8/27/2005

CNN.com - Transcripts: Millenium bomber customs agent interview

Tha Wolf Blitzer loves to perform fellatio on the Bush Admin is no secret. On this interview look in teh beginning, at the juxtaposition of Clarke's quote right after Blitzer's narration ends. And look at the key quote from Diana Dean: She suposodely had never been told about terrorists and millenium attacks, yet she KNOWS that she may have arrested someone from Al Qaeda ? WTF ? Al Qaeda was NOT a household name in 2000. Despite Diane's assertion that she was not told anything about terror and she only dealt with drug busts, it seems she and her team were pretty knowlegeable on terrorist groups. How come ?

DEAN: ...we started testing what was in the bags for drugs because that was the first thing on our mind. It's really all we had experience with... We realized immediately that what we had was something that we weren't prepared to deal with..

BLITZER: Did you realize at that time this was al Qaeda?

DEAN: You know, it was purely speculation, but we talked about that amongst ourselves, yes.


CNN WOLF BLITZER REPORTS

U.S. Marines Prepare for Battle for Fallujah; Jordanian Authorities Uncover al Qaeda Plot

Aired April 26, 2004 - 17:00 ET


BLITZER: Who prevented the millennium bomb plot targeting Los Angeles International Airport? It's Just one of a number of disagreements between the Bush administration and its former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke. In just a moment, a rare interview with the customs ought who caught the would-be bomber.

First, though, the facts.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER (voice-over): On December 14, 1999, customs officials arrested Algerian-born Ahmed Ressam at Port Angeles, Washington, as he arrived on a ferry from British Columbia. Hidden in the trunk of his car agents found 130 pounds of explosives, along with timing devices. His plan was to bomb Los Angeles International Airport on or around New Year's Day 2000.

But the millennium bomb plot as it came to be known was thwarted. And Ressam and an accomplice were both convicted, a pre-9/11 success story in the fight against terrorism. But there's disagreement over how it happened.

Richard Clarke, the former White House antiterrorism chief under Presidents Clinton and Bush, credits the Clinton administration.

RICHARD CLARKE, FORMER COUNTERTERRORISM ADVISER: [says about the Bush Admin on terror -- law]... failed you.


BLITZER: He says it had border agents on high alert and was aggressively flushing out terror information or shaking the trees, as he puts it. In his tell-all book, "Against All Enemies," Clarke says the Bush administration failed to do that in the summer of 2001, that terrorism was a low priority before 9/11, which he says might have been prevented.

But his former boss, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, has a different version. She says the Clinton administration had nothing to do with Ressam's capture, that there was no alert. Instead, Rice says it was just luck and the keen eye of one woman.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: It was because a very alert customs agent named Diana Dean and her colleagues sniffed something about Ressam. They saw that something was wrong. I don't think it was shaking the trees that produced the breakthrough in the millennium plot.

It was that you got a -- Dick Clarke would say a lucky break. I would say you got an alert customs agent who got it right.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And joining us now is that alert customs agent, Diana Dean.

Diana Dean, thanks very much for joining us.

Let me take you back to that night in December 1999. What exactly happened when you were on duty along the border?

DIANA DEAN, FORMER U.S. CUSTOMS INSPECTOR: Well, we were on our last ferry of the evening. It was supposed to come in at 5:30 at night. It came in around 6:00. It was a very light load. There were only about 20 cars on the boat that night. Mr. Ressam was in the very last car that came off the ferry and he came through my lane.

He -- his car had B.C. license plates and he presented me with a passport from -- a Canadian passport and a driver's license from Quebec. So I started asking him our normal custom questions. I asked him where he was going. And he said Seattle. I detected a French accent and he didn't appear to be English. And I asked him why he was going to Seattle, and he said, visit.

I asked him where he lived. And he said Montreal. I asked him who he would visit in Seattle. And he said hotel. By this time, he was getting very, very nervous and he was very agitated. And I knew we were going to take a closer look at him to make sure that everything was OK with him. So I asked him to turn his car off and complete a customs declaration for us, which is something we always do prior to a secondary inspection.

And by that, I just mean taking a closer look at the -- what he's carrying with him. He completed the declaration. And we asked him to step out of his car. By this time, there were other inspectors around. We asked him to step out of the car and pop open his trunk. We finally encouraged him to get out of the car. Another inspector took Mr. Ressam over to a table, because he was wearing a very large coat. He wanted to go through the coat and make sure he didn't have anything in his pockets.

And everybody else went to the -- either the interior of the car or the trunk of the car, opened the trunk and there was only one suitcase in the trunk. Another inspector took that out to look through it. And a third inspector unscrewed the cap over the spare tire. And as soon as did he that and lifted it up, we saw, you know, there were big bags of powder in there.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Diana, let me interrupt and ask you this question. The fact that you were doing all of this, this screening, was it the result of some orders that you got from Washington to be on heightened alert in advance of the millennium or was this just business as usual?

DEAN: This was just business as usual. That's what we do. We look for somebody out of the ordinary that just needs a little closer look. And that's what he was at that time.

BLITZER: But it was only two weeks before the millennium. Were you along the border with Canada on a heightened state of alert, knowing that there were terror threats that were widely reported coming at the end of the year?

DEAN: You know, we weren't on higher state of alert. We did not have an alert system at that time. And, no, we weren't. We were -- it was pretty much business as usual for us.

BLITZER: So how much longer did it take to discover there were explosives in that car? What exactly did you discover?

DEAN: Well, at first, to make a long story short, I went in to start making phone calls and Mr. Ressam slipped out of his jacket and ran. As soon as he saw that we had uncovered what he had in there, he was able to get away. He was chased down and eventually returned to the port. That probably took about 15 minutes.

And then we started testing what was in the bags for drugs because that was the first thing on our mind. It's really all we had experience with. We had never had a terrorist or seen bombmaking materials before. It didn't take us too long to realize that what was in those bags was not drugs. So we started looking around and there were also some timers. They were like electrical outlets. And when somebody unscrewed one, we saw the watches and we saw the wires.

We realized immediately that what we had was something that we weren't prepared to deal with. And so we started making all the appropriate phone calls to different agencies to come and help us.

BLITZER: Did you realize at that time this was al Qaeda?

DEAN: You know, it was purely speculation, but we talked about that amongst ourselves, yes.

BLITZER: Diana Dean, you did good work out there. You saved a lot of people. You realize, of course, what was in store for LAX. Now looking back, do you understand what you did?

DEAN: We do. We do. We're very thankful that we were able to stop him at the border.

BLITZER: We're very thankful as well. Diana Dean, thanks very much for joining us.

DEAN: Thank you.

BLITZER: This note. We tried to reach Richard Clarke today to get his reaction to Diana Dean's story. We've been unable to speak with him so far. We hope to speak with him at some point.

Kobe Bryant is back in court....

CNN.com - Transcripts

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