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CNN SATURDAY MORNING NEWS

Interview With Gary Bowersox

Aired November 17, 2001 - 09:07   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: As the United States presses on to search for Osama bin Laden, the military is focusing on Afghanistan's extensive network of caves and tunnels. Few Americans have ever been underground in Afghanistan, but this morning, we have a man who knows the terrain very well and has been sharing his information with the Defense Department.

Gemologist Gary Bowersox joins us live from Washington. Hi, Gary.

GARY BOWERSOX, THE GEM HUNTER: Good morning, salaam aleichem.

PHILLIPS: Salaam aleichem to you.

Listen, first of all, I'm fascinated about your job, and I want to know what led you to Afghanistan in the first place, and as a gemologist, why there?

BOWERSOX: Well, shortly, I used to say, I was going to become a CPA, and I decided it was boring. So Afghanistan was much more exciting.

PHILLIPS: I can't argue with that. OK, so tell me what led you to Afghanistan, and when was your first trip?

BOWERSOX: Well, it was the gemstones. I'd entered the gem business, and in 1972, I had an invitation through our government to go, because they wanted to assist the new government under Daoud with exports in foreign currency. And the only thing they knew they had to sell was lapis. And I had gone into the gem business.

PHILLIPS: Well, let's talk about these tunnels and caves. And what did you find? And describe them to us, describe the inside to someone who may have never, you know, have any idea what it's like inside one of those.

BOWERSOX: Well, in one of the areas that they're searching at this point in time, would be between Kandahar and Jagdilik (ph), or that road that runs between Kabul and Pakistan, through the Khyber Pass. This is layered on top with limestone, and underneath is a very hard marble.

I don't know the situation, truly, in the area of Khas (ph), which was a base that bin Laden was hired to build in the early '80s, but I'm certain that he probably has a tunnel somewhere near the center of the earth at this point in time. If I was him, I would.

PHILLIPS: Well, he's an engineer, right? So it's pretty hard...

BOWERSOX: Correct.

PHILLIPS: ... to even understand what he's possible of creating, or where he could be hiding.

BOWERSOX: And he's had several years to accomplish this mission also.

PHILLIPS: So what did you discover when you went into these caves and tunnels? What fascinated you?

BOWERSOX: Well, of course, we were looking for gemstones, so we had a little different purpose than trying to live down there. Air is one problem, there is a lack of generators in most of these caves and tunnels, so they aren't tremendously deep. But other ones, and I'm sure he has prepared generators for ventilation, et cetera, and living conditions underneath.

PHILLIPS: Now, when you've seen -- you -- did you actually see areas where people lived? I mean, did you see beds and pictures hanging up? And was it kind of a homey feel for some folks?

BOWERSOX: I haven't been in tunnels such as that. But on top of some of them where mujahideen had headquarters when they were fighting the Russians, we slept on top of some of the headquarters at different times. And they were to the point that they could live underneath the ground, yes.

PHILLIPS: How long did it take you to get into these places, and is it -- you know, do they just go on forever and ever and ever? And how did you keep track of where you were going and not get lost?

BOWERSOX: Well, I usually had some Afghan friends that I was with...

PHILLIPS: Good friends.

BOWERSOX: ... some of them are quite distance, very few roads, and of course the other problem in this whole area is land mines left over from the Soviet invasion.

PHILLIPS: Wow. Now, did you meet with any political leaders while you were there?

BOWERSOX: Yes, definitely. You can't get in and out without meeting with political leaders. And one of the things that I can say now that I don't expect it to be that terribly long before they actually locate a refined area where he is, because the local people are starting to feel free to turn on him. And as you've seen on the news recently, the Pashtun people are now working with the Northern Alliance and others, and pinning down the area where there's a possibility of bin Laden staying. PHILLIPS: Now, what was it that you told the Defense Department? Did they contact you, or did you contact them? And what type of information did you share with them?

BOWERSOX: Well, some of it's not to be talked about, but most of it now is over. This was right after the September situation. Of course, they wanted to see my maps and pictures and what I had available as far as knowledge of the different areas.

PHILLIPS: So did you have information that was actually stronger than what the U.S. military had?

BOWERSOX: Well, I had some fairly detailed maps, topographical maps, of some of these areas, because of our geological research.

PHILLIPS: Do you think Osama bin Laden will be captured?

BOWERSOX: Oh, shortly, I believe. I don't know if they'll capture him or he'll end up being killed. I can't tell you there. But I think they'll be able to find where he is relatively soon.

PHILLIPS: Gary, before we let you go, are you going back?

BOWERSOX: Yes, right now we're working on a symposium to develop their gem mines. We want to create employment for the Afghan people, and I think we should be able to do that, because they have so many natural resources, including the gems, which they could immediately stop fighting and start fighting the mountains and create jobs and employment and foreign currency and taxes for their government -- new government.

PHILLIPS: That's a great effort, Gary. Well, can you bring me back a gem? Do you mind?

BOWERSOX: Right now. Send me a check.

PHILLIPS: You -- OK, I'll think about that. Gary Bowersox, the gem hunter, as he's most well known. Thank you so much, Gary.

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