Return to Transcripts main page

ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

New Terror Threat; Unrest in Syria; Leader of Taliban Sought; Children of 9/11 Remember Parents

Aired September 9, 2011 - 22:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. It is 10:00 p.m. here on the East Coast. And we're coming to you from Ground Zero.

We begin tonight with breaking news on a new terror plot from down at one of the busiest construction sites on Earth. And if that's all it were, a construction site, it would still be remarkable. But we all know it is much more than that, because along with a new transportation hub and two enormous skyscrapers going up behind me, there's also a memorial to the 2,206 people killed here almost 10 years ago.

And 10 years later, all over Manhattan, Washington, D.C., there are echoes of that terrible day. Police and troops with assault rifles in the train stations, same as it was. Checkpoints and roadblocks pulling over trucks and vans looking for explosives and other dangerous material, same as it was. People on edge, same as it was, and not just because of the anniversary.

The breaking news tonight, new developments in the potential plot targeting New York and Washington. Two of the three people thought to be connected to it are American citizens.

Susan Candiotti has been working her sources. She joins us now. So does Fran Townsend, former homeland security adviser for President George W. Bush. And on the phone, national analyst Peter Bergen.

Susan Candiotti, first of all, last night we thought it was just -- or at least one person was a U.S. citizen of the three. Now we're hearing two.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, which adds to the amount of information we have on that. But the question is, how much more do we know? Not that much.

What we are hearing and continue to hear is that there is not very much specific information about these people. For example, their names said to be very common ones, as we have learned, making it much more difficult to try to track them down.

And as well, trying to find out more about what the plan was, where they intended to go, whether they came to the United States and then went overseas for training, possibly, only to come back here after getting some directions from whoever was telling them what to do.

COOPER: Fran Townsend, I understand you're also learning some new information. What are you hearing?

FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Anderson, the three people that they're looking for that Susan Candiotti was just speaking about, they now have lead information that one of those people is already inside the United States.

That, of course, increases the urgency to getting the confirmation, getting the corroboration. I also in talking to senior law enforcement officials learned that they are very much just as your pictures suggest, Anderson, focused on a car or a truck bomb based on the threat intelligence.

FBI and New York City Police Department are completely embedded working the threat together at the New York JTTF. And while we have heard oftentimes in my career tensions between the two, both sides report there's complete transparency. They're working the threat together and they're holding back no details from one another.

COOPER: JTTF, that's the joint terrorism task force. We're learning or we're hearing more confirmed information about the possible method of an attack as well, correct?

TOWNSEND: That's right. We saw the pictures today all over New York of trucks and large trucks being searched as they come over the bridges. And now we understand there's good reason for that. Clearly the intelligence has pointed them in the direction of focusing on a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device or a car or a truck bomb.

COOPER: Any sense of the size of the truck?

TOWNSEND: No. I didn't get that. And, you know, as you talk to people who have actually seen this intelligence, we, of course, can't see it.

But there are gaps. One official said look there's some weird things about this, which is why they're so focused on trying to get confirmation. The senior law enforcement official at New York had said to me, look, even with that, even though there are inconsistencies, you generally see that, this has the ring of credibility to it. It is sufficiently detailed and coming from a source and the timing is right that we believe that this has got the ring of credibility. We just don't know enough yet.

And we're just showing those pictures. It was interesting in New York today on a number of sort of choke points the police set up checkpoints where vehicles basically blocked several lanes of traffic so that traffic slowed to a crawl and basically cars had to or trucks, all traffic had to move through basically one lane and then police would pull over trucks or vans that they wanted to search.

Peter Bergen, what do you make of all this, the developments in the last few hours and last 24 hours? Does any of it -- does it sound more credible to you or less credible than when we spoke last night?

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, I mean, Susan and Fran have advanced the story considerably over the last 24 hours. The story sounds similar to two pretty serious plots that we have seen in the past.

One is the Najibullah Zazi plot which involved an American citizen trying to blow up a bomb in the Manhattan subway around the eighth anniversary of 9/11. You may recall that that produced quite a reaction from the FBI and the New York Police Department. He, of course, was an American citizen living in the country, living in Denver. And it also seems similar to the attempt to blow up an SUV in Times Square on May 1, 2010, by Faisal Shahzad, who was also an American citizen.

In the case of Najibullah Zazi. that was an al Qaeda directed plot. In the case of Faisal Shahzad, it was a Pakistani Taliban type plot. And the information indicates that the suspects may have traveled to the Afghan-Pakistan border region.

And so it has a ring of credibility because it seems similar the more we know about it to other plots which have been somehow fairly serious and have been broken up in the past, Anderson.

COOPER: Fran, Vice President Biden talked today about how the main concern has been over a lone wolf type attack. Does this sound like some -- this sounds like somebody more than that.

TOWNSEND: That's right.

COOPER: If they're traveling to the Pakistan border.

TOWNSEND: That's right.

This is -- the threat emanates out of the Pakistan region. We have heard that from multiple sources. And this is -- when I go back and think about the East Africa Embassy bombing, if you look how al Qaeda deploys a truck bomb, there's typically two people in the car and one other -- the third person is there to cause a distraction so the car or truck can get to its point where they want to explode it. It was also true when they exploded a bomb in Afghanistan outside the hotel there.

This is kind of how al Qaeda does it. And so the number of operatives, the notion that it could be a truck bomb, it all makes sense to people who have looked at this intelligence and worked on these cases over the last decade.

COOPER: Peter, I seem to recall I think a bombing in Iraq I mean years ago in one of the locations where we often stayed that wasn't just one truck bomb, it was two. And one would come in, explode, and then another one would come in. I mean, do you recall that?

BERGEN: Yes. I mean, that was I think the -- I'm spacing on the name of the hotel. But it was quite an effective...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Palestine Hotel, I believe.

BERGEN: ... and killed quite a number of people. I mean, I think that that kind of attack to pull that off in the United States, I mean, it's just -- it's twice as hard to do. And I think that in Iraq it's a lot easier to do that kind of thing than it would be here.

COOPER: Right.

We know, Peter, that 9/11 was perpetrated by 19 hijackers and an unknown number of planners. If this plot really involves three operatives in the United States, what does that say about the size and scope of al Qaeda right now?

BERGEN: Well, the size and scope of al Qaeda is, of course, much more than it was on 9/11.

But clearly this plot, if everything is confirmed, would probably have a controller on the Afghan-Pakistan border. There are suggestions that it might be Ayman al-Zawahri, now the number one in al Qaeda. And I guess from al Qaeda's point of view if they can't get one through on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, they have to sort of show the flag at some point.

As we know from the documents recovered in bin Laden's compound that the 10th anniversary was a complete obsession for him. Here we have something that appears to be the fruit of that obsession.

COOPER: Peter Bergen, appreciate you joining us tonight, Fran Townsend as well. Susan Candiotti, thank you.

Let us know what you think. We're on Facebook obviously. Follow me on Twitter @AndersonCooper. I will be tweeting tonight from Ground Zero as well.

Up next, the communication problem that cost first-responders' lives here on that terrible day. The 9/11 Commission recommended changes. You probably remember that. Well, all these years later, 10 years later, New York and other cities have had to go it alone because Congress cannot agree on how to fix the problem. Tonight, we're "Keeping Them Honest."

COOPER: Also, a decade later, the manhunt for a mullah who gave al Qaeda free rein in his country. We will take you inside the search for the Taliban's Mullah Omar.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: And welcome back.

We are live at Ground Zero, and just an extraordinary scene, the footprints of one of the towers. If you have not been down here in awhile you should come because it is truly remarkable, particularly at night.

Our breaking news tonight, New York and Washington on alert and on edge as authorities work to unravel a possible terror plot which really sets the stage for our next story. It was a life-threatening problem down here 10 years ago. And "Keeping Them Honest," 10 years later, it is still a problem today, something that is pretty simple to fix. While not exactly cheap, the solution would cost only a tiny sliver of the nearly $600 billion already spent on domestic security since the 9/11 attacks. Yet 10 years and all that money later, this problem, a communications problem, is only partly solved and lives, well, are potentially still in jeopardy because of it.

Now, take a look. Take a look. Hundreds of firefighters and police officers were inside the North Tower of the World Trade Center that terrible morning when NYPD chopper crews advised commanders on the ground to evacuate the building. Those radio transmissions reached police inside, but not firefighters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH CALLAN, FDNY CHIEF: The reason they didn't come down is because they didn't get the message. The only other acceptable reason why they didn't come down immediately is because in my mind they were helping civilians get to the stairway and down the stairway. Other than that, I'm very sure that if they heard the command to evacuate, they would have evacuated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: They didn't hear the warning because they couldn't. Their radios didn't receive police channels, didn't receive police channels. We will all remember the solemn processions as bodies were recovered from the pile; 23 police officers lost their lives, the death toll among firefighters 343, some of whom couldn't communicate with commanders on the ground, all of whom couldn't listen in on police frequencies, now, many of whom were actually heading up the stairs, not down and out to safety as the towers collapsed.

In 2004 you may remember the 9/11 Commission identified communications as a serious problem that contributed to the loss of life. But no federal action was taken. New York and other big cities made changes on their own. For example local police and firefighters can now communicate with one another, but still not with any other responders who might rush in from outside the New York area. And even with the improvements, the systems are, well, they're still primitive.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAYMOND KELLY, NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER: Today, a 16-year- old with a smartphone has a more advanced communications capability than a police officer or a deputy carrying a radio. Given the technology that is available and the complexity of the threat that we face, this is unacceptable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That was New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly testifying back in February before the Senate Commerce Committee. Earlier this year the committee passed with bipartisan support, bipartisan support a measure to set aside a block of radio frequencies for a modern national first-responder system. It was sponsored by the Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison and Democrat Jay Rockefeller.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER (D), WEST VIRGINIA: The fact that we have waited this long is stunning enough. But we started this some time ago. There isn't a single first-responders organization in the country, not a single governor, not a single mayor, not a single magistrate, not a single sheriff -- everybody supports it. Everybody supports it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: On Capitol Hill, though. Some Republicans are blocking similar legislation on the House side, believing the new spectrum should be auctioned for money to private carriers instead of given to first-responders free of charge. They say giving it away is a missed opportunity to help reduce the deficit.

The bottom line, 10 years after the towers fell, no unified modern system. Things are better for first-responders here in New York and wherever the next disaster may strike but they are nowhere near as good as it could be, nor as their surviving comrades tell it, are they as good as America's finest and America's bravest deserve.

With me now is Deputy Chief Chuck Dowd of the New York Police Department who recently testified to Congress about the communications problem. Thanks very much for being with us.

What is the holdup? What's the pushback here? What's the problem?

DEPUTY CHIEF CHUCK DOWD, NYPD: The problem seems to be as you said that there are some members of Congress on the House side that don't feel that we need that much spectrum. So there is a piece set aside for us already. But there have been no less than six independent studies that have shown that we need more than that. So we need this extra piece of spectrum in order...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Can you explain what this part of the spectrum would do for first-responders?

DOWD: Well, what it would do is because it's available throughout the country, and we could use the new contingency, smartphone technology, as you mentioned, the police commissioner talked about a 16-year-old had more capabilities than we do today.

It would give us an ability to do data, voice, all types of capabilities that we don't have today. Right now we're essentially only on two-way voice communication.

COOPER: So firefighters going into a building they could pull up schematics of the building on a handheld device?

DOWD: Exactly. They would be able to -- on a hand-held device -- this network would be public safety built and built to our requirements and specifications and would be dedicated to us. We can't use commercial networks because, like, for example, during the earthquake last week, those systems get absolutely inundated, flooded with calls and they're just no good for public safety use.

COOPER: And even -- you were talking with like EMS workers. This could benefit them.

DOWD: Absolutely. So, in example, there's a thing called TeleMeds, where you could actually send people's vital at the scene of an incident to a hospital directly in real time so that doctors us could actually triage. If you had multiple patients they could actually triage and decide what patients needed to be treated and which ones needed to be transported first.

COOPER: And New York City, the police department, what do you now have? You have some level of the spectrum.

DOWD: Well, what we're using right now is spectrum that was assigned to us decades ago. And we have a very reliable, very robust two-way voice communication system.

But from a data perspective, we're nowhere. We need this new system and this spectrum to build it on so that we will be not only capable of doing it here, but any place that any first-responder goes in the country their device would be recognized and would function. Right now if I go to Washington or Boston, our communications equipment will not work.

COOPER: And it's also not as if that doesn't happen. We have seen on big disasters folks come from all around. Down in Hurricane Katrina, you had people, you had search-and-rescue crews coming from Virginia and other states in order to help out.

DOWD: The city of New York had NYPD and FDNY down there and of course people came here on 9/11 from as far away as South Carolina and Maine.

COOPER: How long would it take if this was passed in Congress to actually get up and running, to be functional?

DOWD: The technology is out there now. So it's a matter of building it. I would say probably within two years we could have this functioning in a lot of areas in the country.

COOPER: So you're hoping to basically just get folks in Congress to act?

DOWD: That's exactly what we need. And we need the public to understand that they need to talk to their members of Congress and tell them this spectrum should not be auctioned, it should be assigned to public safety to save lives.

COOPER: I have just got to ask just being here, seeing this, what's it like for you?

DOWD: You know, we did a site inspection here about a month ago. And it brings back a lot of memories. It's tough to be here at times. And Sunday being the 10th anniversary to have not fixed this problem to the point where we know we can fix it is disturbing.

COOPER: I appreciate you being with us. Thank you so much.

DOWD: Thank you.

COOPER: Thanks. Good luck to you, Deputy Chief Dowd.

Up next we're going to update our breaking news. New details about the possible new terror plot against the United States on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Authorities telling CNN tonight they have a partial identity of one of the three people being involved and that they believe that that person is in the United States right now. Former Assistant Director of the FBI Tom Fuentes is going to join us ahead.

And a disturbing report out of Syria that could signal a new level of brutality in the government's crackdown. We know they kill children, we know that they kill women, we know that they shoot unarmed protesters. Witnesses now saying security forces barged into a hospital, took 18 wounded patients, some of whom were in the operating room, on oxygen, on life support. A doctor who witnessed the attack speaks out coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: And welcome back to Ground Zero on this beautiful night. You're looking at the north reflecting pool, one of two pools. The design is called Reflecting Absence.

If you're just joining us we're following breaking news tonight. New information about the terror threat authorities are working to try to unravel at this moment authorities telling CNN tonight they have a partial identity of one of the three people believed involved, and they believe that person is currently in the United States tonight.

All over New York and Washington, there is heightened security, checkpoints and roadblocks. We have seen that all day long. Police pulling over trucks and vans looking for explosives and other dangerous material. The plot is thought to involve a car or truck bomb though officials say they cannot rule out other means, which is why tonight police and troops with assault rifles are in the train stations and many people in both cities are perhaps a little bit more on edge, or at least asking more questions.

CNN contributor and former FBI Assistant Director Tom Fuentes joins me now, along with our own Susan Candiotti.

COOPER: So, Tom, we heard from Fran Townsend earlier in the program she reported that authorities believe at least one suspect is already in the United States. Officials haven't announced a name. But this is basically a manhunt going on right now.

TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Exactly, Anderson. But the reporting is that it's a very common name and very difficult for the authorities to actually find this person, specifically identify him and track him down. COOPER: The sourcing on this is that it's only a partial identity. What does that mean?

FUENTES: Well, obviously either a first name or last name and a very common name in the U.S. So that again makes it very difficult.

My understanding is that the sourcing of the information coming from Pakistan through interceptions also has been commonly intercepted in the past. And that's why they think it's credible information. But again, they're putting the fact that this information coming in while it's been similar to information that's come in many times, because it's this weekend has heightened the alert even more.

COOPER: Susan, is there any sense or have you heard anything about authorities possibly thinking about trying to release a name or a partial name? Or would that maybe cause more problems given that it's apparently a common name?

CANDIOTTI: They're very worried about that, Anderson. They're worried about too much information getting out that they think might possibly impair them from being able to track these people down. So they are concerned about too much information, too many leaks.

But certainly they are shaking the bushes, they are going to people that they have talked to before that they were talking to even before this threat became known. They're hearing the same chatter that we're hearing about now that possibly overseas who might be responsible for this, but possibly al Qaeda's number two man. So many leads to track down.

But I'm also hearing this, that it's entirely possible, with this very credible information that they're looking into, that if it weren't for being this close to 9/11 it's entirely possible that no one in the public might have even heard about it until they were able to nail it down. But because of the proximity to the 9/11 anniversary, they just had to get the word out and make sure that people were on their guard.

COOPER: Tom, it was interesting in New York today to just walk around or bike around as I was and to see the gridlock across Manhattan today as a result of these vehicle checkpoints. We haven't really seen that level of overt security in quite awhile. There's obviously a lot of activity that we're not seeing as well. How effective are checkpoints like this? Is it actually effective or is it more for sort of peace of mind?

FUENTES: Well, what is interesting is, is we may never know. If the attack doesn't happen, you won't know that somebody saw all of that activity on the part of the police and just decided they couldn't do it, that the entire city became too hard of a target.

But on the other hand, some of the earlier attack plans that have occurred, for instance the Times Square bomber, Shahzad in New York City, he went to Pakistan, received training on how to use propane tanks that are more commonly available that don't alert the authorities. And either he flunked the class or the training was defective because he didn't properly set up the tanks. And they just sat there and smoldered until they attracted public attention and alerted the police. So that's the problem you don't know here, is that the fewer the people that are involved in the attack plan, the more primitive the methodology is that they're going to use, in other words, the more commonly available the ingredients are, it's only that much more difficult to do it, and especially you have what they refer to as the trip lines.

Now we have had the plot in the last year where the individual was going to obtain chemicals, make a bomb and blow up George Bush's home in Dallas, Texas. The chemical company called the police and the FBI. We have had a plot this past week in Germany where a Palestinian and Lebanese individual tried to obtain chemicals to make a bomb, and that chemical company called the German police.

So you have the more interest, the more public awareness that's been raised, the more difficulty they're going to have in being able to wage the kind of attack that would do the most damage. So, as I said, it becomes more primitive, it involves fewer people, but also then would become easier to conduct.

COOPER: Tom Fuentes, I appreciate your expertise. Thank you. Susan Candiotti reporting as well, thanks.

Let's get caught up on some of the other stories we're following tonight. Susan Hendricks has a 360 bulletin -- Susan.

SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Anderson.

Syrian security forces stormed a hospital in the western city of Homs and took away 18 wounded patients, just took them out. Five of the patients were reportedly removed from an operating room, including two who were described as unconscious. That is according to Human Rights Watch. Earlier we spoke with a doctor who says he just cannot reveal his name. It is simply too dangerous.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The most terrible second or moment when you can't -- when you are a doctor and your mission is to protect people, a soldier, he has no mercy, preventing you from giving help to patients. I don't know what happened to them. But I'm sure that they are suffering now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDRICKS: In Libya today, there has been fighting in the streets with the deadline coming and going for Gadhafi loyalists to peacefully surrender with no deal. Clashes also took place in Bani Walid.

Also, following this, stocks took a beating on Wall Street today due to fears over Europe's financial woes, fueling the sell-off, the resignation of an executive board member of the European Central Bank. The Dow sank 304 points today. The NASDAQ fell 71. The S&P dropped 32 points.

Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Susan, thanks very much.

Now here's Piers Morgan with a look at what's coming up on "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" -- Piers.

PIERS MORGAN, HOST, "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT": Thanks, Anderson.

New York under a new terror alert. We've got two extraordinary stories of 9/11 survival tonight. Cantor Fitzgerald lost a stunning 658 employees on that terrible day. No one who was in the front offices of the North Tower made it back out alive.

In the ten years since, CEO Howard Lutnick has rebuilt the firm and his life. And he tells his emotional story in just a few moments.

Also, Lauren Manning, she was on her way into the -- into her office when the first plane hit. She was so badly burned she had virtually no chance of surviving. She beat those odds, and tonight she remembers what it took to fight her way back.

That and more at the top of the hour.

Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Piers, thanks very much.

Coming up, everyone, searching for Taliban leader Mullah Omar. Ten- million-dollar bounty on his head. Only one known photograph of him in existence. That's him. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh goes to Pakistan where he is believed to be in hiding.

Also ahead, the children of 9/11. We hear from some of the young people whose lives changed forever when they lost a parent in the attack.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COURTNEY LENOIR, AGE 5 ON 9/11: Nobody else has lost a parent on national television on the news. Nobody else has seen it happen over and over again. And that's something that we all have to live with.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: You're looking at One World Trade Center, about 70 stories of steel now up, soon to be the tallest building in America, 1,776 feet. Used to be called Freedom Tower.

We're reporting from down here at Ground Zero.

U.S. officials say al Qaeda may be planning to attack New York or Washington in a plot to coincide with the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Now, some of the information came from communications from an al Qaeda operative in Pakistan, according to one U.S. official. Vice President Joe Biden said today that some of the information about the threat, the latest threat, was gleaned from the raid against Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan back in May.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh went back to Abbottabad, back to the compound to see how the scene there has changed over the past four months.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's eerily quiet, though.

(voice-over) We catch a glimpse of the house, bushes growing thick around it, almost like they're trying to swallow the secretive den. But out of nowhere, we're stopped by a soldier.

(on camera) We have been pretty quickly stopped by the police here, asked for our passports, and told to leave. In fact, we've been asked to stay with them for a little while. All quite surprising, really, given only a few months ago this place was teaming with journalists and quite open. Things have obviously definitely changed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: The search for bin Laden, of course, was long, almost ten years long, finally ending in his death at the hands of U.S. Navy SEALs. But the hunt goes on in Pakistan for a man named Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader who sheltered bin Laden and his terrorist network. But it's only a partial hunt, really. That's because U.S. intelligence officials say they know where he is. They actually say they've known for years.

Nick Paton Walsh has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WALSH (voice-over): You don't have to look hard in Quetta, South Pakistan's militant hot bed, to find signs that Afghan insurgent leader Mullah Omar might be here.

This is a NATO field convoy, ambushed and set aflame by the Taliban days ago. Further into town, the signs get more explicit. This one says, "There's only one cure for America: jihad."

Quetta is under Pakistani military lockdown, but still it's where a U.S. official told CNN Mullah Omar is thought to be hiding and has been for years.

Only once photographed, he's long been America's most wanted after bin Laden, a $10 million bounty still on his head.

Years ago the Taliban's black turbans were everywhere. But today it's more discreet. Even still, our local cameraman found it hard to film here while local leaders voice huge support to the Taliban while in the same breath denying any of them are here. MAULANA CHISTEE, LOCAL POLITICAL LEADER (through translator): There is no Taliban in Quetta. This is false propaganda, generated by international groups, used to justify drone attacks in the tribal areas.

The Americans created the whole drama of 9/11, just for an excuse to attack Afghanistan. If the Afghans are fighting for their freedom, then we definitely consider this jihad legitimate.

WALSH: Violence burst into the open this week when two suicide bombers leveled a local police chief's home, police saying it may have been avenging three senior al Qaeda arrests ten days earlier. And that one bomber was this young 21-year-old Afghan refugee.

His actions probably found support in this madrassa. Eulogies to senior dead Taliban scrolled outside.

Maulana Noor Muhamed is hugely respected by Mullah Omar himself.

MAULANA NOOR MUHAMED, RELIGIOUS LEADER (through translator): We follow and support the life and teachings of the prophet. The supporters of jihad anywhere in the world, as this is an obligation of Islam. Mullah Omar has supporters all over the world, especially young fighters. He recruits young men and trains them.

WALSH: A troubling thought as terror fears grip the U.S. again. And even if the CIA knew where Omar was in this city, it's too packed for drones to bomb and too hostile for the kind of bold raid that got bin Laden, leaving Mullah Omar's fate, like so much, in Pakistan's hands.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And Nick Paton Walsh joins us now live from Islamabad, Pakistan.

What role do we know does Mullah Omar actually have in the Taliban currently?

WALSH: Good question. I mean, he's a very symbolic leader. Key figure, their kind of -- their icon, so to speak. But there is questions as to whether or the not he has full operational control on a day-to-day basis.

NATO having spent a huge amount of time taking out his deputies, killing arresting or working on the subcommanders below that. Frankly, the insurgency very fractured after a decade's worth of war.

But if NATO do want to talk peace, which they say they do, it has to really be with him to be effective in some way. You're going to have to ask yourself the question then, what happens to all those fighters out there, those younger Afghan men who have been fighting for years, who may not necessarily think it's the right time to agree a peace with enemy who says they're leaving, Anderson.

COOPER: There were several al Qaeda members recently arrested in Pakistan. What does that mean for the organization? Also, what does it say about cooperation between Pakistan intelligence and U.S. intelligence?

WALSH: Obviously, al Qaeda is sort of more to some people an idea than a real organization in some ways. But the man arrested in Quetta is called Judas al Mauritani (ph). And he's considered to be the external operations manager for al Qaeda.

A senior Pakistani intelligence officer telling us that information from his interrogation by Pakistani agents has already been passed to the U.S. He wouldn't specify if that related to the threats we've been discussing early on this evening. But it's clear he's already talking.

This man, en route to Africa we understand, apparently had personal connections with bin Laden when he was arrive and has been involved in plots against Europe and the U.S.

Interesting that you mentioned the cooperation before this raid. Frankly, CIA and Pakistani intelligence were at each other's throats half the time since the bin Laden raid. After this operation, suddenly they're speaking very glowingly about each other again, Anderson.

COOPER: Interesting. Nick Paton Walsh, appreciate it.

Joining me now is one of my favorite writers, Lawrence Wright of "The New Yorker." He's the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book "Al Qaeda: The Road to 9/11," which if you have not read it, you must. Really essential reading if you want to know about the history of al Qaeda.

I first just have got to ask on a personal level, what is it like being here at Ground Zero, seeing this on almost the tenth anniversary?

LAWRENCE WRIGHT, "NEW YORKER": Well, it's great to see something other than a hole in the ground, you know? It's inspiring to see the cranes out there, to see the buildings rising again. And even though, I guess I had some mixed feelings about, you know, the narcissism of building another one of these immense towers, it's...

COOPER: You're going to be -- you're going to be working out here, though. "The New Yorker" is going to have a base here.

WRIGHT: Yes. We're the first big tenants. So I guess I'd better get used to it.

COOPER: You know, I mean, you write so much about this, and you traveled so much throughout the region, really, for much of your life. What do you think ten years after 9/11 -- I mean, did al Qaeda succeed, in that, I mean, al Qaeda is far weakened from what it was. But -- but if one of bin Laden's goals was to weaken the financial structures of the United States by attacking the symbol of the financial structures, did he succeed in that?

WRIGHT: Well, the real financial damage of the 9/11 attack was not that great. It's the subsequent things that we did. The war in Afghanistan, and then what bin Laden could never have anticipated, the extra war in Iraq. Two unfunded wars that have severely undermined this economy, which is exactly what bin Laden has said he wanted to do, to open a gaping wound in the American economy. He couldn't have done that without our assistance.

COOPER: Do you think -- do you think the fear or the shock in the wake of 9/11, do you think America overreacted? Or has that changed who we are, do you think? I mean, the fear that so many of us understandably felt, the shock of the attack, do you think it changed something fundamental about the -- about the United States?

WRIGHT: I definitely do, Anderson. I think we're a different people now. I've been thinking a lot about -- this sounds a little weird, but I had a date in high school. I didn't have any money. I took my girlfriend to the airport. And...

COOPER: To the airport.

WRIGHT: To Love Field in Dallas.

COOPER: Wow. You know how to have a date.

WRIGHT: I know, right? What are you going to do? And I -- we went out on the tarmac. A Pan Am flight had just come in from some distant port. And we walked onto the plane and sat in the first-class cabin while the stewardesses cleaned it up.

And then we went up to the FAA tower. They said, "Come on in, kids," you know. "Have a seat." We watched these jets taking off in the hot Dallas night.

But that America is lost. But it shouldn't be forgotten, that we had that kind of country, where the fabric, social fabric full of trust and safety. And long after al Qaeda is gone, the security apparatus that we built up to deal with it is still going to be intact. And we need to remember it's not just terrorism that we need to fight, but the kind of fear that has -- that we put around ourselves like a hard shell.

COOPER: When you hear about a new threat, this thing, it's interesting because I've been getting e-mails throughout the day from friends who were going to come here. One was going to run in a race this weekend here. And they -- they're asking me, "Do you think I should take this seriously? Should I cancel?"

And I keep saying no. I mean, not that you shouldn't take it seriously, but don't cancel what you're doing. It seems -- I don't know. I feel it's very important not to give in to -- to fear.

WRIGHT: I completely agree, because that's what changes us. If you're actually reacting out of fear and paranoia, then you're not the kind of American -- that's not the country we want to be.

We have to think not only about protecting our country but holding onto our sense of who we are. And I don't think that we are the kind of people that cower and change our lives, because we're afraid of this kind of low-level terrorist attack. That's not an existential threat to America. Al Qaeda cannot destroy America. We can do that to ourselves.

COOPER: In terms of al Qaeda, I mean, we know they are severely weakened. When you look at the potential threats out there, is it al Qaeda central that you look to or is it more the al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S.-born cleric and groups in Yemen or elsewhere?

WRIGHT: There are two threats that I see that are real. One is Anwar al-Awlaki, I think, is a very dangerous individual. And he was involved in al Qaeda, I'm convinced, early on. You know, the first two al Qaeda hijackers who came to America in January of 2000 went to San Diego, where Anwar al-Awlaki was an imam. They followed him all across America when he went to Virginia. So I think that he was closely tied into al Qaeda then.

He's the natural real successor to bin Laden. And he has advantages bin Laden didn't have. He's a fluent English speaker. He's an American citizen. And he has the religious authority that bin Laden never had.

But there's another threat that I see as something of concern. And that's Laskhar-e-Taiba, which is a...

COOPER: The group we saw that was involved in the attacks in -- in Mumbai.

WRIGHT: That's correct. That really is a state-sponsored terror group that was created by the Pakistani intelligence organization. And the boundaries between Lashkar and al Qaeda are very fluid. People are members of both organizations. They go back and forth.

And Lashkar operatives gave safe houses to al Qaeda members when they were leaving Tora Bora.

COOPER: What I find so frightening about their attacks, especially the Mumbai attack, was with a relatively small number of lightly-armed fighters -- machine guns, grenades -- they were able to basically paralyze a city by taking over and attacking just a few -- you know, a hotel, a few other locations. I think that's a worrying kind of attack, because that's not -- it's not a big attack, but with a few people lightly armed, to be able to paralyze a major city like Mumbai, that's stunning.

WRIGHT: In the Chicago trial of David Headley, this Pakistani- American who was involved in the planning the Mumbai attacks, a lot of very unsettling information came out.

One was that there were sites planned, you know, possible terror strikes, more than 300 of them. Only a few of them actually in India. Many of them in the west. And according to Headley, he was directed by an ISI major who said specifically to attack Americans and Brits in their attack. That I find a very concerning element.

COOPER: I appreciate you being with us. Lawrence Wright, thank you so much

Still ahead, the children left behind on 9/11. They lost parents and aunts and uncles. Some were too young to remember the terrible day. Others, of course, will never forget the awful news they received. We'll hear from them ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back. Here in New York, the anniversary that, well, it remains so painful for so many, will be different in some ways this year. Ten years out, the memorial at Ground Zero is finally complete. The hole, the gaping hole now filled in with trees and two waterfalls. This is where the 9/11 families will come on Sunday.

We saw a choir practicing earlier tonight, and the sound of their incredible voices echoing across what you see right now is really extraordinary.

They've spent the last decade working to put their lives back together, so many of the families have. As many as 2,000 kids lost parents on that day. Many others lost uncles and aunts. At least 100 September 11 widows were pregnant when their young husbands died. Their babies are now third and fourth graders, and boys and girls who were toddlers on 9/11 have grown into teenagers. We talked to some of them recently.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On 9/11 I lost my father, John Robinson.

BRITTANY CLARK, AGE 10 ON 9/11: Benjamin Keith Clark. He's an executive chef.

GABRIELLA ROMERO, AGE 5 ON 9/11: My dad was Alvin Romero.

SIMA LICHTSCHEIN, AGE 11 ON 9/11: My uncle's name was Edward Lichtschein.

ERIN COUGHLIN, AGE 16 ON 9/11: Sergeant John Coughlin.

B. CLARK: I was in my fifth-grade class. And my teacher said, "Everyone look outside the window."

JESSICA MURPHY, AGE 5 ON 9/11: My teacher said it was just a little accident. Then I realized that it was much bigger than that.

B. CLARK: My first thought was, was my father OK.

DONALD SPAMPINATO, AGE 6 ON 9/11: We were all in her bedroom watching this TV show.

MATTHEW BRODERICK, AGE 7 ON 9/11: I remember asking her, like, "Mom, what movie are you watching?"

SPAMPINATO: I heard she said that they were all gone.

BRODERICK: I guess it didn't just click to me that what I was watching wasn't a movie.

SPAMPINATO: And like, I remember looking out the window just thinking the whole thing was a dream.

LENOIR: Nobody else has lost a parent on national television on the. Nobody else has seen it happen over and over again. And that's something that we all have to live with.

COUGHLIN: My mother sat us down and had every cop's kids' worst nightmare talk that Daddy wasn't coming home.

My little sister at the time just screamed out loud. All of a sudden, I was the oldest in the family. I had to step up right at that exact minute.

TAJ CLARK, AGE 7 ON 9/11: I was very, very angry. I know I punched the wall.

LICHTSCHEIN: And I saw the world as like a gross, vulgar place full of hatred.

LENOIR: I do not remember a good two years of my life. Because I like just emotionally have blocked it all out.

ALEX ROMERO, 2 ON 9/11: I don't really remember anything about it. Sometimes I think it was a better thing that I didn't know him and that he was, like, taken away from me. Or if was a worse thing that I didn't get, as friend (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that I would have known was him.

G. ROMERO: And my friends complain, "Oh, my dad's so annoying" or like, "He won't let me go out," or "He won't let me do this." It's like -- then you get mad, because you would do anything to have that. And they complain, and they don't really appreciate what they have.

: If we're talking about 9/11 in class.

A. ROMERO: Everybody would like turn around and stare at me.

SPAMPINATO: Letting us know that I was affected by it directly.

A. ROMERO: Sometimes you get a tiny bit agitated. Because it's not like I would want to be known as, oh, his dad died. His dad was killed. I don't want to be known as that. I just want everybody to know me as me, like for who I am.

COUGHLIN: Anywhere you went, right away, we're known as the 9/11 kids.

LENOIR: You always get people who are trying to help, say, like, "I know how now you feel. Everything's going to be OK."

B. CLARK: "Brittany, I'm sorry that this happened to you." Or "Brittany, is there anything we can do?" It makes me feel kind of cornered when everyone is around me just like, "Oh, yes, Brittany, you lost your father. Are you OK?" COUGHLIN: I really think people expect us to fail sometimes.

G. ROMERO: Every night I need to talk to my mom and my brother right before I go to sleep, because I'm always afraid something's going to happen to them, too.

MURPHY: Because I'm afraid if I lost one parent I'm afraid of losing the other.

COUGHLIN: Life is short.

BRODERICK: It can be taken away. In an instant. Just like it did on that Tuesday morning.

B. CLARK: I cry more. I grieve more. Because now I recognize what I've lost.

COUGHLIN: My mother will stand in the middle of the kitchen and be, like, "Can you please stop acting just like your father?"

MURPHY: But my mom always tells my sister and I that we have his smile or his sense of humor.

B. CLARK: It took me a very long time to, like, not move on from the situation but to accept the situation. But in the end, we came out pretty well.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HENDRICKS: Hi there. I'm Susan Hendricks with a "360 Bulletin."

President Obama hit the road today to sell his new jobs plan. At the University of Richmond, he told the crowd that the time for grid- locking games is over. The president is calling on Congress to approve his nearly $450 billion plan. Among the proposals, tax cuts and money to repair roads, bridges and schools

A river in northeastern Pennsylvania has started to recede a bit after leaving devastating flood damage behind. The Susquehanna River crested at a record high, almost 42 feet, which is 20 feet above flood stage.

And an investigation is under way at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Over 14,000 rounds of missing ammunition. A staff sergeant says the rounds were discovered missing on Wednesday afternoon after a combat team checked out the ammunition for training. The combat team of about 3,500 people went on lockdown while the initial investigation started, but the ammunition was not found.

Now back to Anderson.

COOPER: OK, that's it for 360. Thanks for watching. I'll see you back here at Ground Zero Sunday morning starting at 8 a.m. "TIME and HBO Present Beyond 9/11: Portraits of Resilience" now starts.