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  • Saturday, August 26, 2006


    Is Osama bin Laden Still A Threat Five Years After 9/11?

    According to the Hartford Courant's Roger Catlin, here, CNN's Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour said Osama bin Laden's influence remains enormous.

    "The fact that he has eluded capture does not mean that he has left the scene," she said. "It's incredible to me that he still manages to put out fairly sophisticated video and audiotapes, that his presence is still there."

    For that reason, said Gary Berntsen, former head of the CIA's Jawbreaker Unit assigned to track and capture bin Laden, "I believe it is very important that we get bin Laden."

    Berntsen, speaking on behalf of the National Geographic Channel's "The Final Report: Osama's Escape," in which he appears, said, "Bin Laden has demonstrated his ability to conduct a catastrophic attack on the United States. He's still a formidable opponent. His resources are somewhat diminished, but he can still be very lethal."

    Michael Scheuer, author of "Imperial Hubris" and former chief of the CIA's Osama bin Laden unit, which was disbanded recently, appears in the National Geographic Channel report.

    Scheuer, speaking to reporters via satellite, called the disbanding of the unit "an extraordinary decision" that "sends a terrible message to people like Pakistan who we keep urging to help us. And it really sends a message to the American people that we're no longer chasing bin Laden."

    "The action was taken by those who simply don't like bureaucracies, he said."I would doubt that the president even knew about it being dismantled," Scheuer said.

    In the film, he says the failure to find bin Laden after five years is embarrassing: "The greatest power the world has ever seen can't find one 6-foot, 4-inch Saudi in Afghanistan. On the face of it, it looks very, very silly."

    The biggest mistake in the pursuit of bin Laden may have been not having enough troops on the ground to catch him in Tora Bora, Scheuer said.

    "The CIA begged and pleaded with the U.S. military to put the troops on the ground and block the mountain passes in the back, and the U.S. military, for various reasons, did not do that," said Philip Smucker, a former foreign correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor and author of "Al Qaeda's Great Escape: The Military and the Media on Terror's Trail."

    Scheuer says such decisions have caused a number of agency officers to speak out.

    "Clearly, we've experienced over the course of our career an increasing moral cowardice among the leaders of both parties when it comes to protecting Americans," he said.

    "Protecting Americans simply does not come first."

    The lack of troops on the Pakistan border in 2001 is also cited in the CNN report. But so is evidence that some of the Afghan warlords enlisted to help were actually paid off to look the other way.

    Amanpour says bin Laden continues to benefit from "a blanket of support."

    "Look, how is he able to put out the videos? How is he able to put out the audiotapes? How is he able to still, we think, to be with his key lieutenant, al-Zarqawi? You know, for those reasons, it's very, very, very difficult and because he's protected in those areas that he stays in."

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