By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
It does. But it's like with the Rams. You can replace any player. But if you lose your best quarterback, the guy you replace him with may not be as good. KSM was a superstar terrorist. The next guy may be efficient and creative. But I think they lost their quarterback. I don't kid myself, though. Whatever plans he set in motion a year, even two years, ago might still be coming to fruition. Right now, you have a significant portion of the hierarchy in custody. But there are a bunch of highly effective guys still out there — Haroun Fazul, who executed the bombing plan in Kenya, Tawfiq bin-Atash, who managed the bombing of the USS Cole, to name a few.
How does this arrest affect your day-to-day work in L.A.?
One of our prime concerns is to drill down through the channels with our colleagues at the FBI's joint terrorist task force to find out if anything in KSM's computers or records has a nexus to the West Coast, specifically Los Angeles.
Okay, what do you know so far?
I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you.
I hope so. But I've always done best by shooting low. The bottom of those organizations is often better informed and more responsive.
If President Bush gets his way and the Patriot Act II is passed, allowing secret arrests and gag orders on those receiving subpoenas in the course of terrorist investigations, will you find yourself in, shall we say, one or two tricky situations?
You mean, because I'm a member of the "liberal media" who is now the titular head of the Anti-Terrorist Division that's had its own dark period, is it going to get interesting? Historically, whenever the LAPD was given some secret intelligence function, they took it and ran amok. But, I think my compass is pretty good, and the chief's compass is very good. I mean if, God forbid, there should be a time that we're at war and there were two or three terrorist attacks, I'm confident we're not going to suddenly turn into J. Edgar Hoover and start spying on people. On the other hand, if the U.S. marshals wanted to come in and make arrests under the direction of the attorney general, there's not much we'd be able to do about it.
You've been following Osama bin Laden since you interviewed him in 1998. What did you read into the tape released on February 10?
When the war in Afghanistan started and bin Laden released several videotapes saying America should never feel safe, Condoleezza Rice called the networks and said, "You should not broadcast these tapes. There are coded messages." I went back and played the tapes again, and said, "He's telling people to go out and kill Americans whenever and wherever they can find them. Where's the code part?" It's not subtle.
Do you think the tapes are foreshadowing events? Triggering them? Or just some generalized form of terrorist cheerleading?
Well, the pattern seems to be: Around two to six weeks after we get one of these messages, there's an event. After his interview with ABC, we had the embassy bombings. In 2000, he released a tape, and three weeks later, the USS Colewas attacked. He released a tape in August of 2001 saying the brothers have told me that there is a great surprise coming for me; three weeks later there was the September 11 attack. Last fall, Ayman al-Zawahri, bin Laden's number two, released a tape that said those who have helped the United States will be made to pay, and right after that there was the attack on Bali. Then bin Laden himself released a tape, and three or four weeks later there was an attack on Mombassa.
How spooked should we be in the coming weeks and months?
Let's just say that, when bin Laden released this most recent communiqué, I started my stopwatch.