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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Report: Moussaoui Tied to 9/11 Plot

Aired November 20, 2002 - 12:29   ET

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

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We are following another developing story right now, as well -- a significant story.
And for that, I want to bring in our justice correspondent, Kelli Arena.

Tell us what you have found out -- Kelli.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, sources tell CNN that Ramzi Binalshibh -- he's an alleged coordinator of the September 11 attacks. Well, he has told U.S. investigators that accused terrorist, Zacarias Moussaoui, met with senior al Qaeda operative, Khalid Sheik Mohammad, in the winter of the year 2000.

Now, Mohammad is believed to be the mastermind behind the September 11 attacks.

Binalshibh also told investigators, according to our sources, that Mohammad provided Moussaoui with contacts in the United States. Binalshibh apparently admits to sending Moussaoui money on at least two occasions. And also, according to sources, Binalshibh has told interrogators that Mohammad was not confident using Moussaoui, and thought that he was drawing too much attention to himself. Binalshibh said that Mohammad decided to use Moussaoui in the September 11 attacks -- not to use him, unless it was absolutely necessary.

Now, that disclosure was first made in "The Washington Post" today.

Binalshibh was captured in a raid in Karachi in Pakistan in September. He's been in U.S. custody at a secret location ever since.

Moussaoui, as you know, was arrested in the August just before the September 11 attacks. He is defending himself. He has asked the judge for access to Binalshibh, because he thought that perhaps Binalshibh would clear him, at least according to him in his documents, he thought that that would be able to clear his name, because he has said that he is not connected at all to the September 11 attacks.

We are told by sources that the judge is trying to weigh that matter. It's obviously a move that the government does not want to see, Wolf, because they are interrogating Binalshibh, according to our sources. They do not want him entered into the criminal justice system. They want him just where he is at that secret location. It's a matter of national security, according to our sources. BLITZER: And he is providing apparently pretty useful information. But just to remind our viewers, Moussaoui is a French national. He was in Minnesota, and in August, a month before 9/11...

ARENA: Right.

BLITZER: ... he was picked up.

ARENA: That's right.

BLITZER: Just to bring the background to our viewers.

ARENA: There was some -- right. There were some suspicions, because he said, well, I don't need to learn how to take off or land this plane. I just want to learn how to fly the plane. There were some suspicions. The people at the flight school called local law enforcement, and Moussaoui was taken into custody in August before the September 11 attacks.

But as you know, he's been in custody ever since. He's been representing himself, and the government alleges that he was supposed to be part of that September 11 terrorism conspiracy. Moussaoui has said in open court, no, I am a member of al Qaeda, but I wasn't supposed to be part of September 11.

BLITZER: And a lot of people are still confused why he's being tried in the regular judicial system as opposed to a military tribunal.

ARENA: A military tribunal. And there's been a lot of public criticism that perhaps the government doesn't have a good case here, and may take him out of the criminal justice system and put him into a military tribunal, something that the attorney general has said he does not want. The justice officials have said that they think they have a very strong case against Moussaoui, and some of our sources have suggested that perhaps this was a strategy by the government to show that they do have a strong case, and to try to persuade the public that keeping Binalshibh where he is, is exactly where he should be.

BLITZER: All right, Kelli Arena, thanks for that good reporting. Thanks to "The Washington Post" for reporting it as well.

ARENA: That's right.

BLITZER: Thanks to both of you.

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