In separate interviews with Arab and other intelligence sources, CBS News learned that the warnings come from interrogations of al Qaeda suspects who recently left Afghanistan and Pakistan. CBS News anchor Katie Couric spoke with John Brennan, a former head of the National Counterterrorism Center. The following is a transcript of their discussion.
Katie Couric: Mr. Brennan, Sheila MacVicar mentioned that al Qaeda has moved some terrorists from Pakistan and Afghanistan to different parts of the world. What does that indicate, in your view?
John Brennan: Well, I think this is something that intelligence and security officials are very concerned about — the movement of people both into Pakistan and Afghanistan for training and then back out, particularly those who have citizenship of the United Kingdom or the United States.
Couric: I think some people might be confused, Mr. Brennan, because the Bush administration claims that real damage was done to al Qaeda in Afghanistan and yet it seems to me that there are other reports that al Qaeda and other similar organizations have been empowered and are stronger than ever. So what's the truth?
Brennan: I think al Qaeda central, the core, which is in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden, Al-Zawahiri, that group has been bloodied badly. But I think the whole purpose of bin Laden was that al Qaeda means the foundation. He wanted it to give birth to other groups, to other individuals, to carry out attacks. What we're seeing is the proliferation of those individuals. They start being activists, then they become extremists and then they're brought into that terrorism environment. The ongoing situation in Iraq is continuing to fuel those sentiments of Muslims who feel as though they are being persecuted by the West — and specifically the United States.
Couric: So I guess both sides could be true. It just depends on your perspective, right?
Brennan: Yes. For example, there is an al Qaeda tape that was released today about the situation in Iraq. They're claiming a lot of credit for things that are being done in the name of Islam. That doesn't mean al Qaeda is behind any of those or, you know, some of them, even.