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Homeland Security

SLUG: 3-567 William Rosenau/Terrorism

DATE=MARCH 4, 2003







/// Editors: This interview is available in Dalet under SOD/English News Now Interviews in the folder for today or yesterday ///

HOST: Pakistan says the suspected planner of the 2001 terror attacks on the United States -- Khalid Shaikh Mohammed -- has been turned over to U-S custody and flown out of the country. Since his arrest in Pakistan Saturday, the suspected senior al-Qaida member had been interrogated by U-S and Pakistani authorities. Authorities hope he will divulge details about al-Qaida's funding, future targets, and possibly the whereabouts of al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden.

News Now's Rebecca Ward spoke to Political Scientist William Rosenau of the Rand Corporation about the importance of the arrest. He says Khalid Shaikh Mohammed's capture couldn't have happened without the help of Pakistan.

MR. ROSENAU: One thing that hasn't really been mentioned is what this shows us about the importance of cooperation internationally. There is no question that the CIA and the FBI were the ones who located him, who played a critical role and probably oversaw the arrest itself, but the Pakistanis also played a critical part. There is absolutely no way, I think, that we could have gone in there with our own people and grabbed him. The Pakistanis took some real political risks. I'm sure they're going to be feeling the heat domestically from the Islamists for doing this. Musharraf is, I think, really to be commended, as is the Bush administration for really keeping Pakistan on board. We simply can't apprehend these guys on our own. We need the Pakistanis and others to participate and to cooperate. So, I think that was a very, very good sign, the high level of Pakistani cooperation.

MS. WARD: How important is the arrest? Has it actually prevented any future terrorist attacks?

MR. ROSENAU: Well, I don't know whether it has prevented any attacks yet, although I think the expectation is that either his interrogation or, probably, more likely, the computers and other material they found in the house where he was living could provide some very, very important clues as to future attacks, particularly in places like the United States. So, I think there is also the sense that everyone needs to move very, very quickly, that this information is very time sensitive, that he may take steps during the interrogation to mislead the interrogators and put them off the trail. So, there is a sense that also this information is very perishable. So, there is a real sense of urgency right now.

MS. WARD: How difficult was it in tracking this man and how difficult is it in tracking other terrorist leaders?

MR. ROSENAU: I think it has been enormously difficult. The press accounts suggest that things like his talking on mobile phones was very important. I think there has also been some press accounts that the neighbors actually turned him in for a reward, which is also possible. So, it has been a very protracted process -- there's no question. I mean, finding any one individual, a person with great resources is able to hide his movements. There have been accounts that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed had some 60 aliases. One wonders how many passports he had. He has obviously changed his appearance. His wears glasses. He puts his glasses on, off. He shaves his beard~--~whatever. So, finding an individual is extremely difficult and very expensive and time consuming -- there's no question about that.

MS. WARD: So, what will happen to him now?

MR. ROSENAU: He will presumably undergo interrogation. There has been a lot of speculation about whether we would be doing the interrogating or turn him over to a third country that doesn't have the restrictions, moral and legal, on torture. I think Senator Rockefeller said over the weekend that was a possibility. And we've certainly done that in the past, although there is some concern that we would be violating the terms of the anti-torture treaty if we knowingly turn him over to a country where torture was routinely practiced. But I think, no matter what, our security personnel, FBI, CIA and others, will be spending months trying to get as much information as possible, although, as I said earlier, the shelf life of a lot of this information is going to be very, very short. So, the next few weeks will obviously be crucial.

MS. WARD: Senator Pat Roberts referred to him as a big fish, and I wonder how many other big fish there are besides Osama bin Laden.

MR. ROSENAU: Well, there is Dr. Zawahiri, the number 2, who, after Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, is probably the most important before [after ?] bin Laden. So, there are certainly those three, and a handful of others. But, no question that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is the biggest fish by far, possesses enormous amounts of information on operations, the names of people in sleeper cells all over the world, someone with some real skills and capability. I think Zawahiri and bin Laden play other very, very important roles in the movement; Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is a guy who actually knows how to carry out the operations and knows how to plan operations. So, no question he was a very, very big fish indeed.

HOST: William Rosenau is a political scientist with the Rand Corporation here in Washington.


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