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CNN Live Event/Special
Aired May 24, 2013 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will hear from the president of the United States who will address the country in mere moments now from the East Room. It's going to be a confirmation of a huge development.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good evening. Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda.
Tonight, we give thanks to the countless intelligence and counterterrorism professionals who have worked tirelessly to achieve this outcome. The American people do not see their work, nor know their names, but tonight, they feel the satisfaction of their work.
NADA BAKOS, JOINED THE CIA IN 2000: I think women make fantastic analysts. We have patience and perseverance. And we're not always looking for the sexy payoff immediately.
SUBTITLE: The Sisterhood
CINDY STORER, BEGAN TRACKING BIN LADEN FOR THE CIA IN 1995: You know, trying to keep track of all the threads of various threats and which ones are real and which ones aren't real and what connects to what. And, you know, people say, why didn't you connect the dots? Well, because the whole page is black.
SUSAN HASLER, EDITED THE CIA'S DAILY REPORT TO THE PRESIDENT: To pull a story out of all of this information, but there's no one single intelligence looking at all this information. It's a lot of different brains looking. So the more that you can bring people together and you know, share what's important, the better it works.
At that time, the people who had really deep expertise in al Qaeda, you know, they were women and they did a job that at first did not make them very popular with their managers. STORER: I was counseled once in a performance review that I was spending too much time working on bin Laden. They said we were obsessed crusaders, overly emotional, you know, using all those women stereotypes.
Men throw chairs, women cry. I ask you which one is better.
Yes, we were borderline obsessed but I thought it was for a good reason. Were we crusading? I wouldn't call it a crusade. Were we passionate about what we were doing? Absolutely.
That's another bureaucratic norm at the time you weren't supposed to be passionate about anything, which I think is ridiculous. How can you do something like this without passion? You can't.
OSAM BIN LADEN, 1993 (translation): America won't stop supporting the Jews, who are killing Muslims, until we attack them and raise the banner of jihad. The infidels won't stop until we confront them with jihad. The tails of infidels will be cut only through jihad.
BARBARA SUDE, WAS A SENIOR AL-QAEDA ANALYST: Take a stand. We drove out the Russians. We destroyed the Russian empire. Now, we'll drive out the Americans and we'll destroy the U.S. empire. It worked then, it will work here.
He felt like the United States was driving a world movement against Muslims, and was the driver for everything that was happening that was bad.
(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
SUBTITLE: A Blank Slate
STORER: Your starting point is Afghanistan. Abdullah Azzam is the godfather of the Afghan jihad. He is the one who called everyone to go and fight in Afghanistan against the Soviets. He helped set up a council of charities to bring people and money to help with jihad and his partner, Osama bin Laden.
Well, we certainly didn't know that al Qaeda existed. We didn't know there was a terrorist organization.
We knew there was a very wealthy man named Osama bin Laden who was funding a lot of terrorist groups. We knew that there were people from terrorist groups from all over the world hanging out in Afghanistan and in bin Laden's circle.
So you start to see signs of what looks like an organization, but is this bin Laden as a financial manager with a bunch of companies funding various terrorist groups, or is there a separate terrorist group here? That was a big question.
JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, OVERSAW THE CIA: Alec Station was a collection of people who had backgrounds in everything from analysis to operations. When you think about the CIA, there's two different cultures there. One is an analytic culture, people who try to assess things, figure out what is actually happening somewhere and project ahead, and an operational culture that is people who go out and collect intelligence, develop human spies, handle them, run them, if you will.
The unique thing about Alec Station was the fusion of analysis and operations. We pushed the analysts and the operations people together so the operations people knew everything the analysts were thinking and the analysts knew everything the operations people were doing.
STORER: The people I worked with in the beginning were six women. I walked in my first day there, I turned around to my colleagues, it's a bay of six analysts and I said, does anybody have any Tums? And all these drawers opened with these gigantic bottles. Oh, my God, what have I done to myself.
BAKOS: When I moved over, there was a group of women that I reached out to.
SUDE: We were trying to protect the United States, whether we could do that, it's a big burden.
BAKOS: I was drawn to those women because of the job that they were doing. I mean, substantively they were so immersed in finding bin Laden and tracking. And some of them had been around working the subject matter for so long that they were the people I went to and wasn't even because they were women.
SUDE: The rest of the organization didn't necessarily think much of terrorism analysts. They said the terrorism people are just tracking things. That's not a real analysis. That's just tracking things.
So, we were lowly terrorism analysts. We were tracking things.
STORER: You're going to have certain kinds of people who are going to be the first ones to see something. When you're the first one off the block, by definition, you're going to be in the minority. That's what we were.
BAKOS: She was very dedicated to her job. She was there a lot.
STORER: Jennifer was one of that first group and she was always very intense, very focused, really passionate about it from the beginning and a real hard charger from the beginning.
BAKOS: Jennifer was focused on finding bin Laden. She was adamant that she was going to stay around on that team until it was done.
STORER: She could be really abrasive, yes. But you know, teams are made up of people with all different kinds of personalities and in the end of the day, that doesn't really matter. What matters is getting the job done. And she certainly could do that.
SUDE: We had a camaraderie. In the beginning, we were such a small organization that we really had a very close relationship.
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Imagine if in 1937, the Japanese army had gone on NBC or RKO and say hey, we are planning to attack the United States. You know, Pearl Harbor might have turned out differently. These guys repeatedly said publicly we are planning to attack the United States and no one paid any attention.
SUBTITLE: The Declaration of War
BERGEN: At that time in '97, Osama bin Laden had declared war on the United States in an Arab language newspaper and no one paid any attention. The case that I made to them was, you know, if you're going to declare war on the United States, don't do it on the BBC, do it on an American network, and you know, CNN is seen all around the world and this is -- you know, and also we have a reputation for being fair.
It was a lengthy process. They were very concerned, are you agents of the CIA? Will you give Osama bin Laden a fair shake if we allow you to do this interview? Eventually, after a month or so, we got the sort of coded message that we were going to go and see bin Laden.
They picked us up at dusk in a van sort of like this, right.
PETER JOUVENAL, CAMERAMAN: Yes, very similar to this. But in the evening.
Then they gave us sunglasses that had cardboard inside them.
BERGEN: Right. A sort of crude blindfold. Did they put those on immediately on us?
JOUVENAL: Yes, they did.
BERGEN: Yes. All right.
JOUVENAL: The interesting thing is that when you go to Kabul, you go through these tunnels. So the fact that we were blindfolded, you could feel the change in air pressure and I could hear the difference in sound through the tunnel.
BERGEN: So you had something of a good idea of where we were heading.
BERGEN: And on the other side of this, this is where al Qaeda had its chemical weapons crew, chemical weapons facility.
So we got to this plateau, I think it was about 6,000 feet up, maybe, or something like that.
JOUVENAL: Something like that. There was a small village, the type that would be used by shepherds to put their sheep in at night.
Peter Arnett was a correspondent. He was at the time arguably the most famous journalist in the world.
JOUVENAL: They put carpets down so it made it respectable.
BERGEN: As I recall, we waited for some period of time and had some sort of goat-like dinner.
JOUVENAL: That's right. Yes.
BERGEN: Do you recall when he came in?
BERGEN: He shook your hand, right?
BERGEN: You remember what that felt like?
JOUVENAL: It was sort of like a dead fish. It wasn't a strong grasp, cold, a bit like (INAUDIBLE). I compare it sometimes to a bank manager's shake.
UNIDENTIFED MALE: Thank you, Mr. Bin laden. Is there anything you would like to add?
BIN LADEN: Hm?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anything you would like to add?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just relax a minute. Just relax now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's not used to this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, Mr. Bin Laden's voice is in good condition. It got better as you got more into the subject, as you talked about it.
BIN LADEN (translated): We believe that getting killed for the cause of Allah is a great honor, wished by our prophet. As he once said, "I swear to Allah, I wish to fight for God's cause and be killed, fight and be killed, and fight again and be killed." Being killed for Allah's cause is a great honored bestowed upon only the very best Muslims. We love this kind of death more than you love life.
BERGEN: I did think that this was an amazing interview. He declared war on the United States for the first time to an English- speaking audience.
BIN LADEN: The hearts of Muslims are filled with hatred towards the United States of America and the American president. The president has a heart that won't listen to words.
BERGEN: We asked him why.
BIN LADEN: Because the American government is an unjust government.
BERGEN: He basically gave a laundry list of complaints about American foreign policy in the Muslim world.
BIN LADEN: It has committed acts that are extremely unjust, hideous and criminal.
BERGEN: We asked him to clarify, did that mean a war against American soldiers or American civilians.
BIN LADEN: They are not exonerated from responsibility because they elected their government.
BERGEN: He sort of said American soldiers were the primary target. American civilians got in the way, that was their problem.
BIN LADEN: We do not guarantee their safety.
BERGEN: He said that in his mind, the United States was as weak as the former Soviet Union.
BIN LADEN: America boasts that it is still powerful even after successive defeats, from Vietnam to Beirut, from Aden to Somalia.
BERGEN: And eventually, the United States, if it was subjected to enough violent pressure, would pull out of the Middle East and basically he would get his wish.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are your future plans?
(SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
BIN LADEN: You'll see and hear about them in the media. God willing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can we get a couple still pictures now? Some photographs?
BERGEN: The impact of the interview at the time was, I would say, pretty muted. You know, it didn't get a lot of play because at the time, of course, he hadn't really done anything.
Imagine if in 1937, the Japanese army had gone on NBC or RKO to say, hey, we are planning to attack the United States, Pearl Harbor might have turned out differently. These guys repeatedly said, publicly, we are planning to attack the United States and no one paid any attention.
HASLER: There is no doubt in that office in that moment that this is what we were waiting for. This is it. That's -- those are the words that went through everybody's mind. This is it. This is bin Laden.
SUDE: They're planning something, but where, when, what? Is it going to be an armed assault? Is it going to be a hijacking? Is it going to be an assassination, a bomb, you know? Where? There were no real answers.
MCLAUGHLIN: The CIA did very good warning in that period of time. There are dozens and dozens of reports in which we expressed the view that bin Laden is intending to attack the United States. We would have weekly or biweekly meetings sometimes on exactly what was going on.
STORER: So frustrating when you can't figure out date and time.
MCLAGHLIN: There's always a large band of uncertainty and that's fertile ground for argument.
STORER: If you warn about every little thing, then you're crying wolf and nobody pays attention to you at all.
SUDE: Middle East, South Asia, Europe, the United States, where. You just don't know.
MCLAUGHLIN: We did not at this time and in this report have what I would call actionable intelligence.
STORER: I want to know when, I want to know where, I want to know who.
MCLAUGHLIN: We could not determine time, target and method.
STORER: You know, I really wish I could tell you when and where but it's not that easy with the clandestine organization. If you just had more human assets, you did less analysis, then we would know all these things. Well, that isn't true.
SUDE: You can say we're pretty sure it's going to happen but we can't make that decision to say you should do or not do. You can say that our bottom line is it looks pretty dangerous.
MCLAUGHLIN: The headline says "Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S." STORER: There were just warning after warning after warning all spring.
MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you know, with the benefit of hindsight --
STORER: We knew something huge was going to happen.
MCLAUGHLIN: -- it would seem that this was a perfect warning in August of 2001 that the United States was about to be attacked.
STORER: Everybody was completely tense.
MCLAUGHLIN: Why didn't we do something about this?
STORER: The language being used by these guys was like, of my God, what are they going to do?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated): The heroes of raids received their intensive training and learned how to take over the navigation cabin, to enable the pilots to fly the planes towards the targets, and ensure protection for them, until the moment when the aircraft crash into their targets. The brother pilots continued their preparation in complete calm deep inside America, disregarding the media's propaganda of America's all-powerful security and intelligence capabilities whose noise filled the world.
The heroes recorded their last wills and testaments in which they clarified their reasons and motivations behind carrying out this blessed act.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I say to America: if it wants its soldiers and people to be safe, then it must withdraw all its forces from the Muslim lands.
HALSER: On the morning of 9/11, I was sitting in my office. My office was here. The office of the group chief was right next to it and I had my door open, and I looked and there was an analyst running through the row between the cubicles and it was one of the older analysts. And you don't see older analysts running.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was in Jordan.
BAKOS: I was at the CIA.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 9/11, I was in my office at NSA.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was at the executive office building for the White House.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was in the Pentagon when it got hit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first breaking news was coming in. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Somebody has it on Realplayer at their desk.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The report was saying there was a small aircraft that apparently had hit.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right then, second plane into the second tower and I knew.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was no doubt in that office in that moment that this is what we were waiting for. This is it. That's the words that went through everybody's mind. This is it. This is bin Laden.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's an attack, it's terrorism and it's al Qaeda.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I knew who they were. I knew what their intentions were.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is it. They pulled this thing off. We're going to battle stations.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we were all evacuated after that second plane went in because we thought the next one, that is the Shanksville plane, might be headed for us. It was complete chaos.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Plane flew in under my office. My two assistants looked out the window and saw a 757 fly in under their feet.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The order then went out for the building to be evacuated, except for the counter terrorism analysts.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We essentially decamped from the high rises and moved on into the operations center.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I said look, she says we can't go, but you know, if you want to leave, I'll cover for you. And not one of those people left.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nineteen guys, look at their faces. Think about the tragic, terrible consequences -- 19, only 19. Nineteen representing thousands who went through training camps in Afghanistan; 19 representing all those who were sponsored and trained and blessed these young men on that day.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's hard to talk. I have to say the worst moment of my life happened in about November, because right after the bombing, you're just so busy and everybody -- cry at home, come to work, be professional, do your job, go home, cry at home, come to work, be professional, do your job.
People were very focused running around getting the job done. About November, things started to slow down a little bit and the guilt sets in. That is just the worst. I'm sorry, I'm going to cry now. Feeling like you wish you could have done something, but especially when all the criticism starts to come in. People would say things in Congress like, you were negligent.
I was like really? What did you know about bin Laden before 2001? Nothing. You didn't help us at all. Now you're blaming us for having tried.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not a matter of scapegoating. This is a matter of accountability.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What does the term accountability mean to you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Prior to September 11th, U.S. intelligence officials possessed terrorist information that if properly handled could have disrupted or possibly prevented the terrorist attack.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It seems from your testimony --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The year 2002, FBI at that time --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has anyone in the CIA been held accountable for the failures of September 11th or the events leading up to it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jennifer called me not long after 9/11 screaming at me on the phone and we were just in -- we were a two- second walk from each other, different phones, but you did this, this is your fault, you didn't report on so and so, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And I screamed back at her and slammed the phone down. And at the time, I was really angry. And I actually really never spoke to her again. But looking back on it, I think it's just -- it was just a manifestation of her passion and her sense of own sense of guilt. I mean, everybody felt it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were told to evacuate Yemen. The entire team already boarded the plane. And I was asked that I will stay -- I should stay, and to talk to an individual named Abdur Bak (ph), Abu Jindal (ph).
We showed him a photo book that has a lot of photos in it. He identified bin Laden. He identified Ayman Zawahiri. He identified the usual suspects that there was no way he would never know. But he didn't identify anyone from the second tier, no one. And then he closed the book, I don't have anything else. I don't know anyone.
So I asked him please, can you look at it again. But I just -- please, look at it again. He was annoyed. Listen, I just did. There was nothing. For friendship's sake. We're friends. So he did. Same thing. So I laughed. I went like --
To Bob, I said see, I told you.
I told Bob, my friend -- I told him that you're basically faking. You're not cooperating at all. And I think I won the bet. What are you talking about, I'm cooperating. Come on, really? You're cooperating? Do you think I just flew all the way from D.C. to talk to you about this kind of like small talk and I don't know who you are, I don't know what you know?
This guy, for example, he was in your guest house in 1999. He was sick. You were taking care of him, putting soup on his lips. And you claim you have no idea who this guy is. I know a lot about your organization. Maybe some of these people in the book are in my custody. Maybe some of the people in the book are friends of mine. Maybe they are my sources.
Every time I ask you a question, most probably I know the answer for. And that's how I gauge if you're cooperating or not. So you want to start from the beginning. He said yes.
So we showed him the book again. He identified almost everyone in the book that we know is involved, from the East Africa Embassy bombing, from the USS Cole, to include eight of the hijackers. He still insisted that bin Laden would never do anything like this. And I said -- and he said no, bin Laden did it. He said bin Laden did it, who told you. You did.
He was mad. He was furious, because he thought I was putting words in his mouth. I said no, you told me that al Qaeda was behind it, definitely. And I took a manila envelope that I had. I put the photos that he identified, the seven hijackers or eight hijackers -- I put them all in front of him. I said you want to know the hijackers? Those are the hijackers.
You told me they were al Qaeda members. You told me that. He was in total shock. He put his hand like this, and he starts shaking. And he asked for, you know, five minutes. I gave him five minutes, came back, said so what do you think now. He said, I think the sheikh went crazy. What do you want?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My job is to kill al Qaeda. Either get shoulder to shoulder, get with us or get out of our way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OSAMA BIN LADEN, TERRORIST: (foreign language)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A small group of people, many of them women, were blamed. They were blamed. They failed to connect the dots. Connect the dots. If I hear that -- the Washington machine turned on them and said it's your fault. Do a line diagram and you failed to connect the dots. The dots were there. It's us who decide that we need to erase the dots. Hello. They're coming at us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something that people don't fully grasp is how alone the CIA felt in this period of time. Just by virtue of the evolution of events and history, we ended up at this moment in time with kind of unique knowledge of this phenomenon, al Qaeda. I think the feeling all of us had was this is on our shoulders to prevent this from ever happening again.
The day of 9/11, the president pulled us together and said, I want to see a war plan here. Well, we had been working on this for a long time. We were ready to go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The challenge when you look at al Qaeda after 9/11 was to understand it well enough first to disrupt it and then dismantle it. We're not in the business of disruption alone, because if you disrupt an organization, the adversary is so committed -- I mean, they believe that what they do is inspired by a holy book -- that they'll just go on and plot another attack.
So the business really became dismantlement, how do we destroy it. That's a people business. How do you find the operators, financiers, trainers, et cetera? And how can you know where they're going to be tomorrow so you can pick them up.
The explosion of intelligence at CIA after 9/11 is hard to imagine. You have a small group of people in ALEC station who are looking at the problem pre-9/11. They had limited resources. After 9/11, that small core group of people is dwarfed by the newcomers into the centerpost 9/11. It was a foundational change in the organization.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They needed managerial horsepower to support the increase in people and budget. I did not know enough about al- Qaeda. Just what little I had read in the press, it was not my specialty. But, you know, if you've had 25 years of experience, you come with a pretty good sense of what needs to be done, even if it's a new target for you.
Pretty quickly, you learn, but you need to learn about that target. I became the head of the counter terror center just about the time when we were dealing with all of these threats. I mean, it was daily, constant intelligence coming about a second wave of attacks. But I had a reputation for building strong teams.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The phone rang. A senior came on line and basically said you need to come back. You know the gravity of this situation. You need to come back and do what you do.
Basically came back to be the senior manager for the worldwide effort against al Qaeda. I had a multidimensional responsibility. I had to protect my people, you know. We changed the rule book a bit. We were empowered more. We did things more aggressive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My job is to kill al Qaeda. Either get shoulder-to-shoulder, get with us, or get out of our way.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had been focusing on capturing Abu Zubaida. He knew who the leadership was. He knew their methods of attack, the targets. He was the highest al Qaeda terrorist that we had ever captured. We captured him in March. He was severely wounded. And we knew we had to get him out of Pakistan. And in the past, the way the U.S. had dealt with issues like this was to transfer the terrorist to a friendly country for interrogation. But we needed to take responsibility for high-level terrorists ourselves. So we understood what we had to do. And we did it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We took a lot of bad guys off the streets. They got put up. And it's now public knowledge in nice little -- let's say boutique locations.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Basically you have two things you have to bring with you into an interrogation room, especially with individuals like al Qaeda. You have to bring knowledge and you have to bring empathy. If you don't have those two, I think most probably, you're going to fail.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He gave us a couple pieces of information for that early phase. But then he stopped talking. When he regained his strength, he stopped talking. And we became convinced that we had to come up with a new alternative for doing this, because he was not working.
You can't argue with success. And the fact of the matter is that we were extremely successful. Once we started using the techniques on Abu Zubaida, once he became compliant, we started to collect incredible intelligence.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eight of the twelve techniques, in my humble opinion, were pretty wimpy stuff. You know, like slapping. Give me a break. It might be unpleasant to slap somebody, but it's not torture. Grabbing somebody from the lapels, bring him into you? It may be unpleasant and it's an attention grabber, but it's not torture.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We didn't ask for this. We did not ask to get attacked. They did it. And so if we can't make them uncomfortable to save lives, then we've missed the boat here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe that the intention was we can never allow this to happen. Let's do whatever needs to be done.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just straight-up haters. There is no reasoning with them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some individuals who were, at the time, in places to make decisions believe that the only reason you deal with these individuals is by techniques like this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you deal with some of the hardcore detainees, they might have become compliant and they may be jovial and engaging. But if you ask them what are you going to do if you ever get out? I'm going to come kill you, my friend.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All the information that came from Abu Zubaida, we got before waterboarding. Most of these things came from traditional interrogation techniques, by showing people evidence, by pitting detainees against each other, by pocket letter. So the traditional interrogation techniques work tremendously.
RODRIGUEZ: We had the interrogators and we had the debriefers.
Interrogators would work with a detainee. And once they became compliant, they would step back. And the debriefers, the interrogating analysts, the people who knew the most about the target would step in and would begin to question them.
Jennifer Matthews was there sitting in front of Abu Zubaydah asking him questions.
SOUFAN: There is a big difference between being an expert behind a desk and being a field expert.
RODRIGUEZ: You can't argue with success. And the fact of the matter is that we were extremely successful.
Once we started using the techniques on Abu Zubaydah, and once he became compliant, we started to collect incredible intelligence. Abu Zubaydah gave us the playbook of how to go after these individuals. So, in short order, every chief of operations was either captured or killed.
MARTIN: Ramzi Binalshibh, Asiri (ph), Hambali, KSM, remember that guy? That was a nice one.
But they had him in a Arab yuppie outfit, looking very prim and proper. I'm like, forget this. I want every guy, that guy downrange to know what their future is. This is their mack daddy. This is their chief gangster. This is your future.
SOUFAN: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was water-boarded 183 times.
RODRIGUEZ: They tried to quantity the numbers of pourings of water. And, eventually, the pourings of water used in water-boarding became times. So 183 total pourings of water on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed became 183 times, which is crazy.
SOUFAN: Look, it's not FBI vs. CIA. I know for a fact that everything that we have been told that resulted because of water- boarding, that's not true.
RODRIGUEZ: Only three terrorists with American blood on their hands were ever water-boarded. In many cases, it was just a few days. In the case of Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, it was just a few weeks.
SOUFAN: This program evolved, because some of the stuff that they tried to do was not working. And during the evolution process, I realized that we shouldn't be part of this. And we -- I shouldn't be even a witness for this. And I reported it to our headquarters and headquarters pulled us out. MUDD: We all knew Americans would find out at some point about everything we were up to. There were no illusions.
And so you have to try to provide a lens of history that doesn't exist yet. I understand people are uncomfortable with this. But the options we had were not very good.
OSAMA BIN LADEN, AL QAEDA LEADER (through translator): People of America this talk is for you, about how to prevent another Manhattan. Before I begin, I say to you that security is an indispensable pillar of human life, and that free men do not forfeit their security.
GEN. STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL (RET.), FORMER U.S. COMMANDER IN AFGHANISTAN: You can flirt with the idea that I can cross the line and go into the dark side and then I can walk back, because I'm going on the dark side for a good purpose. And there were times when that may be appropriate, but it is dangerous. It's easier next time to cross.
MUDD: There's an aspect of the intelligence business called targeting. I think this is a revolution, for a couple of reasons.
Just in the past 10 years, the agency has transitioned from strategic intelligence to tactical intelligence that helps you identify the movements and locations of one specific individual. I'm not just worried about what al Qaeda looks like strategically. I want an analyst who's spending all their time looking at one target with one name and people whose whole goal in life is following one human being.
BAKOS: I went to the other women who had become targeting officers when I moved over, Jennifer Matthews and some of the other women who had already paved the way, just to ask them, how do I do this? I have to build this from the ground up, kind of like they did on the bin Laden side. How do I do this?
We still didn't have a great technical tool to do that. I built a spreadsheet. And when I reached out to Barbara and Gina (ph) and a few other women, they just said, that's how we do it. Go for it. That's exactly how you get it done.
MUDD: You're leaving a digital trail every day. So are terrorists when that person travels, when that person gets on a phone, when we get information from a courier in al Qaeda about who he's touching and we bounce it against information we might have found out two years ago.
They're looking at a human terrorist in the field, and they might send a cable to a station that results in action against that target the next day. Somebody who wants in the fight, that's what a targeter is.
BAKOS: You have to intimately know the target that you're going after, how you think that person is going to act, react, what they're going to do that day, what their strategy is, who they're going to talk to, what are their priorities in life. Is it wife number one? Is it wife number two?
I was in Baghdad shortly after the war started. And it was kind of like being in the Wild West. It was complete chaos. Bin Laden was initially excited about this. He was excited about Iraq. This was something he couldn't, at the time, pull off. So, he was happy to support the endeavor.
He was such a brutal terrorist, I just felt like we owed it to the people of Iraq to remove him.
It seems so strange that I never met Zarqawi. My former colleagues in the Jordanian intelligence service used to call him my boyfriend.
ABU MUSAB AL ZARQAWI, AL QAEDA (through translator): I am the emir of al Qaeda in Iraq.
BAKOS: I felt like I knew Zarqawi probably too well.
ZARQAWI (through translator): Your dear brother, Abu Musab al Zarqawi.
BAKOS: He was a quiet guy in a pathological sort of way. He was a monster. There were calls at 2:00, 3:00 in the morning from the group chief every time a bombing happened, every time he set off a VBIED, every time he targeted a mosque or anything.
You know, I was thinking about him 24/7. And it just -- it wasn't pleasant after a while.
MARTIN: The model, to me, is very clear. Our special forces, our JSOC analysts, their analysts, our analysts, their operators, our operators were working in hand-in-hand. They were downrange. They were downrange in our fuel stations assisting in operations, bringing that expertise there, and the lessons and the ability to take intelligence operations combined with special operations to create a synergy, a deadly synergy.
BAKOS: And your job as a targeting officer in a war theater is to help point boots on the ground or something up above toward a target and be as accurate as possible.
MCCHRYSTAL: For me, war is something, like, radioactive that you shouldn't touch unless you have done a tremendous amount of understanding of just the damage that it will do.
You can flirt with the idea that I can cross the line and go into the dark side and then I can walk back, because I'm going on the dark side for a good purpose. And there were times when that may be appropriate, but it is dangerous. It's easier next time to cross. BAKOS: I did not like being on a raid. That wasn't -- I was an analyst. I wasn't -- I just didn't -- I...
MUDD: I think there are questions about an intelligence organization that slowly gets involved in executing these types of global counterterrorism operations. That's a real mind-set change. The war was not an agnostic video game.
It was a personal game where you know you're responsible, not only for the lives of Americans, but for going up against an adversary that you have got to kill or capture.
MCCHRYSTAL: August of 2004, I think we did 18 raids that month in Iraq, our force. Two years later, in 2006, same month, Iraq also, we did 300 raids.
Our ability to collect intelligence, act on intelligence and then collect more intelligence had taken home an industrial size and speed to it.
ADM. MICHAEL MULLEN, FORMER JOINTS CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: We had executed thousands of these kinds of raids in Iraq and Afghanistan. And we got better and better at them.
So it was that evolution, in particular, with the CIA in ways that we just couldn't have imagined in 2001 or 2002, but were absolutely critical, as it turns out, in order to be able to meet this threat.
BAKOS: But you definitely need to know what your moral center is and how you define that for yourself in order to be able to do that job. I worked in a center where my job was to hunt a person down to capture or kill. I had to be OK with that. And the paradox of wanting to save the women and children of Iraq and kill someone in order to do that wasn't lost on me, by any means. But I can justify that for myself.
MARTIN: He jumped back. His body language jumped back. He changed. And he said, no, no, no. Look, we all know, even as little kids, if suddenly you're reacting going no, no, no, it probably means yes, yes, yes.
HASLER: The war on terror. How can you have a war on terror when terrorism is a tactic? You have a war against people.
So the question immediately becomes, who are the people that we're fighting the war against? And I think, still, most people don't understand why they hate us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So don't be astonished when they prepare for the crusader plot with all the latest technology and weaponry.
MCCHRYSTAL: Some strikes are necessary. But if our solution to this kind of problem is to just strike without trying to take effective efforts to prevent the rise of threats, it's endless.
HASLER: Shock and awe does not end wars on terrorism. It only creates more terrorism. Money starts to flow to terrorist groups. People become more radicalized. Wars on terror should be fought under the radar as quietly as possible. But counterterrorist operations are by their nature not very satisfying to a frightened public.
BAKOS: We were working closely with the bin Laden unit. And the dynamic of the relationship between Zarqawi and core al Qaeda sort of turn a lot of assessments on what was happening with core al Qaeda on its head. Bin Laden didn't know, I'm sure, what he was getting into with Zarqawi, how fundamentally different he was from some of his other al Qaeda leaders.
He did not have the same academic background that a lot of the al Qaeda scholars had. He didn't have the same, for lack of a better way to put it, professional sense of jihad as al Qaeda did. He didn't understand the rules of the game. He just thought he could enact any strategy, regardless of how brutal it was.
It was surprising to hear that Zarqawi was not being deferential. He was being insubordinate.
Hassan Ghul was their emissary from al Qaeda. He was actually bringing over another letter from al Qaeda central to Zarqawi about how he should be conducting operations in Iraq. When we realized that Hassan Ghul would be traveling to Iraq, we decided this was an opportunity for us.
So we actually planned an operation with -- it was my team with our base and the Kurdish government -- to capture him. And we definite -- the Kurdish government kept him and we definitely gained a lot of information out of him, including al-Kuwaiti's name and the role that he played with bin Laden. Does that answer?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know how this name Ahmad al-Kuwaiti came up?
BAKOS: It was in the course of a debriefing with the Kurdish government. Hassan Ghul gave up the name of al-Kuwaiti, the courier.
RODRIGUEZ: Ahmed from Kuwait, it was significant information, even though we knew that the pseudonym al-Kuwaiti was a throwaway. It's like saying Jose the Puerto Rican. It could be anybody.
The key is what he told us about bin Laden not using any other means of communicating. We asked Khalid Sheikh Mohammed about the information of the courier. And he kind of just...
MARTIN: He jumped back. His body language jumped back. He changed. And he said, no, no, no. Look, we all know, even as little kids, if suddenly you're reacting going no, no, no, it probably means yes, yes, yes.
RODRIGUEZ: He had not been truthful. But, later -- and this is the benefits of having black sites -- we intercepted a communication from him to some of the other detainees. He told his fellow detainees not to say a word about the courier, thereby telling us a lot about the courier, that he is of tremendous importance and that we were onto something.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jen Matthews was the chief of base, of the CIA base down there. I asked her, do you think we're going to get him? She smiled and said, we will get him eventually, and I hope I'm a part of it. So...
MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: In late 2007, the bin Laden cell came to be. Some of these people had been doing this well before 9/11. I mean, they go all the way back to Alex Station (ph). These people had spent their lives on this target.
They said, "We're going to try another approach. It's got to be the courier network. We've got some information on couriers. We're going to begin to build from that."
The way it works is information comes in. You catalog it; you organize it. That little nugget there could sit fallow on your shelves for four or five years until something else comes in that's suddenly very illuminating about something that you may have had for a very long period of time.
That actually happened in the work we did to hunt for bin Laden by trying to track his courier.
RODRIGUEZ: It took years for the agency to recruit the human source that eventually gave us the true name. That's why we were in the business of condensing human intelligence because, in many cases, all these fancy gadgets and everything else won't give you the information that you really need. A true name. And we finally got his true name, which is whatever it is. Whatever Arabic name, you know. But the true name we were able to find out a lot about him. From then on, you know, the agency was able to do what it does so well. Track the guy and find him.
HAYDEN: Very soon after that, I briefed the president. I said, "I've got to tell you, Mr. President. My guys, they seem optimistic about this. They actually think this could lead somewhere."
GRAPHIC: The CIA's bin Laden targeters were sent into the field. Their base was near Pakistan's tribal areas.
MARTY MARTIN, FORMER CASE OFFICER: You're projecting force, and intelligence and assets across that border. And that's what post represented. Their focus was across over there in Waziristan, because that's where the enemy was. GRAPHIC: The CIA base chief had been hunting bin Laden for 15 years.
MAJ. MICHAEL WALTZ, COMMANDED SPECIAL FORCES ALONG THE BORDER: Jen Matthews was the chief of base, of the CIA base down there. She was there to have her fingers right on the pulse of the information that was coming through the base. She never enunciated that, so to speak, in such stark terms. But my sense was she was there to target and kill senior al-Qaeda leaders.
I asked her, "Do you think we're going to get him?"
She smiled and said, "We'll get him eventually, and I hope I'm a part of it." So...
JOBY WARRICK, COVERS THE CIA FOR THE "WASHINGTON POST": He gets out of the car on the wrong side, and he's chanting the words in Arabic, "God is great." Before anyone could stop Balawi, he fumbles for his detonator.
GRAPHIC: In early 2009, the CIA developed a further lead into al-Qaeda's leadership. It began in Jordan, with a blogger radicalized by the Iraq war. Humam al-Balawi.
WARRICK: He's not at all what you'd expect as a radical. He's a doctor. He's working in a refugee clinic. It turned out he had this very dangerous hobby on the side. He was writing this blog and getting himself in trouble.
Over a period of months, he becomes one of the most visible writers on the Internet, and the CIA and the Jordanian intelligence go all out to recruit Balawi to be a spy. Over several weeks, they convince him to go to work for them.
HUMAM AL-BALAWI, DOCTOR CONVERTED INTO SPY: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
GRAPHIC: Honestly, the story began when they raided my home in the middle of the night. They took me to the headquarters of Jordanian intelligence. They interrogated me. They offered me millions of dollars. They bought my plane ticket and sent me to Waziristan on a mission.
WARRICK: Balawi finds his way into Pakistan. Very likely, someone suspected him as being an informant and maybe cut his head off. Nobody hears anything from Balawi for three months.
Suddenly, he's back on the radar screen again, and he's saying, "I've gotten inside." Balawi is a doctor. He's now beginning to treat the No. 2 leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri.
BALAWI: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
GRAPHIC: I sent them video of al-Qaeda leaders. WARRICK: When Balawi sends this information to the CIA headquarters, the place goes crazy. Even the White House gets briefed. This young man, Balawi, is going to take us right to No. 2, maybe even to No. 1.
BALAWI: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
GRAPHIC: They believed my information was accurate. They asked for a meeting in person.
WARRICK: The meeting has to take place in a place where the CIA can completely control the environment. And, by default, this becomes the CIA basic post. It falls to Jennifer Matthews to come up with a plan to get Balawi inside this basic post without being detected.
The problem is that nobody in the CIA has ever met with Balawi. They make arrangements for him to come into the base without him being searched or checked, because they're afraid that somebody might recognize him, that he might be compromised.
BALAWI: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
GRAPHIC: Oh God, destroy the American and Jordanian intelligence agencies. Oh God, destroy and demolish them. Oh God, help us undertake an extraordinary killing. Oh God, accept my blood. Oh God, accept my martyrdom.
RODRIGUEZ: People have been too quick to blame Jennifer. And that I reject totally, because there were many people looking at this operation. People wanted to believe that the source was good.
BALAWI: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
GRAPHIC: They will think that I'm a spy, but then they'll see me transform into a bomb.
RODRIGUEZ: There were also pressures coming from the White House, and those were saying pursue, pursue, pursue. You need to do this.
BALAWI: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
GRAPHIC: They'll see me transform into a rocket.
RODRIGUEZ: I'm sure there were people -- voices out there saying, "Maybe not. Maybe we should slow down."
That happens in many operations. It didn't happen in this one.
WARRICK: So they set up a plan to get him through the check points without being even looked at by the guards. He gets further into the base, goes through a second check point, goes to a third check point and gets all the way into the innermost heart of the base, the inner sanctum.
BALAWI: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) GRAPHIC: I will get you, CIA team. I will get you down.
WARRICK: There are a total of 14 CIA officers lined up to meet him.
BALAWI: Death will come to you from an unexpected way.
WARRICK: Balawi gets out of the car on the wrong side, and he's chanting the words in Arabic, "God is great." Before anybody could stop Balawi, he fumbles for his detonator...
BALAWI: Look, this is for you. It's not watch. It's detonator. To kill as much as I can. They will get sent to the hill.
WARRICK: Balawi hits the switch, blows himself up, and there's a terrific explosion that kills almost everybody who's within direct sight of Balawi at the time of the explosion.
WALTZ: We heard the explosion, but when we saw the smoke coming out from exactly where I knew Chapman (ph) was that I knew the base had been hit. We knew that someone had gotten inside the base, and we knew that it was the agency that had been hit. And we knew it was bad.
By the time we got on the scene, it was an ugly scene. There were parts everywhere. The conventional unit that was there landed the helicopter right in the courtyard and evacced as many of the wounded as possible.
He said Jen didn't make it. Our logistics chief that we had worked with to close the base on a daily basis didn't make it. And some of his -- some of her case officers never made it even back to the -- you know, they died on the scene.
RODRIGUEZ: When you do this, do this and do this, eventually, you lose one. And we lost. We lost really good people.
NADA BAKOS, JOINED THE CIA IN 2000: When I heard that Jennifer was in post, I was shocked that she was taken out by bin Laden. I mean, that just -- it just seemed so surreal that that would happen to her, after she spent so many years trying to prevent another tragedy by him. That he, in effect, had anything to do with her death is incredibly concerning.
HAYDEN: There is some criticism in the agency. Frankly, I understand that. But you don't get Abbottabad without Coast (ph). An agency that's not willing to do that is not willing to take the risks that were evident at Coast (ph), which unfortunately ended tragically, that agency that's not willing to do that is not an agency to do what it had to do to build that trail all the way to Abbottabad.
In fact, in fact, some of the human beings who built the trail to Abbottabad were actually killed at Coast (ph). This kind of Team America in the hunt for bin Laden and the fight against al-Qaeda, and there is powerful connective tissue between the two events.
MUSTAFA ANSARI, SAUDI JOURNALIST WITH ACCESS TO BIN LADEN FAMILY: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
GRAPHIC: According to bin Laden, this operation was a great victory. The bomber struck a military target. That was important to al-Qaeda. They targeted high-ranking members of the military and the CIA. These were very important targets.
BARBARA SUDE, FORMER SENIOR AL-QAEDA ANALYST: I got a call from another -- a former colleague. And he said, "Turn on the news." You know, I was at home. "Turn on the news. The president is going to make an announcement." And I had a feeling that it's been a good day at the office.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good evening.
GRAPHIC: Bin Laden lived in Abbottabad from 2005. His family did not leave the compound. The courier was their only link to the outside.
ANSARI: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
GRAPHIC: He was convinced that, no matter who was searching for him, an al-Qaeda warrior cannot be killed unless he makes a mistake. What was bin Laden's mistake? His love of power. He was regularly sending the courier back and forth. He wanted to stay in the picture, in constant contact with his deputy. He could have stayed quiet and stayed safe.
Bin Laden's ideology revolved around death and jihad. The truth is, he never really sought death. He used to say that death for his cause was a beautiful thing. But he never sought death himself. He hung onto life as long as he could. He did everything possible to stay alive.
GRAPHIC: Bin Laden knew the CIA was hunting him. He did not know they were tracking his courier.
CINDY STORER, BEGAN TRACKING BIN LADEN FOR THE CIA IN 1995: The hunt for the courier to bin Laden makes complete sense to me. It was based on all of these years of experience working with a very tight- knit group of people who really cared about this and supported each other. We invented the technique that works. And it's the technique that got bin Laden in the end.
SUDE: I got a call from another -- a former colleague. And he said, "Turn on the news." You know, I was at home. "Turn on the news. The president is going to make an announcement." And I had a feeling that it's been a good day at the office.
OBAMA: Good evening.
SUDE: And then, finally, it's him. They got him. They got him, finally. That was -- that was really something.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: USA! USA! USA! UNIDENTIFIED MALE: USA! USA! USA!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: USA! USA! USA!
GEN. STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL, COMMANDED U.S. SPECIAL OPERATIONS UNITS: I'm not sure America has made the effort that it needs to to understand what it is we just went through. The really key part is not how to do these operations. The thing to understand is why are the people that we are fighting doing what they're doing? Why is the enemy the enemy. If you don't understand why they're doing it, it's very difficult to stop.
We don't speak the language enough. We don't understand the culture enough. We haven't taken the time to -- to not be blind, deaf and dumb in areas of the world that matter to us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a nice chapter to close. The chapter is closed, but it's not over. Sadly enough, I think we're going to be in this situation again.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bin Laden achieves, you know, spreading his ideology beyond what he probably expected it to. How do you kill an ideology? Killing one person doesn't end that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't like it. I don't want it to continue. I hope it stops. I hope we don't live in a world where you deal with an adversary that loses respect for the sanctity of human life.
But look, this isn't a picture from a video arcade. This is a human being who has a family in soul (ph). So when you confront that, what are you going to do? There are philosophical debates you can have. But at the end of the day, the question is, are you going to move or not? Yes or no? Go or no go. That's it.