Usama bin Laden Underestimated Bush

This is a partial transcript of Special Report with Brit Hume, October 20, that has been edited for clarity.

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USAMA BIN LADEN, TERRORIST LEADER (through translator): We, God willing, will continue to fight you and continue suicide operations inside and outside the United States until you abandon your oppression and foolish acts.


BRIT HUME, CO-HOST: Well, that's a little sample of that latest Usama bin Laden (search) audiotape. Sen. Bob Graham (search), D-Fla., says the administration has given up on the war on terror and fighting the man he likes to call, "Usama been forgotten." And now there's that new or at least, newly available tape of bin Laden calling for more violence against Americans. Does that tape and the videotape out now, mean as Graham has suggested that Usama and his organization are on the comeback trail?

For answers, we turn to Richard Miniter, journalist and author of the new book, Losing Bin Laden, that is focused on the failed attempts against Al Qaeda (search) of the last U.S. administration.

Welcome. Nice to have you.


HUME: What do you make of this tape? First the audiotape that we just heard a slice of?

MINITER: Well, I take a view entirely different from that of Senator Graham. I think it shows increasing desperation on the part of bin Laden. I think he is desperate to prove to his followers that he is still alive, that he can still maintain some control over the organization. We noticed that he put his 24-year-old son, Sa'ad bin Laden into the hub in Iran where it now looks like military operations are being run against U.S. troops...

HUME: You're confident of the quality of the intelligence on that, that guy is indeed there and is emerging as an important leader, correct?

MINITER: I don't know. I'm not confidant of the second about how important he is becoming. Saif al Adel seems to be still running the hub. But I think the Iranian...

HUME: Who? I'm sorry. Help me out on that.

MINITER: Saif al Adel is the new head of the military wing of Al Qaeda, who replaced Khalid Sheikh Mohammed who we arrested last spring. And Adel is a mysterious guy. There is only one known photograph of him, which is a high school yearbook picture. So we have no idea what he looks like. We know very little about him.

But we do know that he is at the center of their continuing military operations and he appears to be operating out of Iran. The Iranians have confirmed to the Saudis that he is, but they say they've neutralized him, whatever that means. But they seem to be masterminding attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq from that base in Iran and Sa'ad, Usama's 24-year-old son is there in the mix.

HUME: So the desperation you're talking about is sort of personal desperation on bin Laden's part about his own role more than the desperation of al Qaeda as a fading organization?

MINITER: Well, I think the organization is facing some stress, absolutely. But I think they've underestimated President Bush. They're still playing by the Clinton rulebook. They think they drive up the body count, they make threatening speeches, like the tape you just played threatening attacks inside and outside the United States, or the other tape that has come out today, I believe, the videotape.

HUME: Let's look at a little bit of that. We have a little bit of that and some of it is in English. And although the quality is dodgier than the videotape, it is -- you're able to hear what he is saying. Let's listen to a little of that or watch it.


KASHMIRI: We promise that we will not let you live safely. And you will not see from us anything is just bombs fire, destroying home, cutting your heads. Our Mujahideen is coming to you very soon. For this you'll see what you didn't see before.


HUME: Now, that is dated back just a couple of weeks before that attack in Riyadh (search), Saudi Arabia back in May. First of all, who is that guy and what do you make of this tape?

MINITER: Well his name is Hazem Kashmiri. What's interesting is who his father. His father is a general in Saudi domestic intelligence, not its external intelligence but its internal intelligence. And his father is still serving as the general in Saudi intelligence. And there his son is doing almost a Saturday Night Live routine of a Jihad-type speech. It is kind of frightening stuff. You wonder why the Saudis haven't clamped down on him a little bit more.

HUME: On the father or the son?

MINITER: Well, in the Middle East, family -- if you want to trace connection. You have to look at families.

HUME: But that guy isn't living -- that son isn't living happily in Saudi Arabia somewhere? Is he or is he?

MINITER: Well, that I don't know the answer to that, Brit. But you can certainly put pressure on the father to get him to shut up or to reveal his whereabouts.

But getting back to bin Laden, I think bin Laden overestimated -- underestimated Bush and overestimated Clinton. He was still thinking back in the days where he could threaten, and combine it with terrorist attacks and broadcast speeches and drive us out of Iraq. That's what Clinton did in Somalia (search) and in Yemen (search) and in other place.

And in fact, you could see the desperation in the latest tapes where bin Laden specifically mentions Vietnam first before Somalia and Yemen, trying to repeat this pattern. He doesn't realize that Bush doesn't play by this rulebook. He is not going to let body counts drive him out. Fifty-nine Americans died at bin Laden's hands in the Clinton years. More than 100 have died in Iraq alone since the end of major fighting and Bush has no signs of giving up.

HUME: What is your sense then about the state of the organization itself, though? Is it successfully regrouping? Is it merely struggling and being lured into a fight of sort of our choosing in Iraq or is that happy talk?

MINITER: Well, you know, some of it is happy talk. But for the most part, I think they are struggling. The attacks are very dis-coordinated. Usually the class of Al Qaeda attack is something that's planned for more than a year, where the bombs are quite large, the body counts have quite high. They haven't been able to do that in Iraq, they haven't been able to be stay organized. We're making a lot of arrests and breaking up a lot of the leadership.

One of the most interesting things that I saw today, just a few hours ago on the AP wire...

HUME: Quickly.

MINITER: ... was that Mullah Jinan, who was Taliban's liaison to Al Qaeda was arrested in Afghanistan.

HUME: What does that -- where might that lead?

MINITER: Well, it might lead to bin Laden himself, because he was known to have close links with -- and might know bin Laden's whereabouts.

HUME: All right. Richard Miniter, glad to have. Thanks for coming in. Hope to see you again.


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