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Special Report

Who Is Responsible for the London Bombings?

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume," July 8, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

Watch "Special Report With Brit Hume" weeknights at 6 p.m. ET

JIM ANGLE, GUEST HOST: It is not yet exactly known who is responsible fo r the attacks in London, though officials say it has all the hallmarks of an Al Qaeda operation. But Al Qaeda may be changing. Who better to talk to about terrorist strategies and tactics than Cofer Black, a former counterterrorism official at both the CIA and the State Department. He is now vice ch airman of Blackwater USA, a security firm.

Cofer, welcome back.

COFER BLACK, FORMER COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL: Thank you, Jim.

ANGLE: Now, as I said, we don't know for sure who is involved in this, but a lot of British officials are saying that it looks like Al Qaeda. And it is the kind of thing they might have done, bears all of their characteristics.

You know how these people think and operate. What is your sense of who might have been responsible here?

BLACK: Jim, I think it's very important not to get ahead of the facts. And we need facts to prove a specific case of who is behind it. Nevertheless, you're absolutely right. The attack being against the most innocent of us all, civilians, multiple attacks against transportation infrastructures has all of the hallmarks of Al Qaeda, but also an Al Qaeda under stress. We can talk about that a little bit later in your questioning.

ANGLE: And also that they were coordinated, in terms of time, and roughly, you know, one right after the other, also similar to some of their other attacks.

BLACK: Sure. The key is it's a multiple attack, yet I would suspect we can make -- we can compare and contrast between this attack and, say, 9/11. 9/11 far more complex, detail-oriented. Operatives need to be far better trained. This type of operation, once you get into the target area, comparatively is easier.

ANGLE: Well, now that raises an interesting question, because there are those who believe that Al Qaeda is evolving and changing in some significant ways. In fact, let's listen to one comment from a member of the September 11th Commission who talked about that very thing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIM ROEMER (D), FORMER INDIANA REPRESENTATIVE: They have changed dramatically from pre-9/11 to post-9/11. It's like the difference between a shark and a school of piranha. We've gone from Usama bin Laden, incorporated as Al Qaeda with a command-and-control structure outside of Afghanistan and the training camps, to a devolving, decentralizing, very destructive group.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANGLE: Now, does that capture what you think is happening with Al Qaeda?

BLACK: I think that's a good synopsis of it. I would change it a little bit though. This is a shark that's being hunted by a whaler. And as a result of the losses that they've encountered, they've no choice but to change their strategy.

They may not be rocket scientists, but they react to pressure, they learn from their mistakes. And they're taking the only way out, which is essentially avoidance of hard targets. They're prepared for them, American embassies, the military, things like that, and going for the most defenseless of us all, civilians who's only crime is to go to work in the morning. If they're able to penetrate the screen and get close to the target, then they have a success with pretty low-trained people.

ANGLE: Now, so they're shifting their tactics in part because we have bin Laden isolated, hiding, running around in the mountains, where he and his closest aides, it would appear, have a difficult time mounting any sort of long-planned, intricate operation using people directed from bin Laden or some other person, like Zawahiri.

BLACK: Sure. The Al Qaeda of 9/11 under stress is encountering increasing difficulties to plan the types of operations they would like, which are complex. They have problems with communications. They have problems with moving people across international borders.

So these operations take a longer period of time. They're primarily defensive. And so what you're seeing now is a shift in tactics by associated individuals and groups to the most defenseless of civilian targets.

ANGLE: So people inspired by bin Laden but not really commanded by him on a daily basis?

BLACK: That's exactly right. I think what is important in the London attack, you have the closest American ally. You have the city of London, which is probably one of the most well-developed, in terms of their counterterrorism architecture. They don't take a back seat to anybody in their ability to defend themselves, yet these terrorists were successful.

I am very confident the British were spending a significant period of time looking for -- perhaps this was an inside job. Perhaps this is from people who have lived in the U.K. for a while, possibly even British citizens.

ANGLE: It would seem on the face of it that this kind of tactic might be more difficult to deal with because these people are less predictable and they may live in a country. What's your sense of how this changes the tactics we have to employ in order to stop them?

BLACK: Correct. The target, if you will, from an operational standpoint, of the 9/11 leadership of Al Qaeda was essentially classical. They were countable, and they could be located.

What you have now, because of losses -- as the president has said, 75 percent of the leadership of 9/11 is arrested, detained, or out of business -- what you have is a diffusion.

The complexity is getting much greater, on the one hand, bad, to the good, the quality of the operatives is lower. So you have sort of an inverse relationship here.

I'd also point out, Jim, that if you look back recently at some of the attacks, all unsuccessful against the United States, the Richard Reids, the Al-Hindis, 12 people arrested. Al-Hindi was casing financial targets in Washington and New York. You have essentially -- these are Britain subjects, British citizens. So it's not the kind of classical individual that we would expect.

ANGLE: And moving down the ladder of sophistication. All right, I don't want to let you go -- we've got a little less than a minute left - - without talking about the British response here. We had a fellow on in a earlier piece, a man on the street who said that we Brits just pick up and carry on.

And it really does remind you of the kind of backbone the Brits -- that we know the Brits for from World War II and they suffered during the blitz. It really is remarkable, because terrorism is meant to shake people's faith.

BLACK: Terrorism is all about fear. And I think some nations, like individuals, can be described as standup guys. And the British, I think we can all agree, when under stress, they're very courageous, they're very brave, all of them, individually and collectively, and their response is exactly what I would have expected, confident they will overcome this, they'll keep right on going. And as the prime minister said, we will win.

ANGLE: Cofer, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

BLACK: Thanks for having me.

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