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The Father of Anwar al-Awlaki; Deadly Shooting on Togolese Football Team; Are Released Guantanamo Detainees Returning to Terrorism?

Aired January 11, 2010 - 12:00   ET


STAN GRANT, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR (voice over): He says his son is not a member of Al Qaeda. CNN talked exclusively to the father of the Yemeni cleric who has been tied to two terror plots by authorities.

Arrested in Angola: Two people are detained for the deadly shooting attack on the Togolese football team.

And the Pentagon says detainees released from Guantanamo are returning to terrorist activity. In our "Prism Segment" tonight, can the trend be reversed and can terrorists be reformed?

From CNN Abu Dhabi in United Arab Emirates, this is PRISM, where we take a story and look at it from multiple perspectives. I'm Stan Grant.

First up on PRISM, our Paula Newton speaks with the father of Anwar al-Awlaki, he's the Yemeni cleric that the U.S. has tied to the Christmas Day plot to blow up a U.S. jetliner, as well as the November massacre at the U.S. army base at Fort Hood, Texas. Paula Newton joins us now live from Sanaa, with that story.

Paula, what have you been able to find out?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INT'L. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, it has been an incredibly interesting interview. We sat down with him for almost two hours and this is an anguished father. He is trying to find some way to get his son out of this. But what was so interesting is that he said categorically that his son is not a member of Al Qaeda. That he is hiding out right now with a very - with a very powerful tribe to the south, but that he is doing that in order to try and escape the missiles that have been targeting him, in the south of Yemen.

His comments were really quite interesting from the point of view of a father who saying quite categorically, that his son should not be mistaken for Osama bin Laden. He is also saying that, look, my son is an all- American boy. And in fact, is someone who wants to return to the United States. He says that although his son has radical views that that should not be confused with actually trying to incite radical acts.

I just want to go through some of the quotes here. He says, "I am now afraid of what they will do with my son. He's not Osama bin Laden. They want to make something out of him that he's not."

And this is what is very interesting here, Stan. He says that he is trying to find some accommodation between what the authorities want and trying to convince his son that it is time to come and submit to authorities here. But in relation to the United States hunting him down he says, "I will do my best to convince my son to do this, to come back but they are not giving me time. They want to kill my son. How can the American government kill one of their own citizens? This is a legal issue that needs to be answered." He says, his son is being hunted. Not just by Yemeni authorities but by American authorities. And he says that it is not warranted.

Now, Stan, I should tell you, an American security official that CNN spoke to says that they have intelligence, independent intelligence, that leads them to believe that, in fact, Anwar al-Awlaki is a core member of Al Qaeda. That he did meet with Abdulmutallab and did have some involvement in the bombing attempt on Christmas Day, Stan.

GRANT: Paula, thank you very much for that. Paula Newton joining us live there from Sanaa, Yemen.

Well, Germany has joined the growing list of Western nations urging Yemen to reign in Al Qaeda militants in the country. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle made an unscheduled trip to Sanaa Monday. He's the first major European official to visit since the Yemeni branch of Al Qaeda claimed credit for the attempted Christmas Day attack in the U.S.

Westerwelle says President Ali Abdullah Saleh told him authorities know the whereabouts of five Germans and a British national, who were kidnapped in Yemen last June.

American lawmakers are waiting to hear if the father of the suspect in a failed attack on the U.S. airliner will come to Washington. A U.S. Senate committee has invited Alhaji Umaru Abdulmutallab to testify. The elder Abdulmutallab, tried to warn U.S. officials in Nigeria about his son before the Christmas Day incident. Two U.S. senators wanted the Obama administration to punish officials for security lapses leading to the incident.

John McCain and Joe Lieberman told CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION" that only a full accounting would lead to solving the problems facing the system.

A Washington-based group says U.S. officials are misleading the public about the privacy protections afforded by the full body scanners. The group has documents which were provided to CNN that raise questions about the security of the machines. Jeanne Meserve has the exclusive report.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN INT'L. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The images produced by whole body scanners don't leave much to the imagination. But the Transportation Security Administration has said repeatedly, even on its own web site, you privacy will be protected.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The system has no way to save, transmit or print the image.

MESERVE: But a 2008 press release says, "the machines have zero storage capability." But a TSA document written just three months earlier, spelling out requirements for potential manufacturers, said the machines had to have "the capability to capture images of non-passengers for training and evaluation purposes."

The procurement document was recently obtained by EPIC, the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

MARC ROTENBERG, ELECTRONIC PRIVACY INFORMATION CNTR. We think it is obvious the machines are designed to store and record images.

MESERVE: The TSA has been lying?

ROTENBERG: Yes. I would use a more polite word, if I could, but it would be less accurate.

MESERVE: The document specifies that to protect privacy during passenger screening there will be no storage or exporting on images, but EPIC fears that the ability to save images during the test mode, leaves open the potential for abuse by insiders and outsiders.

The document says the machines must "hard drives" for storage, and "USB" ports and Ethernet connectivity, that could allow downloading of images. And unspecified number of users, including TSA headquarters, maintenance contractors and so-called super users, have the ability to export raw image test data. And can also change the 10 privacy settings built into the machines.

ROTENBERG: I don't think that TSA has been forthcoming with the American public about the true capability of these devices.

MESERVE: TSA officials tell CNN, yes, the machines can retain and export images when they are at TSA testing facilities. But, it says, those functions are disabled by the manufacturer and machines are "delivered to the airports without the capability to store, print, or transmit images."

The TSA says, "There is no way for someone in the airport environment to put the machine into the test mode" or change the privacy filters. The TSA says all images are deleted from the system after they are reviewed by a remotely located operator. And, it says, the machines are not networked and cannot be hacked.

(On camera): But EPIC isn't satisfied. It wants to see the documents that prove these steps are being taken, that they are effective and that privacy is fully and completely protected. Until those questions are answered EPIC says the deployment of the machines should be halted. Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Washington.


GRANT: Angola says it has made two arrests in Friday's shooting attack on Togo's national football team. State media say the suspects are members of a separatist group. Three people were killed in the barrage, which came as the team arrived in Cabinda, for the Africa Cup of Nations. Angola had vowed tighter security for the tournament. The Togo prime minister says the bloodshed was avoidable.


GILBERT FOSSOUN HOUNGBO, PRIME MINISTER, TOGO (through translator): We know today that if we had been informed about the safety threats we may have taken a different decision about how to get to Cabinda, or whether to go there at all.

It is also very important to stress that if there had been any doubts, that confederation of African football and the Angolan authorities should not have chosen Cabinda as the venue for this match.


GRANT: The Togo team has gone home, while the tournament has goes on as planned, but under a cloud of security concerns. And Nkepile Mabuse has more on the team and the tensions from CNN Johannesburg.

And, obviously, concern in South Africa, and Nkepile, looking on at this with the World Cup to be hosted this year.

NKEPILE MABUSE, CNN INT'L. CORRESPONDENT: Definitely, and here in South Africa, one of the victims of that deadly attack on Friday is goal keeper, Kodjovi Obilale, who has been treated here at the Milpark Hospital. He is in their intensive care unit after being shot in the lower back. He suffered serious injuries, doctors say, and they're not sure if he's going to be able to play football again. They say that he will remain heavily sedated and on a ventilator at least until Friday.

And, of course, questions are being asked about 2010, in five months time, South Africa hosts the biggest football showcase in the world. And South Africans are quite offended, this includes the government, the local organizing committee, and ordinary citizens. They say that Angola and South Africa are worlds apart and they see what happened in Angola as political thing that happened. And that South Africa is not a terrorist target. But of course, you know, we shouldn't forget that extremists groups use these kinds of international sports events to gain as much international attention to their causes as possible. So, as much as South Africa is not viewed as a terrorism target, the World's Cup may attract extremists, who want to get attention, Stan.

GRANT: Nkepile, anything more you can tell us about these men who may, who Angola say that they have detained, or arrested, as a result of this attack, and the separatists group behind it?

MABUSE: Now, Stan, it is the government of Angola that telling us about these arrests. They are saying that these two men belong to FLEC, the Front for Liberation Enclave of Cabinda. Now, this is the group that claimed responsibility for the attack on the Togo team on Friday. And the group that has been waging war against the government of Angola for over three decades. They are based in Cabinda, which is an enclave, and they see the Angolan government and the Angolan troops there as an occupying force. They want independence from Angola. As I said, they have been waging this conflict since the 1970s. And now we are hearing people who say they belong to this group threatening more attacks, Stan.

GRANT: Nkepile, thank you very much. Nkepile Mabuse joining us there from Johannesburg.

Slowly but surely some terror suspects held at Guantanamo Bay are being freed. But have they been rehabilitated. In tonight's "Prism Segment" we will take a look at whether they can be reformed.

And the coal shortage hits at a crucial moment for China. We'll tell you just how much colder it is expected to get. That's next.


GRANT: Eight years ago, U.S. President George W. Bush opened the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, on Cuba, for detained terror suspects. One year ago, President Barack Obama announced he would close the military facility.

Spain is finalizing details to take two detainees from the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. The Spanish foreign ministry said the talks should be completed this month. None of the prisoners are from Yemen. The Pentagon now confirms that roughly one in five terror suspects released from Guantanamo is either suspected or confirmed to have returned to terrorist activities.

Last April that figure stood at 14 percent. And that was up from 11 percent in December 2008. As a point of comparison, the recidivism rate for criminals in the U.S. is 60 percent. It is about 50 percent in the U.K.

In our "Prism Segment" this evening we are asking can terrorists be rehabilitated? A U.S. counter-terrorism officials says two former Guantanamo prisoners are among the leaders in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. That is the group taking responsibility for the attempted terror attack on the U.S.-bound airliner on Christmas Day. The ranking Republican member of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee was asked for his thoughts on releasing Guantanamo detainees, including those who have been through rehabilitation programs.


PETE HOEKSTRA (R-MI), U.S. HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I think that is a very plausible scenario that people released from Gitmo are now active on the battlefield again. The Defense Department continues a very aggressive and active analysis of what the recidivism rate, how many of these people that have been released out of Gitmo actually find their way back onto the battlefield? It is an imprecise science because, you know, it is hard to identify exactly where these people have gone through or what happens to them after they have gone through this program.


GRANT: At least four countries are known to have rehabilitation programs for terrorists. They are Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Indonesia, and Libya. From Washington, Correspondent Brian Todd has a look at the Saudi program, and two men who may have bluffed their way through it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaking foreign language)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Saeed Ali Shari (ph), he did hard time at Guantanamo Bay. Released in 2007 he is now being looked at for possible links to the failed bombing attempt aboard Northwest Flight 253. That is according to U.S. officials, who caution Shari may not be linked directly to the Christmas Day incident. But he has touted himself as a leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which has claimed responsibility for the airline attempt. He's also been through the Mohammed bin Naeeb (ph) Center for Counseling & Care, named after Saudi Arabia's interior minister, it is a rehab center near Riyadh for captured militants who the Saudi government tries to turn around.

KEN BALLEN, TERROR FREE TOMORROW: They give them a full presentation on Islam. They give them art therapy. They give them psychological counseling. The give them money afterwards, they help them find a wife, they help find a job.

TODD: Ken Ballen of the research group, Terror Free Tomorrow, has spent weeks at the center and interviewed several inmates, including some who he says knew Saeed Ali Shari. To critics to say giving accused terrorists art therapy is a joke, Ballen and other experts respond:

FAWAZ GERGES, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: I would argue that on the whole it has been relatively effective. Relatively effective vis-a-vis the politically radicalized activists, if not vis-a-vis the hardcore former Al Qaeda members.

TODD: It's those hardcore militants, experts say, who expose the weakness of this rehab program. It can't turn everyone, and apparently didn't turn Saeed Ali Shari (ph).

(On camera): Did he con his way through the program?

BALLEN: He absolutely conned his way through the program. Here you see this is the religion class where people, where the sheikh here is teaching them how to be better Muslims and what is a good understanding of Islam. He sat through a classroom just like this. And told them that he had reformed himself; he told the American authorities that bin Laden was a traitor to Islam. All the while he was conning everybody. He had told others he had remained steadfast for Al Qaeda and as soon as he got out he would join the jihad again, against the United States.

TODD (voice over): Saeed Ali Shari (ph), according to Ballen, and other experts, represents about 10 percent of the more than 100 former Guantanamo detainees who have gone through this Saudi rehab program and are believed to have returned to the battlefield.

(On camera): Saeed Ali Shari, according Ballen, and other experts, is part of about 10 percent of the more than 100 former Guantanamo detainees who have gone through that rehabilitation program and are believed to have returned to the battlefield. That compares to overall recidivism figures for all Guantanamo detainees released by the Pentagon. According to those reports, at least 14 percent of those released are believed to have engaged in some kind of terrorist activity afterward. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


GRANT: Some criminologists are skeptical when it comes to rehabilitation for prisoners. Listen to what Professor Michael Williams has to say on the subject. He's a specialists on international relations and security, and is a lecturer at the University of London.


MICHAEL WILLIAMS, UNIVERSITY OF LONDON: The concern that individuals released would repeat offend is certainly legitimate. There is no doubt that there have been a number of individuals who have been released and who have, unfortunately, gone back to countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, to receive training, to train other individuals. If they weren't radicalized before they got into Guantanamo, some of them were radicalized in Guantanamo, rather paradoxically.


GRANT: Well, as we mentioned, Libya also has a rehabilitation program for jihadists. Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson gained rare and exclusive access to some of the prisoners in Libya's program. They say they have been persuaded to change their beliefs. Some of the Libyan group have challenged the goals of Osama bin Laden and written a new jihadi code. Listen to what they told Nic Robertson earlier this year.


TAREK DURMAN, LIBYAN ISLAMIC FIGHTING GROUP (through translator): We came to the conclusion that trying to establish the Islamic state by using violence and fighting was not the way forward. To start with, we looked at Sharia law and there is just no evidence in the Quran, or in the sayings of the Prophet, that what we were doing was right.

HAZE, M AL AGDAL (through translator): If a man makes a mistake it is OK for him to say, I was wrong. This is OK, especially if this acknowledgement is based on one's faith. For example, I once carried weapons and bombs to attack my country, but that was based on my faith as well. But now I have stopped this way of life based on what you call conviction in your culture, but we call it faith in our religion.


GRANT: A noted terrorism expert we spoke with believes terrorists can be rehabilitated and Rohan Gunaratna believes the United States has missed a rare opportunity to turn suspected terrorists in a new direction. When I spoke with him, he is based in Singapore, I asked him why the detainees at Guantanamo Bay had not been rehabilitated?


ROHAN GUNARATNA, TERRORISM EXPERT: Unfortunately, the U.S. government did not build a structured rehabilitation program in Guantanamo Bay. The U.S. lost a golden opportunity. If the U.S. rehabilitated those detainees in Gitmo there wouldn't be this degree of recidivism. The U.S. should have ideally followed what they did in Iraq.

And if they had established a rehabilitation program many of those terrorists who were incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay today would not go back to terrorist groups, would not go back to extremism, and to terrorism. I believe it was very bad policy. But it is not too late. The United States should continue to support terrorist rehabilitation globally.

In fact, terrorist rehabilitation should be an imperative and there should be a global regime on terrorist rehabilitation. That is, wherever there is a prison facility, a detention center, there should be rehabilitation.

GRANT: Should those Yemenis in Guantanamo Bay be sent back to Yemen? We've already seen a couple of cases where people have been sent back and are now leading the terrorists. They are leading Al Qaeda in Yemen.

GUNARATNA: If those Yemenis go back to Yemen, they will join Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. It is so important for those Yemenis to be sent to a country where they can be properly rehabilitated, where their views are changed, their attitudes and their opinions are changed. And they become peaceful and good citizens. They should not be returned from Guantanamo Bay to Yemen in this current state.

GRANT: Rohan, again, thank you very much. We appreciate it.


GRANT: Well, some unique and different perspectives for you on rehabilitating terrorists in our "Prism Segment".

Cold weather? No problem. Why the wintery blast torturing parts of the Northern Hemisphere is laughable and even pleasurable for Russia. But for its southern neighbor, not the case. Why China is struggling to stay warm.


GRANT: Welcome back.

The cold snap in China continues as the country braces for another blast of frigid winter air. Temperatures are expected to plummet, possibly as low as minus 35 degrees Celsius in northern regions. Now the prolonged cold snap has led to alarming coal shortages, according to government and state-run media reports.

Sub-arctic temperatures and pile after pile of snow, but for many in Russia the recent cold snap is well, kind of pleasant. Senior International Correspondent Matthew Chance explains Russia's sunny outlook.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SR. INT'L. CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Stripping off for an icy dip isn't everyone's idea of surviving this freezing winter. But as temperatures take a plunge so too, are Russia's ice swimmers. Suggesting Europeans and Americans battling the cold should do the same.

I wish they could become familiar with our Russian winter and follow our example, says this swimmer, to become as robust and healthy as Russians are.

(On camera): Well, as much of the rest of Europe shivers in this freezing weather, I think it is fair to say Russians have a unique attitude towards the cold. Rather than let it shut their country down they actively embrace these frigid temperatures.

(voice over): It is true Russia seems to handle the cold weather much better than elsewhere. Its fleet of snowplows and army of shoveling workers not cost efficient in more temperate countries, means roads, at least in the capitol, are kept snow free, allowing people here to enjoy the coldest winter in some time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We have been waiting for this many years. We are very happy and are walking around so we can enjoy this. How should Europe save themselves from the cold? Well, we save ourselves with vodka.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): This is especially joyous. We are having great winter weather this year. This is definitely better than just splash (ph) or drizzle.

CHANCE: Back at the ice pool, Vassily, who organizes the swimming insists it is a great idea.

(On camera): (Speaking Russian) It's too cold.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Russian)

CHANCE: So, you are saying it is minus 10 outside, but in the water it is plus 4, so it's warmer in the water than it is actually out there.

(voice over): And just in case you overheat, there are plenty of ways, this winter to cool off. Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.


GRANT: Warmer in the water than out. I'll have to take his word for that. Time to take a look at the global weather picture now, as Mari Ramos, at the World Weather Center.

What do you think, Mari? Warmer in or out?

MARI RAMOS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, well it is definitely warmer in the water. I believe that. But let me tell you I grew up in the tropics. Water temperature 28, 29 degrees Celsius.

GRANT: I'm with you.

RAMOS: That is what I like.


GRANT: Boy, oh, boy. Thank you very much for that, Mari.

And that's it for me, Stan Grant, in Abu Dhabi. "AFRICAN VOICES" is up next. That is after we update the headlines.