tv Don Lemon Tonight CNN August 2, 2022 12:00am-1:00am PDT
our top stories tonight, the u.s. killing osama bin laden's second in command and successor president biden announcing that al qaeda leader ayman al-zawahiri was killed in a drone strike in afghanistan's capital. >> one week ago after being advised of the conditions were optimal i gave the final approval to get him and the mission was a success. none of his family members were hurt and there were no civilian casualties. i'm sharing this news after mission was a total success through our key allies and partners. >> the fbi updating its most
wanted terror list with the word deceased. good evening, gentlemen. appreciate you joining us. alex, what are you learning about this mission and how it went down? >> this was a remarkable and complex mission. we got a lot of details from a senior administration official who spoke with reporters before president biden spoke with the nation. april president biden was briefed on the fact al-zawahiri was believed to be in the afghan capital of kabul living in that city and living there he was told with family members, his wife, his daughter, his grandchildren. now the intelligence community believed he never left the house, it was only his family members who went out and his wife and daughter used what this administration official called a terrorism trade craft
to make sure they weren't tracked or detected. they failed on that front because patterns were detected and, in fact, al-zawahiri went on to be seen on the balcony of this safe house. a priority of president biden we are told is to make sure that if a strike was to take place, that no one else would get hurt. so as confidence grew in may and june about the whereabouts of al-zawahiri, he kept asking questions we're told to make sure there was very little collateral damage, that no one else was hit. on july 1st president biden held a situation room meeting with his top national security officials. in fact, they brought a model of this house so that president biden could inspect it. three weeks later on july 25th when president biden was recovering from covid he convened a final meeting with his top advisers at which point he gave the green light for this strike to make sure it was very precise that only took out
al-zawahiri. saturday night eastern time, sunday morning kabul time, an unmanned aerial vehicle, a drone, fired two hellfire missiles at the building where al-zawahiri was living. he was on the balcony at the time. he was killed and no one else we are told by the administration was hurt, just a remarkably precise strike against the most wanted terrorist in the world. >> let's talk about some of that intelligence. what kind of intelligence would president biden have needed to ultimately give this operation the green light? >> we need a don lemon special on this. let me talk about different categories of intelligence. the first is human intelligence. know the bin laden raid, you have a courier or someone in the organization that can identify where your target is. you might have on the ground intelligence including in a place like kabul. you've got overhead intelligence. once you identify a potential target again remember the bin
laden compound, you can use a drone. it's not just about hellfire missiles. a drone has visual on the target to say what's the pattern of life there? are there, for example, women and children on that balcony? you can also use technical intelligence. are you getting transmissions from that building? are you getting, for example, cell phone calls? it's sort of a kaleidoscope, don, this combination of on the ground, in the air and intercepted communications that allows you over weeks and months to say not only is that the target we want, but can we confirm if we hit that target, we're pretty sure we won't take down civilians in the strike, don? >> general, how much more difficult is this kind of operation without any troops or military facilities on the ground or available in afghanistan? >> don, i'm going back to august of last year when we were departing afghanistan and talked about how so many people said that we could not conduct
over the horizon types of attack and there were many of us that said yeah, the military and the intelligence community is much better than that. don't underrate their capabilities and, yeah, it's tougher because you don't have the so-called reconnaissance on the target. you don't have the so-called eyes on the target, but still there is the capability as phil just said to target signals intelligence, human intelligence from other areas other than just u.s. forces on the ground. there are, you know, basically spies that will say hey, this guy's worth $25 million with a bounty on his head. we would certainly like to provide information on him to get some of that money, but you also have satellite imagery and there are all sorts of various intelligence capabilities that will allow you to target somebody and i got to give kudos to the intelligence
community, to the cia, to whoever conducted this strike and will probably know -- never know the exact methods which they employed their capabilities. this is a pretty good strike and this individual who is the head of al qaeda worldwide, he is basically the ceo of al qaeda network. it's going to disrupt their capabilities, certainly. there are going to be people replacing him, you know. whenever we conducted a strike, when i ordered a strike in iraq, there was always someone to step up behind the individual that we killed or destroyed and they'll gladly step in the place, but they'll be the targets of the next round of strikes. that's what happened tonight. >> alex, i want to talk about the senior administration official is saying that senior taliban leaders were well aware that al-zawahiri was in kabul more than 20 years after 9/11. is afghanistan once again becoming a safe haven for
terrorists? >> i mean it's almost impossible to believe that the top al qaeda leader, a guy as well known as ayman al-zawahiri would be living with his family without the permission of the taliban. the biden administration believes taliban leaders were not only aware al-zawahiri was living there but were supporting him and in the wake of this strike established a perimeter around the building, kept people away and actually moved the family. this is according to the u.s. a violation of the doha agreement struck between the u.s. and taliban that they would not provide safe harbor for terrorists. no one believed they were going to really try to root out al qaeda. there certainly is a growing presence and growing strength among two main terrorist groups in afghanistan, isis-k which is an offshoot of isis, of course, and al qaeda.
isis-k are the sworn enemies of the taliban. so the taliban has their own interests going after them. al qaeda certainly has close ties with the taliban. so while these groups are growing in strength in afghanistan, because they do have a bit of a foothold there, don, the good news is they haven't gotten to a level yet where it's believed they can carry out significant strikes beyond afghanistan. >> phil, i want to play this for you, the president's comments, and then we'll talk. >> now justice has been delivered and this terrorist leader is no more. people around the world no longer need to fear the vicious and determined killer. the united states continues to demonstrate our resolve and our capacity to defend the american people against those who seek to do us harm. >> no longer need to fear, is that how you see it, phil, or should the u.s. be concerned about potential retaliation from al qaeda or al qaeda sympathizers? >> i would not be thinking as much about retaliation as what
alex was talking about, the fact that al-zawahiri said, "i can live in relative comfort in a rich area of kabul." what does that tell you? it tells me al qaeda people are saying i have not only sympathizers, but supporters within the taliban movement that now owns afghanistan. what i would be thinking in government is that in an area that we would call safe haven back in the counterterrorism business, that is an area where al qaeda and isis-k feel relatively safe operating, where will we be in a year, two years, three years? to close two pieces of this, one, you got to worry that leadership in al qaeda over the course of years will say we want to resuscitate what we had 20 years ago before 9/11, but the converse is the big story today. the converse is not the al qaeda story. the converse is that the american intelligence community can look at a city where we have very little presence and say we can take this guy out with a precision weapon and
without significant jeopardy to civilian lives. incredible intelligence, don. that is incredible. >> phil, alex -- >> don, if i can add to that. >> yes, general. >> what phil just said is critically important. comfort leads to complacency. what you've seen al-zawahiri do in kabul and in the fatah area between pakistan and afghanistan, you've seen the traveling of individuals, the connection with the taliban government, but in addition to al-zawahiri there's several other senior leaders residing in afghanistan and the american people don't know these names, but you've got guys like safa adele, mohammad khan, atif gari, a member of the taliban parliament. so you've got a bunch of individuals who think they can do this kind of activity and again i go back to august last year there's no way you can
conduct over the horizon attacks, we just conducted an over the horizon attack on the leader of al qaeda. so there is continued intelligence in this and continued strikes. there are people waking up like phil mudd every single day saying how do we attack these guys? how do we kill them so they don't provide a danger to the united states? that's critically important. >> thank you all. i appreciate it. we've got much more in our big news tonight. president joe biden announces the united states has killed al qaeda leader ayman al-zawahiri. what does that mean for al qaeda? the hurt, the doubt, the pain. no matter what, we go on. biofreeze.
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after a u.s. strike killed al qaeda leader ayman al-zawahiri. lights talk more about that tonight. it's a major story. this is a major strike and it was successful in killing al- zawahiri. what does this mean for al qaeda? >> well, the symbolic blow is shattering. al-zawahiri was in some ways even more the architect of al qaeda than bin laden. he was radicalized when he was 15 years old. he goes to jail as part of the assassination of anwar sadat, the president of egypt, which he made peace with the israelis. he has been the mastermind behind all this. in some ways you could argue al qaeda was a marriage or fusion between egyptian brains and saudi money.
al-zawahiri was the egyptian brains. bin laden was the saudi money. so in some sense he is the original, the founder, the symbol for many of the kadris probably even more so than bin laden, so symbolically a huge setback. the truth is al qaeda is in bad shape anyway. it is a shadow of what it used to be and so i think that -- i'm not sure exactly how much effect it will have operationally because it's already a pretty ragtag operation, but without question, the single biggest blow you could give to appear died would be to decapitate al- zawahiri. >> last year, fareed, when you marked the tenth anniversary of the killing of osama bin laden. you said islamic threat isn't the threat it used to be. what do you think after this strike? >> i have been saying a while what we need to look at is the most important question is are they inspiring people, getting new recruits, able to win
people over to their cause? in country after country what you're finding is the answer is no. it's almost as though they had this -- there was this sense of desperation and futility and hope in a lot of islamic countries. they looked to al qaeda as some kind of radical way out, but very quickly the charm wore out. they realized these were a band of thugs when they got into power whether it's isis or al qaeda. they were horrible. nobody wanted to live in those countries. so they've now established a track record of misery, of brutality, of repression. they're still getting people, young men look for adventure and this becomes a kind of daredevil thing to do, but it's really not what it was ten years, 15 years ago. by every measure you can look at, the radicalization of these societies has gone down a lot and the power of al qaeda and
even isis is much lower. there still is some of it in places like syria where you have these no man's lands or bad lands, places that have no government. so you have thugs who take over and these thugs often have an islamic flavor, but i think we should be looking -- we should begin to think to ourselves, you know, this is a chapter in american national security strategy that is coming to a close. did we overreact? we built a massive security apparatus between the homeland security operations outfits, the huge increases in intelligence and defense spending. we invaded two countries. i think it would be useful for us to sort of ask ourselves whether we need to recalibrate given -- if you think about it, the last ten years the greatest number of terrorist attacks in the united states have come from extreme right wing terrorists, not from islamic
jihadi terrorists. >> homegrown terrorists. domestic terrorism. so listen, president barack obama reacted to the strike tonight saying it is proof that it is possible to root out terrorism without being at war in afghanistan. can the u.s. continue to be a leader in fighting terrorism with this kind of strategy and without boots on the ground? >> absolutely. you know what this proves in some ways, don, is the core competency of the united states is not really in occupying countries. we're not very good at that. it's just not -- i actually think it's fundamentally that's not the dna of the country like the united states. what is our core competency is something like this which involves technology, training, high degrees of competence, discipline, but you're not trying to rule over another country. you're not trying to be in another land where you provoke national. and resistance and stuff.
that's not a game we can play well. i once said when somebody said -- we were saying what i was advocating as this over the horizon counterterrorism strategy, they said you're playing a whack a mole strategy with the terrorists and i said you know what? yes, but whack a mole is no fun for the mole. you're getting smacked all the time and as long as we can keep it going and we can easily keep this going, it's a fraction of the cost, this just means terrorist leaders everywhere at all times have to beware. i think your guests in the previous segment were exactly right. the technology has now gotten good enough that you can do this kind of thing with minimum civilian casualties, with maximum accuracy. it's looking like a bad world for the bad guys out there. it's becoming much easier to hunt them down, to find them and then with pinpoint accuracy
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joining me now cnn political analyst alex burns, and kim whaley, visiting professor of law at american university and author of "how to think like a lawyer," so good to have both of you on. these lawmakers are demanding transcribed interviews with key staffers for the inspector general about the dropped efforts to recover these text messages. how does this need a broader investigation? >> well, there's a potential number of federal statutes both criminal and civil that could have been violated here. the big question for me is where does the buck stop? the buck stops at president trump who was in charge of homeland security at the time that congress on january 15th, 2021, asked for this information and, don, it
doesn't take a cyberexpert to understand that having your employees themselves do the transition, that is upload all of the documents and things from your texts that reportedly was done, is not a safe and effective way of protecting these kinds of documents. as you indicated, this inspector general who was also appointed by donald trump sat on this and declined even after these investigations started to even inspect the phones. so there's a lot to unpack here and it's very, very -- potentially very, very serious. >> alex, i had senator dick durbin on earlier and i asked if the i.g. was acting in bad faith. listen to this. >> it's a choice, bad faith or incompetence. the bottom line is when this kind of critical information is not transferred from one administration to another, that isn't routine. he treated it as such. >> the timing of these texts makes them crucial and if they
are never found, imagine that. that could hang over the secret service as much as anything that could be in these text messages. >> sure, don. >> alex. >> the thought you got from senator durbin was he was sort of being diplomatic in saying whether it's bad faith or in competence, the outcome is unacceptable. the question whether it's bad faith or in competence is potentially really important here. if it was bad faith, if it was a matter of trying to cover up a cover-up, that obviously has potential legal ramifications and is very, very relevant to the investigation congress is doing now and to potentially investigation that the justice department might be doing. don, the other thing i would point out here is that there is something a little bit tricky here for the mainly democrats on capitol hill who are trying to get accountability from the secret service is to whatever extent that investigation becomes driven entirely by the house of representatives in the
senate, democrats may only control those chambers a couple more months. after that point it will be a real question mark who is going to finish the job getting the answers. >> last hour i spoke, kim, with retired d.c. police sergeant mark robinson who told me about what he heard over the events in the presidential suv on january 6th. watch. >> we've heard it several times while i was on the motorcade, i think during the speech, shortly thereafter finished the speech that the president was getting into the motorcade and he was upset and he adamantly wanted to go to the capitol. even when we departed from the ellipse, it was repeated again that the president, it was a heated argument in the limo and he wanted to definitely go to the capitol. so when we arrived at the white house, the motorcade was placed on standby. >> kim, look, this incident coming to light, it put a spotlight on the secret service. beyond these very pivotal texts how important is it going to be
for investigators to get to the bottom of what happened after the speech at the ellipse? >> well, the metadata reportedly demonstrates or suggests 10 of 24 secret service agents engaged in text messages on that day. so when it comes to the potential criminal implications, that is, doj, not so much what the committee is doing, congress, which cannot prosecute, but when it comes to what doj might do, having text messages around the president's security detail, that could give rise to information relating to donald trump's state of mind, that is the centerpiece of any potential criminal charge and, of course, we also know that mike pence refused to get into his car and leave the capitol in that moment as well. so those text exchanges with the secret service, all of
that, their fears for their lives, all of that that we're hearing sort of in a very tiny amount out of the january 6th committee, these are critical pieces of realtime information that doesn't lie. it doesn't die unless it's removed or, you know, either fraudulently or incompetently. that's really a loss for the american people. >> alex, what do you think is happening with the committee now that they're getting so much more information? do you expect more interviews to happen and revelations before they officially come back again in september? >> i think every indication, don, from the committee that we've had from conversations i've had with people close to the committee is that yes, we should expect a whole lot more of a whole lot more. if they sat out with that first set of hearings to really move the needle in terms of public awareness of the fruits of their investigation and public opinion about the nature of what happened on january 6th,
mission accomplished. what we saw especially towards the end of that sequence of hearings was that the revelations they were bringing forward were themselves giving rise to additional revelations. i think it would take a really stark shift in the whole strategy of this committee if suddenly they were to stop conducting interviews and stop leaking out the contents of those interviews because that's been a very, very, very productive approach so far. >> a whole lot more of a whole lot more, very well put. alex, thank you very much. kim, i appreciate it. nba hall of famer and civil rights activist bill russell passed away yesterday at 88 years old. his friend and mentee kareem abdul-jabbar is here with me next. can take one to four days to fully work. pepcid. strong relief for fans of fast.
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this weekend we lost a legend on and off the court. nba hall of famer and civil rights icon bill russell passing at 88 years old yesterday and the tributes are just pouring in. nba commission adam silver writing in part, "bill stood for something bigger than sports, "michael jordan calling him a pioneer, former president barack obama writing, "today we lost a giant. as tall as bill russell stood, his legacy is much higher." joining me now, i call him a living legend, not sure if he would agree, but nba hall of
famer kareem abdul-jabbar. he met bill russell when he was just 14 years old and was lucky enough to call him a mentor and friend. thank you so much for coming in to honor your friend. >> no problem, don. good to see you. >> good to see you as well. bill russell was an inspiration to so many people. what made him a role model for you growing up in harlem? >> for me he became a role model when i realized some of the things that scared me and bothered me about race relations in america were things that he addressed and he gave me a way to speak about it that had all the elements of trying to make something better rather than just being angry. he really helped me define that in my life and make choices
that were better suited to getting positive change rather than just expressing your anger. he was the exact person whose example should be followed in that area. >> he was active in the civil rights movement obviously, attending the 1963 march on washington led by dr. king. he spoke out against segregation in boston public schools. you say he inspired you as an activist, right, not just so that you felt that there was a place for you in the league and in society, but he spoke to you as an activist. tell me about that. >> well, being an activist means that you use your position of public prominence to try to effect change, to call attention to things that aren't right and to try to help make those things right again. so, you know, the whole idea of
athletes earning a lot of money and accolades, that's a wonderful thing, but what are you going to do with that? i mean living well is wonderful, but not everybody gets that opportunity. how do we effect change in a positive way that opens the door for other people to have opportunities? that's what we should be thinking about. that's what athletes and other prominent people who have made it, they need to keep the door open for other people to follow. >> kareem, the word accolades, that's a good word because we think about all these accolades are coming in now. he went through it. he faced racism in boston, the city he played for. >> yeah, he did. >> his daughter karen wrote this piece in the "new york times" addressing the racism her family endured during his time as a player. she wrote that her family one weekend discovered that their
home had been broken into, that it was in shambles. the n word was graffitied on the walls. her father's trophies were smashed. police left. her parents discovered the burglars had defecated in their bed. so he endured racist abuse from fans, yet this was all going on while he was a superstar on the court. explain that. i mean the dichotomy is unbelievable. >> i could explain it, but, you know, vandalism that bill experienced was just an expression of the anger of people who felt that he should not be given the opportunity to be as successful as he was as an athlete. they resented his success and they wanted to show him that he had a place in society that
they did not respect and they were going to put him in his place, but bill was bigger than that and bill just kept his chin up and kept moving forward. the celtics kept winning world championships and bill showed the world what class was all about. >> he did it with class. you're reading my mind as you were talking about that. i was going to say he did it with class. this is your piece and it's called "the bill russell i knew from 60 years." you said, "what especially struck home was his refusal to become the stereotypical angry black man that many tried to force him to be. instead he chose to focus on finding a path to change and social justice through specific actions and programs." how did he inspire you to be a better man? >> well, he inspired me to be a better man by handling
situations like you just described without giving into all of the anger and rage that he must have felt. he handled that in a way that billy shamed the people who had tried to tell him to find the door and leave the celtics. he kept winning. the celtics kept winning. they kept doing it with a number of black athletes. i remember i was in high school when the celtics started an all black first time. that was the first time that happened. they acquired willy nalls from the knicks and the best team in the country was an all black team. that was something for a whole lot of hoopsters like myself to be proud of and to try to
emulate and he continued to set examples like that for athletes and do it with so much class and focus. he never made any of us, at least i'm speaking for myself, he never made any of us feel ashamed or not feel proud. he amplified it. he was a banner holder for pride for black athletes. >> we're so grateful to have you speak on this show, but also just to have you do what you do and contributing so much to society and the culture. thank you for that and thank you for helping us to honor your friend. >> thank you. it's really neat that the nation can share this moment in a positive way. we've lost a giant, but he leaves a giant example for us
tensions flaring between the u.s. and china, house speaker nancy pelosi's expected visit to taiwan during her trip to asia this week. i want to bring in selena wang in beijing and max boot, columnist at "the washington post." selena, speaker pelosi's visit to taiwan would be the first house visit in 25 years. china certainly isn't happy about it.
what are officials there saying? >> officials here are furious. they are threatening serious consequences. they say this visit would be a direct challenge to china's sovereignty. china's military said it won't sit idly by if she goes. pelosi is in the line of succession to the presidency and from beijing's perspective this is at least tacitly supporting taiwan's independence. we have heard this language before when it comes to taiwan, but this time around the timing is sensitive and provocative. we are just months away from a key political meeting where xi jinping is expected to have a third term. he cannot afford to look weak at this moment. we are already seeing the show of military force and propaganda videos with the messages to prepare for war and several recent military drills including this past weekend on the island which is china's closest point to taiwan. there was a house speaker who
visited 25 years ago, but the china today is extremely different, more powerful in virtually every regard, economically, militarily. this is a china that does not take insults or humiliation lightly and the leader at the top is china's most powerful leader. >> how could this expected visit by house speaker nancy pelosi hurt an already strained relationship between the u.s. and china? >> clearly it's an irritant, don, and it's unfortunate that things are working out this way. i'm kind of exasperated with everybody involved. i think it was a mistake for president biden to publicly say that the u.s. military didn't think that speaker pelosi should go. that turned this visit into a diplomatic hot potato and led to this massive chinese rhetorical response threatening action of various kinds if pelosi makes the trip. if she was going to go, the way to do it would have been for her to show up unannounced in taiwan in the way u.s. leaders
have shown up in the past in places like afghanistan and iraq. so we don't need a crisis with china at this moment when our focus needs to be the crisis with russia and the russia/ukraine war. we're trying to prevent china from supplying and supporting russia in the war and this certainly is not helpful, but at the same time we cannot let china dictate who gets to visit taiwan. this is simply bullying behavior trying to prevent a show of support for an embattled asian democracy. we can't give into chinese bullying either. it's a very unfortunate situation the way it's been handled. it seems like very little goodwill come of it. >> one of the points max was just making, selena, the u.s. is saying it won't take the bait or engage in sabre rattling, but the fact is taiwan is a huge flash point. are there concerns this could escalate into something more
serious? >> yeah. well, don, most people don't think that china is going to make any direct hostile action, but the concern here is that with all of the military hardware in the area that this increases the risk for miscalculation, for an accident that could spiral into real conflict because on one hand yes, xi jinping needs to look strong, but he also needs stability this moment leading into the party congress, especially given all the challenges at home with the economic devastation from zero covid. really the question is how does china make a prove that proves it's not a paper tiger, that they are angry and saves face but stops short of resulting in any risky standoffs? when i've been speaking to experts, they say this could include flying more warplanes around taiwan's self-declared airspace which china already regularly does. it could also include things like economic and diplomatic backlash as well. it is, however, impossible to overstate just how central this taiwan issue is to the dna of the communist party, to its legitimacy, but that being
said, when china does make a move, the viewpoint here is that it's not going to make a move depending on when a u.s. official visits. they'll choose the timing they feel is right, don. >> max, i have a short time left. is there anything the u.s. can do to deescalate tensions with china at this point? >> i think president biden has already tried to do that by having a phone call with xi jinping and sending clear signals that we're not trying to support taiwanese independence. this is not an initiative planned by the biden administration, but at the same time we also have an aircraft carrier and two amphibious assault ships in the region near taiwan to make clear that we will not tolerate hostile action from china. i think that's the right stance to take, but even if this is a crisis that nobody would have chosen to provoke at this present time. >> thank you, max and selena. i appreciate it. thank you, everyone, for watching!
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