If that sounds far-fetched to the rest of us, it doesnt to the FBI. Theyve done it before in White House-approved operations that former FBI Deputy Director Robert Bear Bryant calls a go-get-em.
It's where you go get 'em and hook 'em up, put 'em in an airplane, bring 'em home, and put 'em in jail, Bryant tells CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart.
Bryants FBI agents have done operations like it several times before. One of the most famous was after the first World Trade Center attack. A key suspect was a man named Ramzi Yousef. Trained in explosives in the camps in the hills of Afghanistan, Yousef had been on the run for two years, at one time hiding in a safe house linked to bin Laden. At one point, Pakistan found him within its borders. So the word to the U.S. was: come and get him. And the job fell to Special Agent Brad Garrett.
I got a call from headquarters and they said, Ramzi Yousef might be located, were not really sure at this point, at a location in Islamabad. Garrett recalls.
By the time Garrett got off the plane in Islamabad, the Pakistanis knew exactly where Yousef was staying. They moved quickly to grab him.
We drive to the guesthouse and in short order the Pak military in civilian clothes go in the house, Garrett says. I go in the house behind them with a couple of State Department agents and a DEA agent, walk up the stairs and theyre probably 10 seconds, 15 seconds in front of me.
There, at the top of the stairs and surrounded by Pakistani officers, stood Ramzi Yousef. Garrett took him to a secure location, fingerprinted him and began the first interrogation of one of Americas most-wanted terrorists.
As Garrett says he remembers, I said, Well, what's your name? And he says - he smiled and he says, Well, I have many. Well, at that point I pull out a top 10 poster and hold it up. And I said, Is Ramsey Ahmed Yousef one of 'em? He goes, Oh, yeah, that's me. I said, Well, good, good. So at that point I just was blunt with him and said: Did you blow up the World Trade Center or have any involvement in that? And he paused, and he kind of leaned back a little, and he says: Well, I masterminded blowing up the World Trade Center.
Over the next few hours, Yousef confessed to building the bomb and planting it in a rental truck that he helped drive into the garage under the twin towers.
Garret says, So I ask him: Well, tell me about this bomb and he actually gives me the 800 number and the name of the chemical place in Jersey City, New Jersey, where he bough all the chemicals and materials to build this bomb. He said the whole operation cost less than $20,000.
Yousef seemed proud of what hed done. And if he was upset about anything, Garrett says, it was only that he had failed to accomplish then what others succeeded doing on Sept. 11.
He said he would have built a bigger bomb, Garrett says, because, he says, My goal was to kill a quarter million people. To take one tower down into the other tower that would then fall on the Omni Hotel. That, combined with people in the street, he thought he could get up to a quarter of a million.
Why the World Trade Center? He just believed it was the biggest symbol he could find, Garrett says.
Yousef was brought back and eventually convicted in a U.S. Court, but Garretts work in Pakistan was far from over. He was still hunting another foreign fugitive - Mir Aimal Kansi. Kansi had gone to CIA headquarters just a month before the first World Trade Center bombing and methodically gunned down several employees as they waited at a traffic light outside the gates. The FBI decided early on to go after him, one way or another.
You dont chase every fugitive overseas, but you chase this fugitive overseas, Garrett explains. Because he attacked American institutions. He attacked the CIA, which sort of goes to the very core of us.
Kansi had been living quietly in suburban Virginia, all the while harboring intense animosity against U.S. policy in the Middle East. Jimmy Carter was an assistant director of the FBI - and Garretts boss. He was all for going and getting him.
There are a lot of people that wondered, "Is this the right thing? Should we be doing this? Should we be doing it overseas?" says Carter. I didn't have any problems with it.
The FBI had spent four and a half years cultivating sources - from international drug agents to local informants - while their suspect was hiding around the Pakistani-Afghan border, the same bandit region that Sept. 11 terror suspect Osama bin Laden has been known to favor. Kansis face became one of the best-known in Central Asia, thanks to matchbook wanted posters and ever-increasing reward money. Finally, in 1997, there came a break.
The investigators got information that he was moving, recalls Carter. Mr. Kansi was moving toward an area that we could probably capture him. And he was due to be there a couple of days. The decision was made within a couple of hours to get ready to go.
The Bureau does not discuss operational details but it is clear agents did not go into Islamabad, flashing credentials and wearing Brooks Brothers suits.
Two of the team members were from the FBIs Hostage Rescue Team an elite unit that specializes in forced entry. It was just the kind of expertise that was needed for this mission.
We shoup in this town, it's about four o'clock in the morning, Garrett says. And I said, you know, This looks like something right out of a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western. You know, it looked like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, one of those sort of desolate sort of locations
Carter says he saw just one electric light bulb and every form of transportation known to man - cars, trucks, three wheelers, three-wheel motorcycles, bicycles, camels, and donkeys among them.
The agents entered a $3-a-night rooming house deep in central Pakistan, where informants said Kanzi was staying. Carter took up a post in the lobby, while Garrett and the rest of the team, carrying sidearms and a pump shotgun, climbed the stairs and knocked on the door.
This was set up that he was going to Morning Prayer at four o'clock, and so he's expecting a knock at the door, Garrett recalls. The knock happens. You see the light go on. Great. He unlocks it. The door starts to crack, and we kick it at that point. The first agent in the door did not have a weapon out, because his goal was to get on top of Mr. Kansi. He basically tackles Mr. Kansi and Mr. Kansi's puttin' up quite the fight, and he's screaming in Urdu at the top of his lungs.
So we gag him, says Garrett. Get him turned over, get him handcuffed. And said: Im not sure about this guy hes bigger, hes got a beard. I said: Im gonna print him. I said: Were not gonna leave here before Im gonna print him and make sure its him.
The prints turned out positive. Within moments, they knew had the right man.
I could hear them over the radio, Carter says We have him. We have him. We're in. We have him. And I could hear them coming down the stairs. I mean, it didn't take them a long time. I mean, it was over within minutes.
The next step was to get him out of that country and back to the United States. The mission had taken more than a week by the time they got back to the Islamabad airport and a waiting U.S. military transport plane to take them back to the U.S. It had been a long pursuit, but patience paid off.
Word of their success was passed to the White House with the message: The package has been delivered.
How is that any different from kidnapping?
We worked with the country of Pakistan to arrest him, Bryant says, adding, Well, the truth is, we worked with certain authorities within the government, to get him arrested, and get him outta there."
Kansi was convicted and given the death penalty. Arrests like that are perfectly legal at least by U.S. standards - once a suspect has been indicted. Ideally, they are carried out with some cooperation from the country where the suspect is hiding. But in reality, the U.S. may go in with, or without, te other countrys permission.
Well do what we have to do, as long as were legal and ethical, says Bryant.
Legal under whose laws?
Ours, says Bryant. But we also have respect for laws of foreign countries.
The message, it now seems clear to former agents like Jimmy Carter, is that as the hunt for terrorists fans out beyond Afghanistan to as many as 60 countries, that the FBI is about to take its overseas investigations to another level.
We have been involved in conducting investigations overseas for a long period of time, says Carter. And I think that its a role that now, given what has happened on Sept. 11, its a role thats probably going to be kicked up a notch. And its a role that should be kicked up a notch.
The FBI wouldnt say whether Osama bin Laden was ever the target of one of these but agents like Brad Garrett are under no illusions that this technique would be the best option to capture him now.
Someone like him, says Garrett, obviously, youre talking about a lot of security, a lot of movement. Hes not just a fugitive, hes an organization.
When it comes to the bin Laden manhunt, what role should the FBI play.?
The FBI and the American government, says Bryant should be trying to pull together every piece of information they can as to where he is, who his allies are, where his money is - everything about his organization -- so that basically he can be dealt with in whatever fashion that we see.
Dead or alive, Bryant said, he and the other agents would like to see it end with Osama bin laden no longer an issue.
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