The New Terrorists

Is Bin Laden Behind The Attacks?

When America was attacked in 1941, the country knew who the enemy was. But that was war, this is terrorism.

"The evil leader doesn't have any address," says Milt Bearden, a former senior CIA officer. "That’s our biggest setback. Adolph Hitler had an address. More recently Saddam Hussein had an address." Bearden says this is a new kind of conflict. Erin Moriarty reports.

Many suspect that Osama bin Laden is behind this. "He has banks, construction companies, he's got blue chips, he's got cash," says terrorism expert Steve Emerson. The September 11th attack was an elaborately planned and expensive operation, and, Emerson says, bin Laden has the money to finance it.

"He has people all over the world who have their own bank accounts. He has that available cash," says Emerson.

Angered by the United States' presence in the Middle East and support of Israel, bin Laden, the member of a rich Saudi family, became an Anti-American zealot in the 1980's. Emerson says that bin Laden is obsessed with destroying his enemies and spreading his brand of Islam.

Bin Laden is believed to have used his wealth to train terrorists in Afghanistan, and is linked to the attacks on the embassies in Africa, the USS Cole, and the original bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993.

Is bin Laden the mastermind behind this latest attack? Bearden and a growing number of Middle East experts say he may have simply inspired it. Spread across many countries, there is a sophisticated network of terrorists sympathetic to Bin Laden’s cause. Bearden says that the U.S. does not yet have a clear picture of this network.

At least three of the terrorists in last week's attack came from Germany, where they appeared to be serious students. In the U.S., they lived middle-class lives. They apparently even used frequent flyer numbers to buy their airline tickets online.

"In other words, just be a kind of football loving foreigner who has come here to be a part of us. And that unfortunately is why these people are so hard to spot,” says Judith Miller, an investigative reporter for The New York Times. These terrorists were apparently the best of what the intelligence community calls sleeper agents.

"Even for Middle Eastern governments who have had years and decades of experience watching these networks, it's even difficult for them to identify the potential terrorists," Miller says.

One of the most intriguing clues about these particular terrorists came from a passenger on United Flight 93 that crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. Talking to his wife on a cell phone, he said the hijackers were wearing red headbands. So far, that has not usually been a characteristic of the sect associated with Bin Laden.

"If he was involved in what happened last Tuesday and these people were wearing red headbands, that’s a new dimension," says Bearden.

The new soldier seems to be wealthier and better educated than the usual suicide bomber. It ma be a new kind of terrorism, but the reasons behind it may be at least a decade old, going back to the 1991 Gulf War.

"The U.S. showed up in the Gulf, in Saudi Arabia, the custodian of the two holy mosques, with U.S. forces that are still there," says Bearden.

"They hate us for one word: jeans, Coca-Cola, bubble gum," says Emerson. "They hate those concepts because those very concepts enabled us to emerge as a superpower."

48 Hours asked a group of U.S. college students, who are either Muslim or of Middle Eastern descent, to help explain the extreme anger towards the United States.

"The people of Afghanistan don't hate Americans. They feel abandoned by Americans," says Fariba, who was born in Afghanistan and left during her country’s conflict with the Soviet Union. "They feel we fought your war against the Russians. And you just left us with a bunch of hoodlums who pillaged the country."

"The minute the Soviets walked out of Afghanistan, the U.S. took off and left them hanging and the country became a failed state," says Bearden.

Whatever drives these new terrorists, these students say it is not religion. One student, Ayesha, cites a verse from the Koran: "Killing one human is like killing them all."

"These people have hijacked one of the world's great religions," says Miller. "Suicide bombing is anathema to Islam. It is a sin. Killing innocent women and children, that is not part of Islam." She says they should not be called “Islamic terrorists,” but simply terrorists.

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