Jun 15, 2004

Johnson Videotape

As you look at this tape, Peter -- and it just was released several hours ago -- what jumps out at you?

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, unfortunately it's reminiscent of some other videotapes we've seen -- for instance, the Danny Pearl videotape and also the Nick Berg videotape. Danny Pearl executed by Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the leader, the military commander of al Qaeda; Nick Berg executed by Zarqawi, the leader of an al Qaeda like group in Iraq.

The fact that this videotape has come out and they're saying that 72 hours before Paul Johnson may be killed is very, very troubling, because the demands are not going to be met. You just had Adel al- Jubeir on your program saying the Saudi government doesn't negotiate with terrorists. And I don't...

COOPER: And yet, though, the kidnappers know that these demands aren't going to be met, I'm assuming.

So why make them? BERGEN: I don't know. I mean that's a, you know, it's hard to get inside their minds.

Another thing, by the way, I noticed on the video you just saw, was that he appears to be wearing -- Paul Johnson appears to be wearing some kind of orange clothing. And if you'll remember the statements they made, they made maybe a reference to the orange clothing that al Qaeda prisoners have in Guantanamo Bay, because in a previous statement, these kidnappers have said they're going to treat the same -- their hostages the same way that people in Guantanamo are treated or people in Abu Ghraib Prison in Baghdad.

COOPER: Nick Berg, of course, wearing a similar outfit, as well. I suppose part of the idea of this tape is -- I mean even if the government is not going to respond to the demands, is that this is -- it's sort of used for recruitment purposes. I mean this sort of elevates this man, I forgot his name, Aziz al-Moqrin, I mean it sort of elevates him in this community.

BERGEN: Yes, and clearly he's been very active. He's behind an attack, the Khobar attack that you referenced just now, in which 22 people were killed; and also an attack on an oil facility in a city called Yanbu, which killed several people on May 1.

So this guy is leading the military wing of al Qaeda in the kingdom, is very public, in a way, the same sort of way that we've seen with Zarqawi in Iraq, and is clearly a very dangerous individual.

COOPER: They're also very aware of using the media and public relations. I mean the fact that this man was taken on the weekend, they already have this video up, already all over the Internet, being seen around the world, you know, they are well aware of how the media works.

BERGEN: Indeed. I mean they quickly had a statement posted on the Internet. Then they said we will have a videotape posted. That came out just in the last few hours. So it's a group that is keenly aware of the propaganda advantage they have of showing these sort of very disturbing pictures and unfortunately it will not be, I think, the last time that we see these kinds of pictures from this kind of group.

We've seen it, as I said, with Danny Pearl in the past. We've seen it with Nick Berg. And now we see it with Mr. Johnson.