The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 05/03/11
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Lawrence. Thank you.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
There are two reasons while Osama bin Laden became the sort of terrorist kingpin that he ultimately became. The first reason is money.
Osama bin Laden was labeled by the United States as the world‘s top financier of terrorism before he was implicated in planning and directing terrorist attacks himself. Before his own al Qaeda plots, bin Laden was thought to have been the money man behind high profile attacks like the Khobar Tower bombings in Saudi Arabia in 1996 or the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. He was international terrorism‘s money guy.
Here‘s how NBC News first reported on Osama bin Laden back in 1997.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: This guerrilla warrior operates like the CEO of a “Fortune” 500 company, funding and supporting violence against the West and its allies. Call it “Terror Inc.,” private jets, Swiss bank accounts. He gives orders via the Internet. As good a capitalist as he is a terrorist.
NEIL LIVINGSTON, TERRORISM EXPERT: He was not a terrorist per se.
He‘s the guy in the background pulling the strings.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was NBC News 1997.
So, the first reason Osama bin Laden became the world‘s terrorist kingpin was money.
The second reason he became the world‘s terrorist kingpin also money -
but in a different way. Osama bin Laden‘s father who was a construction mogul in Saudi Arabia, he died when bin Laden was about 10 years old. He left behind a hefty, but undisclosed fortune.
And that gave Osama bin Laden not only a lot of his own money, but it also gave him access to the mega rich Saudi elite. He grew up playing with Saudi princes and sheiks. He reportedly had his own stable of horses by the time he was 15 years old. And that became the key not only to his direct financial power, but to his mystique, to what made him inspirational in the extremist world, to the myth of him.
Bin Laden used to brag when the Russians invaded Afghanistan, the Saudi government wanted to send a prince. The Saudi government wanted to send somebody from the royal family. But when they couldn‘t get a Saudi royal to go to Afghanistan, to be an inspirational figure supporting the Muslim fighters against the communists there, they picked the next best thing, they picked Osama bin Laden, who was essentially Saudi royalty even if he wasn‘t actually from the royal family. Those were the roots of his inspirational power as a terrorist figurehead.
This rich guy, this almost unimaginably rich guy with unimaginably rich friends could be doing anything—could be doing anything with all his money and influence. But he went and lived among the humble mujahedeen fighters in Afghanistan, fighting against the communists. He funded that insurgency. He raised funds for that insurgency among his rich friends. He may have fought a little bit himself, although nobody really knows.
But the insurgency ultimately wins. The Soviets go home. The Soviet Union collapses shortly thereafter.
And this ostentatiously pious, humble by choice rich kid gets to be the folk hero.
When we think about Osama bin Laden, we think about mayhem and war and perverted pseudo-theology. But when bin Laden talked about what he was doing and why, he was always talking about money. Even at times you really would not expect him to be so money focused, he talked about money. Money was always how he explained what he was doing and what he and al Qaeda were trying to accomplish.
One month after the September 11th attacks, in October 2001, Osama bin Laden gave an interview to Al Jazeera. In that interview, he explained the effect of the 9/11 attacks as follows: quote, “The losses on Wall Street amounted to 16 percent and they said that this was a record loss that had never happened since the market opened more than 230 years ago. Such a huge collapse had never happened before.
The capital in circulation in this market amounts to $4 trillion. If we multiply 16 percent by $4 trillion to find out the losses that their shares suffered, we find that it is $640 billion. This is what they lost in one hour. The daily gross national income in the United States is $20 billion.
On the first week after the attacks, they did not work at all because of the psychological shock. Even to this very day, some people do not go to work because of the enormous shock.”
And he goes on and on and on about money. Bin Laden in this interview, this is a month after 9/11, he goes into great detail about layoffs in the airline industry, layoffs in the hotel industry, name-checking specific hotel chains.
Ultimately, he adds it all up and says, by his sketchy terrorist math, that he thought that his great victory of the 9/11 attacks was that they cost the United States more than $1 trillion. That‘s what he saw the victory as. That‘s how he was talking in the first month after the 9/11 attacks.
After that, even though bin Laden loomed very large in everything that Americans were thinking about, he didn‘t actually release many other video recordings. There was that one right after 9/11, a month afterwards. And there‘s a number of audio messages that he put out over the next few years.
But it really wasn‘t until 2004, right before the George W. Bush/John Kerry presidential election that bin Laden, rather, dramatically released another long videotaped statement. And, again, what did he talk about in that statement? He talked about money, reflecting again on the 9/11 attacks.
Bin Laden said, quote, “al Qaeda spent $500,000 on the event, while America on the incident and its aftermath lost, according to the lowest estimates, more than $500 billion.”
At this point, it is more than three years after 9/11 and he is still tallying up and bragging about the financial cost of the attack on the United States. The financial cost is what‘s in the front of his mind.
When Americans think about the 9/11 attacks, do we think, yes, those sure were expensive? That is not really the way that we tallied up the cost. But that is the way that he tallied it up. And that is the way he consistently explained al Qaeda‘s overall strategy—something that looked to us like nihilism, like insane, Neanderthal, fundamentalist, blood thirsty nihilism.
From his perspective, from the perspective of the founder of al Qaeda, it was economic. And it was economically rational. Bin Laden saying in 2004, quote, “We are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy. As for the economic deficit, it has reached astronomical numbers estimated to total more than $1 trillion—the real loser is you, the American people and their economy.”
According to bin Laden, the goal of al Qaeda was to bleed America to the point of bankruptcy. That was his grand strategy.
Our good friend Ezra Klein at “The Washington Post” wrote about this today, saying, quote, “For bin Laden, success was to be measured to body counts. It was to be measured in deficits, in borrowing costs, in investments we weren‘t able to make in our country‘s continued economic strength.”
A month ago, a month before Osama bin Laden was killed, the Congressional Research Service published a report which seemed to me to be the most conservative possible accounting for the cost of Iraq, Afghanistan and other global “war on terror” operations since 9/11. By their very conservative estimate, just things like veterans health care and the wars themselves directly, it costs about $1.3 trillion since 9/11 and $1.4 trillion if the president‘s budget for next year is approved.
I say that‘s conservative, those numbers are conservative because Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz just wrote a book about just the Iraq war that was titled, “The Three Trillion Dollar War”—again, just for Iraq, not even talking about Afghanistan, and not even talking about everything else we have spent so much on as a country because 9/11 happened, because of what al Qaeda did—money that we would not have necessarily spent otherwise.
Last year, “The Washington Post” published a remarkable information called “Top Secret America,” chronicling how much money we have poured into defense and security over the last decade. I‘ve gone back to this series again and again since they first published it.
Quote, “The Pentagon‘s Defense Intelligence Agency has gone from 7,500 employees in 2002 to 16,500 today. The budget of the National Security Agency, which conducts electronic eavesdropping, doubled. Thirty-five FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces 35, became 106.
On the grounds of the former St. Elizabeth mental hospital in Anacostia, a $3.4 billion Department of Homeland Security headquarters building will rise from the crumbling brick wards, the largest government complex built since the Pentagon.
Twenty-four government organizations were created by the end of 2001. In 2002, 37 more were created to track weapons of mass destruction, collect threat tips and coordinate the new focus on counterterrorism. That was followed the next year by 36 new organizations; and 26 after that; and 31 more; and 32 more; and 20 or more each in 2007, 2008 and 2009.”
When 9/11 happened, the U.S. national debt was this. The day that
Osama bin Laden was finally killed nearly 10 years later this was the debt
reflecting hugely, of course, the great recession caused by the financial sector self-emulating.
But consider also that the already historically massive U.S. defense budget doubled since 2001. The U.S. intelligence budget, who knows? We didn‘t having in called the Department of Homeland Security budget when 9/11 happened. Now, we do. It got $42 billion last year.
The investment in innovation and energy and human capital and
sacrifice that America has put into security over the past 10 years is
really mind bending. It really reflects a massive national effort. And
maybe there‘s waste and fraud and abuse. And maybe a lot of that money has
gone down a rat hole or spider hole. But even if you—even if you do not
even if you do not take that tact (ph) on it, even if it hasn‘t, say you‘re being totally uncritical about the character of that spending, if you‘re just trying to be honest about how much of it there has been—what is the effect of that type of massive reorganization of American priorities? What is the effect of that on the strength of our country, on the economic strength of our country?
In 1999, before 9/11, this was median household income in America. Here‘s what happened in the years since 9/11. Median household income has dropped by 5 percent. As that average income has sunk over the past decade, the basic cost of living has gone off the charts.
Here‘s what happened to health care costs, for example, over the last decade. The average annual premiums for a family in 2000: just over 6 grand. In 2010, that figure rose to more than 13 grand.
How about something like home heating oil? Basics, right? February 2000, a gallon of home heating oil was $1.35. Now that will be $3.88 a gallon, please.
As incomes in this country have stayed flat and as the basic, basic costs of living have gone up, making the median American family materially more poor, we‘ve also seen things like our education results decline. In 2000, the U.S. ranked 14th in science and 18th in math. By 2009, the U.S. was down to 17th in science and 25th in math.
The results of all of this? Lower wages, higher living costs, poorer education. Result is the middle class in this country disintegrating. Income in equality is the worse than it has been in decades. The U.S. leading the way in income inequality in the whole developed world.
Now, as a measure of America‘s strength, the modern impossibility of the middle class is not something to feel romantic or wishful or, again, even ideological about, not at a time like this. But it is worth thinking about whether or not America has a strong resilient economy. Rich people being really rich, that alone does not give you a strong economy or a strong nation. That can just be feudalism with cable.
One of the great granular legacies of the last 10 years of American priorities is that four of the five wealthiest counties in the country are now in the Washington, D.C. beltway. Think about that. The “Forbes” list on these counties says things like Fairfax County, Virginia, is home to company with strong connections to intelligence agencies like the CIA and National Counterterrorism Center. Yes, all that spending does buy you something—buys you something here at home in addition to buying you something abroad.
Osama bin Laden‘s stated goal for the 9/11 attacks was to cause us to spend ourselves into oblivion. His goal was to do something cheap and radical and traumatizing that would cause us to react in a way that bankrupted us. So, that what they couldn‘t take down by force or by ideological competition, we would take down ourselves by panic.
Osama bin Laden, I‘m happy to say, is now dead. And now, we have a choice to make about whether the next decade of spending and policy and priorities will be one that makes us stronger, or one that gets us back to competing on our own terms for our own goals.
Joining us now is Eugene Robinson, MSNBC political analyst and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for “The Washington Post.”
Gene, thank you so much for being here.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It‘s great to be here, Rachel.
MADDOW: Is there a political opportunity, post-bin Laden, to shift priorities, to shift our security priorities to include economic security and economic strength?
ROBINSON: There should be that opening. And maybe there will be, Rachel. It‘s—you know, it will take a while I think to absorb the death of bin Laden and to kind of figure out what page we have turned. I was at the—in front of the White House the other night on Sunday night after the announcement had been made. And everybody talks about turning a page, but not about to what.
And so, let‘s see. I mean, that‘s one thing that I think this ought to represent an opportunity to redirect some of the resources to where they‘re desperately needed.
MADDOW: Did the way though—the way that we have spent money on security particularly on defense contracting and intelligence contracting in the past decade, have we, over 10 years, created a class of powerful people and powerful rich companies who have benefited so much from the way we spent money after 9/11 that they‘ll now be this great interest group that‘s really able to stop any shift away from those spending priorities?
ROBINSON: Oh, you bet. You bet we have. And you talked about that expansion. You noted that four of the five richest counties are right here in the Washington area. You‘re going to have not just those companies but elected representatives from around here lobbying I think probably fiercely that spending not be drastically cut because that would have the huge impact locally. And, of course, these companies are not just local. They have branches and operations in other parts of the country as well.
So, yes, there is a new interest group, or a larger interest group. You know, Eisenhower talked about the military industrial complex. And I think this is a—this is just a variation of that, only bigger.
MADDOW: Gene, what do you think is going to happen to the debate about the Afghanistan war after bin Laden‘s death? Obviously, we‘re sort of due for another round of debate about the war anyway—not only because it‘s getting dislocate from the traditional left/right access. We‘re having more and more Republicans coming out and saying it‘s time for the war to be wound down. But, also, July is supposed to be when those surge troops, those extra troops that President Obama sent are supposed to start coming home.
Do you think the debate about the war is going to be any different now in the wake of bin Laden‘s death?
ROBINSON: I think this definitely changes the debate. I think that there will be people who say “mission accomplished.”
We went there to—remember, the reason we went there was al Qaeda. We drove them out. We decimated the organization. And now, we have killed Osama bin Laden. It‘s time, at the very least, to reduce our presence there, to reduce our footprint and to find a way out.
I think this gives ammunition and probably considerable popular support to those who want a real retrenchment of the U.S. position in Afghanistan and not just a token withdrawal.
MADDOW: Eugene Robinson, MSNBC political analyst, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for “The Washington Post”—Gene, it is always great to see you. Thanks a lot, my friend.
ROBINSON: Great to be here, Rachel.
MADDOW: One piece of information—the one thing on which almost everyone now agrees is that Osama bin Laden is dead. Beyond that, there are the incredible, compelling, thrilling narratives of what happened in the siege that killed him, how that all happened. The stories all feature tenacious spy work, daring decision-making and superhuman courage.
That said, the stories are all different. The stories all say that different things happened. Different people did stuff. Different numbers of people did stuff. They did stuff in different orders and it had different effects.
An attempt to clarify what is already a totally incoherent landscape of news, coming up.
MADDOW: If you have been reading about all the incredible spy novelly details that are coming out about the U.S. raid on the compound in Pakistan where Osama bin Laden was living, then, you know that the operation was carried out by 79 American commandos in four helicopters. By which I mean, two helicopters, two backups, 79 commandos and a dog—by which I mean 24 Navy SEALs in two helicopters. Make that two Black Hawks ultimately followed by a third helicopter, a Chinook that was sent to the scene for emergency support.
And while we‘re on the subject of emergency support, what exactly was the emergency? Good question. It must have been that one of those helicopters came crashing down and rolled on to its side for reasons the government has yet to explain. By which, of course, I mean that one of those four or two helicopters had a mechanical failure and tumbled into a courtyard, its tail clipping a 12-foot wall, which is to say that one of those four, or was it two helicopters actually just stalled and would not take off.
Once the raid was underway, one man held an unidentified woman living there as a shield while firing at the Americans. Both were killed—by which I mean an armed Osama bin Laden took cover behind a woman who was his wife, which is to say Osama bin Laden was not armed at all and his wife was not killed. Rather a different woman in a different part of the compound was killed in crossfire.
This is what an evolving story looks like. The basic facts you‘re getting about the raid on the compound where Osama bin Laden was living and where he died, those basic facts have been wholly dependent over the last few days on where and when you are getting your information.
And spoiler alert, it does not look any prettier when you dress it up and put it on the television machine. Evolving news stories evolve. And they do it in a super-messy looking way sometimes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At 1:30 Monday morning Pakistani time, two Black Hawk helicopters—
CHRIS MATTHEWS, “HARDBALL” HOST: Two helicopters.
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: Two Black Hawks brought this team in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The raid began with four U.S. military helicopters.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You see the two helicopters.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four helicopters, two Black Hawks and two Chinooks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Half past midnight, three U.S. helicopters flying low under Pakistani radar zeroed in on the compound.
KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: The compound where bin Laden was found surrounded by seven-foot walls.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Walls as high as 18 feet topped with barbed wire.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Walls at least 12 feet high topped with razor wire.
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, “THE LAST WORD” HOST: It had 12 to 18-foot walls lined with barbed wire.
RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR: Right up to one of those 18-foot walls which surrounded the compound.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Carried about 25 SEALs to the compound, with a second team as backup.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two dozen commandos arriving overhead.
MATTHEWS: Approximately 24 Navy SEALs rappelled into bin Laden‘s heavily guarded compound.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Incredible new details about how 40 members of Navy SEAL Team Six took bin Laden‘s compound.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As dozens of U.S. commandos set up a perimeter, two teams of assault forces, Delta Force and Navy SEALs stormed the compound.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Osama bin Laden had a code name “Geronimo.”
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: NBC News has learned exclusively the code words used during the operation, a U.S. official says bin Laden was called “Jackpot,” OK? And the term to indicate a successful kill or capture for bin Laden was “Geronimo.”
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We‘ve ID‘ed Geronimo. Geronimo was the code name for the mission to get Osama bin Laden.
MADDOW: This is a story with a moral so to speak, or an object lesson maybe is a better way to put it. And that object lesson is this: the exact details of an evolving story are not the place to stake out your big, sweeping ideological argument.
There‘s nothing wrong with having understood those differently facts at different times or having gotten different facts from different sources that you thought were credible and reporting that way. There‘s nothing wrong in that reporting.
But if you are thinking about trying to use one of the many emerging details, fluid details, from the Osama bin Laden story to advance whatever your particular prepackaged political point might be, about torture or interrogation or intelligence gathering or the presidency of George W. Bush or the presidency of Barack Obama or global warming or light rail or whatever—caution. Think twice. Think three times because whether it is the fog of war or sloppiness or we‘re just going to have to be patient about this, it is clear that we do not yet have the definitive account of what happened in Pakistan, of the events that led to Osama bin Laden‘s death.
And if you try to use what you think is a really great detail from the reporting on that operation to advance a political point, it could turn out tomorrow that that detail is not true. Or someone just as authoritative as the person who reported it today will be out with new reporting in the opposite point tomorrow. And you—you with your posturing—tied to that now expired detail reporting, you will look foolish if you have a conscious about looking foolish about these sorts of things.
There are a lot of questions that we just do not have the answers to yet. And one of them is where the information came from that led to the courier that led U.S. intelligence sources to that compound in Pakistan where they killed Osama bin Laden.
“The New York Times” reports today that al Qaeda leaders in U.S. custody, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the 9/11 mastermind, and al Qaeda‘s operational chief, Abu Faraj al-Libi claim they‘ve never heard of the courier.
“The Associated Press” reporting that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed confirmed knowing the courier, but denied he had anything to be the al Qaeda.
“The Washington Post” reporting that al-Libi and other detainees pointed CIA interrogators to a courier.
Clearly, we do not have the definitive account of whether the information came from that led to Osama bin Laden. But we will get to the bottom of what we do know next with a very important source—with Malcolm Nance, the former master instructor and chief of training at the Navy‘s Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape School, the SERE School. He testified in front of Congress about how U.S. interrogators ended up doing stuff like waterboarding and why.
Please stay tuned for that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Can you confirm that it was—as a result of waterboarding that we learned what we needed to learn to go after bin Laden?
LEON PANETTA, CIA DIRECTOR: You know, Brian, in the intelligence business you work from a lot of sources of information. And that was true here. We had a—we had a multiple source—a multiple series of sources that provided information with regards to this situation.
Clearly, some of it came from detainees in the interrogation of detainees. But we also had information from other sources as well, from Signet intelligence, from imagery, from other sources that we had assets on the ground. And it was a combination of all of that that ultimately we were able to put together that led us to that compound.
So, it‘s a little difficult to say it was due just to one source of information that we got.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: CIA Director Leon Panetta saying today that there were multiple sources of intelligence that ultimately beat the path to Osama bin Laden.
So, at this point and maybe forever after, it is hard to know exactly where the key information came from that led to him. That has not stopped people of competing ideological stripes from using this week‘s news to support their own arguments that their way was the way that public enemy number one was brought to justice. People saying torture worked, or torture didn‘t work at all.
And while I am sympathetic to those arguments and have them all the time, how can anybody in any direction really know the connection of those arguments to the facts at this point?
Malcolm Nance is a former master instructor and chief of instructor at the Navy Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape School, the SERE School. Mr. Nance has testified in front of Congress that waterboarding is torture. He‘s experienced it himself. He‘s now a consultant on counterterrorism and terrorism intelligence for the U.S. government. He‘s also author of the book, “An End to Al Qaeda: Destroying Bin Laden‘s Jihad and Restoring America‘s Honor.”
Malcolm, it‘s nice to see you again. Thanks for coming on the show.
MALCOLM NANCE, FMR.NAVY SERE SCHOL INSTRUCTOR: Always a pleasure.
MADDOW: Let me just start by asking you how you felt when you heard it?
NANCE: Well, when I finally stopped creaming because, you know, I witnessed the Pentagon attack. I was right across the river from it and watched the airplane fly right into the building. So, it was very personal for me.
But it‘s also spent 10 years taking up the time of thousands and thousands of U.S. service members and their families and my family had to suffer over this, too. But we‘re very relieved that this one component of al Qaeda that we finally put the nail in the coffin of al Qaeda. And now, the infrastructure‘s going to come tumbling down, and we can see what else we can do.
MADDOW: You think that the infrastructure of al Qaeda was—that bin Laden was so important as the linchpin, or is that based on the fact that we got intelligence from where we killed bin Laden?
NANCE: Well, both of those things. First off, Osama bin Laden is the ideological glow to what al Qaeda believes. Al Qaeda was not just the man, it was the entire infrastructure that he had built around this philosophy of creating a new Islamic caliphate, of taking over the Muslim world, and then the world, and creating this clash of civilizations where Islam will defeat democracy.
Well, not only was he overtaken by events recently in the Middle East with democracy throughout the Muslim world, which had nothing to do with al Qaeda. Not one word of his philosophy was used in that. He‘s dead.
NANCE: And now, his followers were on, the hangers on, the people who were under him, his lieutenants, they have to justify their very existence in an Islamic world that has proved that Islamic democracy does not need violence, doesn‘t need anything that he was offering at this point. And with that, U.S. intelligence found a treasure trove of everything that he practically owned. And whatever communications methodology he was using in there, whether it was human intelligence, just face-to-face communications, or whether he was keeping a diary or notes, or just had something in his rolodex—we have it now. And al Qaeda organization has no clue as to what we have.
MADDOW: Yes. And in terms, I mean, there will never be anything as big for us probably as killing bin Laden. But we are all sort of on the edge of our seats to see the way that U.S. forces are going to be able to exploit any intelligence that they got there.
And as that moves forward, we‘re also left trying to figure out how—what it was that they exploited to get as far as they did. What do you make about the debate about whether or not enhanced interrogation techniques were key to getting this information that led to bin Laden?
NANCE: Well, that‘s ridiculous. OK?
First off, this intelligence the fresh. This occurred eight months ago, almost nine months ago. What this really is, what you‘ve seen—what the United States citizens and the world have seen—you have seen pure and analytical intelligence processes come together and what Director Panetta was trying to say was multidimensional intelligence was fused together.
And we put boxes around people. We got hints about who was important, who was not important. We got little bits of data whether it came from an interrogation that was soft or probably an interrogation that was relatively fresh.
And we had these names and we sifted through every name in the al Qaeda association book and with that, we started processing each one and started putting surveillance on them—whether that came from the Pakistani themselves, with people and their special branch following them around, you know, 40, 50 guys following them from here to here to there, or whether it came from signal intelligence, or whether from geospatial intelligence where we analyzed the terrain that they were moving on, or whether we actually had eyes on that person following them 24/7 using a satellite or a drone.
A lot of resources came together in this operation and once we put that box around these people, they had to move and they had to move to where they were operating from, whether that was in the mountains, moving down into a town, and then moving to this compound. And once they started going in and out of this compound, each one of those nodes, each one of these residences, each one of these places they visited, systems came down on them and we analyzed them.
And the imagery analysts as you probably heard, noticed there were very different characteristics of this residence inside of—near the Pakistan military academy that were very similar to type of compound that he‘d in Afghanistan and around Peshawar.
I‘d been to his house in Jalalabad after the Tora Bora operation, a very similar compound, five, six residences inside it. Very high walls, very austere conditions. But it was beautifully placed to be someplace that was close to a facility that no one would suspect.
But Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had done the same thing. He put his safe house right next to the Rawalpindi military center.
Abu Zubaydah, same thing. It was an operation profile.
But once we determined who was coming into this little box, you could put surveillance assets on it and around it, even if they had gone outside the box, you can look and see who‘s there and when they‘re doing operations out of there.
It‘s really, really pure, raw intelligence power that went in here—and great shout-out to all the service members in the U.S., the Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency and all the military service intelligence elements.
MADDOW: And somebody who‘s been involved in the training of those folks and teaching us all about the training about the training of those folks, a shout-out back to you.
Malcolm Nance, former chief of training at the Navy SERE School, an expert in counterterrorism and terrorism intelligence, I‘ve been wanting to talk to you about this since I learned about it. Thanks for coming in, Malcolm.
NANCE: My pleasure.
MADDOW: It‘s great to see you.
We‘ll be right back.
MADDOW: For the last decade, the world‘s paid urgent attention to the video missives from Osama bin Laden. The non-jihadist world will not miss anything about bin Laden‘s low end, low file, low down productions. But we will almost definitely see the same kind of thing from whoever it is that will take his place.
And who will be the new world‘s leading homicidal nihilist? The leading candidate would appear to be this guy, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri. You may be familiar with his half-assed video production works since he has peppered the Internet with his al Qaeda jihadist messages over the last 10 years.
But, now, the news about this week‘s big news in terrorism—that guy you just saw there, Ayman al-Zawahiri, appears to be a bad choice for promotion at al Qaeda. We have some important and not entirely discouraging facts about the man who is probably the new Osama bin Laden.
You will want to hear this. That‘s coming up.
(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—
(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)
OBAMA: And 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. And so, tonight, it is my fervent hope that we can harness some of that unity and some of that pride to confront the many challenges that we still face.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama speaking to a bipartisan congressional gathering last night getting a big bipartisan standing ovation and calling for unity for an effort even in Congress to supersede our divisions to work together. He talks about that all the time.
Even in the middle of intense political fighting, he insists on his trademark “let‘s all come together” message, to an extent that sometimes, admittedly, has made liberals like me a little crazy.
But in times like, in times this one, the president here announcing the death of Osama bin Laden at American hands, President Obama‘s talk about unity does reflect a real palpable feeling in a lot of the country, as well as just the emotional power of this event, of how much it means to all of us that Osama bin Laden is finally gone.
Is this a powerful enough moment for us as a country that it could start to bridge another gap that we‘ve got that isn‘t about politics? On 9/11, there was a nation mourning and a nation in shock. But there was a subset of us as a country who were families and loved ones of the individuals who were killed that day. Since 9/11, our nation has been at war for the whole decade, but it has been a tiny proportion of us who have fought those wars and whose families and loved ones have seen their families and loved ones fight those wars.
In this moment of emotional catharsis we are all now having about Osama bin Laden‘s death and 9/11, 10 years on, is there a way for the nation as a whole to close the gap, to do right by the small number of Americans who have borne a disproportionate share of the burden over the past 10 years.
Joining us now for “The Interview” is Alice Hoagland. Her son was the first to sacrifice. Mark Bingham was one of the first passengers onboard United Airlines Flight 93, who fought back against the hijackers which is what‘s believed to have forced that plane to crash into a field in Pennsylvania instead of the likely target in Washington, D.C.
Alice Hoagland, thank you so much for joining us tonight.
ALICE HOAGLAND, SON KILLED ON 9/11 UNITED 93 FLIGHT: Thank you, Rachel. It‘s a real pleasure to hear you articulate the issues so well.
MADDOW: Well, thank you. Can I just start by just asking how you felt and what you‘ve been thinking about since you learn that had bin Laden had been killed?
HOAGLAND: Well, it started out with a cautious hope. And it turned to real optimism and I was very gratified to hear the bipartisan members of Congress cheer and applaud, because to tell you the truth, I am very glad that Osama bin Laden is dead and not in the world anymore. I think the world is well rid of him.
I am so grateful to our past presidents, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush who began in ardent effort to capture Osama bin Laden. And I am thrilled to death that President Obama has been able to accomplish that. I am so grateful to him.
I am very grateful to Leon Panetta who had the courage to gather the intelligence and be willing to take a bullet for this operation if it failed. But was fortunately spared that because his any Navy SEALs, those courageous men were able to execute a mission so well, such a good surgical strike.
MADDOW: Did you think—did you know that it would be important to you, for bin Laden to be captured or killed before it finally happened? Is it something that you thought about before it happened?
HOAGLAND: Well, Rachel, you hit on it. I did not allow myself to think about it. I realized that the capture or death of Osama bin Laden had been downplayed probably in the fear that it wouldn‘t happen. Now that it has happened, I have to admit that I‘m very relieved. I‘m very relieved.
It seems like such good counterpoint to the brutal and unfocused and miserable mass murder that Osama bin Laden inflicted upon Americans. To have him surgically removed, excised by American bullets, I was—it seems very just and good. And President Obama is right, we have every reason to be—to take the moral high ground on this and to be glad that we can now look to this death as a way to—to renew our life and our goodness and our search for reconciliation with our Muslim brothers.
MADDOW: Nine-eleven changed our history so much as a country. Do you think there are ways we could do better by the people most directly affected—veterans and military families who have fought since 9/11, but also 9/11 family members like you? Are there things we could be doing that we‘re not doing?
HOAGLAND: Well, my heart goes out to the members of the military who have fought and died and fought and come back maimed and handicapped. I know that the Veterans Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, is really beefing up its work to help those who are now home with us and recuperating. There is really no just compensation for family members who have lost loved ones and there certainly is no real way of compensating, for giving your life for your country.
So, I am—I am not—I am satisfied with our government has done. I think they have shoulders responsibility, financial responsibility, in the form of the victim‘s compensation fund that they probably should not have shouldered. I think that other groups, the airlines that were involved, should take responsibility for the deficiencies in aviation security that they have perpetrated.
So, I am—I am satisfied with the behavior and actions of the United States government. At the same time, I‘m very sensitive the loss that many of us have suffered.
MADDOW: Alice Hoagland, mother of United Flight 93 hero, Mark Bingham
thank you for talking to us at a time like this. I‘m sure it‘s a very emotional thing at this time in particular. So, thank you, ma‘am. I really appreciate.
HOAGLAND: You‘re welcome. You‘re welcome, Rachel.
MADDOW: Coming up next on the show: the good news, Doctor, is that you are being promoted. The bad news is that your new job is Osama bin Laden‘s old job. And if you think everyone hated one, wait until you find out about how people feel about you, Doctor.
The new guy in charge of al Qaeda and how hosed he is already in taking that job. That‘s next.
MADDOW: You can argue that Osama bin Laden was the most hated man in America. He‘s the name we all know on the FBI‘s most wanted list. He‘s the one whose death sparked dancing in the streets on Sunday. He‘s the one who inspired this “Onion” headline, “Violent death of human being terrific news for once.”
You can also argue that as hated as Bin Laden was in this country, he was almost equally irrelevant in the Arab world. His vision of using terrorism to form an ultra-orthodox Islamic state considered a relic by the young people agitating to oust their current crop of dictators and replace them with democracy.
Bin Laden hated democracy.
And to the fervent few who made up Osama bin Laden‘s following in the world, he was a charismatic and powerful leader. Al Qaeda functioned almost as a cult of personality for him. With his manufactured personal myth, his oodles of family money, his twisted self-deifying, pseudo-religiosity at its center, he was tall and rugged and a good talker, especially when he was talking about himself, which he always was. He told a story about forsaking his privileged life and a wealthy family for a campaign of radical violence. He also tried hard to portray himself as the modern day heir to the Prophet Muhammad, dressing like him, welcoming the comparison.
That what was so awesome about the book supposedly by bin Laden‘s ex-wife which said bin Laden smoked a lot of pot and lusted obsessively after Whitney Houston, remember that? I would bet money that whole book was made up. But don‘t you think it drove him nuts it was out there?
Osama bin Laden‘s death is not the death of al Qaeda as an organization. They are still here. But the good news now about al Qaeda is that the man likely to succeed bin Laden as their leader, whatever bin Laden had, this guy does not have it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BRENNAN, WH CHIEF COUNTERTERRORISM ADVISOR: The number two, Zawahiri, is not charismatic. He was not involved in the fights early on in Afghanistan. So, I think he has lot of detractors in the organization. And I think you‘re going to see them start eating themselves from within more and more.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: White House terror adviser John Brennan.
Mr. Not-So-Charismatic, Ayman al-Zawahiri is a doctor. He‘s the guy sitting right next to bin Laden here. Always trying to prove himself. See how close we are?
Zawahiri has been Osama bin Laden‘s second in command in al Qaeda since at least 1998. And by a bunch of different accounts, he‘s not a very likable or inspiring terrorist, even if you are a hair-on-fire extremist yourself.
For one thing, Zawahiri is from Egypt. And in al Qaeda, apparently, that‘s not good. Ali Soufan, an FBI special agent who has interviewed many al Qaeda operatives, wrote in “The New York Times” op-ed today that although al Qaeda recruits come from many countries within the organization, apparently, it‘s sort of everybody who‘s not Egyptian against everyone who is Egyptian. Quote, “Even soccer games pit Egyptians against Persian Gulf Arabs.” Al Qaeda soccer. They can‘t do shirts versus skins, modesty, so it‘s everyone in shirts versus all the Egyptian guys in shirts.
Why is being an Egyptian a strike against you in al Qaeda? I do not know. But apparently it is. And with an Egyptian guy as an apparent next al Qaeda boss, that sounds like cause for dissention and disunity in al Qaeda, which is great news for the rest of the world.
Also, in a post-9/11 world of an already fragmented al Qaeda, the work of trying to consolidate power and authority, the way bin Laden did from the group‘s founding, there‘s never been another leader. It will fall to Mr. Not So Charismatic, from Egypt, from the position of him already having a $25 million bounty on his head and already being on the run.
Even from on the run, when Mr. Not So Charismatic has been able to put out statements in the past few years, they have mostly served to annoy other radicals, or to unsuccessfully hitch al Qaeda‘s wagon to other unrelated movements that really don‘t want to do with him. “The New York Times,” for example, reporting today that Mr. Not So Charismatic has issued five recordings this year in which he tried to hitch the pro-democratic “Arab Spring” to 9/11, with precisely zero success, which is probably why he tried five times to do it.
Quote, “Mr. Zawahiri even apologized in his message for being behind the curve on developments in the Arab world. A result of being on the run, he said.”
Or maybe the result of being the home office nag whom everybody hates. The Brookings Institute reporting today that Ayman al-Zawahiri is most known in al Qaeda for berating other groups like Egypt‘s Muslim Brotherhood because he says they stray from the true path that he follows. Anyway, those groups never liked him anyway. Mr. Zawahiri is widely believed to have ratted out the Muslim Brotherhood and others 30 years ago when he was in prison in Egypt. A rat. I‘m sure that‘s very popular in the ruthless international terrorist world.
We are all waiting to see what the U.S. will do with bin Laden‘s hard drive, with the intel they collected from the house where they killed bin Laden, maybe they‘ll be able to use that to roll up al Qaeda central and Zawahiri with it. But if he survives long enough to take over the reins of al Qaeda central from dead bin Laden, he will never be another bin Laden. And in a week of good things that it sometimes feel awkward to call good, that would be a good thing.
Thanks for joining us tonight. Now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW.”
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transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
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