Transcript: The Yasin Interview

A <b>60 Minutes</b> Exclusive

THE MAN WHO GOT AWAY IS ABDUL RAHMAN YASIN, ONE OF THE FBI'S MOST WANTED TERRORISTS, A KEY PARTICIPANT IN THE FIRST ATTEMPT TO BLOW UP THE WORLD TRADE CENTER IN 1993. THE BOMBING THAT KILLED 6 AND INJURED MORE THAN 1,000. IT WAS AT THE TIME THE SINGLE WORST ACT OF INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM EVER ON U.S. SOIL.

BECAUSE YASIN FLED TO IRAQ AFTER THE BOMBING, IT'S BEEN SUGGESTED THAT SADDAM HUSSEIN MAY HAVE HAD A HAND IN THE ATTACK. THAT'S BEEN CITED AS ONE OF SEVERAL REASONS WHY THE IRAQI DICTATOR SHOULD BE REMOVED FROM POWER.

AFTER SEPTEMBER 11TH, PRESIDENT BUSH PUT YASIN ON A NEW MOST WANTED LIST OF TERRORISTS WITH A REWARD OF 25 MILLION DOLLARS.

WITH YASIN IN IRAQ ALL THESE YEARS, HE HAS BEEN OUT OF THE REACH OF U-S LAW ENFORCEMENT. WE MET WITH HIM…IN BAGHDAD TEN DAYS AGO.

AND HERE HE IS – ONE OF THE MOST WANTED TERRORISTS IN THE WORLD -- IN PRISON PAJAMAS UNDER HEAVY GUARD. YASIN IS ACTUALLY AN AMERICAN CITIZEN, BORN IN BLOOMINGTON INDIANA, WHERE HIS IRAQI FATHER WAS GETTING A PhD. BUT HE GREW UP IN BAGHDAD, SO WHEN HE FLED AFTER THE BOMBING, HE WAS COMING HOME. AFTER A YEAR OF FREEDOM, HE WAS ARRESTED BY THE IRAQI AUTHROTIES IN 1994. HE'S NEVER BEEN CHARGED WITH A CRIME, BUT THE IRAQI INTELLIGENCE AGENCY, THE MUKHABARAT, SAYS HE'S BEEN IN CUSTODY FOR THE PAST 8 YRS.

(see co-conspirators) OVER THE YEARS THE U-S GOVERNMENT WAS ABLE TO TRACK DOWN ALL THE OTHER CO-CONSPIRATORS IN THE '93 BOMBING, AND BRING THEM TO TRIAL, INCLUDING THE SO-CALLED MASTERMIND RAMZI YOUSEF AND A TOP LIEUTENANT MOHAMED SALAMEH. EACH OF THE SIX WAS SENTENCED TO MORE THAN 100 YEARS IN PRISON.

(back to Yasin) YASIN IS THE ONLY ONE WHO'S YET TO BE BROUGHT TO JUSTICE IN THE U-S. WE MET HIM LAST WEEK IN THIS SECRET MUKHABARAT FACILITY FOR HIS FIRST INTERVIEW EVER, WITH IRAQI INTELLIGENCE LISTENING IN.

STAHL: Does he have to have these handcuffs? Can someone please remove them?

HE SEEMED SHELL-SHOCKED, IF NOT TERRIFIED, A SHADOW OF THE ARMED AND DANGEROUS FUGITIVE SOUGHT BY THE FBI.

STAHL: Did you know you were on a Most Wanted Poster in the United States?

YASIN: Yeah.

STAHL: Have you seen this?

YASIN: I have seen it.

HE TOLD US HE WENT TO THE UNITED STATES IN 1992 TO JOIN HIS MOTHER AND BROTHER IN THEIR APARTMENT IN JERSEY CITY, NEW JERSEY. IT WAS EASY TO GET A PASSPORT BECAUSE WAS AN AMERICAN CITIZEN.

YASIN: I went back to the States to live and work there and at the same time to get treatment for my epilepsy.

SO HOW DID HE BECOME A TERRORIST? IF YOU BELIEVE HIM IT WAS BY SHEER COINCIDENCE. HE SAYS, HE BUMPED INTO TWO FELLOW ARABS LIVING DIRECTLY ABOVE HIM IN THE APARTMENT BUILDING - RAMZI YOUSEF AND MOHAMED SALAMEH.

YASIN: We used to drink tea together. My mother used to cook for the young men lunch and dinner. Arabic food.

PRETTY SOON, THOUGH, YOUSEF WAS RECRUITING HIM. ROPING HIM IN THRU POLITICAL INDOCTRINATION. AS HE DESCRIBES IT, HE BECAME THE PAWN OF RAMZI YOUSEF.

YASIN: He was not charismatic but he had a strong logic. He can convince people easily. He convinced me.

STAHL: So you're saying that Ramzi Yousef and Mohammed Salameh tried to politicize you. Is that what you're telling us?

YASIN: Yes, they tried and I was influenced.

They used to tell me that you are an Iraqi and you have seen the destruction in Iraq. And they used to tell me how Arabs suffered a great deal, and that we have to send a message that this is not right. This is to revenge for my Palestinian brothers and my brothers in Saudi Arabia. So they talked to me a lot about this.

STAHL: How did the operation get financed?

YASIN: I-- I don't know.

THEN I ASKED HOW HE GOT HIS MONEY.

YASIN: I got some assistance money from welfare.

STAHL: You went on American welfare?

YASIN: Yeah.

STAHL: You went on American welfare.

AT FIRST, HE SAYS, THE PLAN WAS NOT TO BLOW UP THE WORLD TRADE CENTER. RAMZI YOUSEF HAD SOMETHING ELSE IN MIND.

YASIN: He told me I want to blow up Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn.

U-S OFFICIALS SAY THEY NEVER KNEW THAT BROOKLYN NEIGHBORHOODS LIKE CROWN HEIGHTS AND WILLIAMSBURG WERE ON YOUSEF'S ORIGINAL HIT LIST.

STAHL: You agreed that killing Jews was a good idea?

YASIN: They convinced me of that.

SOMEWHERE ALONG THE WAY, THE PLAN CHANGED.

YASIN: After a while Ramzi Yousef told us to go to the World Trade Center. So we went there, walked around the parking garage and he said afterwards I have an idea that we should do one big explosion rather than do small ones in Jewish neighborhoods.

STAHL: Now you switch to the World Trade Center. What did that have to do with Jews?

YASIN: The majority of the people who work in World Trade Center are Jews.

STAHL: So, in other words, the purpose was still to kill Jews.

YASIN: In general, yes.

STAHL: You know that Muslims work there that people of all religions worked there. All nationalities.

YASIN: Yes.

YASIN: I am very sorry for what happened. I don't know what to do to make it up. My father died because of pain and sadness. It caused many troubles. I don't know how to apologize for it.

NOT ONLY DOES HE EXPRESS REMORSE – SOMETHING NONE OF THE OTHERS IN THE PLOT HAS EVER DONE – YASIN INCRIMINATES HIMSELF IN MORE WAYS THAN THE GOVERNMENT EVER KNEW. FOR INSTANCE--

STAHL: You, yourself, went along to check out the Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn. You, yourself, went along to check out the World Trade Center with Ramzi Yousef.

YASIN: We went the three of us: me, Ramzi Yousef and Salameh.

STAHL: So you-- you were involved to the extent that you were actually helping them check out the sites?

YASIN: Yes. I used to like to go out and see places, American neighborhoods with plenty of enthusiasm. Every place they went, I went along.

STAHL: But you knew that he was looking for targets. You-- you're making it sound like you were a tourist. You knew that he was picking out things to bomb.

YASIN: Yes, he told me that.

HE ALSO ADMITS TO HELPING YOUSEF BUY THE CHEMICALS AND EQUIPMENT AT THIS COMPANY IN JERSEY CITY TO MAKE THE BOMB.

STAHL: Did you know where he got his experience?

YASIN: He said that in Peshawar there were schools that taught--

STAHL: Terrorist schools? You knew who you were dealing with here. You knew that he had been trained to come to the United States as a terrorist to make bombs and blow things up. You knew that?

YASIN: I knew that after I started working with them.

WORK, HE SAYS, THAT INCLUDED HELPING MAKE THE BOMB WHICH WAS ASSEMBLED IN A SEPARATE APARTMENT IN JERSEY CITY THEY HAD RENTED.

STAHL: You were mixing the chemicals.

YASIN: I never worked with chemicals before. That was not my field.

STAHL: But you were doing it.

YASIN: He was teaching us. He was the teacher, me and Salameh were the students under his hand.

YASIN: At one time, during the work, acid spilled on my leg. I have -- scars on my leg.

STAHL: Can you show us?

YASIN: I was walking wearing shoes, and it made a hole in it. My whole leg went red and inflamed. My leg took more than a week to heal.

STAHL: Did you-- did you help them load the bomb onto the van?

YASIN: No. No, I—

STAHL: Did you watch them do it?

YASIN: Yeah.

STAHL: You didn't help because of your leg?

YASIN: Yeah.

THE BOMB WENT OFF IN THE GARAGE OF THE WORLD TRADE CENTER ON FEBRUARY 26TH, 1993. WITHIN HOURS RAMZI YOUSEF WAS ON A PLANE TO PAKISTAN. SALAMEH WAS ARRESTED WHEN – INCREDIBLY – HE WENT BACK TO GET HIS $400 DEPOSIT FROM THE TRUCK RENTAL COMPANY.

STAHL: Was there a plan for what would happen after the explosion? Was there a getaway plan? Was there a rehearsal of what you would say if the police came?

YASIN: No, there was no specific plan. Ramzi Yousef did the operation and ran off. He left the others to their fate. He did not care. He just left.

STAHL: So, you were on your own. You were on your own. You were all on your own?

YASIN: Yes.

A COUPLE OF DAYS LATER, THE FBI CAME CALLING. HE SAYS THEY BROKE INTO HIS APARTMENT, TIED HIM UP, CONDUCTED A THOROUGH SEARCH. WHAT THEY FOUND, ACCORDING TO COURT FILINGS, WERE: TRACES PF THE BOMB EXPLOSIVES ON "A SCALE," "A TOOL BOX," AND "A SHIRT." FROM THE TRASH OUTSIDE THEY FOUND THE JEANS HE WAS WEARING WHEN HE SPILLED ACID ON HIS LEG, AND TORN PIECES OF A MAP SHOWING THE ROUTE TO YOUSEF'S OTHER APARTMENT. BEFORE ANY OF THIS COULD BE ANALYZED, THE FBI AGENTS TOOK YASIN TO HEADQUARTERS WHERE, DURING THE INTERROGATION -

YASIN: I had an epilepsy fit and I fell on the floor.

STAHL: An epileptic fit.

YASIN: Yes.

STAHL: You had a seizure during the interrogation.

YASIN SAYS HE WAS COOPERATING. SO DOES NEAL HERMAN, THE RETIRED FBI AGENT WHO SUPERVISED THE INVESTIGATION OF THE '93 BOMBING.

HERMAN: He gave us information about associates of Mr. Salameh and several locations where there were search warrants being executed. Bomb factories had been identified. And he was a person that was giving information that we felt was of, of value to us.

YASIN WAS SO HELPFUL, THE FBI RELEASED HIM.

STAHL: The FBI let you go?

YASIN: Yeah. Yeah.

STAHL: They let you go.

YASIN: He drove me back home in the FBI car.

STAHL: Did they ever ask you if you were involved in any way?

YASIN: No.

STAHL: They never once asked any question about whether you took to part in this in any way?

YASIN: No. All the talking was on Ramzi Yousef and Mohammed Salameh.

YASIN REINFORCED THE IMPRESSION HE WAS COOPERATING BY VOLUNTARILY RETURNING THE NEXT DAY AND SHOWING THE FBI THIS APARTMENT IN JERSEY CITY WHERE THE BOMB WAS MADE. BUT THE FBI AGENT DIDN'T HAVE A SEARCH WARRANT.

YASIN: He told me he could not go in because he did not have a warrant. Your work with us is finished. and so he drove me back.

STAHL: Drove you back home?

YASIN: He drove me back.

SO THEY RELEASED HIM AGAIN. THIS TIME, HE WENT STRAIGHT TO A TRAVEL AGENT, BOUGHT A ONE-WAY TICKET TO THE MIDDLE EAST AND FLEW OFF THAT VERY NIGHT, NEVER TO BE SEEN IN THE U.S. – TILL NOW.

STAHL: You fooled them.

YASIN: I did not.

STAHL: Somebody else would have been so nervous that they would have given away, right by rubbing their hands, by sweating, whatever. But you didn't.

YASIN: I just spoke with them. I answered what they asked. It was normal.

LESLEY STAHL: Why did you let him go?

You have a guy in your hands with an acid burn on his leg, who lives in the same apartment as some of the others you know are involved. He knows names, he knows locations. Explain why the FBI let him go.

HERMAN: It was a collective decision made by the F.B.I., by the United States Attorney's office, whether or not that person-- there was enough information to-- to hold him. And at that time--

STAHL: Well he had the acid burn, wasn't that enough? Why wasn't that enough?

HERMAN: It was one factor. It was one piece of evidence.

STAHL: Well, he knew all the others.

HERMAN: Not all the others. He knew several of the others. He knew of them. There was not enough information to hold him and detain him. And the decision was made, and he was allowed to leave. He

LESLEY STAHL: Do you look back now, and-- and say it was a mistake?

NEIL HERMAN: There were several of us that did not want him to be allowed to leave, but he did. And that decision was made.

STAHL: But a wrong decision, you concede that.

HERMAN: it was certainly in hindsight, a mistake.

LESLEY STAHL: Monumental mistake?

NEIL HERMAN: A mistake.

ACCORDING TO THE IRAQIS, YASIN HAS LIVED HERE IN THIS PRISON ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF BAGHDAD FOR THE LAST 8 YEARS, SOMETHING WE WERE UNABLE TO VERIFY. IRAQI OFFICIALS HERE SAY THEY ALLOWED OUR INTERVIEW BECAUSE THEY HAVE NOTHING TO HIDE.

STAHL: Did anybody from Iraq send you to the United States?

YASIN: No, no.

STAHL: From the government.

YASIN: No, no.

STAHL: Were you in touch with anybody from the government?

YASIN: No. When I went to the United States, I had no idea about the explosion. I went there to live an ordinary life, like any other American citizen. That's it.

BEFORE YASIN LEFT, WE ASKED IF WE COULD GET HIS FINGERPRINTS IN HOPES THE FBI WOULD VERFIY HIS IDENTITY. THEN HE WAS RE-HANDCUFFED AND ESCORTED BACK TO HIS PRISON WHERE – AS YOU'LL SEE IN A MOMENT – HE HAS BECOME A PAWN AGAIN, THIS TIME ON A GRANDER SCALE.

THE FACT THAT YASIN FLED TO BAGHDAD AFTER THE '93 BOMBING OF THE WORLD TRADE CENTER HAS BEEN CITED AS EVIDENCE OF IRAQ'S INVOLVEMENT, AND USED AS ONE OF SEVERAL JUSTIFICATIONS FOR PRESIDENT BUSH'S PLAN TO TOPPLE SADDAM HUSSEIN. BUT THE IRAQIS DENY ANY INVOLVEMENT, AND AS THEY TRY TO PROVE THEIR INNOCENCE, YASIN, THE MAN WHO GOT AWAY, HAS BECOME THE MAN NOBODY WANTS.

VIDEO
AFTER OUR INTERVIEW, YASIN WAS TAKEN BACK TO HIS PRISON WHERE, WE'RE TOLD, HE WENT ON A HUNGER STRIKE. MEANWHILE, THE IRAQIS ARE DANGLING HIM AS BAIT IN A HIGH STAKES GAME OF INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMACY.

Stand-up: Saddam Hussein has been on an international charm offensive, doing everything he can to prevent and preempt, an American attack. He took steps to improve relations with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait; he's opened negotiations on allowing the weapons inspectors back in; and, it now appears, he's playing the Yasin card.

AND THE DEALER IS DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER TARIQ AZIZ. HE SAYS THAT IRAQ HAS BEEN TRYING TO TURN YASIN OVER TO THE UNITED STATES, BUT CLAIMS THE GOVERNMENT IN WASHINGTON DOESN'T WANT THE 25 MILLION DOLLAR FUGITIVE.

TARIQ AZIZ: Twice, we ask them to come and take him. They refused.

STAHL: Is the--

AZIZ: Which means that they are not sincere in what they are-- say. They are not honest in what they are saying, you see.

THE FIRST OFFER TO TURN YASIN OFFER, HE SAYS, OCCURRED DURING THE CLINTON ADMINISTRATION IN 1994, A YEAR AFTER THAT FIRST ATTACK ON THE WORLD TRADE CENTER.

AZIZ: We informed the American government that we have important information about that event. If you are interested, send a team to Baghdad to get that information.

THEY ACTUALLY SENT AN EMISSARY TO THE STATE DEPARTMENT TO MAKE THE OFFER, BUT HE HAD FEW DETAILS. FOR INSTANCE, AZIZ SAYS, THE IRAQI EMISSARY DID NOT TELL THE U.S. THAT YASIN WAS IN CUSTODY.

AZIZ: They did not reply. And they did not reply at all and they did not--

STAHL: But your information was very vague, wasn't it?

AZIZ: Yeah, but we showed our-- good will.

STAHL: But, would you really expect them to respond to that?

AZIZ: Well, first of all, I have to tell you that we fear that-- sending Yasin back to Iraq, after arresting him, and interrogate him-- interrogating him, was a sting operation.

STAHL: You thought that the Americans were trying to sting you-- by sending him back?

AZIZ: Yes.

STAHL: But, for what-- purpose?

AZIZ: To tell people later on, look, this man who participated in that event now is in Iraq, etc., and use it as they are doing now, using many false pretexts, you see, to hurt Iraq in their own way.

STAHL: To w-- to suggest that Iraq was involved in the bombing.

AZIZ: Yes. Yes.

STAHL: So, you t-- you were very suspicious that he was some kind of plant, or--

AZIZ: We have the right to-- we have the right to be suspicious of the American intentions.

HE SAYS THEIR SUSPICIONS WERE BORNE OUT AFTER SEPTEMBER 11TH WHEN YASIN WAS PUT ON THE MOST WANTED LIST. THAT, HE SAID, LED TO ANOTHER MORE SPECIFIC OFFER.

AZIZ: Which was. In October 2001 to tell the Americans that Yasin is in Iraq.

STAHL: How did you get that word to-- to the Americans?

AZIZ: Through two parties. Two governments. I am not going to mention names, because they asked us not to mention their names. But, the Americans know.

U.S. GOVERNMENT SOURCES HAVE CORROBORATED AZIZ'S STORY. WE HAVE LEARNED THAT ONE OF THE INTERMEDIARIES WAS EGYPT, WHICH PASSED THE MESSAGE ON TO THE C.I.A.

AZIZ: Told the Americans that Yasin is in Iraq, and the Iraqi authorities are ready to deliver him to the American authorities, if the American government sent a team to Baghdad. The American government said no, we are not going to send a team to Baghdad. But we are ready to receive him in the capital of that government.

STAHL: Of this third country.

AZIZ: Of the third country. We said, okay. We will take the man to the capital of that country, and deliver him to the American authorities. But, they should sign a paper, that they have received Yasin from the Iraqi authorities, in the presence of the third party. They refused to sign a paper. And therefore, the delivery did not take place.

STAHL: And why did you insist on that?

AZIZ: Because in every delivery, there should be proof.

STAHL: Like a Fed Ex package.

AZIZ: Yeah.

STAHL: If the third party signed the paper? If the third party said, "We handed it over," that's not good enough?

AZIZ: Ms. Stahl. If they are interested in Yasin, signing a paper is not the most important matter for them. For us, it is important. Why didn't they take him? Why did they refuse to sign that paper?

STAHL: Well, you think they would take him, and not admit that you had willingly handed him over.

AZIZ: Yes. And make a false story about it.

AZIZ SAYS IRAQ MADE THE OFFER AS A WAY OF PROVING THAT IT WASN'T INVOLVED IN THE '93 BOMBING, AND BY EXTENSION, 9/11. THEY'RE TRYING TO PREVENT A U-S ATTACK AND PRESERVE THE GAINS THE COUNTRY HAS MADE OVER THE LAST FIVE YEARS. IRAQ'S ECONOMY IS THRIVING. U-N SANCTIONS NOTWITHSTANDING, THE STANDARD OF LIVING HAS IMPROVED DRAMATICALLY. STREETS AND MARKETS ARE BUSTLING, AND COMMERCE BETWEEN IRAQ AND ITS NEIGHBORS IS SOARING --

(see Washington) ALL THE WHILE IN WASHINGTON, THE DEBATE OVER GETTING RID OF SADDAM IS HEATING UP. WE ASKED THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION TO COMMENT ON THE

THE IRAQI OFFER TO TURN YASIN OVER. THE WHITE HOUSE TOLD US TO CALL THE STATE DEPARTMENT - WHICH TOLD US TO CALL THE WHITE HOUSE. NEITHER BUILDING WOULD COMMENT.

SO WE TURNED TO KENNETH POLLACK WHO HANDLED IRAQI ISSUES AT BOTH THE CIA AND THE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL DURING THE CLINTON ADMINISTRATION. HE'S NOW WITH THE COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS.

POLLACK: You never want to believe too much of what the Iraqi government says.

THAT'S BASICALLY WHAT THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION FEELS ABOUT ANYTHING COME OF OUT BAGHDAD. WHEN I TOLD POLLACK ABOUT SADDAM HUSSEIN'S OFFER TO TURN YASIN OVER TO THE U-S, IT WAS THE FIRST TIME HE HAD HEARD OF IT.

STAHL: Do you see any problem in signing a receipt?

POLLACK: I've seen the Iraqis try these stunts in other areas enough to be very wary when they come to us with what seems to be a marvelous deal.

STAHL: We think he'll be devious, no matter what it seems to be--

POLLACK: We know the Iraqis are devious. It's just a matter of whether, in fact, they were being devious this time.

STAHL: But how much do we want Yasin? There's a $25 million bounty on his head. We say he's one of the most wanted ever. Why wouldn't we chance it?

POLLACK: Well, I think we do want him a great deal. But do we wind up shooting ourselves in the foot on other aspects of our Iraq policy or our terrorism policy? And at the end of the day, might we wind up doing that and not get Yasin, which is the biggest fear. But that said, I think that the Bush Administration is well aware of the fact that some of this stuff could blow up in their faces, if they aren't seen as being honest.

STAHL: Yeah, but-- blow up in the faces how?

POLLACK: Well, if-- if in fact, they are revealed as saying that they want Yasin, but then not going to get him when they have no good reason. If that were ever exposed it would be quite damning for the Administration's efforts to overthrow Saddam Hussein. The rest of the world would seize on that as being an excuse to cease cooperation with the United States on our hard-line policy toward Iraq.

STAHL: Do you think that Iraq was involved in the '93 bombing?

POLLACK: I've seen the CIA and FBI reports, and there is nothing in them to suggest the Iraqis were themselves involved in the '93 World Trade Center attack.

STAHL: Is it possible, is it plausible, that an Iraqi would be able to leave that country, come to the United States, perpetrate a big horrible explosion like the World Trade Center in 93, go back to Iraq, and that country, Saddam Hussein's country, have no awareness of what he was up to?

POLLACK: It is possible. Iraq is not as efficient a police state as certainly as George Orwell's "1984", his Oceania. It is possible.

EVEN IF IRAQ IS TELLING THE TRUTH ABOUT YASIN, OFFICIALS IN THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION ARE CONCERNED THAT SHOULD THEY AGREE TO ACCEPT THE FUGITIVE, BAGHDAD WILL UP THE ANTE.

STAHL: They're concerned that if they agree to any dealing, that you'll want to have a dialogue and a negotiation. They remember what happened when the inspectors came, and you said, "Well, the inspectors can go where they want." And then they couldn't go where they wanted.

AZIZ: What's wrong in dialog, Miss Stahl? In every international crisis, all over history, people used to talk to each other. Enemies talk to each other, even when you were at war with Vietnam, and you talked to the Vietnamese.

STAHL: But is this what you hope to gain from your offer, to turn over Yasin?

AZIZ: I am not ashamed of that, you see.

STAHL: But that's true.

AZIZ: We did what we think is correct to do.

STAHL: One of the things that the Saddam Hussein government has been trying to do for a long time is open a back channel to the United States, to open some kind of a dialogue. Would there be anything wrong with doing that, if-- if-- if it started over Yasin?

POLLACK: I think that opening any kind of a secret back channel with the Iraqi government would be a terrible mistake. They would let the whole world know that the United States had been meeting with the Iraqis in secret, and that would feed all of these fears throughout the Middle East that the United States was always looking to cut a deal with Saddam Hussein, that we really wanted to leave him in power and wanted to get out of the Gulf and that would leave all our allies in the region high and dry.

AZIZ: No. These are fantasies, you see. It's simple. We wanted to show our goodwill to the American people first. Look, when we talked to the third party, to the friendly third party, we did not put political dialog as a condition.

STAHL: Is it-- is-- is that deal still on the table?

AZIZ: Yes, it is.

STAHL: It's an open invitation.

AZIZ: Yes, it is.

STAHL: So, tomorrow they could say, "Fine."

AZIZ: Okay. Let them come and take him, the same way that we suggested to them in-- last October. November.

STAHL: All you want is a signature. A piece of paper that says--

AZIZ: Yes.

STAHL: "We have taken receipt of Mr. Yasin."

AZIZ: That's-- that's needed. Because this is a professional way to do it.

STAHL: And that's all you want.

AZIZ: Yes.

STAHL: Nothing else.

AZIZ: Nothing else. Nothing else.

STUDIO CLOSE:

A U-S INTELLIGENCE OFFICIAL TOLD US LATE FRIDAY THAT IT WASN'T AS SIMPLE AS ALL THAT, THAT THE IRAQI'S PLACED - QUOTE - "EXTREME CONDITIONS" ON THEIR OFFER. THAT THEY WANTED THE THE U-S TO SIGN A LENGTHY DOCUMENT THAT INCLUDED INFORMATION ABOUT YASIN'S WHEREABOUTS SINCE '93, AND HOW THEY HAD TRIED TO TURN HIM OVER.

"WE REFUSED TO SIGN," SAID AN OFFICIAL, "BECAUSE WE BELIEVE THEIR VERSION WAS INACCURATE."

THE U-S, HE SAID, OFFERED TO SIGN A SIMPLE RECEIPT ACKNOWLEDGING THAT THE IRAQIS HAD TURNED YASIN OVER TO US. BUT THEY DID NOT RESPOND.

REMEMBER THOSE FINGERPRINTS, THE ONES WE TOOK OF YASIN? THE FBI SAID IT DIDN'T HAVE TIME TO SEARCH IN THEIR DATA BANK TO MEET OUR DEADLINE, HOWEVER, WE WERE ABLE TO VERIFY YASIN'S IDENTITY THROUGH A SOURCE WHO KNEW HIM IN NEW JERSEY.

FINALLY: IF THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION DECIDES TO TAKE THE IRAQI'S UP ON THEIR OFFER AND YASIN IS TURNED OVER, DOES THAT MEAN SADDAM HUSSSEIN GETS THE $25-MILLION DOLLAR REWARD?
  • Mike Sims

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