Published January 14, 2015
This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, June 1, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.
JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Pictures of Saudi troops trying to put down this weekend's insurrection in Saudi Arabia, feeling the sting of terrorism. This weekend's attack on a complex in Khobar, part of an effort by Islamic radicals to cripple the Saudi Kingdom and hurt the U.S. economy.
Bob Baer (search) is a former CIA case officer and author of "Sleeping With the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul For Saudi Crude." Bob, today's big question, is the Saudi government finally doing enough to fight terrorism?
BOB BAER, FMR. CIA CASE OFFICER: No. I think at this point they're still overwhelmed by this Islamic opposition. They should have known that compound was going to be attacked. One had been attacked a month ago in Yanbu, six foreigners were killed. They had beefed up security, but obviously not. They were late to react. These people led a rampage through the compound.
GIBSON: How long did it last?
BAER: It lasted for overnight before they finally went in, and tried to take them Down. The fact is that three of them got away.
GIBSON: Can you explain that, Bob? How could three of them get away?
BAER: It's inexplicable. There's one accusation there was complicity inside the Saudi government forces. I find that hard to believe, but you never know. The other is they didn't have the compound surrounded. In any hostage rescue effort like this, you absolutely secure the perimeter to make sure you're not attacked from the outside, be sure that people don't get away because these people may be planning a second attack which would be absolutely devastating at this point. And the fact that they don't have them in custody and questioning them makes me wonder about a Saudi authority.
GIBSON: OK. Now, what Saudi authority? I mean, there's been a lot of talk about one of the Saudi princes who is the interior minister. Now, you know, that he is just a little too Wahhab for everybody's comfort and maybe he sympathizes with these people a little too much. What's your read on that?
BAER: Well, it's worse than that in a sense because these people are in denial. They deny that there were 15 Saudis on those airplanes after September 11 after we identified them. They finally came around. They still have not given us all the answers where these 15 come from, who recruited them. And they've said that foreign elements are behind this fighting inside Saudi Arabia, which if they can't deal with the truth now, how will they deal with it later? These ministers are old. They deny that they have an Islamic problem, as I said. And we don't know that they're in full control of their troops. Many of the troops are non-Saudis. They're Pakistanis, there's Yemenis, and we really don't know how close Saudi Arabia is today to chaos. The markets are wondering whether the al Saud can remain in power.
GIBSON: Right, now oil spiked $2 a barrel and was $42 a barrel here. You talk in your book a lot about the vulnerability of the big oil facilities that essentially keep the world economy going. If these people can come into a housing complex, does that indicate they're too weak to go after the big, well-secured facilities or that they're building up to something big and bold?
BAER: I think it's the latter. I think, first of all, they're trying to garner popular support. They've called for a popular uprising against the Saudi royal family (search) and against the United States inside the Kingdom. They may be crazy, but they do think that they can take that country over. If things get worse, it would be very easy for them to hit a pipeline, for instance, which would send markets — send oil over $50 a barrel, I would imagine. Hitting the big facilities is difficult. It's well-guarded. The Saudis put a lot of money into, but you can still get them, for instance, with an airplane, which would be, of course, a catastrophe.
GIBSON: What is it you think is going on there? I mean, is this a small uprising of Al Qaeda? Obviously, followers of the Saudi Usama bin Laden (search). Or is this a generalized, much bigger uprising of Saudis — Saudi citizens than we're giving it credit for?
BAER: It's bigger than the Saudis are saying. The Saudis have a well-funded, well-trained security force. It's a police state. It's an authoritarian state. Normally, they should be able to put down something like this, if it were a small group, very quickly. The fact that they were able to allude capture. There was another shootout today tells me this is much more widespread and that Saudi Arabia is moving toward a chaotic situation.
GIBSON: Do you foresee a situation in which the United States, or for that matter, a world coalition that was worried about the world economy saying, you know, Saudi Arabia has devolved into chaos. The oil fields need to be secured, seized.
BAER: I think there would be a world coalition unlike Iraq that would come in and say we cannot afford to lose oil from the Gulf, from the Arab side of the Gulf. Five states — five Arab sheikhdoms control 60 percent of the world's oil reserves. We cannot lose that overnight without plunging the world into a depression.
GIBSON: Bob Baer, the former CIA case officer, author of "Sleeping With the Devil," about the Saudis. Bob, it's always good to talk to you. Thanks for coming on.
BAER: Thanks, John.
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