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CNN Presents Classroom: In the Footsteps of Bin Laden

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(CNN Student News) -- Set your VCR to record the CNN Presents Classroom Edition: In the Footsteps of Bin Laden when it airs commercial-free as a two-part program: Part I will air on Monday, January 22, 2007, and Part II will air on Monday, January 29, 2007. Both parts will air from 4:00 -- 5:00 a.m. ET on CNN. (A short feature begins at 4:00 a.m. and precedes the program.)

Program Overview

CNN, the first television news organization to interview Osama bin Laden in 1997, presents In the Footsteps of Bin Laden, a documentary on the life and mission of the al Qaeda leader. Using firsthand accounts of the people who have known him best throughout his life, In the Footsteps of Bin Laden offers numerous new details about bin Laden's transformation from a quiet, well-bred boy to the Western world's most wanted terrorist. The two-hour investigation is reported by CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour and is based on The Osama bin Laden I Know by CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen.

Warning to educators: Please preview this program as it contains images that might be inappropriate for some students.

Grade Level: 11 -- 12, College

Subject Areas: Current Issues, World History, United States History, Political Science, Journalism

Objectives: The CNN Presents Classroom Edition: In the Footsteps of Bin Laden and its discussion questions challenge students to:

  • Identify the people, places and events that have influenced Osama bin Laden;
  • Examine bin Laden's methods for promoting himself and his message;
  • Assess the motives and methods behind bin Laden's jihad against the U.S.;
  • Evaluate the value of knowing your enemy.
  • Curriculum Connections

    U.S. History Standards

    Era 10: Contemporary United States (1968 to the present)

    STANDARD 1: Recent developments in foreign policy and domestic politics.

    Standard 1C: The student understands major foreign policy initiatives.

    Examine the U.S. role in political struggles in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

    World History Standards

    Era 9: The 20th Century Since 1945: Promises and Paradoxes

    STANDARD 2: The search for community, stability and peace in an interdependent world. Standard 2D: The student understands major sources of tension and conflict in the contemporary world and efforts that have been made to address them.

  • Analyze why terrorist movements have proliferated and the extent of their impact on politics and society in various countries.
  • Assess the progress that has been made since the 1970s in resolving conflict between Israel and neighboring states.
  • The National Standards for History ( link) are published by the National Center for History in the Schools ( link).

    Discussion Questions

    1. Based on the first person accounts presented in the program, how would you characterize Osama bin Laden?

    2. What was the Sahwa, or the Islamic awakening? Where does CNN consultant Peter Bergen say that the Islamic awakening was born? Why was the Islamic awakening appealing to Osama bin Laden? According to the program, why was 1979 a critical year for the Islamic awakening?

    3. According to the program, how was Osama bin Laden influenced by the following people?

  • Sayyid Qutb
  • Abdullah Azzam (Sheik Abdullah)
  • Ayman al-Zawahari
  • Omar Abdel Rahman ("Blind Sheik")
  • 4. According to the program, what were some of the key places and events that shaped bin Laden's mission?

    5. What was the "Services Bureau"? Where was it headquartered? Who established it, and why? What was bin Laden's role in this organization? How did this organization evolve into al Qaeda?

    6. Based on the original minutes list of the first al Qaeda meetings, what were the requirements to join the terrorist organization? In what ways was al Qaeda organized like a business? How does terror expert Peter Bergen describe the original goals of al Qaeda? How did those goals shift over time?

    7. According to the program, when bin Laden founded al Qaeda, who was the target of his attacks? How did this target change over time? What does Peter Bergen say were bin Laden's motives for his holy war against the U.S.?

    8. What al Qaeda-linked terrorist attacks took place prior to September 11, 2001? According to the program, what were the goals of these attacks? How did the U.S. respond to these attacks?

    9. What rationale for the 9/11 attacks did al Qaeda operatives offer in the program? Why does Peter Bergen say that al Qaeda insiders considered 9/11 to be a "tactical success, but a strategic disaster"?

    10. How do the experts interviewed for this program explain why Osama bin Laden has been able to evade capture? Do you think that it is important that the U.S. capture Osama bin Laden? Explain.

    11. According to the program, how has bin Laden used the media to promote himself and his message? Do you think that the media should publish or air interviews with bin Laden or his associates? Explain.

    12. Prior to watching In the Footsteps of Bin Laden, what questions did you have about Osama bin Laden? To what extent did the program answer these questions? What questions about bin Laden remain unanswered? If you were a journalist, what questions would you want to investigate on the subject of terrorists and terrorism? Who would you interview, and why?

    13. In fighting a war against terrorists and terror organizations such as al Qaeda, what information do you think that the American people need to know about their enemies? What value, if any, is there in knowing your enemy? To what extent, if at all, might a better understanding and knowledge of bin Laden and al Qaeda impact U.S. efforts to defeat international terrorists and prevent future attacks? Explain. Do you think that there are any potential downsides to getting to know your enemy? Explain.

    14. What other enemies does the U.S. face in the world today? What enemies has the U.S. faced throughout its history? How might you compare bin Laden and al Qaeda with other historical and current U.S. enemies in terms of motives, goals and methods for waging war against the U.S.?


    Osama bin Laden, Sahwa, Islamic awakening, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Muslim Brotherhood, jihad, infidels, Mohammed, Jaji, Mujahideen, secular, emir, fatwa, Hezbollah, Taliban, apostates



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