Oct 07, 2002

Bin Laden audiotape

SHOW: CNN AMERICAN MORNING WITH PAULA ZAHN 07:00 October 7, 2002 Monday Transcript # 100701CN.V74 SECTION: News; International LENGTH: 975 words HEADLINE: Bin Laden on Tape? BYLINE: Paula Zahn, Peter Bergen HIGHLIGHT: An audiotape is being analyzed this morning to try to determine whether it is, indeed, the voice of Osama bin Laden, warning of more terrorist attacks. The two-minute tape was first aired yesterday on the Al-Jazeera television network. BODY: PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: An audiotape is being analyzed this morning to try to determine whether it is, indeed, the voice of Osama bin Laden, warning of more terrorist attacks. The two-minute tape was first aired yesterday on the Al-Jazeera television network. Over a picture of bin Laden, the voice on the tape says in Arabic, "I want to explain to the American people why we attacked New York and Washington." The voice continues -- quote: "I am inviting you to understand the message of my attack, which came as an answer to your crimes. Evil brings evil." Joining us now from Washington to discuss the message and the possible authenticity of the tape, our terrorism analyst, Peter Bergen. Good morning -- Peter. Thanks for being with us. PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Good morning, Paula. ZAHN: We should make it clear that CNN cannot confirm whether this tape is, indeed, authentic. But before we get to your reaction to it, I wanted to share with the audience a little bit more of what was said on this tape. He goes on to say, whoever it is speaking: "That's why I tell you, as God is my witness, whether America increases or reduces tensions, we will surely answer back in the same manner with God's blessing and grace. And I promise you that the Islamic youth are preparing for you what will fill your hearts with horror, and they will target the centers of your economy until you stop your tyranny in terror, until one of us dies. We ask God to give us help." What do you make of the timing of the release of this tape, Peter? BERGEN: Well, Paula, I mean, around 9/11, the anniversary of 9/11, there was another tape also reportedly from bin Laden, saying much the same kind of things -- praising the hijackers and saying there would be more attacks against the United States. I think that, you know, the tape doesn't really necessarily mean anything in terms of whether bin Laden is alive or dead. That tape could have been made in September or October of last year and only be released now. Al-Jazeera continues to receive tapes from the al Qaeda leadership, or people saying they're from al Qaeda leadership. Obviously, al Qaeda wants to say that it's still in the game, that it still remains a threat. We saw not only the release of the audiotape around the 9/11 anniversary, we also saw the release of an interview with two of the senior al Qaeda leaders that had been given to one of Al Jazeera's correspondents. So, I think al Qaeda wants to get the message that it's still out there and still remains a threat. ZAHN: What can we glean from the fact that this is only a two- minute excerpt, when in the past, his ramblings have ranged from 30 minutes to an hour? Is that significant? BERGEN: I don't really know about the length. I mean, one thing that is interesting about it, he mentions further attacks on the American economy in that tape. One thing that bin Laden and his senior leaders well-understood was the economic cost of 9/11. Bin Laden gloated that it cost the United States' economy $1.4 trillion. One of his top aides said the American airlines had to lay off a lot of people. And we just saw this recent attack on a tanker in Yemen, a French tanker, and it's not clear if it's terrorism or not at the moment. But it might fit with al Qaeda's desire to kind of attack the West in an economic manner. And of course, attacking a tanker in Yemen, already oil prices have gone up slightly as a result of this unexplained accident or terrorist attack. It's still not clear which in Yemen that just happened within the last 24 hours. ZAHN: You say it's not clear which. Are you leaning in one particular direction? Of course, the folks that own the tanker think it could potentially be terrorism, and yet, military officials on the ground in Yemen have told CNN it could also be an explosion caused by some kind of an electrical problem. BERGEN: I think traditionally, Yemeni officials have been rather reluctant to acknowledge terrorism on their soil. When the USS Cole was attacked October 12, 2000, Yemeni officials said it was an accident or some kind of unexplained incident for several days before admitting finally that it was terrorism. It's a very sensitive subject in Yemen. Terrorist groups have continued to exist in Yemen. The Yemeni government is trying its best to get rid of those groups. But the fact is that this tanker was offshore in an area where there are quite a number of bin Laden sympathizers. It's offshore at Hadramawt, which is in southern Yemen, which is in fact the area where the bin Laden family comes from. It was also the area that the two people who blew up the USS Cole came from. So, the jury is still out. Obviously, something suspicious happened, and it would certainly make sense with al Qaeda's desire to attack economic targets, oil shipping would fit very nicely into that. ZAHN: Very quickly in closing, we've got 10 seconds left. A few hours -- coming back to the timing of this tape, a few hours before the tape was released, Hamid Karzai said, "The more we don't hear from bin Laden and the more time passes, there is more likelihood that he is probably dead or seriously wounded anywhere." Could it that this tape was released to counteract what he said? BERGEN: That's an interesting question. I'm not sure. I think that it takes quite a lot of time to get these tapes to Al-Jazeera, is my belief. And I think that Karzai is probably right. At a minimum, he is seriously in bad health. And at a maximum, he may well be dead.