CIA Missile Strike in Pakistan Pakistani officials say four senior al Qaeda operatives were killed in a CIA missile strike near Pakistan's Afghan border last week. Also, analyst Peter Bergen talks about the Osama bin Laden audio tape released Thursday.
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CIA Missile Strike in Pakistan

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CIA Missile Strike in Pakistan

CIA Missile Strike in Pakistan

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This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

At about 3:00 A.M. last Friday morning, explosions ripped apart three houses in the tiny village of Damadola, which is located in Pakistan's remote northwest frontier province, not far from the border with Afghanistan. Thirteen villagers were killed, including women and children, and, according to still murky accounts, four or maybe five al-Qaeda operatives.

The target of the raid is not believed to be among the dead. Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's number two, was reportedly invited to dinner in Damadola that night, but sent some senior subordinates instead.

Though the White House and the CIA will not confirm it, there is no reason to doubt that this was an American attack in a country described as a vital ally in the War on Terror. Many in Pakistan are angry at the violation of sovereignty as well as the death of the civilians.

Later in the program, we'll talk with terrorism analyst Peter Bergen about the Osama bin Laden audio tape that was released today and a conversation with controversial director, writer, and playwright Neil LaBute: 'In the Company of Men', 'Nurse Betty', and 'Fat Pig'.

But first, the repercussions of the raid for Pakistan and for U.S. policy. If you have questions about either, our number here in Washington is 800-989-8255, that's 800-989-TALK. The email address is Again,

Joining us now on the phone from Lahore in Pakistan is journalist Najam Sethi. He's editor-in-chief of The Daily Times. Nice to have you back on the program.

Mr. NAJAM SETHI (Editor-in-Chief, The Daily Times): Hi.

CONAN: Hi, what's been the reaction in Pakistan to the air strike last Friday?

Mr. SETHI: There were a lot of protests across the country, basically about this issue of sovereignty. And tomorrow, I think there's going to be a session in Parliament. The opposition has called for a debate on the issue.

CONAN: And the government, however, has been, they said they were not told about it in advance. And they denounced it. But there is a certain sense of, with a wink and a nod.

Mr. SETHI: Yes, I think that's probably correct. The fact is that the sort of intelligence which led the American Predator attack could only have come from the ground. It must've been provided to the Americans by the Pakistani intelligence agencies. And it must've been a coordinated attempt to get this top-level al-Qaeda man.

I think the problem arose because the man got away. And at the end of the day, what you had was 16 bodies of civilians, especially women and children. And as far as the other so-called terrorists are concerned, foreigners possibly, Uzbeks, or Chechen, you, there were no bodies. And so the suspicion is that either the whole story is a fabrication, or that there were people who were dead, and they were taken away by the security forces, the Pakistanis.

So, I think what has happened is the government hasn't really come up with the full information on this one. It's sat back and seen the protests rage across the country, and General Musharraf has been generally silent on this issue. They did call in the U.S. ambassador to protest. But the protest has been officially pretty lukewarm.

CONAN: Lukewarm, and is that going to cause him difficulty? His opponents, particularly his more fundamentalist opponents, Islamic fundamentalist opponents, say he's in bed with the United States and working against their interests.

Mr. SETHI: Well, you know, this is not the first time that a Predator attack has taken place in these areas. Several other attacks have taken place. A couple of pretty high-level operatives were taken out. At that time, there were no protests because if you can say that a top al-Qaeda man has been assassinated, or killed, or taken out, then by and large, the sympathy is with the government of Pakistan because Pakistanis by and large abhor al-Qaeda terrorism. Even though they're not terribly enamored of the United States for other reasons. And the problem here was that the government could not claim any big hit, and the bodies of women and children were really, you know, the focus on which the opposition has latched on.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. SETHI: So, I think that's the reason.

CONAN: That's the reason that people are upset. At least according to some of the speculation that we're reading here, some of these, four or five al-Qaeda men, who may have been there and whose bodies may have been also taken away by some of their allies as well, but at least some of them may have been involved in the attempts to assassinate President Musharraf, you know, the focus on which the opposition has latched on.

Mr. SETHI: Well, yes, that can be speculated. But what is intriguing is that if there were people who were foreigners, the government should come out openly and say so. But the government isn't really saying that. There are so-called leaks by different Pakistani officials, but nobody is prepared to come on record and say that there were foreigners. We have their bodies. They were terrorists. See, if the government should say that, then much of the backlash will disappear.

CONAN: And how serious, presuming they say no more than what they've said already, how serious could that backlash become?

Mr. SETHI: You know, there is no real threat to General Musharraf. The opposition parties have got together and ganged up in the past. But he is really sitting pretty. He's in full charge, control. And I don't think there's been any serious adverse impact on the U.S.-Pak relationship. I think behind the lines, both sides know the score.

CONAN: And, so that if you think another target of opportunity presented itself next week, next month, six months from now, do you think that there would be any hesitation about staging another attack, at least in terms of...

Mr. SETHI: I think, no, no I think because they botched up this one, they will have to be enormously careful the next time round. The interesting thing is that in the last three months or so since the earthquake, the public profile of American assistance to Pakistan has been going up. And there was a turning, in a sense, of a lot of people who were pretty anti-American, were beginning to thaw in terms of their anti-Americanism and were beginning to praise the Americans for the swift relief efforts and the money that has poured in from the U.S.

I think this particular attack, the fact that it's not been successful, the fact that there may be something to hide here, may end up dampening the, you know, that enthusiasm for the Americans. So the next time round, I think both Pakistan and the Americans will have to be careful, that if they do target somebody, they have to get that person.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. And, of course, you're referring to the American helicopters that had been based in Afghanistan that flew across the border and have been ferrying supplies up to the victims of that awful earthquake up in the Himalayas.

Mr. SETHI: That's right, yes.

CONAN: And one final question. This incident may not be any threat to General Musharraf's leadership in Pakistan. How is he doing in general?

Mr. SETHI: Well, this hasn't been a good year. It, you know, the good, it hasn't been, it hasn't started as a good year for him. He wanted to build a particular dam. There was a lot of opposition to it. In the end, he had to retreat. Then there's been this insurgency in Baluchistan, where some tribal chiefs are up in arms, and he's had to send in the paramilitary forces and kill a lot of people there. And then, of course, there's been the trouble in Mazidastan(ph), which has now been going on for nearly three years. And, so therefore, you know, all in all, he seems to be embroiled in the periphery of Pakistan, in a lot of anti-citizen, or anti-people, or anti-terrorist operations. And that's not helping his cause.

CONAN: Najam Sethi, thank you very much for being with us. We know it's very late there. We appreciate your staying up to speak with us.

Mr. SETHI: Thank you.

CONAN: Najam Sethi is editor-in-chief of The Daily Times, and we reached him by phone at his home in Lahore in Pakistan.

Joining us now from Jacksonville in Florida is Nancy Soderberg. She was a foreign policy advisor and a member of the National Security Council in the Clinton Administration. Nice to have you back on the program as well.

Ms. NANCY SODERBERG (Member of Clinton Administration National Security Council): My pleasure.

CONAN: Earlier this week, we were talking, and you described Pakistan as maybe the most difficult nation in the world. I was wondering if you could expand on that just a little bit.

Ms. SODERBERG: Well, it's one of the most dangerous situations in the world today. This is a nuclear country on the border with another nuclear country, India. Yeah, they almost went to war in 1999. They have not resolved those issues surrounding that. You still got Kashmir, which is a disputed territory between the two of them.

Islamic militism is on the rise with General Musharaff. He's perpetuated his presence in office repeatedly, rigging elections, driving up the Islamic presence in his own country. And he's got Afghanistan right on his border. That country is moving in the right direction, but it has al-Qaeda presence right along the border. It's a hotbed of crisis waiting to happen.

CONAN: And, from an American point of view, you have to remember to look at the map: America cannot conduct operations in Afghanistan without the help of the Pakistanis.

Ms. SODERBERG: Exactly. And President Musharaff has been sort of on again off again on the war on terrorism. And I think the Bush administration made the false choice of, had to choose between pushing democracy and support for the war on terrorism. In fact, we need to do both; they're related.

As Pakistan moves in the wrong direction, becomes increasingly volatile, that whole area becomes increasingly volatile and a threat to the United States.

This recent military action by the U.S. exacerbates all of those problems. And, you know, we still don't know whether they achieved their objective of obtaining - of hitting a top al-Qaeda operative, but it looks increasingly like that did not happen.

CONAN: I'm sure you're aware of the names of the four or five men who are being speculated about, not Ayman al-Zawahiri, but nevertheless, senior al-Qaeda operatives.

If those names had been known ahead of time that that's what would have been accomplished -- I guess it's hard -- impossible to say. But do you think the strike would have gone ahead anyway?

SODERBERG: I do. I think the president, you know, we are in a war. We've got al-Qaeda operatives planning attacks on the United States. You have a new message from al-Qaeda. It's his responsibility, when they have good action -- good intelligence, actionable intelligence, they call it, to do so. It's very hard to do. President Clinton tried it repeatedly but by the time the missiles got to their location, these individuals had left. You know, they are shortening the time frame with that, with these drone missiles. But it's very difficult to hit these intended targets.

But there's no doubt in my mind, if they get similar information again -- and I can only presume that it was very good information -- that they will do so again. But the cost of these increases every time that it happens. And, certainly, when you miss it makes it very complicated.

CONAN: Indeed, and the other question, of course, is the standing of General Musharaff, the president of Pakistan. He -- since that crisis with India de-escalated, indeed he has been under threat, but the situation in Pakistan has been pretty stable.

Ms. SODERBERG: The situation, on the surface, in Pakistan is stable in that you have Musharaff still in office and no obvious military coups around the corner. But that doesn't mean it all couldn't change over the next year. And the anti-Americanism, the cooperation with the United States as the militism rises in his own country, makes his position increasingly precarious.

Now I think the Bush administration can engage him more and try and push him back towards democracy over the next year, which will mitigate some of those issues. But, you know, whenever there's military strikes in his own territory, it makes Musharaff's position that much more difficult. So these attacks have to be chosen extremely carefully.

CONAN: Stay with us, Nancy Soderberg. We're going to take a short break. If you have questions about what happened in Pakistan last Friday and why or about U.S. policy in these sorts of situations give us a call, 800-989-8255 that's 800-989-TALK. The email address is

I'm Neal Conan. When we come back, we'll also be talking with Peter Bergen about that latest Osama bin Laden audio tape.

It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

We're talking about the U.S., Pakistan and the war on terror. Still with us is Nancy Soderberg, a member of the National Security Council during President Clinton's administration.

In a few minutes, Peter Bergen will join us to talk about a new tape aired today on Al-Jazeera and we've just had confirmation from the CIA that the voice on the tape is indeed that of Osama bin Laden. If you have questions about either issue, give us a call: 800-989-8255; email us:

And let's get a caller on the line. This is Arshad(ph). Arshad is calling us from Detroit.

ARSHAD (Caller):


CONAN: Hi, you're on the air. Go ahead please.

ARSHAD (Caller): Hi, thanks for taking my question. I just have one brief comment. In the beginning, most of the people in Pakistan actually are distrustful of the Pakistan military and the United States in general because the genie of Islamic extremism, they believe, was led by both these two during the Afghan Jihad.

Now my question is: How does United States promote its goodwill among the Islamic countries by supporting a military dictator who has usurped power in Pakistan for the last six years and has not been letting democratic forces come into play? And the second part is why is that no senior ranking American official has expressed sorry or remorse for the killings of civilians in Mata?

CONAN: I think on the first point, Arshad, I would also say the Pakistani Secret Service had a big role to play in the Afghanistan situation.

But Nancy Soderberg on his broader point.

ARSHAD (Caller): Thanks.

Ms. SODERBERG: Well, I think the United States has made a mistake in not pushing for democracy more strongly in Pakistan. I think in the first few years after the attacks on the United States in 9/11, President Bush chose to make the war on terrorism the number one position. I think they're beginning to come back around and have the U.S. begin to raise that. Ryan Crocker, who is the U.S. ambassador, is one of our most professional Democrats and people are beginning to talk about it -- senior officials in the government are beginning to raise concerns about this. So I believe the pendulum will begin to swing back.

I think the perception of having supported non-democratic actions is out there and very hard to do, but I think better late than never.

And as far as not having apologized for the killings of civilians I think the administration has expressed concern every time they do this, that it always regrets any loss of innocent lives. But I think this is a strike against Ayman al-Zawahiri, deputy to Osama bin Laden. They obviously, had good intelligence to get him. It's unclear whether -- they claimed to have perhaps gotten some other al-Qaeda operatives.

I think the facts on this are still coming in. But the president is likely to do this again if there is very good intelligence. And I think that's going to be something that has to be managed very, very carefully...

CONAN: Would...

Ms. SODERBERG: ...this business.

CONAN: Would an apology sort of puncture the veil of polite denial, which the United States is not confirming that it actually did this?

Ms. SODERBERG: Well, I think - yes. But I think at some point, it becomes a fiction to pretend that we didn't. And I think overall the United States gains credibility when it admits mistakes where it has -- you know, the facts on this are not clear.

Pakistani officials themselves are saying that there were four foreign terrorists that were killed in this strike. We don't have those details. It hasn't been confirmed one way or the other about al-Zawahiri, whether he's been there or not. It appears not, but we don't quite know yet. And I don't think it's exactly clear what happened.

It does seem consistently reported that there were terrorist bodies removed from this site. So it looks like the raid may have at least struck a blow against some of these terrorists.

And innocent civilians need to understand that if they're hanging out with terrorists, they are at risk, period.

CONAN: Arshad, thanks for the call.

ARSHAD (Caller): Thank you. Just a comment that I think it would puncture the balloon of anger in Pakistan if some concern was brought by the senior officials about the killing of innocents. I mean, kids have no idea. We all want the terrorists dead ...

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

ARSHAD (Caller): ... but that's my belief/comment. Thank you anyway, thanks.

CONAN: Thank you for the call, Arshad.

Let's talk now with, Azhar(ph)? Am I pronouncing that correctly? Azhar in Sunnyville, California.

AZHAR (Caller): Yes. My question to Nancy is if she can speculate as to the decision to bomb the place would have been the same if there were any American citizens present in that area? And how does the security decision take place? And which countries are -- which citizens of which countries are given priority as to which are expendable and which are not?

Ms. SODERBERG: Well, if there, if there are any American citizens colluding with al-Qaeda operatives in these remote areas, I think the -- they are putting themselves at risk. I do not believe that that's likely to be the case. From what I know, those al-Qaeda operatives are in very remote distances with individuals that are often family or tribal support groups that will not reveal their identity.

We do not know, for instance, where bin Laden is, but he's obviously somewhere with a very secure group of people around him. It's been since, you know, 2001; we're in 2006 now. We still have not been able to find him. The fact that he can smuggle a tape out means that we need to redouble our efforts there.

So I think it's highly unlikely that any of these individuals would be with foreigners, particularly Americans though. Obviously, if there were to be -- any civilian deaths are difficult but I think that's a highly unlikely scenario.

CONAN: Yeah. Civilian deaths obviously -- you hate to put life and death into, you know, equations like this, but I guess people who have been in your position, Nancy Soderberg, you have to.

Ms. SODERBERG: It's one of the most difficult decisions, having been at the White House when they made decisions to strike Iraq or Sudan and Afghanistan, after I had left the White House but was still in the government. You always say how can we minimize civilian casualties? Every president has to weigh the loss of innocent lives against his responsibility to protect Americans.

Now this is not an interstate war where it's a little bit easier to have the armies fighting armies. You're trying to take out terrorists who are hiding among civilian populations, putting them at risk. But these men are planning attacks against Americans. And no responsible president would not act on intelligence were it good.

Now presumably, I obviously don't have access to whatever information it was, but presumably this was very good intelligence. Presumably, we'll get more of it in the future. It's very hard to get that good intelligence. And when you have it, it's irresponsible not to act on it.

CONAN: Azhar, thank you very much for the call.

AZHAR (Caller): Thank you.

CONAN: Let's turn now to Sanjeev(ph). Sanjeev is calling us from Falls Church in Virginia.

SANJEEV (Caller):


CONAN: Yes, hello. You are on the air; go ahead.

SANJEEV (Caller): Oh yes, hello. Thank you for taking my call.

My question was that over the years, you know, one's known that Pakistani intelligence, ISI, has been part of Taliban and supporting their operations. So how does one trust information coming from their sources when, you know, a preemptive strike is planned? How do you trust that they don't inform those people beforehand and then they escape every time?

CONAN: Yeah, Nancy Soderberg, there's got to be suspicions of people playing both ends against the middle.

Ms. SODERBERG: No question about it. And that's the hardest question in intelligence: how do you evaluate whether it's individuals trying to mislead you, as has happened in the past? Or is it someone really willing to get bin Laden?

Now there's been multi-million dollar bounties out on bin Laden yet no one has turned him in. He's very -- surrounded by very, very loyal operatives who could well pretend to be an informant to the United States and just feed misinformation. That's the job of the CIA, to be able to weed those out. To be able to weed those out takes a lot of time and testing these individuals back and forth.

We don't know where this information came from. It could have been from someone other than an al-Qaeda operative as well. I have no idea where it came from, but there are other sources as well. There's always electronic means and other ways as well. I have no idea which access of that, but I can only trust that the government has a good enough sense to know which is which at this point.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. I know Jim Saffe(ph), our correspondent in Pakistan, said the belief there is that the information came from Pakistani intelligence.

Ms. SODERBERG: Right, that's what I've heard as well, but I don't think we know. Having been in government and read these press stories of where it comes from, you never know.

CONAN: Well, maybe we can go back at some point, in the future, go back and correct the record in that case. Sangeev, thank you very much for the call and, Nancy Soderberg, we wanted to thank you again for your time.

Ms. SODERBERG: My pleasure.

CONAN: Nancy Soderberg was a foreign policy advisor to President Clinton, now a visiting distinguished scholar at the University of North Florida and she joined us on the phone from Jacksonville in Florida.

Well, as we mentioned earlier the Central Intelligence Agency has now confirmed that the voice on an audio tape that was released today and played, or at least segments of it, were played on Al-Jazeera is that of Osama bin Laden. The tape warns that preparations for an attack on America are underway.

Joining us now for more on this is Peter Bergen, the author most recently of 'The Osama bin Laden I Know.'

And, Peter, nice of you to be with us today, I know you're busy.

Mr. PETER BERGEN (Author, 'The Osama bin Laden I Know'): Thank you, Neil.

CONAN: First of all, now that we know it is Osama bin Laden, what does he say in this tape, or at least the parts of the tape that we've had a chance to hear?

Mr. BERGEN: Well I think the most important thing of what he says is simply a proof of life and if it's, the full transcript of that tape is now out on Al-Jazeera and there's a very interesting time date, which is a reference to the article you may recall that appeared in the Daily Mirror newspaper, alleging that President Bush made some comments to Prime Minister, British Prime Minister Tony Blair about wanting to attack al-Jazeera's headquarters in Doha, Qatar, a charge, a story that the U.S. administration, the Bush administration has denied.

CONAN: And as of yesterday, I think that the Blair administration did, too, but go ahead.

Mr. BERGEN: Al-Jazeera is obviously very interested in pursuing this and has filed some sort of freedom of information suit against the British government to see if they can find out more. But that story surfaced in early December, so this tape is only a few weeks old. There are other time references on the tape of a more generic nature to attacks on European cities. You may remember the Madrid attack in 2004, and then of course, the attack in London in July of 2005. So, I think the most important message is, I'm alive and well. And it's a recent, the tape is of recent vintage.

CONAN: The tape is of poor audio quality and it is an audio, as opposed to a videotape that had been, well, you know, would command more, more attention.

Mr. BERGEN: Yeah, well, I think the videotapes may reveal more about bin Laden's condition, location, even, you know, subtle things like, are his clothes well pressed? Might that indicate that he is nearer some kind of urbanized environment, rather than sitting in some cave?

So, you may remember the last videotape we saw of bin Laden, his clothes were indeed well pressed. That came out five days before the U.S. presidential election on October 29, 2004. We've, you know, really haven't heard much from him since. One audiotape in December 2004, and now this. You know, some people, there was some very ill-informed speculation that Osama bin Laden might be dead. I never subscribed to that. I think there would be a lot of people who would be trumpeting the news that he was dead, not least, members of al-Qaeda themselves who would want to announce that their great leader had at last reached his wish of being martyred, and of course, we haven't heard that, and now we have this tape.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. And the presumption would be that this would have, that the timing on this would not have any connection to the raid in Pakistan last Friday.

Mr. BERGEN: Oh, I think there's an argument to make that there is some connection in the sense that this tape may have been there on the shelf, and they scrambled to get it out, because they want to show that senior al-Qaeda leaders were not affected by the attack, that, you know, that al-Qaeda is alive and well, even if that's, you know, a misleading picture. I think that it's quite possible that this tape was ready for some sort of news event, and this one presented itself, the strike on Friday in Pakistan that you refer to.

CONAN: We're talking with Peter Bergen, author most recently of 'The Osama bin Laden I Know'.

You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And, Peter, I wonder if looking, and this is still speculation in terms of the identities of those who may or may not have been killed in that attack on Friday, but the names we're seeing are not the very top people, but not far away, either.

Mr. BERGEN: Well, there is, there is some information, it appears a guy who has a wonderful alias of Abu Khabab, who was in charge of al-Qaeda's weapons of mass destruction kind of program, an Egyptian, may have been killed in the attack. If that is the case, that's sort of a big deal, because this guy was really running the crude weapons of mass destruction research program that al-Qaeda had in Afghanistan up till the fall of the Taliban.

You may remember the tapes that were shown on CNN of the dog that was being gassed by cyanide. That experiment was, in all likelihood, either undertaken by Abu Khabab, or overseen by him. So, if indeed he was one of the people that was killed in the attack, that's, you know, somebody who's in the top of the division B in terms of the hierarchy of al-Qaeda.

CONAN: And we were talking with Nancy Soderberg, just before you came on, about the difficulties involved in dealing with Pakistani intelligence, which has had fingers in a lot of very murky pies.

Mr. BERGEN: Well, that has certainly historically been the case, but I think that, you know, President Musharraf purged a lot of the, say, Taliban sympathizers, al-Qaeda sympathizers, in the top ranks of ISI, the military intelligence agency. But there remains, you know, sympathy throughout the Pakistani military forces, perhaps at a lower level, for al-Qaeda.

I'll give you a couple of examples, one is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the operational commander of 9/11, who was finally arrested, actually, as it turns out, in the headquarters of the town, the headquarters of Pakistan's army, Rawalpindi, was being held by a Pakistani major in the signal corps.

Similarly, the people involved in trying to kill President Musharraf, a couple of very serious assassination attempts, a number of them had low-level positions in the Pakistani army. So, while it may be the case that, you know, senior-level members of ISI, the Pakistani military agency, are now, you know, have been purged of al-Qaeda sympathizers, nonetheless, there are certainly a number of people in the army who embrace al-Qaeda, or the opinions of some of the more fundamentalist parties in Pakistan.

CONAN: And I know that you've said in the past that you don't subscribe to the belief that Osama bin Laden is necessarily up there in the rugged frontier country between Pakistan and Afghanistan. You point out that people like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed have been found in places like Rawalpindi, or in other big cities, not necessarily on the frontier.

But if you look at the names of these people involved, I mean, some of them were supposedly running local operations just the other side of the border in Afghanistan, that would seem to make some sense.

Mr. BERGEN: Well, all of the senior al-Qaeda members that have been really hunted down or captured in Pakistan, almost without exception, have been found in big Pakistani cities, so I guess all I'm saying, we don't know where bin Laden is. But judging by his last videotape, he didn't seem to be cowering in some cave. He seemed well-dressed, rested, the interview was well-lit.

And that was also true of the videotapes that we've seen of Ayman al-Zawahri. His clothes were pressed, he doesn't appear to be in some sort of very difficult living situation. So, I guess what I would say is that if he is in the frontier area, I would say that he is in an area with some amenities, not, because, you know, the frontier area is, is a very large area. There's 1500 miles along that frontier, the distance between Washington and Denver, and there are small towns, more urbanized settlements along that frontier.

It's not all completely a no man's land, so you could have access to Internet or telephone or newspapers, because bin Laden seems well-informed. He obviously was familiar with this story that is referred to, that you referred to that was in the Daily Mirror in London just a few weeks ago, and that, you know, that story was hardly, you know, the world's biggest story and somehow he knew about it. So, I think the fact that he remains so well-informed indicates that he is not in some very remote cave, but in somewhere a little bit more civilized.

CONAN: Peter Bergen, thanks very much.

Mr. BERGEN: Thank you, Neal.

CONAN: Peter Bergen, the author of 'The Osama bin Laden I Know', and he reached us by phone from here in Washington, D.C., today.

We're going to take a short break now, and film writer and playwright Neil Labute will join us afterwards. His movies include In the Company of Men and The Shape of Things. His new play is called 'Fat Pig'. He'll take your calls. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. This is Talk of the Nation from NPR News.

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