter being attacked. As CNN's Jeanne Moos reports, incidents like this are not that rare.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the kind of story...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stop that (EXPLETIVE DELETED) camera right (EXPLETIVE DELETED) now.
MOOS: ... you can't throw cold water on.
First, when the morning show teases...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you seen these pictures yet?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stunning attack.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Take a look at this video.
MOOS: .. then came the warnings.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some of what you're about to see...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... is very graphic.
MOOS: A San Diego investigative reporter doing a follow-up on an alleged real estate scam found himself getting whacked with a plastic water bottle.
JOHN MATTES, FOX 6 NEWS: That's not appropriate.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't give a (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
MOOS: Whacked by the wife, then attacked by her husband.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Call the police.
MOOS: The couple were furious about the reporter's expose on their alleged real estate scheme for which they have not been charged. The other guy joining the fray was there being interviewed about how he'd allegedly been threatened by the husband, Sam Suleiman. After about six minutes, police arrived.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get on the ground! Get on the ground!
MOOS: The husband was on the ground, and the banged-up reporter ended up on the air, everywhere, describing the attack.
MATTES: Ripping, gouging, scratching and biting me.
MOOS: Reporter John Mattes of XETV's Fox 6 News even got a tetanus shot while his video shot to the top of CNN.com, more popular than even Paris Hilton's DUI arrest.
(on camera): If you go to a Web site like YouTube and type in "reporter attacked," you'll get about a dozen hits. People seem to enjoy seeing us attacked.
(voice-over): There's the reporter that gets clobbered with a handbag.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, put that on the news.
MOOS: There's singer Bjork going after a reporter.
There's Jon Stewart playing a clip of a then New York City councilman throwing a metal object at a reporter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A total of six on-duty New York police officers called here...
JON STEWART, HOST, DAILY SHOW: That may be my favorite thing ever.
MOOS: The San Diego incident had some wondering, why the cameraman kept shooting rather than jumping in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, Jeanne, if somebody was attacking you, what would you expect me to do?
MOOS (on camera): I would want you to roll until you see the first drop of blood, and then come rescue me.
(voice-over): In other words, roll with the punches.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stop it!
MOOS: ... CNN...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Bye-bye.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Son of a (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
MOOS: ... New York.
BLITZER: That's it for us. Let's go to Paula in New York -- Paula.
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