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Bloody Attack on U.S. Embassy in Damascus; Azzam the American Increasingly Appears To Be Serving As American Voice of al Qaeda; Some Believe U.S. Forces Losing Ground In Fight Against Taliban in Afghanistan; Internet Film Called "Loose Change" Challenging Official Version of 9/11; Osama bin Laden's Last Known Address

Aired September 12, 2006 - 20:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: And hello, everybody. Thank you all for joining us.
Tonight's "Top Story": the trail of terror, after a bloody new series of attacks. Our in-depth coverage includes extensive reports from my colleague Anderson Cooper, along with Nic Robertson and Peter Bergen. And, tonight, you are going get a chance to ask them questions about the war on terror. Get them ready.

Now, before we tell you how, here are some of the latest developments. The U.S. is actually thanking Syria tonight for its help in stopping a bloody attack on the U.S. Embassy in Damascus. A Syrian Embassy guard was killed and 13 others wounded, as they fought off attackers who tried to detonate a car bomb.

Turkey is the terrorists' latest target. At least seven people have died as the result of a blast tonight. Baghdad's latest car bomb killed at least a half-a-dozen people. In addition, police report finding at least 60 executed bodies dumped around Baghdad today.

In Afghanistan, NATO forces are finally reporting a little bit less resistance in their offensive against the Taliban. Ten days of fierce fighting have left at least 500 Taliban insurgents dead.

In Washington tonight, a political firestorm is raging over President Bush's address to the nation last night, linking the war on terrorism and Iraq. Angry Democrats accuse the president of using the 9/11 anniversary for political purposes, and are demanding equal time. The president's spokesman continues to insist the address was not political.

Let's get right to the news out of Syria tonight, the deadly car bombing at the U.S. Embassy in Damascus.

Anthony Mills is covering the story for us and has the very latest.


ANTHONY MILLS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A burned-out car, weapons in the road, blood stains on the ground, and a van loaded with gas canisters primed to explode, evidence of what appeared to be an attempted two-stage attack on the U.S. Embassy in Damascus. Syria's Information Ministry says, attackers armed with automatic weapons and grenades set off a car bomb close to the embassy, before attempting to storm it. Syrian security guards fought them off.

From U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a cautious response.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I don't know, and it's too early to tell, who might have been responsible for the attack. Obviously, we will do the forensics on it and begin to try to get a sense -- a sense of what happened there.

MILLS: The Syrian Embassy in Washington blamed U.S. policies in Lebanon and Iraq for fueling extremism, terrorism and anti-U.S. sentiment.

Hisham Melham is Washington bureau chief for the Arabic newspaper "An-Nahar."

HISHAM MELHAM, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "AN-NAHAR": What I see in Syria, given this latest attack against the American Embassy, is the shape of things to come. Likely, we are going see similar attacks taking place against governmental targets, as well as foreign Western interests, including embassies.

MILLS: Syrian Ambassador to the United States Imad Moustapha suggested, a radical Islamic group may have been involved in the U.S. Embassy attack.

IMAD MOUSTAPHA, SYRIAN AMBASSADOR TO UNITED STATES: In the past two years, low-scale terrorist attacks took place in Syria. And some of them were related to a fringe group called the Soldiers of Levant, Jund al-Sham in Arabic. And, probably, there might be a -- there might be a relation to this group in this attack.

MILLS: In June, five people were killed when Syrian security forces fought what they called Islamic militants in downtown Damascus, close to the Defense Ministry.


ZAHN: And, Anthony, you mentioned that the Syrian Embassy here is pointing fingers at the U.S. for fueling this kind of extremism through its policies in Iraq and Afghanistan. How much talk are you hearing about that here -- there?

MILLS: Yes, there is a lot of talk about it. There is a lot of anger, both in Syria, and indeed in Lebanon, directed at the United States, in particular over the continuing U.S. military occupation in Iraq, its military presence in Iraq, and, of course, the many specifically civilian deaths there.

And, more recently, Paula, here in Lebanon, in the conflict in the war between Israel and Hezbollah, the United States was accused -- in not calling for an immediate cease-fire, it was accused of effectively being complicit in the prolonging of the killing here in Lebanon and of causing unnecessary deaths. And that really fueled a lot of anger, not just in Lebanon, but throughout the region -- Paula.

ZAHN: Anthony, the reporting is still a little bit confusing about whether they actually detonated the car bomb. Some reports suggest they were in the process of storming, and one of the guys fled the car, and really never got the bomb off. Is it your understanding they did detonate it?

MILLS: It's very difficult to know exactly what did happen. Information about these kinds of events in Syria is very hard to come by.

Very often, what we hear are official reports. And this indeed was the Ministry of Information saying that this car bomb was detonated, and they then tried to storm the embassy. There have been a number of conflicts like this, a number of clashes between the Syrian security forces and what they say were Islamic militants in Syria over the last year-and-a-half or two years.

And, every time, the details have been fairly sketchy -- Paula.

ZAHN: Anthony Mills, thanks for the update.

We are going to see where this attack fits in, in the overall war on terror.

Joining me now from Afghanistan's very troubled border with Pakistan, Anderson Cooper and terrorism analyst Peter Bergen.

Anderson, I'm going start with you tonight. We know that, just yesterday, there was yet another tape released from al Qaeda, this one from Ayman al-Zawahiri.

You are on the ground there. How are people reacting to his latest message?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, certainly, the soldiers here have come to expect these kind of tapes. We all really, frankly, as you know, Paula, expected this tape on the anniversary of 9/11.

Though there are new threats in it, in particular, talking about Turkey, it's not really anything new. And the soldiers here, they -- if they read about it or maybe see it on the news, it frankly doesn't really affect things one way or another.

They are out here every day on patrol, fighting al Qaeda fighters, killing al Qaeda fighters, and also a resurgent Taliban. And what they're increasingly seeing, Paula, as you know, is not only this resurgent Taliban in terms of numbers, but also in their tactics. They seem to be evolving, adopting these al Qaeda-style tactics.

We're talking about suicide attacks, IEDs, vehicle-borne IEDs. They load up a car filled with mortar shells, and try to kill as many Americans as possible. This base has had two vehicle-borne IED attacks over the past year. No Americans were killed in those, but some Afghan soldiers were. So, increasingly, the Taliban seems to be adopting al Qaeda-style tactics. And there are al Qaeda fighters, according to intelligence sources, actually working with the Taliban, training the Taliban, and instructing them in tactics, how to be more effective, and, in some cases, even doling out money -- Paula.

ZAHN: So, Anderson, does anybody there that you have talked with think there is a connection between this latest al-Zawahiri tape and these terrorist attacks today, and in particular the one in Syria?

COOPER: You know, I don't know that you can draw a direct correlation between this tape, which is released on one day, and then an attack right away. Usually, these attacks would take a certain amount of planning, coordination. You can't just do an attack like this, spring it up overnight.

So, it is unlikely that it is perhaps directly linked to this tape, but, certainly, if this attack turns out to be linked to the global jihadist movement, to al Qaeda, certainly, it fits the pattern of responding to, and it fits the pattern in which these tapes are made.

ZAHN: So, Peter, so far tonight, no one is claiming responsibility for this attack on Syria. Yet, we heard a Syrian official paint -- putting, at least, to an offshoot of al Qaeda. Does it have the hallmarks of an al Qaeda attack?


But, Paula, there's been a substantial Islamic militant presence in Syria that President Assad's father went after in a big way in 1982, killed somewhere like 10,000 or 20,000 people in a city called Hama. For a long period after that, the Islamist militant movement in Syria was basically dead.

But, because of the Iraq war, which started in 2003, Syria has become a major transit point for foreign fighters going into Iraq. And, so, I think the Islamic militant presence there has become a lot stronger. And I think that may be one of the causes of what we saw at the -- in Damascus today.

ZAHN: Anderson, I wanted to come back to what you have been doing over the last couple of days. And that is tracking the Taliban in Afghanistan. And we have some tape that we want to show our audience, where you talk about how difficult it is to distinguish from the Taliban and sometimes ordinary people on the street. But, lately, you have found an indication on how you can sort that all out.

We are going to take a look now together.


COOPER (voice-over): The soldiers fire mortars to clear areas they have been attacked from in the past.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Before, they maybe had 30 guys in this whole area. Now I'm estimating they probably got about 250.

COOPER: The terrain is extremely difficult, the slopes steep, the environment, treacherous.

(on camera): What is so strange when you're on patrol is, even if the soldiers don't make contact with the enemy, even if you don't see any enemy fighters, you know that they were here. On a lot of the trees, you find these, these cross marks or horizontal slashes. They're reference points, helping enemy fighters figure out where to fire rockets that will hit the forward operating base.


ZAHN: So, Anderson, given all those challenges you just described, what is the level of optimism that these troops think they can actually put a dent in this new resurgence of the Taliban?

COOPER: I got to tell you, there's a lot of optimism here, a sense of mission. They feel they are putting a dent, certainly in the Taliban, certainly in al Qaeda fighters.

You know, a lot of places, theaters of operation that we report from, that we have been to, you ask them what is a successful day at the end of a patrol, and they say, well, a successful day is bringing all our troops back home.

I asked that question today to a young captain in charge of the patrol we were on. He didn't say that. He said basically a successful day is when you kill an enemy, when you engage and when you fight. They are engaging. They are fighting. They are taking incoming, and responding, virtually every day here.

They feel they are making a dent. Long term, it's not just about killing enemy forces here. It's about building bridges with the local population. It's about rebuilding this area. It's about separating the enemy from the local people here. And that is something which is incremental change, you know, month by month. They're talking about generational change, 10 years out, 15 years out.

The mission here, they know, is going to be long. But they feel they are making -- they're certainly making contact just about every day. They feel they're making a dent every day -- Paula.

ZAHN: And, Anderson, thanks so much. I know you will have more on all this coming up at 10:00 p.m. on your show.

And, Peter Bergen, appreciate your help tonight.

We will see both of you a little bit later on.

And now it's your chance to do a little work here. You get to ask Anderson, Pete -- that would be Peter -- and Nic Robertson everything you have on your mind about the war on terror. We will call it "411: War on Terror."

Here's how you can get your questions straight us to. You can tape yourself asking your question. Once you have done that, go to Click on I-Report, and you will get step-by-step instructions on getting that tape to us. Or it's probably a whole lot quicker if you just type out your question and e-mail it to us at And we will try to answer them for you at the end of the hour.

Coming up, though, more of our "Top Story" coverage, including a revealing journey to the former home of the world's most wanted terrorist.


ZAHN (voice-over): Hidden along permanent mountain roads, a destroyed compound littered with abandoned weapons, the place where Osama bin Laden took refuge after 9/11. Tonight, Anderson Cooper takes you inside bin Laden's last known hideout.

And Azzam the American -- the feds say a typical California teenager became a voice that speaks for al Qaeda. Who is this alleged American traitor, and how dangerous is he?

All that and more just ahead.



ZAHN: Another "Top Story" we're covering tonight takes us on the trail of terror. We're focusing now on Afghanistan and the sudden resurgence of the Taliban. Since the beginning of the month, NATO and Afghan forces have been trying to beat back the Taliban in the southern part of that country.

And Anderson Cooper is there again tonight, and fills us in now on what that really means -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, Paula.

You know, we have been focusing a lot on what is happening here in eastern Afghanistan, literally, the front line of the war on terror. But as you -- as we have been examining what's happening here, you really have to look at what's happening inside Pakistan. The government of Pervez Musharraf has now signed a cease-fire deal with Taliban militants inside Pakistan. That's caused a lot of concern among U.S. intelligence, among U.S. military forces.

Publicly, they don't really want to speak about it, because they don't want to alienate the relationship. But, privately, they're expressing great concern.

CNN's Nic Robertson has been traveling in areas along the border in Pakistan, focusing particularly on the madrassas, the school, which a lot of people say are the breeding grounds of this terror -- terror.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's quite staggering when you go into the schools, Anderson. What you see are young boys there who are learning, off by heart, the Koran. And a lot of people feel that it's within that learning, within the teachings of the Koran, that they get this sense of a jihad, that they have to go and fight Westerners.

Indeed, what we discovered while we were there was that the very leaders of those madrassas, where the boys go to learn the Koran, have very radical views, views that would have them sending those young boys to come and fight over here in Afghanistan.


ROBERTSON (voice-over): It's late, 10:00 at night. We're uncertain about what we're witnessing. Are these devoted and peace- loving students of Islam? Or is it a school where students gravitate to terrorism?

We are in Lahore, Pakistan. Dozens of children, some only 5, are painstakingly memorizing every word of the Koran, every word. It can take years. But is this about love, love of Islam, or hate, hate for the U.S. and the West?

(on camera): Extremists could try to recruit young men from here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): My students never do bomb blasts.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Schools like this are called madrassas. There are 15,000 in Pakistan.

This man, Mullah Abdul Rashid Ghazi, runs some of the largest anywhere. He says he met Osama bin Laden and describes himself as being ideologically close to the world's most wanted terrorist. In fact, he says jihad, war with oneself and one's enemies, a holy war, is part of the Koran, so he must teach it.

ABDUL RASHID GHAZI, PAKISTANI MULLAH: We have been asked by the government many times that you should stop teaching the jihad. So, we tell them that we can't stop it, because we cannot make any amendment in Islam.

ROBERTSON: In the 1980s, the madrassas launched graduates of holy war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. In the 1990s, madrassas produced leaders and soldiers for the Taliban. And, since 9/11, they have incubated a growing hatred for the West, declaring the war on terror a campaign against all Muslims.

GHAZI: If you talk about Afghanistan, yes, we say that American army can be attacked in Afghanistan and Iraq -- in Iraq, American army, because they are aggressive.

ROBERTSON: This young man took four years to memorize the Koran. For him, it was especially difficult. He doesn't understand a word of it, because he doesn't speak Arabic, but he does understand the promised rewards. JABER ISMAIL, AMERICAN MADRASSA STUDENT: If a person that memorizes Koran, you know, he can take six people to heaven like this.

ROBERTSON: Jaber Ismail is American. Five years ago, two months after 9/11, he and his parents moved here from California to get a religious education. And now, he may never get to go back to U.S.

ISMAIL: I don't think they believe me, you know.

ROBERTSON (on camera): Why not?

ISMAIL: Because this -- they said I have to do a lie-detector test. And I was thinking like, you know, I was born in the United States. Why do I have to take a lie-detector test just to enter my own country?

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Despite growing Western suspicions that madrassas turn young innocents into easy converts for terrorism, madrassas have never been more popular.

Mullah Ghazi says anger at the U.S. and the West is great for his schools.

GHAZI: Thirty percent or 40 percent increase in the number of students and the number of people who are donating.

ROBERTSON: That is why we are not sure what we saw in the class this day Devoted and focused students who love the Koran and Islam, or, if today's lessons focus on the jihad chapter, were we seeing the groundwork of recruitment for the next generation of holy warriors angry at the U.S.?


COOPER: It is incredible that an American student memorized the entire Koran, but doesn't speak Arabic, doesn't know what he -- know what it means. I mean, he just did it all phonetically.

ROBERTSON: And that's perhaps the catch, how they get the young boys to sort of buy into the message, buy into the Koran without thinking about it. They don't teach them about what it means, until the next stage. So, at their first stage, they learn it by heart, absolutely, so, it's part of their thinking, part of their sort of waking -- what's going through their minds.

And it's not until later, perhaps a few years later, they actually teach them what it means. The ideas, the thoughts, it's already right in them...


COOPER: And the president of Pakistan has said the madrassas are a problem. He said he's going to take care of it, try to make them have to register, try to change the curriculum. Is that actually happening, though? It seems like they're still out there. ROBERTSON: They tried a crackdown last summer. It doesn't seem to have been effective. The leaders of the madrassas say: No way. We know what we're doing. We're not going to change it. This is the Koranic way. Leave us alone.

COOPER: It is one of the many difficult problems, Paula, that the U.S. forces here are facing, frankly. These madrassas, they say, in some cases, are a breeding ground for this hatred, for this jihadist movement. And they say they're seeing those madrassa students, in some cases, fighting here in eastern Afghanistan -- Paula.

ZAHN: And they certainly don't seem to have any difficulty understanding what the alleged promised rewards are -- a very interesting piece.

Thanks, Anderson.

And thank you, Nic.

In the terrorists' latest tapes and warnings, al Qaeda's leaders have started showing off an American who they say is on their side. Coming up: How did a kid from California get that way?

Also ahead, our "411: War on Terror," your chance to ask us what you want to know about the war on terror. You can record your question and send it to us by going to, clicking on I-Report. Or, if it's easier for you, you can e-mail your question to

We will be right back.


ZAHN: We are on the trail of terror tonight.

But, right now, our "Top Story" coverage moves on to a chilling tale. It is about the newest face you may have seen on al Qaeda's hate-filled propaganda videos. He happens to be a 28-year-old American who grew up on a farm in California. And now a source says that federal prosecutors are debating whether to charge him with treason. He already faces a sealed indictment charging him with material support of terrorism.

And, tonight, Ted Rowlands looks at what we know about this American voice of al Qaeda.


ADAM GADAHN, AMERICAN TALIBAN: All the brothers who took part in the raids on America were dedicated, strong-willed, highly-motivated individuals.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Azzam the American, now an al Qaeda spokesman, used to be a long-haired California teenager. Today, he's a mouthpiece for Osama bin Laden, predicting death and destruction for the country he grew up in.

A. GADAHN: Because today could be your last day.

ROWLANDS: His real name is Adam Gadahn. He's delivered three recently-released videotaped messages for al Qaeda. He speaks in perfect English, but occasionally slips into Arabic.

Gadahn, now 28 years old, grew up on this small goat farm in Southern California. As a teenager, according to family members, he was obsessed with heavy metal rock music, until he stumbled across Islam at this Orange County mosque.

HAITHAM BUNDAKJI, SPOKESPERSON, ISLAMIC SOCIETY OF ORANGE COUNTY: We were very pleased to see this young man coming to embrace Islam.

ROWLANDS: According to mosque leaders, Gadahn, who was 17 when he signed this declaration accepting Islam, developed a passion for the religion. His family was happy at first, because he had stopped listening to heavy metal. But, then, according to mosque leaders, he started to change.

BUNDAKJI: He started gathering a group of men that I, myself, didn't feel very comfortable about them.

ROWLANDS: Those men, according to mosque members, had extreme Islamic views, and were angry with the way the mosque was run. They watched Gadahn develop that same anger, until, one day, they say it boiled over.

BUNDAKJI: He came charging into my office that one day, screaming and yelling and angry, really angry. And he caught me off guard. And he slapped me right across the face.

ROWLANDS: Gadahn was arrested and ended up leaving the mosque. According to his family, he left California for Pakistan in 1998. Then, in 2004, his family would see this.

ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR: He's a U.S. citizen who converted to Islam, associated with Abu Zubaydah.

ROWLANDS: Adam Gadahn was wanted for questioning by the FBI for possible ties to al Qaeda.

MUELLER: He's known to have performed translations for al Qaeda.

PHILLIP GADAHN, FATHER OF ADAM GADAHN: I was surprised, because I really couldn't imagine that he would do anything that would get him in this position.

ROWLANDS: Since then, Gadahn has been in several al Qaeda videos. In this one, released in July, he defends the practice of killing innocent Americans, saying international law doesn't apply.

A. GADAHN: No, thanks. We have our own law, the law of God, who says in his book (SPEAKING ARABIC). ROWLANDS: Because of his public role as an al Qaeda spokesman and the possibility he might be recognized, law enforcement officials say it's unlikely that Gadahn would actually carry out an attack.

MUELLER: He's certainly supporting al Qaeda, and is somebody whom -- who we would very much like to arrest and prosecute.

ROWLANDS: Gadahn's importance to al Qaeda seems evident. In a recent video, he's introduced by bin Laden's top deputy, Ayman Al- Zawahiri. And, still, it's Gadahn that dominates the more-than-45- minute message.

A. GADAHN: We have no choice, but to fight those who fight us.

ROWLANDS: Because he knows the United States and speaks perfect English, experts say Gadahn is clearly a valuable asset for al Qaeda. What's unclear is why he turned against his country.

Ted Rowlands, CNN, Los Angeles.


ZAHN: So, the question tonight is, just how dangerous is Adam Gadahn?

Joining me now, out "Top Story" terrorism panel, former CIA operative Robert Baer, who spent many years working in the Middle East, Dale Watson, a former FBI assistant director of counterterrorism, and Dr. Walid Phares, a senior fellow with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

Good to have you all three of you with us.

Dr. Phares, I'm going to start with you.

Why do you think al Qaeda is putting this American out front and center in these latest tapes?

DR. WALID PHARES, FOUNDER FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: Well first of all, Paula, they tried to do so a couple of years ago by issuing videos that were showing American citizens, probably himself because he was camouflaged and others out of Afghanistan, just before the fall of Tora Bora.

But then today, what they're trying to do by showing Adam Gadahn with the new name Azzam Anrici (ph), is to reach out, first of all to the other models, to the other persons who are like Gadahn, who are born here with a passport, perfect English, no accent and inserted in the national tissue of America and they can recognize themselves in him and al Qaeda wants to project him as a potential political leader.

I don't think he will be the one who could lead operations within the United States, but certainly like his predecessor in al Qaeda's ranks, who has been an important figure in Al Jazeera's videotapes in 2001 and 2002. ZAHN: What about that, Dale, because you were in charge of counterterrorism for the FBI. Do you see Gadahn as a potential political leader or is he capable of inciting violence through his messages to other extremists that might be here in this country?

DALE WATSON, FORMER FBI COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL: Sure. I think it's more of a propaganda ploy by al Qaeda to prop this American up to say, look, we have an American here who shifted over into our way of thinking. I think that's the value of this individual and as far as him planning or carrying out, I don't think he has the capability to do that. But it is -- it reveals a very -- not frightening, but a degree that how this has changed and now U.S.-born citizens becoming involved in this just like in the Lackawanna six incident.

ZAHN: So let's talk about this for a moment with Bob. Whether it turns out he's capable in any way inciting home-grown terrorism here, how important is it for U.S. special forces to capture this man?

BOB BAER, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: It's -- I don't think it's that important. What he is, I agree with Dale, is it's a propaganda ploy. He's a symbol that Osama bin Laden has a universalist appeal that they are recruiting people, but at the bottom of it -- you look at Britain today.

Al Qaeda has recruited British subjects and you even have converts like Richard Reid, the 7/7 bombers, the two bombers. You had a Jamaican that was converted. I think that bin Laden by putting this man on TV hopes to draw these converts in. But the real recruitment will take place inside this country on the ground.

ZAHN: And Bob, what is the significance of his being introduced by Ayman al-Zawahiri once again? Just propaganda value?

BAER: Just propaganda. The chances of him actually setting up a network in the United States, the kind of surveillance we have now on Muslim groups, radical Muslim, is almost nil. It's a purely propaganda, but nonetheless, there is an underlying problem of Americans being recruited into radical Islamic groups. We're seeing it in prisons.

ZAHN: Sure. Dr. Phares, the final word on that tonight?

PHARES: Well basically what we see right now is the second generation of al Qaeda people, those who have concerted at age 15 to 17, but that's not the issue. Those have been recruited by al Qaeda at age 17 to 19 and that's the scariest picture for the future.

ZAHN: All right gentlemen, we're going to leave it there. Bob Bear, Walid Phares, Dale Watson, thank you for all of your time tonight.

Another top story we've been watching here: the growing number of people who think we don't know the real truth about 9/11. Has the trail for Osama bin Laden gone completely cold? Well, our Anderson Cooper will join us from Afghanistan with a look at bin Laden's last known home.

And our 411 war on terror, we're going answer your questions about the war. Please send us an e-mail to or record your questions and go to and click I-Report. We'll get to them in a little bit.


ZAHN: Well, the nation remembered the victims of 9/11 yesterday. This rally took place near the site of what was the World Trade Center. A group of conspiracy theorists gathered to demand an investigation of who was really behind the terror attacks. It's all because of an Internet film called "Loose Change" that is challenging the official version of 9/11. Deborah Feyerick set out to find out more about the people behind it.


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The conspiracy theorists began even before the smoke had cleared. First impressions pulled apart and analyzed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It appeared to be a U.S. military helicopter.

FEYERICK: On the scene reports presented as evidence of a possible government cover-up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no reason to believe that this jet was there for any nefarious purposes but the Secret Service was very concerned.

FEYERICK: Every reason, every answer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The man in the video looks and acts nothing like bin Laden.

FEYERICK: Scrutinized and challenged.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are we supposed to believe that it disappeared into this whole without leave any wreckage on the outside?

FEYERICK: These are some of the events called into question by a film made for $2,000 bucks by three friends using a laptop computer. It's called "Loose Change." When it hit the Web last year, it spread like wildfire, downloaded some 10 million times, translated into 13 languages.

The 80-minute documentary presents its own evidence and asks viewers to look closely and asks viewers to look closely and ask questions like, could the trade center have been brought down by bombs? Could the Pentagon have been hit by a missile and what happened to plane debris in Shanksville?

DYLAN AVERY, DIRECTOR, LOOSE CHANGE: To accept the official story of 9/11, you really have to accept hundred of different coincidences all at once. FEYERICK: Dylan Avery is the film's writer, director and narrator. Jason Bermas did the research and Korey Rowe was the executive producer, a war vet who fought al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

KOREY ROWE, PRODUCER, LOOSE CHANGE: I met my enemy and the people that supposedly pulled off this attack. These people are not strong enough and they're not advanced enough to pull off these synchronized attacks.

FEYERICK: They are not engineers or trained investigators and only Jason has a college degree.

(on camera): In your mind, there's no question that it was actually a conspiracy.

CROWD: Absolutely.

FEYERICK: They're not alone. The Zogby poll of 1,200 Americans taken in May found that 42 percent feel the government and 9/11 commission took part in some kind of cover up. Former Senator Bob Kerrey spent months investigating the attacks as part of the 9/11 commission. He says the only conspiracy was the one by al Qaeda.

BOB KERREY, FORMER SENATOR: The substantial evidence the U.S. government didn't do enough to confront what was an obvious enemy, but the fact that they did too little, in some cases didn't do anything is not evidence that the United States government organized this conspiracy.

FEYERICK: The filmmakers don't buy it and say they've meticulously studied the events of September 11th.

JASON BERMAS, RESEARCHER, LOOSE CHANGE: The bottom line is the World Trade Center, one, two and seven have to be controlled demolitions. We have isolated the blast points, 20, 40 and 60 floors below the World Trade Center.

FEYERICK: We showed this clip to Glenn Corbett, a fire expert who helped investigate the physical collapse of the towers.

GLENN CORBETT, FIRE EXPERT, JOHN JAY COLLEGE: There's no doubt that the subsequent fires that erupted could weaken that steel and bring the buildings down without any help from explosives.

FEYERICK: As for the filmmakers...

(on camera): ... You say this is a conspiracy. Isn't it possible that it was simply a colossal failure by the U.S. government?

AVERY: For them to have been completely caught off guard by September 11th, we would have to believe that our government is, you know, The Three Stooges.

FEYERICK: But regardless of what you believe, the film certainly has people thinking.

Deborah Feyerick, CNN, Oneonta, New York.


ZAHN: And we're going go back to Afghanistan in just a minute for more on tonight's top story, the trail of terror. Anderson Cooper takes us to Osama bin Laden's last known address. We'll be right back.


ZAHN: Straight ahead, some of your questions of the war on terror for our journalists on the ground in Afghanistan. First though, our top story coverage takes you on a really incredible journey through the barren mountains of Afghanistan where Osama bin Laden fled after 9/11.

Once again, let's go back to Anderson who joins me from along the Afghan-Pakistani border where he's found evidence of bin Laden's flight.

Anderson, what did you see?

COOPER: Well, Paula, you know, we've all been focusing so much on the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, is he in Pakistan, could he be in eastern Afghanistan or elsewhere? Obviously, there's no way to answer that question. What we were able to find is the last known residence of Osama bin Laden in the town of Jalalabad. Getting, however, there is very difficult indeed. Take a look.


COOPER (voice-over): Leaving Kabul isn't as easy as it once was. To drive Osama to bin Laden's last known residence, you now need a half dozen SUVs filled with armed guards. These days, no place is safe in Afghanistan.

(on camera): When the United States began bombing Afghanistan back in October of 2001, bin Laden was in the southern city of Kandahar. He then returned to Kabul and then began traveling down this road toward his compound closer to the Pakistan border in the town of Jalalabad.

(voice-over): It's about a six-hour journey through a countryside that's changed little in generations. A new road is being built, but life for ordinary of Afghans remains a struggle. When you finally get to Jalalabad, bin Laden's house isn't hard to find.

(on camera): This is the compound that was used by Osama bin Laden and several hundred other terrorists here in Jalalabad. It's been destroyed. It looks like it's been bombed. You know, a lot of the roofs are gone obviously. Locals say, though, however, that it wasn't bombed. It's just been looted.

This complex is about two acres. The entire thing is walled, as most of the complexes are in Jalalabad. There are about 70 rooms in it. There's cooking facilities. There, you know, a little area where there was a mosque.

(voice-over): There's not much left: a drain pipe perhaps for a sink or a toilet, broken bricks, a few shards of pottery.

(on camera): There were actually two facilities that bin Laden and his associates used as a headquarters here in Jalalabad. This is the second one. It's just a couple hundred feet away from the first complex.

In the corner of it over here, we've found this square hole. It's got a metal ladder going down. The walls are round. They're lined with brick and stone. I'm not sure what this was used for, so we're going to go down and check it out.

(voice-over): The ladder goes down nearly all of the way to the bottom. That's where we notice weapons, still clearly visible.

(on camera): Climbed down into what I thought was the bomb shelter. It now appears it was perhaps some sort of a weapons storage facility, because there's an RPG round down in the bottom and a mortar round.

It's amazing that, nearly five years after this place was evacuated, there's still weapons laying around.

The significance of this place is this is the last place that Osama bin Laden was known to live here in Afghanistan. The Tora Bora Mountains on a clear day, they're visible from here. It's about a two, two-and-a-half hour drive to get there and it's from there that Osama bin Laden fled with his followers into those mountains and then disappeared.

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORIST ANALYST: This is the place that he knew best. As the United States forces began really attacking Kabul, bin Laden fled here. Last known to be here November 30, 2001.

COOPER (voice-over): Peter Bergen is a CNN terrorism analyst. He says it's impossible for us to try to reach Tora Bora.

BERGEN: It's now so dangerous in Afghanistan you can't go to places like Tora Bora. It's sort of a free fire zone, even if we had -- I know we have security here. But even if we had a lot of security it would still be a very dumb idea because what they do is it's one road, and they can see you going up that road. And by time you come back there's IEDs on the road.

COOPER: Bin Laden and the Taliban, which allowed him to operate here, may be long gone, but they remain popular in this part of Afghanistan.

"It was much better under the Taliban," says 17-year-old Abdullah. "It was more secure. Right now it's insecure. And the problems like lack of power, we didn't have them."

"The Taliban was much better than this government," 12-year-old Sadullah (ph) says. "Back then there was a clinic. There was power. Now there's not."

Nearly five years since bin Laden and the Taliban were driven from Jalalabad into the mountains of Tora Bora, it seems their memory and their power remain very much alive.


ZAHN: So, Anderson, your pictures so vividly showed us what little is left of this compound where Osama bin Laden once lived. Besides some of the abandoned weapons, did you find any personal effects at all?

COOPER: No. The place has pretty much been looted. It looked like it had been bombed but locals told us that as soon as bin Laden and the Arab fighters he was with, the foreign fighters, left the place was pretty much looted and there's really not much there left at all.

We were surprised that so many people around there still seemed to support the Taliban and, in some cases, speak favorably of Osama bin Laden, though the westerners they're very loathed to do that.

And then you've got to realize that, you know, there's -- at least under the Taliban, some people had security. Security is something that they don't have now. So it's not necessarily a love for the Taliban or a belief in the Taliban, it's more sort of a longing for the security that existed for the lower amount of corruption that existed back then, Paula.

ZAHN: All right, Anderson. Thanks so much. We'll see you on your show in just a little bit.


ZAHN: Coming up next, our 411 war on terror. Your chance to be part of our top story coverage. See our team here? Well, they're going to answer some of your questions that you have sent us in this past hour on the war on terror. Get ready. They'll take you on.


ZAHN: Time to move on now to our 411 war on terror.

Earlier we asked you all to go to our Web site and send us a video or an e-mail with a question or two about the war on terror, and Anderson Cooper, Nic Robertson and terrorism analyst Peter Bergen are back. They all join me from near the Afghan-Pakistani border to try to answer some of your questions.

And we're going to get started with our first question from Jenna in Vancouver, and she poses this to Anderson. "What are the primary differences between fighting in Iraq versus Afghanistan from the troops' perspective?"

COOPER: Certainly, it's interesting, I asked that question today to a captain, Captain Dye (ph), on patrol, who had actually served in Iraq. He says he finds that the fight at least here in eastern Afghanistan tougher than what he saw in Iraq. Increasingly, though, they are seeing Iraq-style tactics. They're seeing these IEDs, vehicle-borne IEDs and suicide attacks. So there's an increasing sort of a similarity in tactics.

Elsewhere in the south, soldiers are reporting, and NATO is seeing a more direct confrontations, larger movements of Taliban forces directly fighting. Most of the injuries in U.S. forces here and coalition forces are not from suicide attacks or IEDs, as they are in Iraq. Here, it's from direct engagement, direct fire engagement. So that's some of the difference right there.

ZAHN: All right. Let's move on to Nic now. Nic, we know you've spent an awful lot of time covering the Taliban and the opium trade, and this next question comes from Debbie in Houston, and she asks: "Is the military doing enough to destroy the opium crops, like airdropping poison on them? It seems to me that destroying this money source for the Taliban would be a priority for the military."

ROBERTSON: You know, I actually asked that to one of the commanders here. The military is not involved in the eradication of the opium poppies that have grown massively here this past year. That is delegated...

ZAHN: All right. Unfortunately, we have lost Nic, and I think that means the signal is down for our whole trio. But we've got your questions right here and we're going to try to get to as many of them as we can on the other side of the break. We'll be right back and try to fix our problem here.


ZAHN: We'd hoped to get that signal back up from Afghanistan, but we have another important story we're going to move on to now. The angry partisan bickering as a result of President Bush's address to the nation last night. Here is congressional correspondent, Andrea Koppel.


ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the steps of the nation's Capitol, a brief show of bipartisan spirit on 9/11 didn't last long. Immediately after President Bush's prime- time speech, Massachusetts Democrat Ted Kennedy issued a scathing critique, saying, "The president should be ashamed of using a national day of mourning to commandeer the airways to seek support for a war in Iraq that he has admitted had nothing to do with 9/11."

It was the president's defense of his Iraq policy that got Democrats fired up.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The safety of America depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad.

KOPPEL: But Kennedy also used the 9/11 anniversary to draw attention to Iraq. Hours before the president spoke, he sent a letter to his own supporters, criticizing the president's Iraq policy. And today, other Democrats too jumped on the Bush-bashing bandwagon.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: The American people last night deserved better.

KOPPEL: Democratic leader Harry Reid said on 9/11 especially, Americans deserved a break from politics.

REID: Sadly, it was a missed opportunity for President Bush, who obviously was more consumed by staying the course in Iraq and playing election year partisan politics than changing direction for this wonderful country.

KOPPEL: Pennsylvania Republican Rick Santorum fired back at Reid.

SEN. RICK SANTORUM (R), PENNSYLVANIA: We play petty politics constantly here on the floor of the Senate, even after a solemn day of remembrance.

KOPPEL: While House Majority Leader John Boehner went even further, questioning Democrats' patriotism. Speaking to reporters off camera, Boehner said, "I listen to my Democrat friends and I wonder if they're more interested in protecting the terrorists than protecting the American people."

(on camera): And late Tuesday afternoon, congressional Democrats circulated this letter, addressed to television news executives, including CNN's, arguing that if President Bush continues to get live TV news coverage of his political speeches about national security between now and the November midterms, that Democrats should get substantial coverage, too.

Andrea Koppel, CNN, Capitol Hill.


ZAHN: And that wraps it up for all of us here tonight. Tomorrow night, the suspected terrorist that is so important that the FBI has dedicated its own task force to catch him. We'll explain. We hope you will join us then. Again, thanks so much for joining us tonight. We will be back same time, same place tomorrow night. Until then, have a great night. And "LARRY KING LIVE" starts in just a couple of moments. He will talk about the tragic death of Anna Nicole Smith's young son. Good night, everybody.


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