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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Osama bin Laden Killed
Aired May 2, 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: And good evening, everyone.
As I said, we are coming to you tonight from Ground Zero, a special place on any night, but on this night in particular a place of remembrance and recovery.
We continue to learn more with each passing minute about the mission that killed Osama bin Laden, the man responsible for the horror that was visited upon this sacred spot. U.S. officials are now telling CNN that in addition to killing bin Laden, the Navy SEAL team on site also collected computer equipment and what they are calling a -- quote -- "load of sensitive details that could be used to thwart al Qaeda."
Also new tonight, newly released photos from inside the Situation Room at the White House showing the gravity of the situation. This is the photo released a short time ago, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with her hand over her face, President Obama on the left as he and members of his national security team were getting real-time updates on the U.S. mission to kill or capture Osama bin Laden, and a close-up of the president in the Situation Room yesterday, a defining moment for his presidency and for the whole country.
We're live for the next two hours here in Lower Manhattan at the place that became known simply as Ground Zero after bin Laden's diabolical act. Now, tonight, we learned that President Obama will come here on Thursday to meet with families who lost loved ones on that terrible day, September 11, 2001.
For those families, there can be no closure. I always hate that word. I think it's kind of a TV word. Bin Laden's death won't bring back their fathers or mothers or husbands or wives or kids. For those who survived the attacks and for the first-responders whose lives were changed forever, bin Laden's death won't restore their health or their peace of mind.
But still, his death, long overdue. Frank Cantwell, an engineer working on the construction of the new tower here, told "The Wall Street Journal" when the news broke -- quote -- "You can sort of hear the silent cheers of 3,000 ghosts." That's because for almost 10 years now, the question has been asked, angrily and then with growing frustration over the years with waning hope, where is Osama bin Laden? Why hasn't he been caught?
Now, for the first time in almost a decade, that question no longer hangs over Ground Zero, over all of this city, over Washington or Shanksville, Pennsylvania, or the nation. We know where he is, that his dead body was wrapped in a white sheet and slid into the Arabian Sea from the deck of a U.S. aircraft carrier after a heart- stopping mission, looking for a nefarious and elusive target.
Geronimo, the code word if he was captured or killed. Geronimo. That's the word U.S. Navy SEALs spoke to officials, and that word was received at the White House. After the killing and burial at sea with ritual and prayer, strictly adhering to Islamic requirements, we're told according to White House officials, a burial at sea, so there will be no shrine for his followers to visit.
It's been less than 24 hours since President Obama first announced that bin Laden was dead. The president spoke again tonight just a short time ago at a dinner for congressional leaders. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Last night, as Americans learned that the United States had carried out an operation that resulted in the capture and death of Osama bin Laden, we...
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: ... you know, I think we experienced the same sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11. We were reminded again that there is a pride in what this nation stands for and what we can achieve that runs far deeper than party, far deeper than politics.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Incredible new details are emerging literally almost every hour today, have been emerging even well into the night about the mission to kill bin Laden involving countless U.S. intelligence operatives, the highest levels of the United States government, and in the end they say four helicopters and about two dozen U.S. Navy SEALs on the ground.
Now, for all the intelligence work that led U.S. forces to the place in Pakistan, Abbottabad, to the compound where bin Laden was killed, no one in the U.S. intelligence actually saw him at that compound with their own eyes until the raid. Imagine that. Here's what U.S. counterterrorism chief John Brennan said about that today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BRENNAN, U.S. DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: There was nothing that confirmed that bin Laden was at that compound. And, therefore, when President Obama was faced with the opportunity to act upon this, the president had to evaluate the strength of that information and then made what I believe was one of the most gutsiest calls of any president in recent memory.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Gutsy call, he said, one that worked. Here's the new caption on bin Laden's photo from the FBI's most wanted terrorists list. "Deceased," it says. Some are wondering if anyone is going to see any of the $25 million reward that was posted for bin Laden.
White House officials tell us it is possible there won't be any reward money given out because the key piece of information that set off the mission came from interrogating unidentified detainees. That's how it all started.
Here's a detailed look, what we know at this point of how it all ended.
COOPER (voice-over): The room where the most wanted man in the room was finally taken down. Obtained by ABC News, this video shows the aftermath of a violent scene. Blood stains the bed and the floor. According to the official version of events, about 1:00 a.m. local time on Monday in Abbottabad, Pakistan, under the cover of darkness, about two dozen Navy SEALs in four helicopters descended upon a walled compound where officials believed Osama bin Laden was hiding.
OBAMA: A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties.
COOPER: Officials said a firefight that lasted almost 40 minutes started immediately. The house was three stories. And the SEAL team fought their way through the first floor. They pushed on to the second and third floors, where Osama bin Laden and his family lived.
Bin Laden was killed some time during the last 10 minutes of the operation, shot once in the head and once in the chest. Administration officials say he was trying to use a woman in the room as a human shield.
BRENNAN: She fought back. When there was the opportunity to get to bin Laden, she was positioned in a way that indicated she was being used as a shield.
COOPER: Officials say one of bin Laden's wives confirmed to the SEAL team the body was that of Osama bin Laden. Also killed in the assault, bin Laden's adult son and two other men, including bin Laden's most trusted courier.
Administration officials say the seeds of Sunday's operation were actually planted four years ago, when detainees at Guantanamo Bay gave up the courier's nickname. Two years later, intelligence officials learned the courier's full name, and in a cloak-and-dagger maneuver that seems straight out of a spy movie, the courier was finally found in Pakistan, reportedly because of a phone call he made to someone else who was under U.S. surveillance.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: They had a sighting of him. So they set up an elaborate surveillance effort that led them in August of 2010 to that compound. And one of my sources said to me, when we saw that compound, we said, wow. This is different.
COOPER: Different because it was a million-dollar home with no telephone or Internet service. There were also two security gates and protective walls as high as 18 feet.
Residents inside burned their trash, rather than put it out for pickup. And the third-floor terrace had a seven-foot privacy wall, as if to hide a very tall person. But intelligence officials insist there was no guarantee bin Laden was inside.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: All of these were clues to some of the intelligence officials that something wasn't right. They determined to the best of their ability that their assessment was this was built specifically to house and harbor a high- value target. And as they worked that information, they determined that, yes, they believed it was Osama bin Laden, his youngest wife, and some of his children that were living there as well.
COOPER: By mid-February, administration officials felt they had their target. A series of National Security Council meetings were convened, sources telling CNN there was agreement a ground operation would be best because -- quote -- "The best option is the one that gives proof." Preparations by special forces operatives were then set into motion.
KAJ LARSEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Because of the high-value nature of the target here, this was meticulously planned. They allegedly have built a mock -- a mockup of the compound. They would have dirt- dived and rehearsed this mission, going through the house time and time again until their moves were completely in synch and they were ready to execute.
COOPER: On Friday, before he left to tour tornado damage in Alabama, President Obama gave the green light for the operation. The orders, capture or kill bin Laden.
Around midday Sunday, the president and top officials gathered at the White House Situation Room and in real time monitored the events happening half-a-world away.
BRENNAN: It was probably one of the most anxiety-filled periods of time, I think, in the lives of the people who were assembled here yesterday.
The minutes passed like days.
COOPER: For families of the victims of 9/11 the wait has been long enough. After nearly 10 years on the run, the mastermind behind one of the most fiendish acts of terrorism is finally dead.
COOPER: As we said, this story's literally changing by the hour.
Incredible work by all our reporters to try to stay in front of it today, reporters like CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger, along with senior White House correspondent Ed Henry and senior national political analyst Peter Bergen. All from Washington join me right now.
Ed Henry, there's a lot of stories floating around about pictures that may exist of the burial at sea, also pictures or video of the actual operation. Do we know if those exist, and do we know if the White House is considering releasing any of those?
ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, in terms of the video, I can tell you that a senior administration official told me tonight that they're not -- have -- they have no plan to release a video of the burial.
But they say there is at least one still photo, maybe multiple photos of bin Laden after he was killed, and that -- they are considering releasing that. One reason why they haven't yet, I'm told by one top official, is that they don't feel great pressure to prove that bin Laden has been killed, because there's no one who's come up with any credible evidence to suggest that he's not dead. And so they don't feel heavy pressure to do it.
Another factor to keep it private is that we're told the photo is very gruesome. It shows bin Laden after he was shot. We have gotten new information tonight. Yesterday, we were told he was shot in the head. We're now told he was shot twice, first in the chest, then in the head. And so that's one factor in perhaps not releasing that photo, maybe not inflaming the Muslim world, Anderson.
COOPER: Gloria, this all started actually several years ago, when intelligence officers were interrogating high-value detainees. What have you learned? Because you have really been getting a lot of information about how all of this began.
BORGER: You know, it's kind of like a novel. They're interrogating high-value detainees like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, for example. They're getting some information about possible couriers who may be helping Osama bin Laden.
So they raise the name of one detainee. They only know his nickname. And they raise it with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. And he says immediately -- according to my source, who's very familiar with the operation, he says, no, no, no, he doesn't know anything. They said, OK. What's his name? What's his real name? And Khalid Sheikh Mohammed said, I don't know his real name.
They knew at that moment from other intelligence that this courier was indeed a protege of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was trying to protect him. And at that moment, they knew that this was someone they needed to pursue because he was a lot higher level than even they had anticipated.
Otherwise, why would Khalid Sheikh Mohammed try to protect him? And so they had to go and find out his real name, which took a couple more years. They had to track him down. They knew he was somewhere in Pakistan. But they couldn't kind of trail him. So, they had to have an elaborate surveillance system. They did that. They found him. And that led them to the compound.
COOPER: Peter, you have gotten some information...
PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: I'm sorry. I missed that, Anderson.
COOPER: I'm sorry.
Peter, you have gotten some word from your sources about some of the possible intelligence information they found at the compound. What have you learned?
PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Yes.
I mean, for a guy that didn't have Internet service or phone service in this compound, U.S. officials were surprised by the -- what they term a boatload of evidence that was recovered in the compound, including CD-ROMs, DVDs, other electronic equipment, stuff that they are going to -- what they call they're going to exploit, essentially, first of all, looking for any clues about potential al Qaeda attacks in the United States or Europe, and then, secondarily, to exploit to see if there's any information that might lead to other high-value targets, so-called, such as Ayman al-Zawahri, the number two in al Qaeda.
But the bottom line is a treasure trove of evidence that was picked up here. After all, bin Laden was believed to have been in this compound for four or even five years, and over time, he collected quite a lot of material, all of which will be proved useful to investigators.
COOPER: Peter, I mean, you know Pakistan well. Does it make any sense to you that he could have been living there for four or five years and no one in the area, no Pakistani, no one in the military who were stationed right nearby knew that he was there or something strange was going on in this facility?
BERGEN: Well, you know, U.S. officials who looked into this compound say it was pretty striking that the Osama bin Laden family who was in this compound never went to a movie, never went out for dinner. They had two sort of guys who would go out and get groceries for them.
So, it is not inconceivable that no one in the area knew that bin Laden was in this compound. That said, of course, this compound is about 800 yards from a major Pakistani military facility. And Pakistan, a country that you have been to multiple times, Anderson, is a country where often the more you know about it, the less you know about it.
And we will probably find out more about this issue as time goes on. I'm basically -- I'm an agnostic on the issue of whether the Pakistanis knew more about this than we presently have reason to believe. COOPER: We're going to talk to a lot of people about that tonight, including Tom Friedman from "The New York Times."
Gloria Borger, thank you, Ed Henry, Peter Bergen as well.
Let us know what you think. We're on Facebook, of course. You can also follow me on Twitter, @AndersonCooper.
Coming up tonight, you heard Peter talk about the compound. We're going to go to Abbottabad, Pakistan, the city where bin Laden was killed. We have a reporter there on the ground. This is a live picture of the compound itself where bin Laden was killed. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is there. We will talk to him next.
And still ahead, confirming that it was in fact Osama bin Laden that was killed, it was done incredibly quickly. DNA testing -- DNA testing, we're told, is what did it. We will talk to 360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta, who is a certified medical examiner, about how they were able to do it so fast.
COOPER: Welcome back. We're live from Ground Zero in Manhattan, hallowed ground, of course, and one of the places where people have been waiting most desperately for news of Osama bin Laden's demise.
The news has been a long time coming for survivors, for victims' family members, firefighters, for government officials, for everyone, of course.
Today, Wolf Blitzer talked with Colin Powell, who was secretary of state on 9/11. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: How did you feel yesterday, when you heard that bin Laden was dead?
COLIN POWELL, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Absolutely delighted. Justice was finally done and this killer was brought to his just rewards by being killed.
BLITZER: How disappointing was it for you, for former President Bush, that on your watch, you didn't capture or kill Bin Laden? POWELL: As disappointing as it was for President Clinton that he wasn't able too. I wish we could have gotten this guy on 9/12, the day after 9/11.
BLITZER: You were close in Tora Bora.
POWELL: We were close, perhaps, in Tora Bora, but we missed the opportunity if the opportunity existed. It was controversial, but we didn't try to make the opportunity exist.
BLITZER: Why is that? POWELL: I don't know, but there was evidence and intelligence that suggested he was in the area, but it never got translated into sending forces in there to find him. But, of course, we were disappointed. And I'm sure that everybody was disappointed, but these things take time. It is not that simple to chase somebody around in that kind of terrain and find them with reliable information, but he was found. It took 10 years, but he was found, and he was killed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, let's take you to the location where Osama bin Laden was killed.
Joining us now from Abbottabad, Pakistan, is CNN's Nick Paton Walsh.
Nick, you have just gotten there. Can you describe what the compound is like and what the town, the area around it was like? My question really is about, how much does this compound kind of stick out?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, to be honest, I mean, the compound is surrounded by large, high walls, strong security.
And I have to say that's not enormously out of keeping with the houses around me here in this sort of quiet rural city at the moment. I mean, of course, yes, on the outskirts of town, it may well have stood out, but, in terms of how it looks, with the buildings around it here, you can imagine how people may not necessarily have been struck by its appearance.
Also, burning trash, another sign, people suggested, that maybe this is abnormal. That's not too abnormal in this part of Pakistan, certainly. The compound itself is, in fact, just behind those trees behind me at the moment.
Another thing to point out about this city is the large military presence here. On the way in, we drove past what looked like two significant army barracks here. So, the question really being whether that actually works to bin Laden's advantage, being quite so close to the military almost put him beyond suspicion, Anderson.
COOPER: And is there much activity on the street or the streets around the compound? I mean, would there have been -- are people walking around? Are there a lot of eyes on the street that people would have watched a house, a compound like this being built and asked questions about it?
WALSH: I'm sure during the time it was constructed, obviously, that would have -- that would have raised some eyebrows, but a lot of the buildings around here are in a semi-phase of construction, to be honest, as well, as many of the buildings in Pakistan tend to quite often not quite be finished in the way you would normally expect. So it's hard to tell really quite what attention this building would necessarily have brought. Certainly, the town this morning very quiet indeed, very few people out, not an enormous police presence, frankly. And I think you can probably imagine quite what a shock the local residents would have got when they'd have seen four U.S. helicopters pop up in the sky just behind me about 36 hours ago, Anderson.
COOPER: Nick Paton Walsh, we will continue to talk to you tomorrow to learn more about the area where bin Laden was killed.
Joining us now is Gary Berntsen, a former CIA leader directly involved in the hunt for bin Laden, author of the book "Jawbreaker: The Attack on Bin Laden and Al Qaeda: A Personal Account by the CIA's Key Field Commander," plus former CIA officer and TIME.com's intelligence columnist Robert Baer.
Guys, both, thanks for being with us.
Gary, you were a key player in hunt to get bin Laden back when he was in Afghanistan in Tora Bora. How surprised were you to hear of the location where he actually was found?
GARY BERNTSEN, AUTHOR, "HUMAN INTELLIGENCE, COUNTERTERRORISM AND NATIONAL LEADERSHIP: A PRACTICAL GUIDE": I wasn't that surprised. I always assumed that he would be further away from the border, closer to an urban area, because it would have made the political price higher for the United States to go after him.
COOPER: But so close to Islamabad, so close to a Pakistani military facility?
BERNTSEN: Look, I wouldn't have been surprised if he was in Rawalpindi, which is a lot closer than that, because it would have -- being closer to the border, Americans could have gone after him just claiming hot pursuit on a normal operation.
COOPER: There's a lot about this operation we don't know. And often details we get at first turn out not to be true. You look at the Pat Tillman incident. You look at the Jessica Lynch story.
COOPER: What questions do you have about this operation that you would like to have answers to?
BERNTSEN: Well, what I would like to know is, is, was it just an air assault or did they attack from the ground first? I would be interested in those sort of things.
Look, they wouldn't have done an attack here unless they had good HUMINT, SIGINT, and overhead.
COOPER: Human intelligence, signals intelligence, and overhead intelligence. BERNTSEN: Right. They would have had some sort of human source on the ground. They wouldn't have just gone after this because it had high walls and they were burning trash.
COOPER: Bob Baer, they must have had eyes -- talking about human intelligence, they must have had eyes on the ground, eyes on this compound for some time.
ROBERT BAER, INTELLIGENCE ANALYST, TIME.COM: Delta Force has tactical rules that they have eyes on, an American watching the compound to make sure that bin Laden was moved -- wasn't moved out at the last minute. Absolutely, they did. They had people on the ground. They would have never gone on -- gone in without them.
COOPER: Bob, the U.S. is saying that the Pakistanis were not told of this mission until it was after -- until it was over, after U.S. officials got out of the -- the special forces got out of Pakistani airspace. You don't believe that.
BAER: Oh, not at all. I -- I -- this is the gut reaction I have that -- with those -- you have got three regiments in that area, a military academy. It's a -- it's a built-up area. And there's no way that the SEALs could be absolutely sure that these military forces wouldn't turn on them in a simple reaction.
Somehow, they were told to stand down, for whatever reason, at whatever level. I have seen these things before. I have seen it in Beirut, where the military insists of going in, in overwhelming firepower, AC-130, Gatling guns, backups.
You know, after Desert I in Iran, they didn't take any chances anymore. And I can see why the Pakistanis wouldn't want to admit they're complicitous. Why would they? I mean, what would they get out of it? It would just cause all sorts of internal problems. And it's a narrative that suits both Washington and Islamabad. And -- and I think that's fine. I don't think we should know all the details.
COOPER: And, often, as I said, again, with the Pat Tillman incident and Jessica Lynch, it's understandable why people would be suspicious about the initial story. Do you believe that the Pakistanis would have known in advance?
BERNTSEN: Well, it's possible that certain elements of the government didn't know. I wouldn't have told the Pakistanis at large, because I wouldn't have trusted Pakistan.
They have violated our trust too many times. They have lied to us too many times. Is it possible that maybe someone in the military chain got those people to stand down without their president knowing? Maybe. Who knows? But -- and I agree. History will tell us. Later on, we will find out more. But I would not have done this without the Pakistanis -- Pakistan's knowledge, if I really believed he was there and if it was that important.
COOPER: Bob, what about the story now that Peter Bergen is saying that he's hearing from sources there was a trove of intelligence data? Do you believe that? Because some people would say, well, if you want to make al Qaeda worried, you would spread the story that there was a trove of intelligence data.
BAER: Oh, this is classic, to put out disinformation at this point. And I think the administration has, frankly, been brilliant on this, from going in the way they did and keeping certain details out of the press.
BAER: Yes, absolutely.
COOPER: We broadcast from all around the world without technical problems. We're having a few technical problems. That's why we quickly went to commercial break. We want to thank Bob Baer for being with us and Gary Berntsen as well.
During the break Gary was telling me, to what Bob Baer was saying about collecting intelligence information, that he actually got a trove of intelligence information off computer data that Osama bin Laden had earlier back in Afghanistan.
So again, a lot of questions here. No doubt, in the days, in the weeks ahead we'll be learning more and more details about this operation.
After the man believed to be Osama bin Laden had been killed early this morning in Pakistan, another crucial phase of the mission began: confirming the body's identity. Just hours later, a senior administration official confirmed that a DNA match had been made using bin Laden family DNA and comparing it to DNA from the body.
CNN chief medical correspondent and certified medical examiner Dr. Sanjay Gupta is here to kind of explain how this was possible in so short a time.
Sanjay, when you see this on television shows or in legal cases, it always, you know, takes weeks and weeks. It seems like the government was able to confirm a DNA match incredibly quickly. How so?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's interesting because when people think about DNA sequencing, that's typically what takes a very long time.
But to do a match, to actually take, for example, in this case, they say, maybe a sibling's DNA, that sibling's going to share about 50 percent of their DNA with their brother or sister. So right away, you have specific areas you can sort of zero in on and say, "Look, are there similarities between these two samples of DNA?"
Between everybody, Anderson, more than 99 percent of our DNA is going to be the same. So the key for them in terms of the sort of genetic fingerprinting or genetic matching, as they call, it is to focus on the area that is different. And that can make a much shorter time than, for example, sequencing the entire DNA.
It's not going to be perfect. No one's going to say with 100 percent accuracy, because it is still a little bit of an imperfect science. But that's a little bit of how they do it.
COOPER: Well, officials have said they compared bin Laden's DNA to several bin Laden family members. Do they need to run tests on all the samples simultaneously? Or I assume they would have done that ahead of time and therefore just need to compare the DNA from bin Laden to the samples they already had.
GUPTA: That's exactly right. So essentially, if you have known samples from known siblings or known relatives of, in this case, you know, the person, bin Laden, you basically create reference samples. So you have all of those relatives or reference samples sort of lined up. And then you bring in this new sample, and you start to actually compare it, to do this matching.
And again, looking for areas that are sort of known as junk DNA or areas that are different. And you're looking for repeats in the DNA sequence. The more repeats you see that match up with one of the relatives, the more likely it is going to be an actual match. More relatives, that increases the likelihood even further.
COOPER: And very briefly, there are unconfirmed reports, and I emphasize unconfirmed, that one of those samples came from his sister, bin Laden's sister, who died from cancer several years ago while getting treatment in Boston and that the FBI had subpoenaed her body so they could get a DNA sample.
Would they be able to check -- to match DNA in the field? Or would they have to take the sample back to a ship or back to a base in Afghanistan or elsewhere?
GUPTA: That's a really good question. And you know, it's interesting because when you think about even the machines that do these more rapid tests, they are more sophisticated machines. They need to be free of contaminants, for example. If you contaminate a sample, that's a real problem.
So I don't know whether they actually flew the sample back somehow to compare it with a sibling's DNA or they had it at a base somewhere, they brought the machine in somehow in preparation for this, but I don't think it could be done right on site by any means. It would have to be some sort of clean sterile place where there's a laboratory sort of setting.
COOPER: They did have the body with them. So of course, because they were only on the ground for, I believe it was 38 minutes, the whole time of the operation, perhaps they could have done the testing with the body as they were leaving.
Sanjay Gupta, appreciate it. The DNA match the White House reported today is so far the only proof that's been offered publicly. There are apparently photographs of bin Laden's body and his burial at sea. We talked to Ed Henry about that at the top of the program. No word yet that they will be made public. Clearly, a lot of people would like to see that kind of evidence.
"New York Times" columnist and author Thomas Friedman joins me now.
Your reaction upon learning that bin Laden had been killed.
THOMAS FRIEDMAN, COLUMNIST, "NEW YORK TIMES": Well, Anderson, I'm glad that justice was done, especially as we sit here at the site of, you know, the World Trade Center. But we've killed bin Laden. That was our job. Now somebody's got to kill bin Ladenism. OK?
COOPER: What does that mean, bin Ladenism?
FRIEDMAN: This whole extremist ideology that the way the Arab Muslim world finds dignity and justice and governance is through the violent overthrow of these regimes.
And what is the good news here is that the Arab people, in a very heroic way, have already started that process.
COOPER: The uprisings...
FRIEDMAN: The uprising in Egypt. The uprising in Tunisia. The uprising in Yemen. The uprising in Libya. Are Arab people basically saying, "No, no, we want to get justice. We want to get dignity, and we want to get self-rule through peaceful means." And so I think we're on the way to something that has the potential.
But this is -- Anderson, this is the story. What happens on the ground -- we killed the bad guys. OK? But now can the good guys actually take over and create governance in this space that will give Arabs a different future?
COOPER: And is that something that we have a role in doing on the front line or is that something that can only be up to the Israelis and the Palestinians, to the people in Libya or...
FRIEDMAN: It's really for the people on the ground to do. There are things we can do at the margin. We can relieve Egypt's debt, for instance. We can help build schools. There are things on the margin we can do.
But ultimately, it's about can the moderates, could the centrists in these governments come together, coalesce, form parties and win elections. I don't mind if the Muslim Brotherhood wins an election in Egypt, on one condition, that they have to -- have to run against real progressive parties.
COOPER: There is... FRIEDMAN: That's what I'm looking for. In the Middle East, Anderson, I've always had a motto, you know, the extremists go all the way and the moderates tend to just go away. And the question is now, are the moderates actually going to hold their ground, fill this space? They've been heroic in bringing down these regimes, but now they've got to fill this space with the progressive politics.
COOPER: You know, for years, and I think you and I have talked about this once before, for years we have heard from these dictators throughout the Arab world, well, look, it's either us or the flood. It's either us or al Qaeda. We heard that from Mubarak. Even Gadhafi has been spinning that line.
Pakistan still is saying that. I mean, they still are saying, "We're the only thing standing between, you know, al Qaeda and you."
FRIEDMAN: Well, this is the tragedy of Pakistan today. Incredibly talented people. Energetic population. Doctors, lawyers. We see many Pakistani-Americans. We see the potential of this population.
But right now Pakistan is "the United States of we're not India." They've got to decide what country are they going to be. They say, "Oh, we need to keep relations with the Taliban so we have strategic depth in Afghanistan." There's no strategic depth in Afghanistan. There's schools. There's universities. There's research.
India doesn't want to take over Pakistan. That's a -- that's a shimmer of the Pakistani army to justify maintaining their control over that society.
And until that changes -- we look at our situation with Pakistan. They're with us Monday, Wednesday, Friday. They're against us Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. On Sunday I'm not sure what they're doing. So for a billion dollars a year, we pay them for Monday, Wednesday, Friday.
COOPER: And we don't even know where that billion dollars goes.
FRIEDMAN: We don't know where it goes. And we don't even know. Was it on Monday or Wednesday? Were they with us on, you know, for a Tuesday or a Thursday? I'm not sure.
COOPER: You spent tons of time in Pakistan. Any foreigner walks down the street in Pakistan, and there are a million eyes on you, watching you. Authorities come up and talk to you. Just shopkeepers will look at everything you're doing.
Do you find it conceivable that somebody, foreigners, could have built a million-dollar compound in this town close to a military facility without anybody knowing who was living inside it?
FRIEDMAN: This town -- it wasn't just a town. It was where their West Point is located. I mean, if Charles Manson's living six blocks from West Point in a mansion basically, a million-dollar mansion with two gates and barbed wire and no one says... COOPER: No one ever comes in or out?
FRIEDMAN: Exactly. Who's that guy. And they burn their own garbage. I mean, look, I've got a bridge in Islamabad for you if you think somebody didn't know that.
COOPER: Do you think this changes -- obviously, the war against extremism continues. This doesn't end. Al Qaeda. There's al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. There is a whole industry, though, that has been built in the United States of fighting terror. Does this begin a reassessment of that?
FRIEDMAN: Well, I sure hope so, Anderson. My view is this is a perfect time for us to have another 9/11 Commission, a post-9/11 Commission. Let's look back at everything we've done over the last decade...
COOPER: Not to look back at 9/11 but everything that's been done since.
FRIEDMAN: Ever since. Basically, let's take stock. We are not the United States of fighting terrorism, either. You know, our day is not September 11. Our day is the Fourth of July.
And it seems to me we've built this huge national security edifice now that we need to also take stock of. What are we doing in Afghanistan? Is it really worth $110 billion a year for the next ten years? Especially that now we've gotten bin Laden?
I really think we really need to take this moment to step back, OK, and reassess everything that's happened since 9/11.
COOPER: That's a really interesting comment, that we're not September 11. We're the Fourth of July.
FRIEDMAN: That's not us. I mean, we're not the people who are exporting fear. You know, we're the people about hope, freedom, opportunity. And we need to get back to that. I think President Obama has done a good job of getting us back to that in many ways.
But this idea as I say that everything is about national security and homeland security and these huge bureaucracies that have been created. Are they here forever? Is this it? Are we taking of our shoes and our belts and our clothes forever?
At what point do we say, "You know what? We've got to accept a little more insecurity in our life so we can -- we can live like Americans again."
You know, so I think it's really worth stepping back now and saying, "What have we built?" I think it's the time to do that.
COOPER: Do you think al Qaeda continues? I mean, not just al Qaeda central but al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Or has -- has this incident and the uprising throughout -- the blossoming throughout the Middle East change that? FRIEDMAN: To me, the brand doesn't matter. What matters is now particularly in Egypt. Egypt is the ball game. It's the heart and soul of the Arab world. They've had a democracy movement there. They've overthrown the government.
Can the centrists now put together a platform, a party, and a program to really tilt Egypt in a positive direction? If you can get that in Egypt, it really will spread, I think, in other places.
COOPER: The last time you were on the program, I though, I remember you were saying like a lot of weird stuff is going to happen, but ultimately, you're optimistic.
FRIEDMAN: Well, you know, basically, my feeling in general about the Middle East, Anderson, is stability has left the building. Stability has left the building. We've got two choices now of two different kinds of instability. One looks like that. It has a positive slope. It's instability that takes to us a democratic transition to an Indonesia, South Africa, democratic transition, and one looks like that that takes you to Pakistan, Somalia transition.
We want the Arab world -- it's going to be unstable. OK? But we want it to go like that. The potential is there.
COOPER: We bought into the promise of stability, but it was a false stability. It was a stability built on nothing.
FRIEDMAN: It was -- it was the stability of or total...
COOPER: Of total repression.
FRIEDMAN: Repression and stagnation. You were in Cairo. I was in Cairo. Forty percent of women in Egypt are illiterate. That's stable. OK? Where's that going to take you?
And so that -- it was completely phony. It was going to blow up. You know, there's a concept in climate science. They used to say we have exactly enough time starting now when it comes to dealing with climate change. I feel that way about democracy in the Arab world. It's going to be unstable but it's good to start now because they were on the road I think to a real human development disaster. And I think we have a chance now.
But ultimately it's up to them. They've got to make it happen. We cannot do it for them.
COOPER: You have got a new book coming out in the fall.
FRIEDMAN: A new book coming in the fall. It's called "That used to be us." I'm writing with Michael Mandelbaum. It's about America, how America lost its way in the world it invented, and how it finds its way back.
COOPER: I hope you'll come back.
Tom Friedman from the "New York Times." FRIEDMAN: Thank you.
COOPER: Always a pleasure.
FRIEDMAN: Appreciate it.
COOPER: Tom Friedman from "The New York Times."
Still ahead, Osama bin Laden is dead. But what does that mean for the future of al Qaeda? You just heard Tom talking about it. Is it a death blow to the terror group, as well?
Also ahead the heroes of the day. The elite warriors who carried out the mission. The Navy SEALs. This elite team. What makes them so formidable? We'll look at that ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY KING, FORMER CNN ANCHOR: Are we ever, ever going to find bin Laden?
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, of course. Absolutely.
KING: You're confident based on?
BUSH: Because we've got a lot of people looking for him, a lot of assets out there. And he can't run forever.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we have Osama bin Laden in our sights and the Pakistani government is unable or unwilling to take them out, then I think that we have to act. And we will take them out. We will kill bin Laden. We will crush al Qaeda. That has to be our biggest national security priority.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Former President Bush, when he was president. And that was candidate Obama during one of the debates.
Osama bin Laden's nearly ten years on the lam ended today in a cascade of bullets. We're told it took two shots, one to the left side of his head, the other to the left side of his chest.
President Obama left office without making good on his promise to capture the al Qaeda mastermind dead or alive, though he certainly worked hard at trying to make that happen. Today he congratulated his successor and the military forces who carried out the raid.
There is no doubt the killing of bin Laden has brought relief to a lot of Americans, but al Qaeda has many members. So our question is what happens now and how big of a blow is this to the terror group?
Joining me now Fareed Zakaria, host of "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" and editor at large at "TIME" magazine. Also former White House press secretary for President Bush, Ari Fleischer.
Fareed, your immediate -- what was your immediate thought upon hearing that bin Laden was dead?
FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": Well, my immediate thought was my college roommate lost his brother in the towers, and my immediate thought that, Obama's line, "justice has been done," was -- was entirely appropriate. And I actually texted him right that minute, saying, "Justice has indeed been done." And it was -- it was a very moving moment for him. So on a personal level that was my reaction.
My other reaction was I've heard a lot of people say this means -- this doesn't mean al Qaeda is dead, this doesn't mean it's finished, in fact it's very strong, it's vibrant. I think this is nonsense. I think that I understand why U.S. officials have to say this. You never want to over-promise. But this is a deadly blow to al Qaeda.
Look, al Qaeda is not an organization that has a huge army, that has vast resources and treasuries that it directs around the world. It was an idea. It was an idea personified by Osama bin Laden. He was this charismatic figure. To join al Qaeda, you pledged a personal oath to him. People went and died, not for Ayman al Zawahiri or Khalid Shaikh Mohammed but for Osama bin Laden.
COOPER: Ari, do you believe what Fareed is saying is true? Because I mean, there is still al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Ayman al Zawahiri, who is now -- could be the No. 2 in the regular al Qaeda.
ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There's no question he was that charismatic figure that tremendously drew people to al Qaeda and to Muslim -- Islamic fanaticism, especially in the old days against the Soviets.
But nobody but nobody was paying tribute to him over the last ten years, going to visit him and kissing his ring in person. And they weren't doing too badly over the last ten years. All you have to do is...
COOPER: So you think the organization exists even without him?
FLEISCHER: It went on without him, of course, because the ideology of hatred exists with him or without him and will continue to exist without him.
So they carried on operations over the last ten years, blessedly, none within the United States. But around the world they did strike, in London, in Madrid, and in other places. And bin Laden was on the run or in hiding back then. So they still have an ability to strike.
COOPER: To your point, though, that it's an idea, isn't it then an idea that is bigger than any one person, that on the Internet exists and groups come up in the United States or individuals pop up in the United States? ZAKARIA: Look, of course, the idea still exists, but it was personified and symbolized by him. And in fact, most of those attacks that Ari's talking about were not carried out by al Qaeda central. They were carried out by affiliated groups. And they were very much unlike what al Qaeda wanted to do, which was to attack big symbolic American targets. These were attacking local targets where you were killing locals, which frankly infuriated the locals...
COOPER: That's actually...
ZAKARIA: ... so they lost support in all those countries.
COOPER: That's sort of become the specialty of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is these smaller attacks, sometimes kind of spread over the Internet.
ZAKARIA: Which you can't do much about. But to your point about the idea, also remember, this is not -- this death is not happening in a vacuum. It's happening at a time when the Arab awakening has crippled the idea of al Qaeda.
What was al Qaeda? Al Qaeda was a group of Saudis and Egyptians who said the regimes of the Middle East are repressive. We have to overthrow them using violence, using Islam. That's the only way to get rid of these guys.
The reason we attack America is because they support these regimes like Hosni Mubarak's. Well, guess what's happened? In three months, a bunch of non-Islamic, peaceful, democratic revolutions have shaken the entire Middle East. And al Qaeda has no answer to what is a absolute crippling blow to its founding raison d'etre.
So bin Laden -- this is like the one-two punch. The Arab spring de-legitimizes the basic idea, and then you lose the charismatic leader. I don't see how they recover from this.
COOPER: This is hopefully not a day of politics, and certainly, let's hope for many more days it won't be days of politics. I think ultimately, people will start to discuss who this benefits and stuff like that. I don't really want to do that at this point.
But do you think the Bush administration deserves a lot of the credit for what has happened?
FLEISCHER: Well, Anderson, we're a great nation, and at a time like this people really do take pride in being Americans and putting our country above politics.
I think part of being a great nation is to be able to express thanks to all who were involved, beginning with the military and with the SEALs, to President Obama, and to President Bush.
This happened on President Obama's watch. He deserves the credit for what happened on his watch. And fortunately, he was able to have a strong foundation of anti-terrorist efforts including the Predator strikes in northern Pakistan, indefinite detention; Guantanamo, where we had interrogation techniques that led to the couriers, the information developed by -- to follow the courier. All that is what Barack Obama continued that George Bush started. So this is a day for all of us to just be proud of what our country's accomplished. And that's the main I consider...
COOPER: To be able to project power in this way in such a specific way and not have a lot of civilians killed is, frankly, an incredible thing. Do you think it was a tough call for President Obama?
ZAKARIA: I don't think it was a tough call, because I agree entirely with what Ari said. The credit should be shared by the Bush administration and the Obama administration, and it goes well beyond the presidents.
But the Obama administration had made a strategic call that they were going to double down or triple down on counterterrorism efforts, Special Ops, the number of drone attacks ordered was many times more than...
... under Bush. And the drone attacks was just one part of it. A lot more special operations. A lot more intelligence. That's why Petraeus is moving to the CIA, because clearly they see the CIA as the center of the battle against al Qaeda.
So this is partly the fruits of a successful counterterrorism strategy. And I do hope, Anderson, that we will look at it and realize that one of the most effective battles -- ways of fighting the war on terror is counterterrorism, is the Special Ops, is intelligence. We do not need to occupy vast swaths of Afghanistan. We do not need to rule Iraq.
COOPER: And we've said the JSOC, the Joint Special Operations Command, which sort of houses the special operations unit, really grow a lot over the last many years, and that will continue.
ZAKARIA: And yet...
FLEISCHER: That's really how the war in Afghanistan began. There were Special Forces working with the Northern Alliance in those small units.
COOPER: That was remarkable.
FLEISCHER: That was a new method of warfare. It's part of how we balanced this asymmetrical warfare. It's how we have our own asymmetrical form.
But boy, are we potent. We are pretty powerful when we launch.
ZAKARIA: And very cost effective. Special Ops, all this stuff is a few hundred million dollars compared with $1.3 trillion to occupy Iraq and Afghanistan. COOPER: Fareed, appreciate you coming down. Ari Fleischer, as well. Up next we're going to take a look at some of the remarkable Special Forces personnel that took part in this operation. The team that killed Osama bin Laden. What we now know about the Navy SEALs who got the job done. We'll be right back.
COOPER: As you know, Osama bin Laden was taken down by an elite U.S. military unit, a team of U.S. Navy SEALs. Now, they are considered the best of the best.
Retired general and former joint chiefs chairman Colin Powell knows a lot about these Special Forces. He was also secretary of state on 9/11, was a major figure in the Bush administration's attempts to get bin Laden dead or alive. Powell spoke with Wolf Blitzer this evening.
COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: The president turned out to have made the correct judgment, and he was supported by a great military team and an intelligence team. And of course those very, very brave Navy SEALs who went in.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Describe those Navy SEALs to us. Because you know, we hear about them. We read about them. This was a joint operation, not just Navy SEALs, but there were intelligence operatives. They'd been planning this for a long time.
POWELL: They were planning it for a long time. They'd been building mock-ups of what the compound looked like. This is what these folks do. This is what the CIA does. The defense intelligence agencies work on it as well. And this is what you expect our joint special operations command, consisting of Navy SEALs, Army commandos, Army Special Operations people, our delta force, lots of resources you can pull forward. But the SEALs are at the top of the list of these kinds of units.
BLITZER: When you were the secretary of state and you used to obviously go into the situation room in the West Wing of the White House when you were chairman of the joint chiefs. At one point in your career you were the national security adviser, do they have the technology during that 40 minutes that the troops were on the ground, the helicopters were there, for folks, including the president, in the situation room to be watching or listening and hearing commands, knowing what's going on?
POWELL: During my time we weren't quite that advanced. But what's happened in the last ten years with respect to technology, I'm sure it was quite possible. I don't know exactly what the president was able to see or what they were showing him. And John Brennan didn't clarify that for us. But what I'm absolutely sure of is that they had minute-by-minute, second by-second control and knowledge of what was going on in that compound. BLITZER: And you can only imagine, General Powell, during those 40 minutes that the troops were on the ground and there was this firefight and all of a sudden they were told in the situation room a helicopter is no longer operating, we've got a problem, how nervous everyone must have been.
POWELL: You really -- you really feel the tension at that point.
COOPER: That was former secretary of state, Colin Powell.
The helicopter that malfunctioned was destroyed by the Special Operations forces. They often do that. They don't want to leave any U.S. equipment behind.
The team lived up to the Navy SEALs' credo to be a, quote, "special breed of warrior ready to answer our nation's call." They are famously secretive. But tonight Tom Foreman is lifting the curtain somewhat.
Tom, what do we know about the team that killed bin Laden at this point?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'll tell you the main thing we know, Anderson. They don't want us to know much. Particularly about this group.