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CNN Live Event/Special

Osama bin Laden's First Television Interview Since September 11; Deadline of Death Delayed for American Journalist

Aired January 31, 2002 - 20:00   ET


MARTIN SAVIDGE, HOST: I'm Martin Savidge in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Coming up tonight on "Live From Afghanistan": Osama bin Laden, his first television interview since September 11th. It was recorded in October. What could his words spoken in the past talk about where he may be right now and what he may be planning next? Also, we'll update you on the circumstances of missing journalist Daniel Pearl.

It all begins right now, right here, live from Afghanistan.

ANNOUNCER: It's the only interview he's given since September 11th.


OSAMA BIN LADEN (through translator): The battle has moved inside America. We will work to continue this battle.


ANNOUNCER: Tonight: what Osama bin Laden had to say back in October and why we haven't seen this tape until now.

A deadline of death is delayed for an American journalist kidnapped in Pakistan, but will a day make a difference?


COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: The demands that the kidnappers have placed are not demands that we can meet.


ANNOUNCER: And for journalist Daniel Pearl's family and friends, more anxiety.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Danny's friends here at "The Wall Street Journal" are really -- we're doing a lot of praying and we're doing a lot of hoping.


ANNOUNCER: Tonight, a former journalist hostage remembers his own ordeal.


TERRY ANDERSON, FORMER HOSTAGE: We were all accused of being spies. I was accused of being a spy. So were the other kidnapees in Lebanon.


ANNOUNCER: The Marines help lead the way, and he led the Marines. Now it's time for a new assignment and a little looking back.


COL. ANDREW FRICK, U.S. MARINES: I hope that all the Marines here, that their sons and grandsons will be able to be proud of what we've done here.


ANNOUNCER: Live from Afghanistan, Martin Savidge.

SAVIDGE: Good evening, and welcome to "Live From Afghanistan."

We are at the Kandahar airport in Afghanistan, that continues to grow as a U.S. military base of operations. It is just after 5:30 in the morning. We've got a lot of territory to cover in the next 30 minutes, including reports of a mine explosion here at the airbase, also reports on updating the situation regarding that kidnapped journalist and the deadline of death that hangs over his head.

But we begin with Osama bin Laden, the man that most Americans want to see brought to justice. He gives his first television interview since September 11th, but that interview was done back in October. What could he possibly say that might lead us to his whereabouts now and perhaps any further insight into the twisted plot that began it all?

For the details now, we go to CNN's Wolf Blitzer, who joins us from Washington -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Marty, Osama bin Laden spoke with the Al-Jazeera television network last October. Al-Jazeera officials say they did not air the interview because they did not think it was newsworthy. CNN obtained the interview, and we think parts of it are indeed very newsworthy.


(voice-over): Late October, in the only television interview with Osama bin Laden since the September 11th attacks, broadcast here for the first time, he makes clear the war of terror is not finished. OSAMA BIN LADEN (through translator): The battle has moved to inside America. We will work to continue this battle, God permitting, until victory or until we meet God.

BLITZER: And he paints a grim picture for his life under his terror threat.

BIN LADEN (through translator): I tell you, freedom and human rights in America are doomed. The U.S. government will lead the American people and the West in general into an unbearable hell and a choking life.

BLITZER: The interview with Osama bin Laden was conducted by the Kabul reporter for the Arabic language Al-Jazeera television network. It took place just before the U.S. and its allies began their final rout of the Taliban, before bin Laden's and al Qaeda's leadership fled for their lives. The reporter's first question, about bin Laden's role September 11th.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER (through translator): America claims it has convincing evidence of your collusion in the events in New York and Washington. What is your answer?

BIN LADEN (through translator): America has made many accusations against us and many other Muslims around the world. Its charge that we are carrying out acts of terrorism is unwarranted.

BLITZER: That may sound like a denial but listen to what he says only moments later.

BIN LADEN (through translator): If inciting people to do that is terrorism and if killing those who kill our sons is terrorism, then let history be witness that we are terrorists.

BLITZER: A slightly different translation was quoted by British prime minister Tony Blair in a speech to parliament last November.

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Bin Laden himself said on October the 20th in an unbroadcast videotape that, and I quote, "If avenging the killing of our people is terrorism, let history be a witness that we are terrorists." Mr. Speaker, they are terrorists and history will judge them as such.

BLITZER: Blair's speech is evidence that copies of this videotape have circulated for some time in intelligence circles on both sides of the Atlantic, though until now it has never been seen in public. Intelligence sources tell CNN the U.S. government independently obtained the interview shortly after it was completed. CNN obtained this copy of the tape from a non-governmental source.

(on camera): Al-Jazeera says it does not know precisely where the interview was taped. It has not aired the tape. Early on, the network even denied its existence. It says it was offered the chance to do the interview in person after the news organization submitted written questions to bin Laden, including some questions from CNN. But CNN did not know about the taping until a "New York Times" story revealed the interview's existence.

In a December statement to CNN, Al-Jazeera said it did not air the interview because it did not meet its standards and was not newsworthy.

(voice-over): In the interview, bin Laden was asked directly whether he's responsible for the anthrax attacks in the United States and elsewhere, but his answer is vague.

BIN LADEN (through translator): These diseases are a punishment from God and a response to oppressed mothers' prayers in Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine and everywhere.

BLITZER: The reporter seems to have a professional rapport with bin Laden and even interrupts him to ask questions, as in this exchange.

BIN LADEN (through translator): We kill the kings of the infidels, kings of the crusaders and civilian infidels in exchange for those of our children they kill. This is permissible in Islamic law and logically.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER (through translator): So what you're saying is, this is a type of reciprocal treatment. They kill our innocents, so we kill their innocents?

BIN LADEN (through translator): So we kill their innocents. And I say it's permissible in Islamic law and logic.

BLITZER: This is different than a series of taped addresses bin Laden delivered to Al-Jazeera. During this one-hour interview, bin Laden ridicules White House requests to the U.S. news media to show discretion in broadcasting those addresses.

BIN LADEN (through translator): They made hilarious claims. They said that Osama's messages have codes to them to the terrorists. It's as if we were living in the type of mail by carrier pigeon, when there were no phones, no travelers, no Internet, no regular mail, no express mail and no electronic mail. I mean, these are very humorous things. They discount people's intellects.

BLITZER: Bin Laden himself discounts the possibility of the defeat of his forces. Remember, this was late October, before the street celebrations that mashed the fall of Kabul, well before the new head of Afghanistan's interim government was saluted at President Bush's State of the Union address.

BIN LADEN (through translator): We believe that the defeat of America is possible with the help of God and is even easier for us, God permitting, than the defeat of the Soviet Union was.

BLITZER: To back that up, bin Laden cites the 1993 U.S. experience in Somalia, when 18 U.S. special operations forces were killed during a raid against a warlord faction in Mogadishu.

BIN LADEN (through translator): Our brothers who were here in Afghanistan tested the Americans, and together with some of the Somali Mujahadeen, God granted them victory. America exited dragging its tails in failure, defeat and ruin.

BLITZER: These words evidence of bin Laden's miscalculation. Throughout the tape, bin Laden appears confident of success, confident of victory. He apparently did not foresee that within days, he would be running for his life.


And Al-Jazeera has responded to our airing of this interview with a statement. It reads as follows. "Al-Jazeera refuses to appear on CNN to discuss its unaired interview with Osama bin Laden. Al-Jazeera denounces the fact that CNN resorts to such illegal ways to obtain this tape. Al-Jazeera would have expected CNN to use its judgment and respect its special relationship with Al-Jazeera by not airing material that Al-Jazeera itself chose not to broadcast. Al-Jazeera does not feel it's obligated to explain its position and its reasoning of why it chose not to air the interview. Al-Jazeera will nonetheless respond to CNN's airing of the interview using its own means and its own ways. Furthermore, Al-Jazeera will sever its relationship with CNN and will take the necessary action to punish the organizations and individuals who stole this video and distributed it illegally."

And here's what CNN has to stay about obtaining and airing this videotape. "CNN did nothing illegal in obtaining this tape and nothing illegal in airing it. Our affiliate agreement with Al-Jazeera gives us the express right to use any and all footage owned or controlled by Al-Jazeera, without limitation."

Eason Jordan, CNN's president of news gathering, discussed the relationship with Al-Jazeera and the ramifications of airing the material at this time.


EASON JORDAN, CHIEF NEWS EXECUTIVE, CNN: I think Al-Jazeera has some very tough questions to answer. Among them, why was the interview not ever televised? Why did Al-Jazeera initially deny the existence of the tape? And what other tape does Al-Jazeera have or did it have that has never been acknowledged or televised? Clearly, a lot of interesting material has fallen into Al-Jazeera's hands. So I think there are a lot of tough questions for Al-Jazeera.

And I want to say that I worked very hard and my colleagues worked very hard to establish and maintain and grow a very, very good relationship with Al-Jazeera, but this is a tough spot. And I just learned a few minutes ago, in fact, that the leadership of Al-Jazeera has decided to completely sever its relationship with CNN over this episode and that Al-Jazeera is going to pursue its legal options against CNN for the airing of this videotape.


BLITZER: But the bottom line is this. When all is said and done, people all over the world, the public at large, will now have a chance to further study Osama bin Laden in the past -- in the past few weeks -- only high government officials in a -- in a handful of countries had access to this videotape -- Marty.

SAVIDGE: That's some very disturbing yet interesting information. Thank you very much, Wolf.

Now we move on to the nation to the east of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the plight of kidnapped journalist Daniel Pearl. His kidnappers say that they have given him a reprieve of about 24 hours. Still, the deadline of death hangs over his head.

For the latest on his circumstances and the efforts to try to set him free, we now go live to CNN's Ben Wedeman, who joins us from Karachi, Pakistan -- Ben.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Martin, as you said, that deadline has been extended by only one day. And in the e-mail sent by the group that is holding Mr. Pearl, the National Movement for the Restoration of the Sovereignty of Pakistan, they said that they will carry out their threat of death against Mr. Pearl. Now, "The Wall Street Journal" has responded with a statement, Paul Steiger, the managing editor of that newspaper, saying that, "Danny Pearl's wife and I are thankful for the additional time. I also hope that you and we can use that time to start a true dialogue." And Martin, he goes on to say that "A captive or killed Danny cannot speak for you, cannot help you or your cause. Again, please release Danny or contact us to continue this dialogue."

Now, regarding the investigation, the Pakistani authorities say they are doing all they can to try to locate and win the release of Mr. Pearl. They, however, say that they had one lead that mysteriously has disappeared. What happened was that there was an individual by the name of Arif, who was acting as a go-between between Mr. Pearl and the Islamic -- the hard-line Islamic leader, Mubarak Ali Gilani, with whom Mr. Pearl was supposed to meet the day he was kidnapped. Now, the Pakistani police went to this fixer, or Mr. Arif's house, only to find that his family was saying the prayer for the dead for this individual.

So they say that that was one possible source of information about the fate of Mr. Pearl that has simply disappeared. Now, they still are holding Mr. Gilani here in Karachi for questioning, but they say that at the moment, they're not coming up with much -- Martin.

SAVIDGE: Thank you very much, Ben. We will continue to stay in close touch with you and monitor the developments coming out of Karachi.

Earlier in the day, Secretary of State Colin Powell was talking about the plight of the American kidnapped journalist. He said, basically, that all that can be done is being done. Here's what he had to say.


COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: We're doing everything we can to try to locate him and rescue him. I have spoken to President Musharraf in Pakistan about the situation, and I know that he is doing everything he can. The demands that the kidnappers have placed are not demands that we can meet or deal with or get into a negotiation about.


SAVIDGE: Here's a name from the past, Terry Anderson, perhaps America's most famous kidnap victim. He was held in Lebanon for seven years. He knows well the allegations that have been made against Daniel Pearl, that he is a spy working for some clandestine organization. Here's how Terry Anderson talked about the charges laid against him and the now held American journalist.


TERRY ANDERSON, FORMER HOSTAGE: We were all accused of being spies. I was accused of being a spy. So were the other kidnapees in Lebanon. Part of it is a tactic. It's a way for them to apply pressure. It's a way for them to try to justify their threats. "OK, he's a spy. It's OK if we kill him." And everybody knows it's not true. They know it's not true.

Part of it comes from their world view. They don't really understand the role of the Western press or what a journalist does. But mostly, I think it's just pro forma. I mean, it's a way to apply pressure, which is what they're doing. But my question is, pressure toward what end? They can't really expect that the U.S. government is going to respond to their demands. It's not going to happen.


SAVIDGE: We're going to take a break right now, but don't go far. There's still lots more to come live from Afghanistan.



COL. ANDREW FRICK, U.S. MARINES: When my son gets to read about this in the history books, if he does get to read about it in the history books, I just hope that he will be proud to say, "Hey, my dad was there."


ANNOUNCER: Reflections from the Marine commander at the Kandahar airport. "Live From Afghanistan" returns in a moment.

But first: For more on the bin Laden interview and a look back at previously released bin Laden tapes, head to The AOL keyword is CNN.


ANNOUNCER: American forces set up base at the Kandahar airport back on December 14th, when Marines first entered the grounds. The Army's 101st Airborne division now controls the airport.

SAVIDGE: A couple of notes to pass along here. Just a few hours ago, at the Kandahar airport, during a routine patrol, an American Humvee struck a land mine. Nobody was injured. but the wheel of the vehicle was blown off. this is still a dangerous place.

It got warmer earlier today. It also got windier. That picked up the pulverized dust and created a fairly nasty dust storm. It got into machinery. It got into weapons. And it did interfere somewhat with the air transport operations here. More wind forecast for today.

The operation of the U.S. Marines at the Kandahar airport has come to an end. They were the first to seize this airport, and there were a number of firsts involved in their mission, including never before had the Marines operated so far from a beachhead, over 450 miles.

I had a chance to sit down and talk with the commander, Colonel Andy Frick. We talked about that first, and we also talked about how never before they had worked so closely with special forces.


COL. ANDREW FRICK, U.S. MARINES: Our marriage with the soft (ph) community, not just U.S. soft but also coalition soft, allowed us to leverage their capabilities while being able to bring in some of the things that Marines do very well. We acted as a quick reaction force for them, an augmentation or reinforcement, covering force. So it was a marriage of similar type skills so we could get the best of both worlds.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): The day after Colonel Andy Frick arrived in Kandahar, he watched as a flag from ground zero was raised over the Marine base.

FRICK: For me personally, it was a very proud moment. Proud moment -- I always feel a certain amount of pride when I see the American flag go up. I think that people that don't wear a uniform don't understand what the flag means to those of us in uniform. I've been a Marine for 26 years, and there's a certain part of me that almost becomes teary-eyed when I see the flag raised in the morning, when I hear the Marine Corps hymn. It's my life, in a large measure. I thought about who I am as an American. I thought about all those thousands of people that were killed just because they were just going to work. And there was a sense of purpose of being here and a sense of purpose in what we do, we're doing here.

SAVIDGE: The colonel became emotional when I asked him how he would like his 4-year-old son to read about the role of his dad and the Marines in the history books.

FRICK: I just hope that when my son gets to read about this in the history books, if he does get to read about it in the history books, that he will see that the Marines or the 26th Marine expeditionary unit carried on the tradition of the Marines before them, 226 years. And we carried on the traditions and we did what Marines have always done and will continue to do in the future. And I just hope that he will be proud to say, "Hey, my dad was there." I hope that he'll be proud to say, "Hey, those were my dad's Marines, and my dad was part of that." That's what I hope.

I hope that all the Marines here, that their sons and their grandsons will be able to be proud of what we've done here. I certainly am. I'm proud of every Marine that's been here, that has participated because they've done -- given 110 percent every day.


SAVIDGE: It is mission accomplished for the U.S. Marines.

We'll take a break. When we come back, a peek behind the lens. How do we do the thing we do?

ANNOUNCER: Next, going live from the front lines.


SAVIDGE: We can't use lights out here. It would just be too dangerous for us and for the soldiers. So we bring along this. It's what we call a nightscope. It goes on the lens. The next time you see us, we'll be green.


ANNOUNCER: A behind-the-lens look when "Live From Afghanistan" returns.


SAVIDGE: If you've watched our reports over the past few weeks, you've noted we've taken you live to many places, including the frontlines. That's led to a lot of e-mails from viewers, "Just how do you do that?" Tonight we'll show you.


(voice-over): Like the soldiers we follow, we have to bring everything we need with us: equipment, food, water, satellite phone, sleeping bag, the list goes on. First, though, we set up the microwave horn. That's what allows us to go live from anywhere around the base. The signal is line of sight. That means we have to be able to see the receiver on top of the airport control tower. From there, the pictures and sounds snake down a cable to the ground and plug into our portable satellite dish mounted on a wildly painted Pakistani truck.

Since we're out beyond the runway, there's a problem. The landing transport planes will momentarily break the signal. We have to hope that no one lands while we're live.

That's Jeff Sponzler (ph), our engineer, with his arms dug into our portable generator. It's been giving us problems the past few days. Without power, we cannot run our satellite phones to communicate with CNN. We would essentially be cut off from the outside world.

Journalists and soldiers often share a similar lifestyle, traveling to hazardous places under difficult conditions. So we find a lot in common to talk about, like food, in this case Army food called "meals ready to eat," or MREs.

UNIDENTIFIED SERVICEMAN: I got the beef and beans. That was pretty good.

UNIDENTIFIED SERVICEMAN: All the new cases of the MREs, I know where they go. They go to the reporters.


SAVIDGE: That voice behind the lens belongs to Jonathan Share. He's the photographer. We'd show him to you, but he's the only one that knows how to operate the camera. He, too, is worried about the planes and the generator. But technology isn't the only challenge we face. Darkness and the cold are two more. Meet Thomas Etzler, my producer.

THOMAS ETZLER, PRODUCER: Clean socks, for once. It's going to be cold tonight. In 10 minutes, I will not see anything. It's now or never.

SAVIDGE: But day or night, the camera always has to be able to see. We've planned for that, too.

(on camera): The sun's pretty much gone here, dipping below the horizon. It gets dark very quickly. We can't use lights out here. It'd just be too dangerous for us and for the soldiers. So we bring along this. It's what we call a nightscope. It goes on the lens. Next time you see us, we'll be green.

(voice-over): Working in the dark has its own frustrations. Jonathan's been trying to video the controlled detonations of unexploded ordnance around the base. But they're unpredictable. Of course, the moment he turns his back...

SHARE: Oh, man!

SAVIDGE: Unpredictable, at times uncomfortable, but never uneventful. That's the news from the front.


So there you have it, kind of a peek behind the sometimes crazy thing that we do.

That's it from Afghanistan. Thank you very much for joining us. I'm Martin Savidge, live from Afghanistan. Good night.