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American Morning

Independent Analysis Has Yielded Some New Details on Bin Laden Tape; Afghanistan's New Future Begins Tomorrow with Swearing In of New Interim Government in Kabul

Aired December 21, 2001 - 07:04   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Now more about what we didn't learn the first time we saw the Osama bin Laden tape. An independent analysis has yielded some new details, including bin Laden mentioning the names of several more hijackers.

As CNN's David Ensor reports, the latest translation could also muddy some diplomatic waters.


DAVID ENSOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The tape is by now famous for showing Osama bin Laden bragging about the attacks of September 11. What a Saudi dissident says and an independent translator hired by CNN confirms, is that the U.S. government left some significant parts of what bin Laden said out of its official translation into English.

ALI AL-AHMED, SAUDI INSTITUTE: The translators missed a lot of things on the tape. They missed the names of the hijackers, two of them mentioned by full names.

ENSOR: Bin Laden names two additional hijackers, the brothers Nawaf Alhazmi and Salem Alhazmi. Later he says that four of the hijackers were from the al Gomdi (ph) tribe and the name of two others, Alshehri. He names a total of nine of the hijackers, not just Mohamed Atta, as in the original transcript.

Secondly, on the tape, the visiting man, thought to be the crippled Saudi fighter, Khalid al-Harbi (ph), talks of fatwas, edicts from some Saudi clerics backing the September 11 attacks. He names Sheik Abdulah al Baraak, a Saudi official, as issuing one of them. U.S. translators used the name of al Barani, which is not a name used by Saudis in the majority Sunni Muslim sect.

AL-AHMED: You know if you want just to use a conspiracy theory to say oh, they didn't want to mess up the Saudi government because al Baraak is a senior Saudi official and he gave that fatwa.

ENSOR: One more striking example, precisely what bin Laden said to others just before hearing the first radio announcement that an attack he had planned had succeeded. ``When you hear a breaking news announcement on the radio,'' he says he told followers, ``kneel immediately, and that means they have hit the World Trade Center.''

AL-AHMED: Again, the second plane hit. He knelt again to the ground and he paid, you know, tributes to God for this. And you don't see that here. It's very important I think.

ENSOR: The information missed in the English translation does not change the overall image the tape presents of bin Laden, admitting with pride his role in the attacks. That message, say Saudi officials, is crystal clear to native Arabic speakers.

ADEL AL JUBEIR, SAUDI FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER: The tape is very clear. It stands on its own. It's much more powerful in the Arabic language than it is in English because there's no translation, you get the nuance of it. You get the sheer horror of it.

ENSOR (on camera): The additional details paint, if anything, a still more damaging picture of bin Laden identifying nine of the hijackers and telling followers beforehand to get ready for the World Trade Center to be hit.

David Ensor, CNN, Washington.


ZAHN: Afghanistan's new future begins tomorrow with the swearing in of the new interim government in Kabul lead by Hamid Karzai. The first British peacekeeping troops are already on the ground, but will they really be keeping peace or will they have to clean up the end of a war?

We turn now to CNN security analyst J. Kelly McCann, President and CEO of Crucible Security. He joins us from Washington. Welcome back.


ZAHN: So for starters, let's talk about this David Ensor report. How significant is it that parts of this tape were left out of the transcripts that we saw, the translated transcripts we saw?

MCCANN: Right. There's two possibilities, Paula. One is that the U.S. government erred so much on the side of correctness, in other words, to be totally above reproach, that nothing could be misinterpreted as having been constructed or digitally reproduced or whatever that they chose to leave out questionable information or almost inaudible passages.

The other, of course, possibility is that for some reason they chose to delete it because they needed some time to make that information actionable. Only those people that are dealing with the full spectrum of the intelligence that's out there would know what the answer is and truthfully, I mean there's nothing in the tape really that is alerting to the point where we now know so much more than we did before.

So that's the only comment I'd have, really, is there may have been a purpose.

ZAHN: Yes, but if the second theory that you threw out is the one that, in fact, is accurate, then isn't the government leaving itself potentially open to charges that in some way it was trying to protect the Saudi Arabian government and not embarrass it?

MCCANN: Well, it depends on what the action was. In other words, if it was to buy time in order to get a little bit closer to places or people that they already had under surveillance, that's one thing. It would be an act of omission, not commission. In other words, if they chose to not describe something, that's obviously they ommitted that. But it's significantly different than if they constructed something and actually took and made overt action to change it.

So I think they're very safe and I think it's obviously defensible that they'd be able to say we chose to do this for reason A or B.

ZAHN: Let's move on to the issue of the peacekeeping function of this international peacekeeping force. I wanted to quickly replay what a British marine had to say when he was talking about the key role the Brits are playing in all this. Let's listen.


UNIDENTIFIED BRITISH SOLDIER: We are not here to take over the country. We are not here to run things. Far from it. And we're very, very aware of that. We are here to provide assistance and that's why, of course, you see the likes of the marines behind me in berets and not in a hard posture whatsoever.


ZAHN: Kelly, you helped train security personnel in Kosovo. What are the British up against here?

MCCANN: A difficult job. As we've seen before, peacekeeping is kind of a hard thing to get your arms around. Now, the good part of it is, of course, the British marines are tough folks, just like their brethren, the U.S. marines. But -- and they have significant experience in Northern Ireland and also in Kosovo. Just recently several were injured in Kosovo, as a matter of fact.

And there's always a honeymoon period, Paula, that I'm sure you've noticed before whenever we go into these things where everyone loves the United States, everyone loves the peacekeepers, whatever nation they're from. And then suddenly two to three to four months into it, that honeymoon period is over and people start doing things that's quite adversarial.

I'm hoping that the U.S. and all the allies can put together a government that if we remember pre-Soviet invasion, it was a stable country, more or less, not to Western standards, but to their own standard. And the faster we can get them to stand on their own feet, then the faster we'll be able to get these guys out of harm's way. But paramilitary or quasi police jobs are very, very difficult.

ZAHN: But if you were to look at what happened in Mazir-i-Sharif yesterday, one would think that honeymoon period hasn't even started. We saw an explosion wound some hundred people, six of them seriously.


ZAHN: Is it too early to send in these peacekeeping forces?

MCCANN: You know, that's the commander's intent. You know, I think the commander's intent is going to be, is going to come out in his operations order and he's now, General Franks and the U.S. government is sensing that we're right on the cusp of the right time to introduce these forces.

Now, of course, the big discussion is going to be how many and that may be the first point of resentment. If we start to say that we want more peacekeepers in there than Karzai's government is willing to allow, they might push back a little bit. So it's going to be give and take and I think that we're wise if we understand that they will not adopt all Western policies, opinions, etc. They are a different kind of culture and we have to let that tribal thing happen because they'll embrace us if we do that.

ZAHN: Well, thank you very much for filling us in on what we can expect. J. Kelly McCann certainly has the experience. Once again, he helped train the security forces in Kosovo.

Thank you very much for your time this morning.

MCCANN: Thanks, Paula.