Return to Transcripts main page


New Terror Alert for New York and Washington; Report: Syrian Forces Snatch Patients; Gadhafi Loyalists Don't Surrender; Egyptian Protesters Attack Israeli Embassy; Stocks Tumble on Euro Fears; The Search for Mullah Omar; 10 Years After 9/11

Aired September 9, 2011 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, ANDERSON COOPER 360: John, thanks very much.

Good evening, everyone. We begin tonight with breaking news on a new terror plot from down at one of the busiest construction site on earth. And if that's all that where a construction site, it would still be remarkable. But we all know it's much more than that. Because along with a new transportation hub and two enormous skyscrapers going up behind me, there's a remarkable memorial, the 2,606 people killed here almost ten years ago.

And ten years later, all over Manhattan, Washington, D.C., there are echoes of that terrible day. Police and troops and the assault rifles and the train stations, the same as it was. Check points and roadblocks pulling over trucks and vans looking for explosives and other dangerous materials same as it was. People on edge same as it was.

And not just because of the anniversary to breaking news tonight. New developments of 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 and so as Fran Townsend from Home Land Security adviser for President George W. Bush, and on the phone National Security 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 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 that very much specific information about these people. For example, their names are said to be very common ones as we had learned, making it much more difficult to track them down.

And as well, trying to figure more about what the plan was, where they intended to go, when did they go to United States and then went overseas, for training possibly, only to get 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?

FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Anderson, the three people that we're, they're looking for that Susan Candiotti was 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 collaboration. I also in talking to senior law enforcement officials learned that they are very much just as your picture suggests, Anderson, focus on a car or a truck bomb based on threat intelligence. FBI and New York City police department are completely embedded working with threat together at the New York KTTF. While we heard off times 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: JTTS (ph) joins some task force, what we're learning or we're hearing more confirmed information about the possible method of attack as well, correct?

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

COOPER: Do we saw any sense of the size of the truck?

TOWNSEND: No, we 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. You know, one official said, look, there's some weird things about this, which is why there's so focus on trying to get confirmation. The senior law enforcement official up in New York said to me look, even with that, even though there are inconsistencies you generally see that, this has to bring credibility to it. It is sufficiently detailed and coming from a source and the timing is right, we believe this has the ring of credibility. We just don't know enough yet.

We're showing the pictures. It was interesting in New York today on a number of sort of choke points, the police set up check points where vehicles basically blocks several lane of traffic so that traffic slowed to a crawl. All basically cars toward truck, all traffic had to move for one lane and then police pull over trucks or vans that they wanted to search.

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

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST (via telephone): Well, I mean Susan and Fran advance the today considerably over the last 24 hours. I mean, the story sounds similar to pretty serious plots that we seen in the past. One is the nagible (ph) assassin 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 dime (ph) produced quite a reaction from the FBI and your police department. He, of course, was an American citizen living in the country, living in Denver. And also seems similar to the attempt to blow up an SUV in Times Square on May 1, 2010 by Faisal Shazad (ph), who was also an American citizen. In one case of nagible assassin (ph), that was an al-Qaeda directive call. In the case of Faisal Shazad (ph) it was a personal type plot, and with the information indicates at least the suspects may have travelled to the afghan- Pakistan border region. So you know it has the ring of credibility because it seems similar the more we know about it to other plots which are being somewhat fairly serious and are being broken up in to the past, Anderson.

COOPER: Fran, Vice President Biden talked today about how the main concern has been over a lone Wolf type of an attack. This sounds like something more than that like they're traveling to the Pakistan border.

TOWNSEND: That's right. This is the threat emanates out of the Pakistan region. We heard that from multiple sources. And this is you know when I go back and think of the east African embassy bombing, if you look how al-Qaeda deploys a truck bomb, there's typically two people are in the car, one other the third person, is there to cause a distraction so the car or the truck can get to the point where they want to explode it. It's also true they exploded a bomb in Afghanistan inside the hotel there. This is kind of how Al-Qaeda does this it. So, the number of operatives, the notion it may be a truck bomb, it all make sense that people who look 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 location where we often stayed. It wasn't just one truck bomb, it was two. One would come in, explode, then another one would come in. Is that - Do you recall that?

BERGEN: Yes. I mean that was I think the - I'm facing it on the name of the hotel but it was quite ineffective.

COOPER: The Palestine hotel, I believe.

BERGEN: And kills quite a number of people. I mean I think that that kind of attack to pull that off in the United States. I mean, you know 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, you know was perpetrated by 19 hijackers and an unknown number of planners. If this plot really involved three operatives in the United States, what does it say about the size and scope of Al-Qaeda right now?

BERGEN: Well, the size and scope of Al-Qaeda is much more than what it was on 9/11. But you know clearly this plot if everything was concerned, would have probably a controller on the Afghan-Pakistan border. I mean, there were suggestions that they might be aiming Al- Sarh Waury (ph) was the number one in Al-Qaeda.

And I guess you know from the Al-Qaeda's point of view, if they can't get one thru on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, you know it becomes you know they have to show the flag at some point. And as we know, from the documents recovered at the bin Laden's compound that the tenth anniversary was a complete obsession with him and you know 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'll be tweeting tonight from ground zero as well.

Up next, the communication problem that caused the first responders' lives here on that terrible day. The 9/11 commission recommended changes, you probably remembered that. All these years later ten years later, New York and other cities have had to go load because congress cannot agree on how to fix the problem.

Tonight, we're keeping them honest.

Also, decade later the man hunt for a mullah who gave Al Qaeda free reign in his country. We'll take you inside the search for the Taliban's Mullah Omar (ph).


COOPER: Welcome back. We're live at ground zero. And just an extraordinary scene the pull print (ph) of one of the towers, if you have not been down here in a while, you should come because it's truly remarkable, particularly at night.

The breaking news tonight, New York, Washington on alert and on edge as authorities working to unravel a possible terror plot that sets the stage for our next story. It was a life threatening problem down here ten years ago. And keeping them honest, ten years later is a problem today. Something that's pretty simple to fix. While not exactly cheap, the solution would cost a tiny sliver of the $60 billion already spent on domestic security since the 9/11 attack. Ten years, and all that money later this problem, a communication problem, is only partly solved. The lives are still potentially in jeopardy because of it.

Now, take a look, hundreds of fire fighters 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. It was a radio transmission reached police inside but uh not fire fighters.


CHIEF JOSEPH CALLAN, FDNY: The reason they didn't come down is because they didn't get the message. The only acceptable reason that 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 sure if they had heard the command to evacuate, they would have evacuated. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: They didn't hear the warnings because they couldn't. The radios didn't receive police channels, didn't receive police channels. We all remember the solemn possessions as bodies were recovered from the pile. Twenty three police officers lost their lives, the death toll on firefighters, 343. Some of them couldn't communicate with commanders on the ground. All of them couldn't listen in on police frequencies.

Now, many of them were actually heading up the stairs and not down and out to safety as the towers collapsed. In 2004, you may remember the 9/11 commission identified the communications as a serious problem to contributing to the loss of life. And no federal action was taken. New York and other big cities made changes on their own. So for example, local police and firefighters can now communicate with one another, but somehow, with any other responders that might rush in from outside of the New York area. Even with the improvement, the systems are, well they are still primitive.


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


COOPER: That was New York Police Commission Ray Kelly testifying back in February before the senate commerce committee. Now, earlier, there is still a committee passed bipartisan support, bipartisan support, a measure to set aside a block of radio frequencies for a modern national first responders system sponsored by Republican Kay Bailey Hutchinson and Democrat Jay Rockefeller.


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


COOPER: Not on the Capitol Hill though. Some Republicans are blocking similar legislation on the house side believe in new spectrum should be auctioned off for money to private carriers instead of giving it to first responders free of charge. They say giving it away is a missed opportunity to reduce the deficit.

So, the bottom line, ten 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're nowhere near as good as it could be or their surviving comrades tell it they as good as the American finest and bravest deserved.

With me now is Deputy Chief Charles Dowd who recently testified to Congress about the communications problem. Thanks very much for being with us.

What's the hold up? What is the push back here? What's the problem?

DEPUTY CHIEF CHARLES DOWD, NEW YORK POLICE DEPARTMENT: The problem seems as you said, that there were 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 independents studies that have shown that we need more than that. So we need this extra piece of spectrum in order to build -

COOPER: Explain what the spectrum would do for the first responders.

DOWD: Well, what it would do is, because it's available throughout the country and we could use the new technology, Smartphone technology. You mentioned the police commission talked about a 16- year-old having more capabilities than we do today. It would give us the 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 communications.

COOPER: So, firefighters go to the building, they could pull up schematics of the building on a hand held device?

DOWD: Exactly, they would be able to handheld of device. This net work would be public safety built and built to our requirements and specifications and will be dedicated to us. We can't use commercial networks because for example during the earthquake last week, those systems get inundated, flooded with calls. And they're just no good for public safety use.

COOPER: And even, you're talking with like EMS workers, this could benefit them.

DOWD: Absolutely. So for example, there's a thing called telemeds (ph) where you could actually send people's vitals at the scene of the incident to a hospital directly in real time so that doctors could actually triage. If you have multiple patients, they could actually triage and decide which patient need to be treated first and which one needed to be transported first.

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

DOWD: What we're using right now is spectrum assigned to us decades ago. And we have a very reliable, very robust two-way voice communications system. But from a data perspective, you know we're nowhere. We need this new system and the spectrum to build it on so we would 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 with function. Right now, if I go to Washington and Boston, our communications equipment will not work. COOPER: And it also not as if that doesn't happen. And we've seen on big disasters folks coming all around 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 pled and more PDNF (ph) down there and of course people came down here on 9/11 from as far away from South Carolina and Maine.

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

DOWD: Well, you know 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 the areas in the country.

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

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

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

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

COOPER: Appreciate you being with us. Thank you so much.

DOWD: Thank you.

COOPER: Thanks. Good luck to you.

Up next, we're going to update our breaking news. New details about the possible new terror plot against the United States on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Authorities telling CNN tonight they have a partial identity of one of the three people believed involved and they believe that person is in the United States right now.

Former assistant director of 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 are now saying security forces barge into a hospital, took 18 wounded patients, some of them were in the operating room on oxygen, on life support. A doctor who witnessed the attack speaks out coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: 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.

I you are just joining us we are following breaking news, tonight, the new information about the terror threat. Authorities are working to try to unravel. This moment, they told CNN they have the partial identity of one of the three people believed involved and they believe that person is currently in United States tonight.

All over New York and Washington, they are heightened security, check point, roadblocks, seen that all day long, police pulling over trucks and vans looking for explosives and other dangerous materials. The plot is thought to involve a car or truck bomb though officials can't rule out other means. Which is why tonight the police and 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 join me now along with our own Susan Candiotti.

So, Tom we heard from Fran Townsend earlier in the program. He believes that authorities believe one suspect is already in the United States. Officials have announced a name. This is basically a man hunt going on right now?

THOMAS V. 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 the person, specifically identify him and track him down.

COOPER: We, though the sourcing on this day is that it's only a partial identity. What does that mean?

FUENTES: Well, obviously, the first name or the last name and a very common name in the U. S. So, it again makes it difficult. My understanding is that the sourcing of the information coming from Pakistan through interception also has been commonly intercept in the past and that's why they think it's credible information, but, again, they're putting the fact that the information coming in while it's been similar 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 figuring out or try to release a name or a partial name, or with that maybe cause more problems given that it's a common name?

CANDIOTTI: They're worried about that, Anderson. They are worried about too much information getting out that they think possibly impairs 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 Bushels. They're going to people that they 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 the very credible information that they are looking into, that if it weren't for this being 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 had to get the word out and make sure people were on their guard.

COOPER: Tom, it's interesting in New York today to walk or bike around as I was and to see the grid lock across Manhattan today as a result of the vehicle check points, we haven't seen that level of overt security quite a while. It's obvious a lot of activity that we're not seeing as well. How effective are check points like this. I mean, is it more, I mean is it actually effective or is it more for sort of peace of mind?

FUENTES: Well, what's interesting 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. But the entire city became too hard of a target. But on the other hand, some of the earlier attack plans that occurred, for instance, the time square bomber 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 authorities. And either he plumped (ph) the flash 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 police.

So, that's the problem we don't know here is that the fewer the people that are involve 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 you know what they were approaching with the trip lines you know now you have 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.

They 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 it becomes easier to conduct.

COOPER: All right, Tom Fuentes. Appreciate your expertise, thank you. Susa Candiotti on your reporting as well thanks.

Let's caught up with some of the other stories we're following tonight. Susan Hendricks has "360 Bulletin". Susan?

SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks Anderson. Syrian security forces stormed a hospital in the western city of Homs (ph) 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 was according to human rights watch. Earlier, we spoke to the doctor who said he can't reveal his name. It is simply too dangerous.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The most terrible moment when you can't when you're reluctant and your mission is to protect people and soldiers, he has no mercy preventing you from giving help to those, to the patients. I don't know what happened to them. But I'm sure, they are suffering now.

SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN ANCHOR: In Libya today, there's been fighting on the streets with the deadline coming and going for Gadhafi loyalists peacefully surrender with no deal.

Clashes also took place in Bani Walid, in Egypt. Protesters tore the wall surrounding the Israeli embassy, got into the building and tossed papers out of the window on to the street.

Officials say at least one man died of a heart attack and more than 200 others were injured in a clash between protesters and the police. The protesters want the Israeli ambassador to leave Egypt. This is one of several political protests today.

Also following this, stocks took a beating on Wall Street today due to fears over Europe's financial woes. Fuelling the selloffs, 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.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Susan, thanks very much. 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 stories of 9/1l survival. Cantor Fitzgerald lost a stunning 658 employees on that terrible day. No one in that north tower made it back out alive. In the 10 years since, CEO Howard Ludwig rebuilt the firm and his life and he tells his emotional story in just a few moments.

And also Nora Manning, she's on her way into her office when the first plane hit. She was so badly burned. She had no chance of surviving. But she beat the odds and she tells 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, $10 million bounty on his head. Only one known photograph of him in existence, that's him. CNN's Nick Payton Walsh goes to Pakistan where he is believed to be in hiding.

Also ahead, the children of 9/11, some of the young people whose lives changed forever when they lost their parent in the attacks.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nobody else had lost the parent on national television on the news. Nobody has seen it happen over and over again. That's something that we all have to live with.



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. It used to be called Freedom Towers. We've been reporting from down here in ground zero.

U.S. officials say al Qaeda may be planning to attack New York or Washington in a plot to correspond with the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Now some of the information came from communications for 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.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's quiet though. We catch a glimpse of the house, bushes growing thick around it, almost like they're trying to swallow the secret again. 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.

Surprising really, you've known a few months ago, this place was teeming with journalists and quite open. Things have obviously definitely changed.


COOPER: The search for Bin Laden, of course, was long, 10 years long, finally ending in his death in the hands of U.S. Navy SEALs. But the hunt goes on in Pakistan for a man name Mullah Omar, the Taliban later 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.


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

This is a NATO fuel envoy ambushed and set aflame by the Taliban days ago. Further into tow, the signs get more explicit. This one says there's only one cure for America, Jihad.

It's on the Pakistani military lock down, but still it's where U.S. official told CNN Mullah Omar is thought to be hiding and has been for years.

Only one photograph he's long been America's most wanted after Bin Laden, a $10 million bounty still on his head. Years ago, the Taliban Black Turbans were everywhere, but today it's more discrete.

Even still, our local camera man found it hard to film here while local leaders voiced huge support for 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 Qatar. This is false propaganda generated by international groups used to justify drone attacks in the tribal area. 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 levelled a local police chief's home. Police say it may have been a avenging three senior al Qaeda arrests 10 days earlier and that one bomber was this young 21-year-old Afghan refugee.

His actions probably found support in this Madrasa eulogy to senior death Taliban scrolled outside. Maulana Noor Muhamad is hugely respected by Mullah Omah himself exclaimed.

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

WALSH: A troubling thought as terror fears grips for 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 reign that got Bin Laden, leaving Mullah Omar's fate like so much in Pakistan's hands.


COOPER: And Nick Paton Walsh joins us now live from Islamabad, Pakistan. What role does Mullah Omar have in the Taliban currently?

WALSH: He's a very symbolic leader. He's an icon, so to speak. So there are questions of whether or not he has full operational control in the day-to-day basis. NATO having spent a huge amount of time taking on his -- killing or arresting or working on the sub-commanders 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 be with them to be effective in some way. You've got to have to ask yourself a question.

Then, what happened to all of fighters out there, the younger Afghan men that have been fighting for years who may not necessarily think it's the right time to agree at peace with enemy who says they're leaving, Anderson.

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

WALSH: Obviously, al Qaeda is more to some people an idea than a real organization in some ways, but the man arrest in Qatar is considered to be the externals operations manager for al Qaeda. A senior Pakistani intelligence person telling us that he's by interrogation by Pakistani agents already passed to the U.S.

He wouldn't specify that related to the threat. But it's clear he's already talking. This man en route to Africa, we understand, apparently has personal connections with Bin Laden when he was alive and has been involved in plots against Europe and the U.S.

Interesting as you mentioned the corporations before the raid frankly CIA and Pakistani intelligence were at each other's throats 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, "The Looming Tower, Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11."

If you have not read it, you must because it's really essential reading it if you want to know about the history of al Qaeda. What's it like being here on ground zero seeing this on almost the 10th anniversary.

LAWRENCE WRIGHT, AUTHOR, "THE LOOMING TOWER": 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 building rising again. And even though I guess I had some mixed feelings about, you know, the narcissism of building another one of these immense tower --

COOPER: You're going to be working out of it, though?

WRIGHT: It's true. Yes, we're the first big tenant so I guess I better get used to it.

COOPER: The -- I mean, you write so much about this. You travel so much about throughout the region early for so much of your life, what do you think 10 years after 9/11, did al Qaeda succeed in that?

I mean, al Qaeda is far weakened from what it was. 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 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 United States?

WRIGHT: I definitely do, Anderson. I think we're different people now. You know, 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 -- to the Love Field in Dallas.

COOPER: You know how to treat them.

WRIGHT: I know, what are you going to do? We went out on the tarmac, a Pan Am flight had come in from a distant port. We've walked in on the plane, sat in the first class cabin while the stewards cleaned up and then we went up to the FAA tower.

They said come on in kids, you know, have a sit, and we watched these jets taking off in a hot Dallas night. That America is lost, but it shouldn't be forgotten that we had that kind of country where the fabric -- the social fabric full of trust and safety.

And long after al Qaeda is gone, the security apparatus is still going to be intact. We need to remember, it's not just terrorism we need to fight, but the kind of fear that has -- that we have put around ourselves like a hard shell.

COOPER: When you hear about the new threat, you know, this thing -- I've been getting e-mails throughout the day from friends who are going to come here -- one was going to run in a race this weekend here.

They're asking me, do you think I should take this seriously? Should I cancel it? I keep saying no. I mean, not that you shouldn't take it seriously, but don't cancel what you're doing. I feel it's very important not to give in to fear.

WRIGHT: I completely agree because that's what's 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 on to our sense of who we are.

And I don't think we are the kind of people that coward 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, we know they're severely weakened. You look at the potential threats out there, is it al Qaeda central that you look to or is it more of the al Qaeda Arabian Peninsula, al Awalaki, 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 Awalaki I think is a very dangerous individual and he was involved in al Qaeda early on. You know, the first two al Qaeda hijackers who came to America in January of 2000 went to San Diego where Anwar Awalaki 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 a natural real successor to Bin Laden and he has advantages that Bin Laden didn't have.

He's a fluent English speaker. He's an American citizen, and the religious authority that Bin Laden never had. But there's another threat that I see is something of concern. That's Lashkar Itaiba.

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

WRIGHT: That's correct. That really is a state-sponsored terror group. It's 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 from the war.

COOPER: That was what I find so worrying about their attacks especially the Mumbai attack was with a relatively small number of lightly armed fighters, machine guns, grenades, they were basically able to paralyze a city by taking over and attacking just a few other locations.

I think that's a worrying kind of attack because it's not a big attack, but with a few people lightly armed 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 planning the Mumbai attacks, a lot of very unsettling information came out.

One was that there were fights planned, 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 corrected by an ISI major who said specifically to attack Americans and Brits in that attack, and that -- that I find it very concerning element.

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

WRIGHT: Always a pleasure.

COOPER: Still ahead, the children left behind in 9/11, they lost parents, aunts, uncles, and some are too young to remember the terrible day. The others, of course, will never forget the awful news they received. We'll hear from them ahead.


COOPER: Welcome back. Here in New York, the anniversary that remain so painful for so many will be different in some ways this year. Ten years out, the memorial ground zero is finally complete.

The hole, the gaping hole now filled in with the trees and two waterfalls, this is where the 9/11 families will come on Sunday. We saw a choir practicing earlier tonight. The sound of their incredible voices echoing and across what you see right now is extraordinary.

They 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 11th widows were pregnant when their young husbands died.

Their babies are now third and fourth graders, boys and girls who are toddlers on 9/11 have grown into teenagers. We talked to some of them recently.


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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Benjamin Kepclop, he's an executive chef.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My dad was Alvin Romero.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My uncle's name was Edward Luchian.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sergeant John Coblin.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was in my fifth grade class and our teacher said everyone look outside the window.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My teacher said it's a little accident, but then I realized it's much bigger than that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The first thought was is my father OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're all in the bedroom watching the TV show.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I remember asking her, mom --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I remember she said they're all gone.

MATTHEW BRODERICK: I guess they didn't expect that I was watching wasn't a movie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And like I remember looking out the window and thinking the whole thing is a dream.

COURTNEY LENOIR: Nobody else has lost a parent on national television, on the news. Nobody else has seen it happen over and over again. That's something we have to live with. ERIN COUGHLIN: My mother sat us down and had the worst nightmare talk that daddy wasn't coming home. My little sister at the time screamed out loud. All of a sudden, I was the oldest in the family. I had to step up at that exact minute.

TAJ CLARK: I was very, very angry. I punched the wall.

SIMA LICHTSCHEIN: 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. Emotionally, I blocked it all out.

ALEX ROMERO: I don't really remember anything about it. Sometimes I think it feels a better thing that I didn't know him and that he was taken away from me or if it was the worst thing that I did.

GABRIELLA ROMERO: When your friend is complaining like, my gosh, he's so annoying. He won't let me go out, he won't let me do this, I would get mad because I would do anything to have that. They complain and they don't really appreciate what they have.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Talking about 9/11 in class, everybody would stare at me.

DONALD SPAMPINATO: They know I was affected by it directly.

ALEX ROMERO: It makes me feel a little agitated because it's not like I would want to be known as, his dad died, his dad was killed. I don't want to be known as that. I want them to know me as me like who I am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're labeled as the 9/11 kids. How do you feel, how is this OK?

BRITTANY CLARK: Brittany, I'm sorry. It makes me feel kind of cornered when everyone surrounds me. Yes, Brittany, you lost your father, are you OK?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think people expect us to fail sometime.

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

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If I lost one parent, I'm afraid of losing the other.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It can be taken away in an instant like it did on that Tuesday morning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I cried more, I grieve more because now I recognize what I lost.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My mother says would you please stop asking us about your father.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My mom will always tell my sister and I that he had a smile and sense of humor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Took me a long time from not moving on from the situation but accepting the situation. In the end, we came out well.


COOPER: We'll be right back.


COOPER: We're following number of other stories, Susan Hendricks is back with the "360 Bulletin." Susan?

HENDRICKS: Anderson, thank you. Our thoughts are certainly with those who lost loved ones on 9/11 especially those who lost their parents.

We're following other news, President Obama hits the road to sell the new jobs plan at the University of Richmond. He told the crowd that the time for grid lock and games is over. The president is calling on Congress to approve his nearly $450 billion plan among the proposals, tax cuts, money to repair roads, bridges, and schools.

A river in north eastern 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 the lights are back on today after a short circuit at the substation in Arizona caused this, a massive black out in parts of California, Arizona and Mexico. Millions of people were without power last night. Federal investigators are look at why the short circuit has such a major ripple effect.

Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Susan, thanks very much.

That's it for "360." We're going to see you again at 10:00 p.m. tonight from Ground Zero. Thanks for watching.