Dec 31, 2004

The War on Terror, 2004

COLLINS: For this week's "On Terror's Trail," we go to Washington where the FBI and Department of Homeland Security sent a new intelligence bulletin this week to the nation's police agencies. It outlined new details about al Qaeda surveillance inside the United States.
An al Qaeda operative, known as Al-Britani, is believed to have cased particular U.S. financial institutions for 9/11 planner Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. When we looked back on the year in the global war on terror Monday, CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen called the Britani capture the most significant terrorist arrest of 2004.


PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: I think most significant was the guy who went by the alias al-Britani, who was arresting in England in the summer of this year. He was casing financial institutions, as you may remember, in New Jersey and New York back before 9/11. He may also have had a plan to attack Heathrow Airport. His arrest was - he was somebody who was actively planning terrorist attacks, and I think his arrest was quite significant.

COLLINS: Peter, we also know, as we have been reporting, that terrorists struck both western and allied targets. In your mind, what is the most significant hit from the terrorists this year?

BERGEN: Well, the single most significant hit, both from a strategic point of view and also from in terms of a death toll, was the attack on Madrid back on March 11, 191 people killed as they went to work. It also changed the course of the Spanish election. It was a strategic success for al Qaeda. The Spanish electorate chose a party that was willing to withdraw its troops from Iraq, and that was a result of this Madrid attack.

COLLINS: Those images are still so upsetting to look at. More than three years since 9/11 now, as we all know, where are the allied forces in the hunt for Osama bin Laden?

BERGEN: I think they're back at zero, square one really. Bin Laden appears to have - his location is a mystery. That's according to General Barno, who's leader of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The Pakistanis are saying that they are withdrawing a certain number of people from the hunt, along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. They're even saying that bin Laden isn't in Pakistan. So, clearly, he couldn't have disappeared into thin air, but it seems that the hunt is sort of stymied at this point, Heidi.

COLLINS: What do they need to do, in your mind, in order to get closer to tracking him down? BERGEN: Well, I mean two approaches. One, of course, is the chain of custody of these videotapes and audio tapes that he keeps releasing. In fact, we're getting more tapes from him rather than less. If you could trace the chain of custody back, you would find him.

Also, it seems to me that his immediate family can't all have disappeared. He has four wives and 20 kids, many of whom are probably still in Afghanistan. If you could find them, that might be a way of eventually finding him.

COLLINS: All right, well, which new developments in 2005 will you be keeping an eye on, as far as all of this is concerned?

BERGEN: From a strategic point of view, attacks on oil installations in Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Bin Laden has sort of made that official policy in his most recent statement. We have seen a lot of attacks on these oil installations in the last year. I anticipate that to continue. We are going to pay slightly higher prices as a result of these attacks, both on oil installations and also on foreign workers in Saudi Arabia.

I think also that we're going - a very significant development is the fact that Zarqawi, the leader of the Iraqi terrorist insurgent has now actually become a member of al Qaeda. He signed an oath of allegiance, as it were, to bin Laden within the last several months. I think that's quite significant. I think also there will be more attacks on Jewish and Israeli targets. We've seen that in the past year with the attack on a Hilton Hotel in Egypt.

And finally, I think what happens in Europe is really very important about what happens with al Qaeda. We've got a situation where, as we saw with the arrest of al-Britani this summer, that there are a number of people in Europe still planning terrorist attacks inside the United States. Historically, it's been people coming from Europe into the United States, whether the 9/11 plot or somebody like al-Britani who was planning to do, where you're really seeing the problems. So I think what happens in Europe is really very important to what happens in 2005.