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CNN BREAKING NEWS
Egypt Uprising: Hosni Mubarak Steps Down; Interview With Wael Ghonim: 'The Egyptian People Are the Leaders and Heroes of This Revolution'; Interview With Mohammed ElBaradei
Aired February 11, 2011 - 11:53 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We have Wael Ghonim on the phone. I just want to get him because we've lost him twice on the phone.
Wael, your thoughts on this extraordinary moment.
WAEL GHONIM, EGYPTIAN ACTIVIST (via telephone): I'm proud to be Egyptian. I just want to say, you know, from the bottom of my heart congratulations to all Egyptians. And, you know, I want to say welcome back, Egypt.
To me, I've read about Egypt in the history books. And, you know, they convinced us for 30 days -- for 30 years that Egypt died and there's no more Egypt. We are just, you know, a generation that need to eat and sleep.
You know, tens of thousands on the 25th decided to start a search, a journey for Egypt. And then they convinced hundreds of thousands then they convinced millions of people. We were all looking for Egypt and thank god that we found her today. I just want to say, welcome back, Egypt.
I just want to say to Hosni Mubarak and to Omar Suleiman and to all those people who thought that being in power means you can oppress people, you know, hard-luck guys, you know, at the end of the day, we have a choice and we've made our choice, by the way, very early enough and you should have respected that.
You are responsible of the killings of 300 innocent Egyptians. You guys paid the price, are still going to pay the price. It's enough, it's enough for you guys that in history books they're going to talk to you -- they'll say one word to describe you, the dictators.
COOPER: Wael, what does the protest movement do now? What do you want to see from this military government?
GHONIM: (INAUDIBLE) -- today is like the day for celebration. Today is the day for celebration.
It's very hard for me now to even think. We have been -- we haven't been sleeping for a few days. We've been under a lot of war -- among the media war. I'm was also -- I'm also mind in the morning -- and a lot of people saying, Wael, you have been all the time logical and not emotional, what's going on with you.
So I need to refer -- restore my calm attitude. I'm not an angry person, and I became an angry person. I need to rest and sleep. So does my friends. There are a lot of grateful officials (ph) Egypt that we trust. These guys -- there are a lot of people who care about Egypt.
And today I think the problem is solved. The real problem is solved because the people in power were the problem because they didn't want to leave, they were scared of, you know, losing power and then pay the consequences. Now as they lost power, there will be no problem.
COOPER: How concerned are you that the apparatus of the state repression, the secret police, the interior ministry are all still there?
GHONIM: Come on, they are not there. We are much stronger. We are much -- we are much stronger than all these guys. We're much stronger than all these guys.
So I met with the minister of the interior so many times. I speak to him one-to-one. I told him what I don't like, I tell him -- so this is what works.
I, you know, one year ago I said the internet is going to change the political scene in Egypt. You know, today I will tell -- you know, on the 25th, I said that what was Egypt before 25th of January is never going to be like Egypt after 25th of January. Today, I'm telling you Egypt is going to be a democratic state. Egypt will start a new start and you will be impressed how fast we will be developing.
COOPER: And your thoughts at this moment also must turn to all those who have lost their lives just in the last two weeks, so much blood has been spilled.
GHONIM: Absolutely. Those people are the real heroes. Those people are the real heroes. You know, like there are lots of people that we know that have died.
And also, I wouldn't forget those who are arrested. There are about a thousand people that no knows where are they right now. We are looking for them. We want them back.
And, you know, the real heroes are the ones in the streets. The real heroes today are every single Egyptian. There is no one leading this. Anyone who is telling you he is one of the leaders is not saying the truth. The leaders, you know, on Tahrir Square was every single person there. The leader in Alexandria is every single person there.
This was a revolution. As I told you guys on my interview this is a revolution 2.0. Just like Wikipedia how everyone is contributing to the content and there is now master plan. Our revolution, everyone is contributing to the revolution and there was no master plan as well.
COOPER: Did you believe this day would come when you set up that first website, when you were in detention and blindfolded and held?
GHONIM: Certainly, I fully believed. I knew it. I knew this from the day that I left Tunisia. I knew it that Hosni is going to leave Egypt.
COOPER: You knew from the day the dictator left in Tunisia that Mubarak would leave ultimately?
GHONIM: Yes. Because at the end of the day, you know, at the moment you break the psychological barrier of fear, the moment you break the fear, the moment you convince people that if they die it's better for them to die for a good cause than to live without dignity, which is something that we all worked on in our message at the very beginning, then you should be sure that you are going to win.
Because these guys are so corrupted, these dictators don't care about the people. They care about their lives. And for them life is much, you know, life is much worth it. And it's shame for us, you know, I was (inaudible) went I said I was ready to die. I love my life.
We all want to live. We don't want to die. We all want to live and we all want to build our country. We all want to make our society free and open-minded. We all want this country to go where it should be. We should be among those great countries in the world. We can do it and we will do it.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Wael, this is Wolf Blitzer in Washington. A couple questions.
First of all, do you trust the High Council of the Egyptian military to supervise implementation towards democracy?
GHONIM: I am not a political expert and I am -- such a question right now I wouldn't answer because I don't have the background to answer.
But what I care about now is that everyone -- I trust 80 million Egyptians. I really trust 80 million Egyptians and I really trust that these people in the street now have broken the psychological barrier, after being ready to die for such a good cause of liberating their country, will always make sure that whomever in power is going to work on the people's agenda.
And I also believe that the army, that the Egyptian army, is so unique. And the fact that these guys really want the safety of Egypt. And they have already issued a report that says that they are respecting our demands, that they want to protect our demands, and we want our demands to happen. So, definitely, the Egyptian army is trustworthy right now for me, and I'm not really worried, because as I said, I trust 80 million Egyptians.
BLITZER: The other question, Wael, I had is first Tunisia, now Egypt. What's next?
GHONIM: Ask Facebook.
BLITZER: Ask what?
BLITZER: Facebook. You're giving Facebook a lot of credit for this?
GHONIM: Yes, for sure. I want to meet Mark Zuckerberg one day and thank him, actually.
BLITZER: Tell us why you think Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg helped get people in Egypt and Tunisia and presumably other countries in the not-too-distant free.
GHONIM: Well, I can't talk about Tunisia. I'm talking on behalf of Egypt, because --
BLITZER: All right. So tell us about Egypt.
GHONIM: Yes, Tunisia was a bit of a different case. This revolution started online. This revolution started on Facebook. This revolution started in June, 2010, when hundreds of thousands of Egyptians started corroborating content.
You know, like, we would post a video on Facebook, it would be shared by 50,000 people on their walls within a few hours. We -- you know, I always said that if you want to liberate us, society in Egypt, give them the Internet. If you want to have a free society, just give them the Internet.
The reason why the Internet is -- like, help you fight the media war, which is basically a war that the Egyptian government, the Egyptian regime playing very well in 1970, 1980, 1990. And when the Internet came, it really couldn't.
I'm going to talk a lot about this. I plan to write a book called "The Revolution 2.0." That will say everything about, you know, from the start, from when there was nothing until the end, and highlight the role of, you know, social media and the rest of the stuff.
HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR/CORRESPONDENT: Wael, this is Hala Gorani at the CNN Center.
I was just curious -- you know, you've become an emblem for so many in this revolution, a figurehead. Your name, your appearances in Tahrir Square, I talked about. Do you want to now become involved in politics in your country? Do you want to take on a leadership role in this pro-democracy movement, Wael?
GHONIM: I want to go back to my company and work. I don't -- I think it will be a big mistake right now for me to be involved.
Also, if you read history, you know, the people who help making the revolution should not be part of the revolution afterward. I think my mission has been accomplished. I just need to work for a few days to make sure that the country is in safe hands, and then I need to disappear from the scene.
I was not the leader, by the way. It just happened I got all the attention that I don't deserve. And I'm not downplaying the role. This is the truth.
The real people you guys should be hosting on your show is not me. It's actually the people in Tahrir Square who slept 18 days and saw their friends and families dying beside them. Those are the real heroes. And I want you -- I urge you to actually meet a lot of these guys, and don't put a lot of spotlight on people like me.
At the end of the day, my role was accomplished. I really wanted this to be an anonymous movement until I was arrested and, you know, they found out. And then a lot of -- you know, a lot of speculation, and some news agencies announced that I was the admin of the page.
I really didn't want to be known for this moment. I don't want all the attention to come to me.
My mission is over. I want to go back to see my kids. I want to go back to start working, you know, do some work.
I want to be a Normal person. And this is about the Egyptians heroes. Those guys -- I'm not worried about this country having to see all these people in the street right now.
BLITZER: Wael Ghonim, it's been a pleasure listening to you and hearing from you. Congratulations to you.
More importantly, congratulations to all the people of Egypt right now. This is truly a revolutionary day in the history of Egypt, a proud country with thousands of years of history. We're watching new history unfold.
And we want to thank you for all your good work. Thanks very much, and we hope to stay in close touch with you.
GHONIM: I want to say a final word. Thanks to you and you folks on Tahrir Square.
You guys have played a great role in saving the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, of people. This regime did not care about the people, and they would have killed a lot of people if there was no international media. CNN did a great job. You guys deserve a great recognition from all the Egyptian people. We're not going to forget your role.
And I wanted to clarify when I said I didn't want to talk to international media. It was only because I don't want the regime to start doing media -- I have nothing against the American people, of course. My wife is American. And I also have nothing against international media. It's just the fact that the regime had been, you know, misleading all the Egyptians and telling them the wrong messages.
You guys are heroes, as well. You are part of the revolution. You should be proud of yourself.
BLITZER: Well, we just want to say the whole world was watching what was happening on the streets of Cairo, in part because of us, but in part because of other television satellite networks, in part because of you and what millions of Egyptians were doing on Facebook, on Twitter, and all sorts of other social network sites.
Thank you so much.
Anderson or Hala, do you have a final thought you want to share with Wael before we let him go?
COOPER: Wael, we just got a thing crossing the Reuters wires saying that Egypt's Supreme Military Council will sack the cabinet, suspend both houses of parliament, and govern with the head of the Supreme Court.
Your reaction to that?
GHONIM: Amazing. Amazing. This is great.
That just tells me what I thought of the military. These guys don't want to be in power. These guys want Egypt to come back.
I think that we are on the right track. I think that even if -- I'm not scared. I'm not afraid of -- I mean, I don't fear the history.
As I told you, even if I don't trust anyone, I just 80 million Egyptians. This is the time where history is being rewritten right now.
As I said on Twitter before, that day --you know, the last line of corruption and, you know, oppression has been written. We took a pen from them, we flipped the page. And now we're drawing our future.
We are dreamers, and we made it happen. And it's time now to celebrate for a couple of days, and then go back and start thinking about, how can we develop the strategy and what's the best for us?
GHONIM: Wael, I just have one question. I think it's going to be one of those moments when we all remember, you know, where we were when a historic event took place. Where were you and what was your immediate reaction when you heard Omar Suleiman say the president has stepped down?
GHONIM: Yes. I was actually in my mom's house with a lot of -- you know, we were meeting in my mom's house a lot to decide -- like, a lot of activists. And we were having -- it was sort of like the center of my plan, of my planning session.
So I was there. And all of a sudden, like, I heard my mom screaming. I went out and, you know, it was amazing.
She started hugging me and kissing me and hysterically crying. And it was -- you know, the rest of the family came. It was really good.
GORANI: All right.
Well, there you have it, Wolf and Anderson.
BLITZER: All right. Let me just thank Wael again.
Wael, you'll be happy to know the Twitter universe is exploding right now with your words that you want to meet Mark Zuckerberg. Don't be surprised if you get a call from him sometime soon. We won't be surprised either.
GHONIM: Yes. I mean, ask him to call me. Ask him to call me.
BLITZER: He'll be calling you. Don't worry. I wouldn't be surprised. You'll let us know how that conversation goes.
Let's go to -- I think we're going to go to Ivan Watson. He's over at the presidential palace.
Excuse me, Arwa Damon. She's in Tahrir Square. Let's go to Arwa first. We'll check in with Ivan in a few moments.
But Arwa, set the scene for us. And do me a favor when you're there. I want to hear from the crowd. Take a moment and let's hear what the folks are saying.
ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: First of all, the scene here is something completely unimaginable. The ambience, the energy that has been emanating from these demonstrators who have been here day in, day out, for more than two weeks now, Wolf, they have truly achieved the unimaginable, and they're fully aware of that.
To think that demonstrations that began through the Internet, through Facebook and Twitter, have now resulted in one of the Middle East's longest-standing dictators stepping aside, it's something that no one, not just me, in the entire region ever imagined could be possible. The crowds are so happy at this point in time.
They erupted in complete celebration. They're singing. They're dancing. Strangers hugging each other.
People praising one another saying, "Thanks to God," calling Mubarak -- keep bearing in mind, they still want to hold him accountable for the billions of dollars that he has managed to gather over the years that he's been in power. They also want to hold him accountable for the blood that has been spilled here. But at least now they know and they say that that blood has not been spilled in vain.
And I'm sorry, Wolf. I did not catch the second part of your question.
BLITZER: I want to hear a little bit of the sound from the people in Tahrir Square. If you or your photographer can get that microphone up, let's just listen and then come back in a few seconds and you'll translate what we're hearing. Just be quiet for a second.
DAMON: How are you feeling?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't even imagine --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- Egypt and the whole Arab world.
DAMON: Wolf, I don't know if you caught that, but two young men here very excited, unable to speak, unable to put their emotions into words. (INAUDIBLE) they're busting out in song right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) and everybody -- everybody in the whole world will remember this day. We're not just a bunch of people. We're not just a bunch of people anymore. We're different.
DAMON: Wolf, I don't know if you heard all of that, but there you have it. The crowd here now (INAUDIBLE).
BLITZER: Yes, it's hard to hear, but we made it out. These people are really, really excited, Arwa.
Let's listen in once again, see if we can make out what's going on.
DAMON: Wolf, if you're still with me, this is truly an incredible moment.
COOPER: Wolf -- one of the things, Wolf, that man was just saying is, "We're just not a bunch of kids." And what he's referring to is comments made by Vice President Suleiman and President Mubarak over the last two weeks, basically categorizing these people as just young people kind of full of youthful exuberance, but who need to go on home, get back to work, go back to school. At one point, the vice president was even saying, we're not going to push them out, but we're going to tell their parents to bring them home.
It was a patronizing attitude which infuriated many, and particularly last night, in the comments made by Suleiman and particularly by Mubarak. It really angered people, feeling like they were -- like the blood that they had spilled and the sacrifices they had made had been ignored and was being -- and that they were being disrespected, as many people feel they've been disrespected over the last 30 years by the secret police and by uniformed police there who kind of have a very heavy hand and a cavalier attitude and feel they can do whatever they want.
Ivan Watson is by the presidential palace.
Ivan, the scene there is, I assume, very similar to Liberation Square. But this is the first time -- it was only in the last 24 hours that we had started to see even crowds going as far as the presidential palace.
IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Just a few thousand people here this afternoon, and the crowd starting swelling. And when the news came out, my God, it was an explosion.
Now it's a big street party here. You've got people honking their horns. There were fireworks, people throwing confetti, dancing in the street right here, as well.
And what's interesting, Anderson, before, many of the demonstrators were predominantly young men. But now families are out in the streets with their kids.
And I'm right next to a 32-year-old out Rania Zaid (ph), who is out here with her husband and little son Ali.
Why are you here? How do you feel right now, Rania (ph).
RANIA ZAID (ph), PROTESTER: I'm very happy because of the revolution. And I finally feel secure for my children. Egyptians and their culture and history really deserve freedom. Thank you.
WATSON: And people here saying they've never seen a party like this before, Anderson. It's really -- I expect there will be dancing in the streets all night tonight here in Cairo -- Anderson.
COOPER: It's incredible to see these pictures, Hala, that we're looking at from Liberation Square.
Right before, we were seeing the overpass, the highway overpass where, just a week ago, there were pro-Mubarak mobs throwing rocks from -- looks like there is a large bonfire in one part of the square. Let's listen in.
Frederik Pleitgen is there overlooking the scene.
Frederik, are those fireworks or some sort of incendiary device someone is just kind of waving around?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, it's an absolutely amazing scene here.
You were talking about this highway overpass, Anderson, just a second ago. If we pan down there, I can tell you that right now, it's a big street party that's going on. The people are dancing in the streets. Traffic seems to be backed up almost all the way to Sudan, it looks like, there's so many cars coming in. There's people walking around with giant Egyptian flags.
And one of the interesting things that happened right after we heard the announcement, or shortly after, is that you'll remember those barricades where that street fighting was going on just a couple of days ago, where the pro-and-anti-Mubarak protesters were beating up on each other. All those barricades just toppled down, and an amazing amount of people charged onto Tahrir Square.
And that's where the crowd keeps going and going. There's more and more people now that these boundaries have come down who are charging in there.
Meanwhile, right in front of us, on that big highway overpass, it's becoming more and more of a parking lot, as there's almost no way to get through here. People just absolutely dancing in the street, setting off fireworks, and walking around with these giant Egyptian flags.
And really, the interesting thing is also the cheering just hasn't died down ever since the announcement was made. And there still is a massive stream of people coming towards Tahrir Square. It seems like thousands, tens of thousands, are walking over the streets below us, and also on that highway overpass -- Anderson.
GORANI: And Fred --
COOPER: Frederik, I think it was exactly a week ago when you were -- had snuck back into the square after two days of heavy fighting. You made your way into the square and actually were behind the barricades looking at the rocks and all the weaponry that the peaceful crowds there had had to try to assemble to defend themselves. It's an extraordinary turn of events one week later to see that same spot full of nothing but joy.
PLEITGEN: Absolutely. It's an amazing turn of events.
And, I mean, I remember that you were down there, as well, in that area when those people were facing off and those street battles were so vicious. I mean, if you just think back at all the things that we saw when we were down there, the camel and horse charge, the rocks flying back and forth, the sticks, as you said, those people who were fortifying those positions for such an amount of time, and then to have this end so peacefully is really a remarkable thing.
And it's something that we've been seeing ever since those pro- Mubarak demonstrators came off the street, is that this crowd has just become absolutely peaceful. The barricades remain. They were still quite wary that the military might try and take the barricades down, might try and drive them off the square. However, the crowd itself, the anti-Mubarak protesters, always a very peaceful crowd, always intent on stopping violence, never letting a situation get out of hand. That's certainly the way it has been over the past couple of days.
And one of the interesting things, Anderson, I have to say, form yesterday, last night, when we were hearing Mubarak's speech, people were so angry. But people then came up to me and they told me it is important that they can be angry, but they cannot get violent, because they knew that their message was going to be much more powerful if they didn't become violent. And many of them believed that Hosni Mubarak was trying to incite them to be violent so that he could mount a crackdown. But they said it is something that they cannot do, and they really felt that their message would just have that much more impact if they remained nonviolent.
And as we can see it seems to have had just that effect -- Anderson.
GORANI: Fred, I have a quick question. Where are all those tanks that were in Tahrir Square --
BLITZER: Hala -- hold on one second, everybody. Just stand by for one second.
The vice president of the United States, Joe Biden, is in Kentucky, and we're told he's speaking right now about Egypt.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And we stood for and we continue to stand for a set of core principles. The first is that violence and intimidation against peaceful demonstrators is totally, thoroughly unacceptable.
Secondly, that the universal rights of the Egyptian people must be respected and their aspirations must be met.
And thirdly, that the transition, the transition that is taking place, must be an irreversible change and a negotiated path toward democracy.
Now, I would add one last point. And I think Mitch would agree. Even in this contentious political climate in which we work, on this issue the United States is largely speaking with one voice, Democrats and Republicans alike, speaking with the same voice. This unity has been important, and it will be even more important in these delicate and fateful days ahead.
So I will not speak more about this today. I had planned on speaking more about it, but it's much more appropriate that we all wait. And the president will deliver his statement on this in about an hour.
But what is at stake in Egypt and across the Middle East is not just about Egypt alone. It's not -- it will not just touch Egypt alone.
You may remember that all this began when a fruit vendor in Tunisia, fed up with the indignity of a corrupt government and a stagnant economy, literally set himself on fire. And in doing so, ignited the passions of millions and millions of people throughout that region.
Word spread across national boundaries, and movements emerged, led by people no older than some of the students in this room using some of the same social media tools that the students in this room and many of you use, which I might add is a powerful example of our increasingly interconnected world. It's a vivid demonstration of the transformative times in which we live, times that many of you will have the opportunity to literally shape.
Few generations ever have the opportunity just to bend history just a little bit. Few ever have that opportunity. This generation and we do.
As we began the second decade of this young century, so much is in flux --
BLITZER: All right. So there you have a little preview of what the president of the United States might be saying within about an hour or so from now.
Joe Biden, the vice president, speaking in Kentucky as history unfolding in Egypt right now. He says this is a pivotal moment in history right now. A fair statement indeed.
Kate Bolduan is over at the White House. About an hour or so from now we'll be seeing and hearing the president of the United States.
Kate, what are they saying at the White House? Any immediate reaction beyond what we just heard from the vice president?
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're hearing -- the morning started pretty slowly and pretty quiet around here, and it is abuzz here at the White House right now.
We're told that President Obama was informed of President Mubarak's decision to step down when he was in the Oval Office, during a meeting in the Oval Office. And then the president himself stepped out of the Oval Office to the outer oval to actually watch several minutes of television coverage as the crowds were erupting on the streets of Cairo and really across Egypt.
And what we heard from Vice President Biden right there, when he talked about the core principles that the U.S. stands for, that mirrored almost exactly what President Obama said in his strongly- worded statement that he put out last night talking about the universal rights of the people of Egypt needing to be respected, as well as a key phrase that -- a key phrase calling for "concrete and irreversible political change to be set into action."
I'm sure that we'll be hearing more of this from President Obama. As you mentioned, we're expecting to hear from him probably in about an hour to get his reaction to what is all unfolding on the streets of Cairo and what he is learning. But I'll tell you this, Wolf. One of the last things that President Obama said in his statement last night I think is -- probably we're going to hear more of in the days to come, as well as this afternoon.
He says that, "I know the Egyptian people will persevere, and they must know that they will continue to have a friend in the United States of America," reaffirming that the U.S. supports the people of Egypt and really reaffirming what we have heard from this president all along, that the future of Egypt lies in the hands of the Egyptian people. But as one White House official has told our John King, it's a pretty unpredictable chapter that we are now entering.
And I'm looking forward to hearing from President Obama in about an hour and what he sees as the path forward could be -- Wolf.
BLITZER: As they celebrate in Cairo, in Tahrir Square, we'll be getting ready to hear from the president of the United States. We'll have live coverage here on CNN and CNN International in one hour or so from the White House.
Let me bring back Hala Gorani.
Hala, I know that U.S. officials are relieved, at least right now, that the Egyptian military is taking charge, because the U.S. does have a very strong, important relationship with the Egyptian military, the highest leaders, the top commanders of the Egyptian military. And they have confidence that the Egyptian military right now, at least for a transition to democracy, to free and fair elections, they're confident that the Egyptian military, better than any other institution in Egypt, can get this job done. So they're taking a little breath at the White House and they're pleased by this latest turn of events.
GORANI: Yes, they have a strong relationship with the Egyptian military. They trust them.
People in the streets are telling our reporters that they trust the military to transition the country. Now, that's, of course, going to be something we're going to have to look out for.
But look at these crowds, a live image of Tahrir Square.
Fred Pleitgen is, I think, in the middle of all of this.
Fred, we just the viewers to take in the atmosphere here. Just tell us what you're seeing and what you're hearing.
PLEITGEN: Well, I have this great vantage point which is, of course, right above everything that's going on here. And I can tell you it's absolutely amazing to see.
It seems like almost all of Egypt trying to come here with their cars. People have been honking. People are waving the Egyptian flag. And there's so many people who are just sort of dancing on the street, dancing around. It really is a remarkable scene, especially in light of the fact that we saw so much violence in this area. As you can see, the sort of massive highway overpass, one of the main thoroughfares through Cairo, is just starting to turn into a parking lot with more and more people coming here. And on the square, you can just see how it's getting fuller and fuller as more and more people are coming in here, also waving Egyptian flags.
We've been able to speak to some people who are down there, and many of them said that this was really the beginning of a new era for this country. There were some actually who were calling for President Hosni Mubarak to be tried in court, but others were just saying they truly believe this is a new beginning for their country, this is their chance for freedom and democracy.
And one of the interesting things that some were saying to us is they were saying that they hope that America will not intervene, will allow them to do this, and that America will have patience with these people who have just apparently, they believe, won their freedom. So it really is amazing.
And there's so many people, also, Hala, who we saw who were crying, in tears. It's an absolutely remarkable scene -- Hala.
GORANI: OK. Where is the military, briefly? Are the tanks still out there in Tahrir?
PLEITGEN: Yes. The tanks still are out there.
GORANI: They are.
PLEITGEN: And if we -- I'm sorry. If we pan down there, you'll see a couple of people that are sort of gathering around the tanks.
So the tanks are actually still there. They're keeping their positions. And the people, as you can see, they're really obeying the orders.
There's a bunch of cars in front of that tank. They're not moving past the tank to try and go down the highway overpass, although it seems some of them might have been trying to do that.
So it does appear, even though you have all of this going on, from our vantage point, at least, as though the military is still very, very well in control. We have not had any reports of any violence, we've had not any reports of any buildings, government buildings, or anything being damaged.
It still seems as though there is that amount of respect that we've been seeing between the military and the people who -- the former protesters, who I guess are now people who are just celebrating this moment. So it is a very peaceful moment. There's nothing of any sort of tension in the air between the military and the people. The situation seems to be very much under control -- Hala.
GORANI: OK. Fred Pleitgen, thank you -- Anderson. COOPER: Hala, we have with us watching this as well, Jim Woolsey, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Obviously, as a former CIA officer, as an analyst, it's the job not to get I guess too caught up in the moment, but try to look down in the hours, days and weeks ahead. I point out today is actually the 32nd anniversary of the Iranian Revolution, a revolution which began with extraordinary excitement and was quickly overtaken in unexpected ways.
As an intelligence officer, what do you want to -- what questions do you need answered in the days ahead?
JAMES WOOLSEY, FMR. CIA DIRECTOR (via telephone): Well, your reporter just quoted an Egyptian there on the street as saying Egypt now has a chance for freedom and democracy. And I think that is exactly the right way to phrase it, because there will be institutions and people trying to undermine that chance.
I think first among them would be Iran, and Iran working with the Muslim Brotherhood the way they work with Hamas in Gaza. And the Egyptian military, because of its traditions and its being a draftee army and so forth, has good relations, as you've seen, with the Egyptian people. And I think they will not be the problem.
The problem will be exactly, Anderson, what you drew the allusion to, the possibility that something may happen along the lines of what happened in Iran in ''78 and '79. And if that does happen, it will be Ahmadinejad and his regime, operating through Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and similar organizations, to try to undermine this great and remarkable and wonderful opportunity for Egypt.
COOPER: It seems critical for that not to happen -- I mean, the critical steps for that not to happen are to try to build up democratic institutions in Egypt, which Mubarak, frankly, systemically dismantled, eliminated over the course of 30 years. So the idea, I suppose it would concern you if there were calls for immediate elections because there really aren't many organized opposition forces that have any legitimacy other than the Muslim Brotherhood.
WOOLSEY: Right, and that's what happened in Gaza. Hamas called for immediate elections, and we got one vote, one man, one vote once, and it's now a theocratic dictatorship.
Revolutions in the past have gone this way for all sorts of reasons. The French revolution went that way. The bad guys eventually took over. The same thing happened in the Russian revolution; it's happened in Iran. The phrase "the revolution devours its children is an old one," and we all have to do everything we possibly can to work with the forces of stability and change in and Democratic and law-abiding direction in Egypt to help them economically, to help them politically and see to it that this does not become an Islamist operation the way Iran has and Gaza has, and I'm afraid Lebanon may be on the way to being.
COOPER: When you heard Wael Ghonim saying -- calling this revolution 2.0 saying that Facebook, you know, is where this began for him at least, that's where he started his activism, does the intelligence community understand that at this point? I mean, are they on top of that kind of the Facebook, the Twitter, as a driving force in some of these movements?
WOOLSEY: They may be beginning to be. I know people who for years now have been trying to get them to help get the right types of equipment and software into places like Iran in order to take advantage of people's desire for freedom. We should have been doing exactly what has happened in Egypt. We should have been trying to help foster that in Iran and help set up servers, protect their Facebook, protect their Twitter, everything. And we really have not.
But this is a good step because the administration is now starting to criticize the Iranians' dictatorship for being hypocritical. It was just on your screen. I wish they had done that and helped with the Facebook and the rest a year-and-a-half ago when all of the brave Iranians were slaughtered by the Iranian government.
But if we can maintain our support for a movement toward democracy and freedom and the rule of law, not just by one quick election in Egypt and do the same thing in Iran and in the rest of the Middle East, I think we can put aside this thing that Charles Krauthammer this morning. A great son of, he said until a week or two ago it was really just supposed to be George W. Bush, Tony Blair and a handful of neo-cons who thought there could be democracy and freedom in the Middle East. And it looks like we've got a lot of Egyptians neo-cons out there. Where did they come from?
COOPER: Do you have any doubt there are other dictators in the Arab world and autocrats who are watching this with fear in their hearts?
WOOLSEY: I think there are probably quite a few, and if we can help work with them as we did at the end of World War II when the communists were working very hard, France, Italy and elsewhere to take over, we worked with the forces for democracy. We had CIA operations, we had economic aid, we had the Marshall Plan. We worked very hard, and we helped keep western Europe free during the Cold War because of some of the decisive steps that Harry Truman and others made in beginning in the late '40s.
And we need to do that again. We need to be on the side of the rule of law and a quick evolution toward democracy, but not necessarily in favor of really quick votes in places we do not want more Gazas with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood organization running.
COOPER: Want to break back in Wolf, as we continue to watch, Wolf, these extraordinary developments.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "SITUATION ROOM": And it might be good time to -- maybe Jim Woolsey wants to listen in to get some reaction from outside Egypt throughout the region.
Let's go to CNN's Reza Sayah. He's in Islamabad, Pakistan, where folks are watching as they are all over the world especially in the Muslim world and the Arab world, Reza, with keen interest. What are you hearing?
REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we've been monitoring reaction from Iran, not so much in Pakistan. Of course, the images we've seen today and over the past couple of weeks in Egypt remind many people of the uprising after the disputed 2009 elections in Iran. That's when Iran's opposition movement to so- called green movements emerged, and I think a lot of supporters of that opposition movement today are looking at what's happening in Egypt, the celebration in Cairo and I think for them, it's bittersweet sentiments.
They were a civil rights movement, as well, and I think by nature, civil rights movements are very happy and thrilled when other civil rights movements are victorious. But I think Iran's opposition movement is looking at this celebration tonight and saying, this could have been us, this should have been us. They too gave lives and lost lives in the streets of Tehran and other cities in Iran. They too fought in the streets for much longer than the Egyptian movements did, but they didn't enjoy the rewards that the Egyptian people are enjoying tonight. So, I think it's a bittersweet moment for Iran's opposition movement.
The uprising in Egypt had created a lot of buzz in Iran, and the question, could this spark a comeback for the green movement that had been mostly snuffed out on the streets. And I think when you look at what's happening tonight with the resignation of President Mubarak, that's going to add fuel to the fire. Could there be a comeback? Many of you already know that on Monday, there's been a protest, a rally proposed for by the two leading opposition leaders, Mir Hossein and Mousavi and (INAUDIBLE). Iran's hard-line leadership was quick to object to it and warn everybody not to come out.
So, it's going to be very interesting to see what happens on Monday. Will the events in Cairo tonight spark a comeback in the streets of Tehran on Monday? If it does, if Iran's green movement makes a comeback on Monday, there's going to be very little doubt that it had a lot to do with the events in Egypt tonight.
BLITZER: Yes, those dominos are beginning to fall. Tunisia, Egypt, what's next? Well, you heard Wael Ghonim, the revolutionary, the protest leader in Egypt predict, look at Facebook and you'll find out what is next. So we'll take a closer look at Facebook and we'll take a look and see how this plays out in Iran, specifically among other countries in the region.
Reza, thanks very, very much. Let's go back to Hala. She's watching all of this unfold, as well.
GORANI: It's 7:37 p.m. right now in Cairo, Egypt, a country that's gone through a revolution. The power of the people taking down this dictator in power for more than a generation. And Nic Robertson is overlooking Tahrir Square, the beating heart of this pro-democracy movement.
What are you seeing from your vantage point? We're looking at these pictures along with the rest of the world, Nic. Truly an historic, historic moment for that country and for the rest of the region, as well. Tell us what you're seeing.
Checking that Nic Robertson is can hear me as we continue to let the pictures speak for themselves, really --
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: -- it just gives you an idea of the situation here that it is a carnival atmosphere. It is people singing, people dancing, forming circles, dancing in circles, traditional dancing.
But I think while all this euphoria is going on here, it's interesting to pause for a moment. I was talking earlier on with an Arab diplomat who has a very keen sense of what Saudi officials are thinking at this time. And he told me that just this afternoon, President Mubarak called King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia and told him that he was stepping down. Now, we know over the last few days that King Abdullah of Saudia Arabia has told president Mubarak to hang on, to stay in leadership, not to leave the country because this is something of great concern for Saudi Arabia.
I talked with this same diplomat since President Mubarak has stepped down. and he's told me that this is a very worrying situation for Saudi Arabia. This is not what they wanted to happen here. This message that a social network revolution can topple a leadership is very destabilizing for the region.
They believe that the only good thing that's come out of the situation so far here in Egypt is the fact that the army is in control, and from what we've seen down here in Tahrir Square this evening, the people very much support the army soldiers standing atop their tanks, standing at the site of their tanks being kissed by the people, hands being shaken. I saw one little boy with an Egyptian flag painted across his face, target a soldier's sleeve. He was so small, and the soldier bent down, and this young boy kissed the soldier on his cheeks. That's the sort of thing we're seeing here. That's the affection people are showing for the army.
It does seem to be perhaps the only thing the people have in common with some of the leadership in the region. Saudi Arabia, in particular, the only thing they can take away from this right now is the fact that the army has a strong control and leadership role, Hala.
GORANI: And Nic, we hear from some contributors who haven't necessarily been to Egypt, in fact, about fears coming from the United States. Other countries that Islamist movements would take over if snap elections took place, for instance.
But describe the diversity of the crowd. That's one of the things that struck me most, really, is the representative sort of -- how representative of society as a whole these demonstrators are.
ROBERTSON: And right now, it's exactly as you saw it, Hala. It's a huge cross-section. A lot of young people, men, women, children, people coming down here with their families. Almost surprising, you would think families would bring their families into this atmosphere.
But it's a celebration. This is weeks of relief. How this will turn out being called out in raw emotion, raw euphoria, an electric atmosphere where everyone is represented here. The Muslim Brotherhood, who people have feared could become the dominant political force here, really don't have the political strength as people see it at the moment to become a dominant force. They've got political organization, some of the opposition groups haven't had. But in a true democracy and other groups would have a chance to find their feet, build a power base, build support.
All these young people that signed up to Facebook to come out here on January the 25th, they're not all Muslim Brotherhood. These are all young people who are doing this out of the aspiration to have this revolution that we've now witnessed here in the last few hours. So, the notion that an Islamic group could come to the forefront here really doesn't seem to be borne out by with we see on the streets.
And even if you think about the Muslim Brotherhood, I was talking with a young man recently who was a third-generation Muslim brotherhood, but left the organization, an extreme intellectual. Left the organization as other young followers had because he didn't think that they had a good vision for the future.
The young elements of the Muslim Brotherhood are also using Facebook and Twitter, and a part of this revolution, as well. And they don't aspire to many of the things that people often fear that they might. So, a huge diversity and huge current of differing opinions here, Hala.
GORANI: All right. Interestingly, a leaderless pro-democracy movement. Anderson, we'll have to see in the coming days how they organize themselves and what their relationship with the military morphs into, eventually. Anderson.
COOPER: One person who has no doubt been thinking about that is Mohamed ElBaradei, Nobel laureate, also a man who returned to Egypt weeks ago to take part in this movement and is talked about as a potential leader of a future Egypt down the road.
Dr. ElBaradei, first of all, where were you when you heard the news, and what went through your mind and your heart?
DR. MOHAMMED ELBARADEI, NOBEL LAUREATE/EGYPTIAN OPPOSITION LEADER (via telephone): Well, I was at home, and, you know, I have been going through up and down since yesterday hoping to hear that piece of news, and it finally came. It was just a sense of liberation for me, for every Egyptian. A sense of emancipation of the whole Egyptian people, and for the first time, Egypt has a chance to be democratic, to be free, you know, to have a sense of - Egyptians can have a sense of dignity, of freedom.
So it's amazing, it's just like 180 degrees. It's something we never experienced in our lifetime.
COOPER: We were just talking to Jim Woolsey, a former director of the CIA, who was pointing out in the past other revolutions which have started out with such exuberance sometimes get betrayed. How does that not happen this time? What do you see happening in the weeks ahead?
ELBARADEI: We -- I hope, you know, that we have to be -- the army is that to have to of course, share power with the people. I think, you know, with 10 million people in the street every day, I think the message was not only sent to Mubarak but the army that the people have to be in control. And we would have to be vigilant, we will have to ensure during the transition period we would have all the guarantees for a free and fair election. All the guarantees for becoming a democratic institutions. And I have no doubt that people after going through what they have gone through are not ready to go back or to see their revolt, revolution aborted.
COOPER: Do you know, does Vice President Suleiman still have a role at this point? Is he still vice president?
ELBARADEI: I think, as far as I know, he is gone. I think, you know, because the army took over. So the president is out and his vice president is out. And it would be the military command. And I was told that they will, as soon as possible, reach out to the -- to wide sector of the Egyptian society (INAUDIBLE). And I hope that will happen as soon as possible because the army is there to help the country through the transition, to ensure stability during this period. But we need to go back to law and order, to the economy start to function. We need to go back from a country that was going down the drain to a country that is looking to the future.
COOPER: For the -- originally you had wanted a three-member commission of sort of technocrats running the country in order to transition ultimately to a place where you get free and fair elections. Because Mubarak has eliminated and systemically wiped out so many democratic institutions in the country, there really are not many democratic institutions. How long a period of time do you think Egypt needs before you can have free and fair elections?
ELBARADEI: Well, I'd like -- I'd like to see a year. A period of a year. I think that's what we need at least to help get started, established. Get people to get engaged. Build an institution. We have to start from scratch and to my mind I think we need a year. We need a presidential (ph) council where we could have one military person sharing power with two civilians. We need a government of national unity and we need to build all the institutions necessary.
So we don't need to rush. We need to make clear that, as you've said, that we will not be (INAUDIBLE), you know, after what we have gone through and we have learned from the experience of everybody else. I just got the call from George Papandreou, who was telling me that Greece went through the same process and he would like to brief me on the difficulties of going from a dictatorship into democracy. And so I got people from the states, you know, Washington administration, telling us that they are ready to help the Egyptian people in every way they can. So the good will is there. We just need to make it on our own and we need to take the time to do it right this time.
COOPER: There are some in the crowd who are still calling for Mubarak to be put on trial in some way. Is that something you would want to see?
ELBARADEI: I don't want to see that right now, frankly. I mean the country needs to be united, to work towards a future. I mean we have so many challenges ahead of us and we would like to make sure that, you know, we need to build our economy. We need to have a socially cohesive society. We need to have -- build democratic institutions. I think we need to, you know, we need to, you know, not to worry about retribution at this stage. And I think as far as Mubarak personally is concerned, he should leave in dignity. I think that's what -- I know the Egyptians are angry. I know the Egyptians are feeling, you know, terrible about all the killing and the torture and -- but at least Mubarak needs to go and we need to look forward. At least that's what I think and I hope that would -- I would tell people, let's focus on the future. Let's have a process of reconciliation at this stage. What we need is reconciliation between -- and a country at peace with itself.
GORANI: I have a quick question. Do you trust the -- Mohamed ElBaradei, this is Hala Gorani at the CNN Center.
ELBARADEI: Hi, Hala. How are you?
GORANI: Hi. All right. Do you trust the military for a full year? I mean do you trust the military as an institution to usher the country sort of into a brand-new era of true democracy for Egypt? Do you think that they will be able to do that as an institution?
ELBARADEI: Well, Hala, I think, you know, we needed them and I tweeted this morning, in fact, asking for the intervention because the country was really going into a period of violence. I was afraid of a bloodbath here when people thought that Mubarak was going to resign yesterday and then he reversed his decision at the last minute and continued to hang on to power. So there was a lot of anger, a lot of frustration in the street. And it was the right thing for the army to come.
But the army, I think, heard the Egyptian people. They do not want to replace Mubarak by a military coup. That's not a gain in the cause. And the writing was on the wall. We need to be liberated. We need to be democratic. We need social justice. And what I understand, Hala, that the army is going to reach out as soon as possible to a wide sector of the Egyptian society as possible. I'd like that -- to see that started tomorrow so we can have a sharing of power, the civilian and the military, and tell them what our demands are, what they need to do. We don't have the experience of running the country, but we need it for ensuring any stability -- stability during this period of turbulence we are going through. We need to make sure that the economy is started -- running again. We need to make sure that tourists will come. Law and order, you have heard about -- you know, Anderson got beaten here. You know, it -- and many others. It has been terrible for a few weeks. So we have a lot of work on our hands and I hope the army will understand that we put our trust in them, but they need to -- they need to, you know, to live up to our expectation. BLITZER: Well, can I just ask one question to Mohamed ElBaradei before I let him go. This is Wolf Blitzer in Washington. I'm getting a lot of e-mails and tweets from Egyptians saying what about the money Mubarak may have -- may be worth, what $20 billion -- as much as $70 billion. They want the money. Is that something that people should press for right now, Ambassador?
ELBARADEI: Wolf, absolutely. I mean I think -- I think this is money that they owe to Egypt. I think the first thing -- I mean if we are not going for trial, but definitely we are going for the money. This is the money that owed -- that they owe to the Egyptian people. And as soon as I see, you know, people from the army, I think that is going to be one of the priorities. But we have to frozen (ph) all their assets outside. I mean this is dictatorship. You know, we have suffered for 30 years and they have gotten -- got away with murder. But at least the money that we need here for development should come back to the Egyptian people. It's the money that the Egyptian people, Wolf.
BLITZER: And finally, President Obama is getting ready to address the nation in about a half an hour or so from the White House. Give me one point you really want to hear him make.
ELBARADEI: I want to hear him loud and clear that he is with the Egyptian people, that he make a commitment that they will never support an authoritarian system in Egypt any -- under any circumstances. That they will put all their -- whatever they can under the disposal of the Egyptian people. I heard that already from Washington, but I would like to hear President Obama say that publicly. I think the Egyptian people need to restore confidence that Americans, the U.S., means what they say when they talk about democracy, rule of law. And as you know, it has been, you know, they have been walking very tightrope. The rope finally has been broken and we need to hear loud and clear that the Egyptian administration -- that the American administration, that the American people are all with us on our march towards democracy, freedom and justice.
BLITZER: Mohamed ElBaradei, thanks very much. Congratulation to all the Egyptian people on this historic day. We will stay in obvious close touch with you, as well. We appreciate what you told us.
ELBARADEI: Thank you very much, all of you. Thanks a lot. Thanks.
BLITZER: Thank you.
Let's go back to Hala. She's got more.
GORANI: Well, we have reaction from around the world. Iran, the UAE, Germany, all reacting to what's going on inside of Egypt today because of its importance in the region and its importance as setting an example to the rest of the Arab world. But today is a day to take in the atmosphere in Tahrir Square, that epicenter of the pro- democracy movement, and Arwa Damon is there among the crowd.
Arwa, has the sort of atmosphere kind of gone down a notch or are people still in full party mood around you?
DAMON (via telephone): Hala, the party here is definitely still going on. People celebrating. There's live music on stage. Fireworks going off. The atmosphere is truly electric. I'm surrounded by a young group of friends. They've been out here demonstrating day in and day out. And I'm going to ask this to one of them, Homas (ph).
What are you feeling right now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm feeling we just got our freedom. We just got our liberty. People here are so happy really.
DAMON: And what is going to happen tomorrow?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think tomorrow complete our celebration, but people actually should go home because we (INAUDIBLE) those days lot -- we see lot -- a lot. But it took (INAUDIBLE). We are just (ph) proud to be Egyptians.
DAMON: Hala, this crowd out here, as we just heard from Mohamed, yes, they have lost a lot, the country has sacrificed a lot to make this happen, but these demonstrators have also achieved what was truly unthinkable three weeks ago, that President Hosni Mubarak would no longer be the ruler of Egypt. And to think that all of this was started by a call to demonstrate on the Internet, on FaceBook and at Twitter, people right now relishing the fact that they are at the forefront of history. Not just making history in Egypt, Hala, but as we know so well, history across the entire region.
GORANI: Let's take a look at some of these scenes. And I saw one young man there holding up a sign that read FaceBook there, that he'd scribbled FaceBook there on his sign. And Wael Ghonim, the activist whose FaceBook page served as a virtual meeting point for these activists, said he wanted to meet Mark Zuckerberg. That that was one of his goals in life. I'm sure he might be getting a phone call.
Let's take a look at these pictures. The tent city in Tahrir Square on your screens now. And ordinary Egyptians waving flags. A day of national pride for those who say they were not going to give up until President Mubarak stepped down. And this day has come for them. And there we see Arwa.
Arwa, can you still hear me?
DAMON: Yes, I can hear you.
GORANI: Tell me, who's around you right now? Who are the people around you? Sort of by and large, are they young, are they old, are they families? Who's come out tonight?
DAMON: Well, it's actually a little bit of everybody. There's young, there's old. There's people from all walks of life. Everybody is celebrating. We've been talking to this young group of friends here. They have not been at the forefront of all of this. (INAUDIBLE).
Ingi (ph), tell me, what is going through your mind right now? How are you feeling?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm feeling so happy. (INAUDIBLE) for Egypt and I hope that this (INAUDIBLE) all the people come back and I think that everyone's happy. So this is a good sign (INAUDIBLE).
DAMON: And did you ever believe that you guys would actually all accomplish this?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was just thinking about this a while ago and this is what we did. What everybody did. Why everyone (ph) coming here and (INAUDIBLE) at the beginning. They (INAUDIBLE). But I think it's going to help us and good luck. I hope everything (INAUDIBLE) in the coming years and a lot of expectations (ph) and we (INAUDIBLE) working skills (ph) and finding about (ph) (INAUDIBLE).
DAMON: Thank you so much.
You can see the crowd behind us. There really are people from all over. People who want to talk, obviously. Of course there (INAUDIBLE). Of course you can.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) with Egypt. We got him to step down, Mubarak. And (INAUDIBLE). We can take our -- we can take our (INAUDIBLE) freedom in our (INAUDIBLE).
DAMON: Everybody's very emotional here tonight. Anybody --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love Egypt. I love Egypt.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE).
DAMON: You're proud for what's happening.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) freedom for (INAUDIBLE).
DAMON: We've been hearing this over and over again, these similar sentences, people saying that for the first time they are truly proud to be Egyptians. That they have managed to regain control of their country. Their (INAUDIBLE) they say is now in their hands.
BLITZER: That stuff happening at Tahrir Square.