This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," March 1, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.


GEN. JOHN ABIZAID: The terrorist enemy that is represented by bin Laden, Zawahiri (search), Zarqawi, is an ideological enemy. It is very dangerous. It is empowered by the Internet. It can and will seek to try to gain access or development of weapons of mass destruction, and if they ever do so, they'll use them against us.


JOHN GIBSON, HOST: General John Abizaid saying Al Qaeda (search) isn't giving up.

Now Usama bin Laden is calling for the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, the head-chopper Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, to attack outside Iraq and inside the United States.

So how much do we have to worry about this latest threat?

Stephen Hayes is a staff writer at The Weekly Standard. He is the author of "The Connection: How Al Qaeda's Collaboration with Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America."

So Stephen, do you take this very seriously, that bin Laden (search), from a cave someplace, has got word out to Zarqawi — you know — Go for the homeland?

STEPHEN HAYES, AUTHOR: Yes, I think we have to take it seriously. I think we have to take all of these kinds of reports pretty seriously.

Now, just what it means, I think, is hard to determine. I think one could be encouraged by the fact that bin Laden is telling Zarqawi (search) in Iraq — who's waged what must be described as a fairly successful campaign, terrorist campaign, in Iraq — to shift targets, if that's in fact what he's saying.

Why would bin Laden be asking Zarqawi to do that, if he had access or if he had the ability to ask other cells, other terrorist leaders, to be attacking us inside the United States? I think the fact is that Zarqawi has proven himself effective, and that's why bin Laden is turning there.

GIBSON: OK, but does it? Let's take these things one at a time. Does this amount to an admission on the part of bin Laden that he does not have sleeper cells in the U.S., and he cannot activate them, and he is powerless at this point to strike the United States?

HAYES: Well, I think we've got to be very careful anytime we declare Usama bin Laden powerless. I think he has been severely crippled in his ability to conduct or direct attacks. Because he's holed up, we think we've got him in a 25- to 30-kilometer-in-diameter circle. We have a good idea of where he is. U.S. intelligence officials believe it is only a matter of time before we get him.

But I wouldn't call him powerless. I think certainly the fact that he is asking Zarqawi to redirect his efforts suggests that he thinks, at least, Zarqawi may have a better network to activate than maybe bin Laden himself does.

GIBSON: And what would that be? How would Zarqawi transform a bunch of Saudi, Yemeni, Sudanese jihadis in Iraq into normal tourist-looking people to gain access to the United States and carry out an attack here?

HAYES: Well, it's a good question. I mean, I think we can't assume that Zarqawi and Al Qaeda don't have people operating in the United States. I think, in all likelihood, they do. The question is how effective...

GIBSON: Zarqawi?

HAYES: Yes. I think Zarqawi has shown himself to be a transnational terrorist leader. We've busted cells — Zarqawi cells — throughout Europe, in virtually every country in Europe from Italy to Germany to Scandinavia. Zarqawi has clearly shown that he has transnational reach.

The question is whether he has people in the United States. I would suspect that he probably does. Now, how effective they could be, or what kinds of attacks they could pull off, I think, is open to question.

GIBSON: But overall, does this say to you at all that either the insurgency in Iraq hasn't met bin Laden's expectations — to be able to derail democracy there, and he wants Zarqawi to move on — or that bin Laden feels helpless about attacking the U.S., and has to go to his best guy?

HAYES: Yes, I actually think both. I mean, certainly the insurgency in Iraq has been effective. Just Monday, we believe that Zarqawi was responsible for that attack in Hillah, which killed, you know, 125 or more Iraqis. Certainly they have been successful. They've killed a lot of Iraqis; they have killed a lot of Americans.

But there's no question that bin Laden, by asking Zarqawi to redirect his efforts, if, in fact, that's what happened, seems to be reaching out and trying to do other things. And certainly the elections in Iraq would suggest that they haven't been effective in derailing democracy there.

GIBSON: Stephen Hayes, Weekly Standard, and the author of "The Connection: How Al Qaeda's Collaboration with Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America." Stephen, it's always good to talk to you. Thanks a lot.

HAYES: Thanks, John.

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