Return to Transcripts main page

JOHN KING, USA

Deciphering bin Laden's Messages; Drone Strike; Targeting Awlaki

Aired May 6, 2011 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JOHN KING, HOST: Thanks Wolf and good evening everyone. Tonight important new information from that gold mine of al Qaeda records seized from Osama bin Laden's compound and much of it is disturbing. Evidence for example that bin Laden, himself, took part in devising plans for new attacks on railways and other targets right here in the United States.

CNN also is told the seized materials include videotapes in addition to computer files and paper records and that there's a frantic effort now across government intelligence agencies to analyze all that cache. In addition to evidence al Qaeda is planning new attacks, administration and other intelligence forces tell us tonight that there are clues to al Qaeda operations around the world and perhaps clues to where top bin Laden deputies are hiding.

Finding them is urgent anyway but all the more so tonight as al Qaeda acknowledges bin Laden is dead and begins its process of naming a successor. Let's begin with tonight's biggest breaking news. More clues of potential al Qaeda attacks and new clues of a far more active bin Laden role than most U.S. officials had believed possible these past few years.

Let's turn now to our homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve and Jeanne you're learning not just of sketches of possible attacks against the United States but sketches your sources tell you deeply involve Osama bin Laden.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We know that that rail plot that we were talking about last night was in a written document and a U.S. official tells me that there are indications that these are from the writings of Osama bin Laden, himself. That would indicate why the U.S. was so interested in this information and eager to disseminate it to some of the stakeholders involved.

In addition, this U.S. official says looking at the full scope of material, they are finding out that Osama bin Laden has been playing a far more key role than had been suspected. The thought had been that he'd been somewhat removed from day-to-day operations. Now they're saying, no, it was strategic, it was operational, it was tactical. He was involved at every level -- John.

KING: And Jeanne you see some of it, if you take a train in the country right now, if you get on a plane, there's some enhanced security. Take us behind the scenes of what must be somewhat of a race against time, to go through all these documents, the computer files, the videotapes, just in case there is something planned in the short term.

MESERVE: That's right. As one former intelligence officer told me this is information that is perishable. It's stuff they have to find and they have to act upon, particularly the information that has to do with active plots if there is any of that and also information that has to do with people.

They want to find any al Qaeda operatives who are named in these documents, whose phone numbers are in these documents. They want to roll them up if they possibly can. So yes, speed is of the essence. I am told a task force is working on this, mountains of information, around the clock, trying to extract that key information -- John.

KING: And a bit more on that last part. On the one hand there's the alarming stuff, potential plans. On the other hand there's the fruitful stuff, phone numbers and the like. Let's focus just on bin Laden's number two. Any clues so far uncovered as to where he is?

MESERVE: Well U.S. officials are being quite cagey about this. They don't want to say very much about it. I will tell you that Congressman Mike Rogers was on the air saying that U.S. officials were hot on the heels of Ayman al-Zawahiri. U.S. officials will just say that the pursuit is well under way. It continues.

This is a man who they've wanted to find for years, probably want to find him even more right now because in the official succession plan of al Qaeda, he's designated as the man who will take over. A U.S. official says to me although that is the written plan, nobody knows if al Qaeda is going to follow it or if there will be others who will try to move in and stake a claim to that leadership position. Al Zawahiri is not uniformly popular. He's described as being very divisive -- John.

KING: The very latest from Jeanne Meserve tonight, Jeanne thanks.

And more evidence now of that urgency to uncover possible attack planning, but also to target key terrorist leaders before they can strike again. CNN is told tonight that a U.S. military drone launched an attack in Yemen in the past 48 hours and another key terrorist leader was its target. Barbara Starr live at the Pentagon with more on that -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well John it was in the last 48 hours a U.S. military drone launching a strike in southern Yemen, in a place called Shabwa (ph). Now this is a place that is a known place where Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born Yemeni cleric, the head of al Qaeda in Yemen, frequents. We are told that the U.S. believes they did not get al-Awlaki in this hit.

They killed two al Qaeda operatives associated with him. But they were targeting him. They were trying to go after him. They also tell us the targeting information is not related to what they learned at the compound where Osama bin Laden was killed. This is a man -- this is a Yemeni cleric is someone that the U.S. has been going after for months as you know.

He has been associated with several potential terrorist plots in the United States. He is a matter of great concern to the U.S. There is a lot of concern that al Qaeda in Yemen could still be targeting the homeland -- John.

KING: And Barbara, help us emphasize the importance of the distinction. When we hear about drone attacks in Pakistan, many of them are CIA drone attacks. This is a U.S. military drone attack, correct? And what's the significant difference?

STARR: You're right. This is a U.S. military drone attack. This is perhaps something that is really within the scope of the U.S. Central Command which oversees this area. The U.S. military, it should be understood, has conducted a number of very secret missile attacks inside Yemen over the last many months, trying to go after these targets.

They have a lot of ability to do it because of where they are based in the region. It's not to say the CIA is not involved, but this time it was the Pentagon -- John.

KING: Barbara Starr live at the Pentagon tonight with that breaking news, Barbara thank you.

It took five days, but al Qaeda today released what you might call the official Osama bin Laden death notice. The statement promised the organization would regroup. It also promised retaliatory strikes against the United States and the West and it called for uprising against the government of Pakistan for what the al Qaeda statement called, quote, "the shame of allowing the Americans to raid Pakistan to kill bin Laden"

Our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson is in Abbottabad tonight and Nic, when you look at the statement from al Qaeda essentially acknowledging bin Laden is dead. We will pick a new leader. You're also hearing talk of a potential audio recording coming out. What do we know about that?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The audio recording supposedly made in the week before bin Laden was killed, supposedly we're told by this al Qaeda message that it makes reference to the Arab uprising, the spring uprising, the revolutions in the Arab world, as al Qaeda describes it. They don't say when they're going to release this material or even if they will, but I think every indication here is because they're talking about it that they will release it -- John.

KING: And Nic, we're hearing of arrests, perhaps a couple of dozen people in Abbottabad there because of suspected ties, suspected affiliations with that bin Laden complex. What do we know about that?

ROBERTSON: Anybody that had anything to do with the bin Laden compound, the bin Laden family, the couriers that the government here has been able to track down they're arresting them. If they sold meat to the compound, they're arresting them. If they sold milk to the compound, they're arresting them. They'll let them go they say if it was just a simple business transaction and they didn't know who they were dealing with.

But what they're going after is anyone that was a sympathizer, anyone that knew bin Laden was actually there, anyone who was supporting bin Laden while he was there, anyone who's a member of al Qaeda and could be supporting other al Qaeda people in this area, anyone who could be planning attacks. The government here is now, some may say, trying to close the barn door after the horses bolted, but are trying to turn over all the stones they can now connected with that compound. Search and talk to everyone. Get every bit of information they can -- John.

KING: And Nic, we did see some evidence of anti-American protests where you are today in Abbottabad. Large protests, small protests. Does it matter?

ROBERTSON: I think in this case it's important. It was small and it was pretty weak. And I -- some of the notices -- some of the signs there, Americans are terrorists, it said. These signs that they were using handwritten, written in English, were recycled. They looked like they'd been used in other demonstrations before. The corners torn off, sort of restuck on new boards.

This was a small politically motivated demonstration against the government here but voicing anger at the United States, telling people bin Laden didn't live here, that the Americans were just targeting innocent women and children. But really it's got a strong internal political message as well. And this wasn't turning heads on the street and this wasn't bringing out the population on the streets. About 600 people max and they all support, all supporters of the (INAUDIBLE) Party, the party called the rally there, so not a big thing and certainly not representative of the broader spectrum of the population here -- John.

KING: Nic Robertson tonight live for us near the bin Laden compound, Nic, thanks so much.

The Obama White House dismisses any talk of a victory lap, but one day after laying a wreath at ground zero in New York, the president headed to Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, to thank the troops and to meet privately with members of that Navy SEAL team directly involved in the Obama kill mission.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They practiced tirelessly for this mission. And when I gave the order, they were ready. In recent days, the whole world has learned just how ready they were. These Americans deserve credit for one of the greatest intelligence and military operations in our nation's history.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: So what more is being learned from the record seized from the bin Laden compound and why were officials so wrong concluding bin Laden was little more than a figurehead these last several years? CNN national security contributor Fran Townsend is here with us.

I want to start with this drone attack in Yemen. Al-Awlaki, an American, 40 years old, not Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda, but al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. What does it tell you that days after they get bin Laden there's an aggressive operation to try to get al-Awlaki?

FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Well you know they've been -- we've been targeting, the U.S. government has been targeting al-Awlaki now for some time, John, and that -- pace of that operation has been increasing. You've got to believe they had an operational plan to attack the entire leadership, that this was -- that the drone attack against al-Awlaki, if they had the opportunity, was going to be timed to the operation against bin Laden so that they were going to send a very distinct message that the entire leadership of al Qaeda, wherever they could be found, would be under attack.

KING: What are you hearing from your sources? You're out of government now, but you're plugged into these people, about what they are finding and perhaps what they're most worried about in all the papers, all the computer files, and all the videotapes taken from the bin Laden compound.

TOWNSEND: There's a couple of things, John. I mean we've already begun to see, you know their threat against rail, the cities that were going to be targeted. Not a surprise what they were. But what you're -- what they're seeing now is that bin Laden, even when I was in government, we had believed that bin Laden was not as operationally involved because it was difficult to communicate with him.

And I think what they're finding, which is concerning is that he really was more involved. And so what you're looking for is not just threats, but were there operatives that had been deployed whether it was inside the U.S. (INAUDIBLE) and Europe, awaiting instructions. And that sort of things they want to try and disrupt those, identify those people, find them, and disrupt those plots as quickly as they can.

KING: Do you get any sense, and I don't say this in any mischievous way or nefarious way, but that the statements we are getting that they haven't found anything actionable, they haven't found anything specific, is that an honest assessment, a completely honest assessment or are there things they just don't want to talk about publicly because they're moving quickly?

TOWNSEND: Well I have no doubt that there are going to be things they don't want to talk about publicly and they are moving quickly. But I do think it's an honest assessment. They've been trying to push things to state and locals here in the United States because those are the people, frankly, who are in the best position to pick up surveillances, to pick up unusual activity in neighborhoods where these attacks might happen. And so I actually think it is an honest assessment. They considered raising the threat level and decided not to do that. And that's another indication that their assessment is really honest.

KING: And I assume they're also analyzing this new statement from al Qaeda today, acknowledging bin Laden's death. There was some dispute. Maybe the president of the United States had to release the photographic evidence; maybe they wouldn't acknowledge it until then, but they did. And in that statement they said that "soon with God's help we pray that their happiness turns into sorrow and may their bloods mix with their tears and let Sheikh Osama's resonate again that America will neither enjoy nor live in security until our people in Palestine live it and enjoy it." The Palestine (INAUDIBLE) aired, but essentially a threat because of this there will be blood shed.

TOWNSEND: Not surprising. You would have expected they wanted to show of strength. They want to show that they've not been crippled by this. They're coming back. I would have been more surprised if they hadn't been threatening. One other thing, John, when we talk about the documents and files and computers that they're going through, this interagency task force, and as you mentioned the president was at Ft. Campbell today. I would hope that his next stop would be Langley because this operation was enabled by 10 years of really grueling intelligence work and so he needs to also go out and thank them.

KING: Fran Townsend, appreciate your help.

Still ahead here more new details from those seized bin Laden records and next, the economy has had a big month, creating jobs and the president is happy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: This economic momentum that's taking place here at Al's (ph) that is taking place all across the country. Today we found out that we added another 268,000 private sector jobs in April.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: More jobs, yet unemployment went up. Why has that happened?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Strong evidence tonight that the economy is finally shifting into higher gear, but that doesn't necessarily make your job search any easier, at least not yet. Here's the encouraging part. The economy added 244,000 net jobs in April, its strongest monthly gain in five years.

Here's the head scratching part. Despite that vigorous job growth, the unemployment rate went up from 8.8 percent in March to nine percent in April. That's because thousands of Americans who had given up looking for work suddenly tried to re-enter the job market last month. Still President Obama was upbeat as he visited a manufacturing plant today in Indiana.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: But there are always going to be some ups and downs like these as we come out of a recession. And there will undoubtedly be some more challenges ahead, but the fact is that we are still making progress and that proves how resilient the American economy is and how resilient the American worker is and that we can take a hit and we can keep on going forward. That's exactly what we're doing.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Let's take a closer look at some of these numbers as you watch things out here. First just the unemployment rate over the past two years -- if you go back to April '09 and pull this forward, you see the rate going up above 10 percent. And then it is essentially hovered here and then bang, down a little bit, and up a little bit. The question is where does it go from here?

That's one way to look at this. Now where were the jobs added? Here's again, if you take a look here, jobs up in April, up in March, so we've been in the top side going up for several months. That's what makes this positive. They would like the number to be higher like it was for a month back here. But the numbers are going in the right direction.

By sector is very important. What's strong in the economy and what's not? Service jobs way up, hospitality jobs up, health care jobs up, manufacturing jobs -- that's encouraging -- made in America. It is the government where jobs are going down right now in the public sector. Here's a very important thing to look at, especially among the unemployed. If you have got a higher education, you have got a better chance of getting a job.

Look at this out here -- unemployment up here -- less than a high school diploma, they are having the most struggle in the job market right now. The higher the education, the luckier you are -- excuse me -- out there looking for a job. And many of you -- we get e-mails all the time from those of you in the 99-plus club out there, long-term unemployment, of the nearly 14 million Americans still unemployed, 13.7 million, this is stunning, 42 percent of them have been unemployed for 27 weeks or more.

That's a tough -- that's a tough climate still. Still a stronger than expected jobs report helped keep U.S. markets in the positive territory to close the week. Alison Kosik is with us live to go behind the numbers (ph) and Alison, why is that 244,000? Why is the new jobs number viewed as so important?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well I report at the New York Stock Exchange, John, and I'll tell you what. There's been this growing unease, this sense that the economy is sort of sputtering out, that it was losing its momentum. We had some indications this week that we would have a really downbeat number today with the jobs report, so when it came out today with this strong number, it was a pleasant surprise to Wall Street.

It rallied at the open, rose up to 175 points. Of course, we ended a bit lower, but still in the green. Wall Street is happy about this because although it doesn't spell recovery, we're really on the right track. This is actually the third month where we're seeing an addition of more than 200,000 jobs. And that's really a good sign. But you know, you make a really good point, too. You know, 13.5 million people are still out of work.

There needs to be enough jobs out there for these people to have. Obviously 200,000 jobs a month really isn't enough. We're going to be in this for the long run. Even Fed Chief Ben Bernanke said it's going to be years before we get back to what's considered normal unemployment, which is around five to six percent, so at the very least, we're on the right track and a positive number is just that, something that we can latch on to and say the economy is not just yet sputtering out -- John.

KING: And when you say a positive number we can latch on to, the headline, the strongest numbers in five years, I think that's what makes it encouraging for --

KOSIK: Yes.

KING: -- people. And we've had this roller coaster and is the economy -- does the recovery really have a good foothold? Is it anemic? Is there something out there that might undermine it? Do people have the confidence now that this is real and that we're going to go 200, 240, maybe 260 some months, maybe even crack 300,000 jobs some months?

KOSIK: You know what I'm skeptical about the confidence level at this point. But it's really a slowly sort of building effort. I mean, you look at the unemployment rate it jumped from 8.8 percent to nine percent. I'll bet you anything when you open up the newspaper tomorrow, that nine percent is going to be the headline. And that's going to really scare a lot of people. But you have to really look behind it and you touched on it yourself.

A nine percent unemployment rate in the situation we're in does not necessarily indicate a weakness. It really shows that people are feeling more confident about things, that they're getting back out, they're kind of back in the saddle again, putting their resumes out there and looking for jobs. Because when we saw that unemployment rate actually dip back to 8.8 percent, a lot of us were actually scratching our heads wondering how can that be with 13.5 million people out of work. Well that's because they didn't bother looking for work. They just got very frustrated and dropped out. So the fact that more people are jumping into the labor pool now is really a good sign because in order for the economy to improve, the labor pool also has to grow -- John.

KING: Alison Kosik live for us tonight in New York, Alison thank you. Let's dig deeper still with an eye on just when the jobless rate might start heading down with Mark Zandi. He's the chief economist of Moody's Analytics. So Mark Zandi you get an encouraging jobs number and yet the rate goes up because Americans who have discouraged decide OK maybe the economy is adding some jobs.

I'll come out and start looking. How long are we going to be going through that interesting dynamic where you could be adding jobs at a decent pace but the rate is either stagnant or goes up?

MARK ZANDI, CHIEF ECONOMIST, MOODY'S ANALYTICS: Yes I think that could be an issue for the next six, maybe nine, perhaps even 12 months. And we do have a lot of people who got disenfranchised during the recession. Times were so tough, no job opportunities, they stepped out of the workforce. And now that conditions are improving we're getting some job openings.

They're going to step back in. A lot of young people who have been in school, staying at school longer, and they're going to start coming back in. So you know, I think it's going to be tough to make a lot of progress bringing down unemployment in 2011.

KING: We've had sort of fits and starts, a bit of a roller coaster. What's your sense now? You can look at 244,000 jobs last month and say finally there's a building block or you can average it out for the year and you're just shy of 200, about 192,000 jobs on average a month. Are we on a glide path now or are we going to have bumps?

ZANDI: Well the trend lines are good. I mean we'll always have bumps. The economy doesn't move in a straight line. It ebbs and it flows. But, you know, everything is pointing to steadily better job conditions. We've created nearly two million private sector jobs since job growth resumed a little over a year ago.

Since the beginning of this year, private sector job growth is on average over 200,000 per month. That's pretty solid, pretty good. And I do think we should continue to count on that going forward. So I'm increasingly more confident about the direction our economy is headed.

KING: And is there -- are there one or two things in the data that give you that confidence when you look? Is it a different -- maybe a sector of the economy or the rate of growth in a sector of the economy?

ZANDI: Well, it's not only the strength of the job gains, but it's the breadth of the job gains across various industries and regions of the country. I mean, if you look across different industries, we're seeing job growth in manufacturing, construction, financial services, health care, retailing, leisure and hospitality, professional service.

The only sector that is laying off, big sector that's laying off is state and local government obviously because of their very severe financial problems. So the breadth of the job growth is for me the most encouraging aspect of the data that we're getting.

KING: And yet if you ask people in our polling, as we do, eight in 10 Americans say they think the economy is still in poor shape. How much does that, a lack of consumer confidence, at least long-term confidence, pull the economy back some?

ZANDI: Yes, that is an issue. It is a problem, this lack of confidence sentiment. And it goes to the fact that we dug ourselves a very deep hole in the great recession. And while we're digging ourselves out, we've still got a long way to go. The unemployment rate is nine percent.

Full employment is probably closer to 5.5 percent, so people sense that and they still feel very uncomfortable. And their discomfort is one of the reasons why it's hard for this economy to get going. So it's kind of a chicken and egg problem. But I think we're going to solve that problem.

I think people are going to start feeling a little bit better, become more aggressive. Businesses are going to hire more people. And we're going to be in a much better place a year from now. We're in a better place today than we were a year ago. And I think we're going to feel even better a year from now.

KING: Let me close there on that point then. Around the country, somebody who's unemployed is sitting at their kitchen table, saying can I get a job in my community now? Here where I work in Washington, people look at these numbers and they say where will they be when voters decide who gets to be the next president of the United States. If you're the incumbent and you know you'll be judged on the strength of the economy, where will we be in terms of the jobs climate around Labor Day, October next year?

ZANDI: Well much improved. You know the unemployment rate is nine percent. My feeling is that the unemployment rate will be closer to 7.5 percent by Election Day, still very high by historical standards, but moving definitively lower. So, you know, I think people are going to feel much better about that when -- about the economy when they go to the polls a little over a year from now.

KING: Mark Zandi, as always appreciate your time, sir.

ZANDI: Thank you.

KING: Ahead tonight, Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us with his investigation of the remarkable recovery of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, including an account from those who rushed to save her life in the chaotic moments just after the shooting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She would flinch if they poked her or if they pinched her, and she would squeeze our hands if we asked her to. She -- you know her eyes -- she had some swelling and her eyes were closed, so we couldn't assess that level of responsiveness.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And next, the urgent review of the files seized from Osama bin Laden's compound and al Qaeda's public announcement that its search for a new leader is under way.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're learning important new details tonight about al Qaeda's plans for new attacks on the United States and about its search for a new leader. The information about new plots and Osama bin Laden's active role in helping shape them comes from computer files, paper records and videotapes seized from the bin Laden compound in Pakistan by those Navy SEALs who killed him on Sunday.

What is the most valuable intelligence from those files? And how could U.S. intelligence officials had been wrong for so long in insisting that bin Laden was incapable of being much more than a figurehead because he was on the run?

Joining us to help answer these questions: from New York, CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank. And here in Washington, "Los Angeles Times" national security correspondent, Brian Bennett, and the former director of CIA Counterterrorism Center, Robert Grenier.

Brian, I want to start with you since you've been doing so much reporting on what's in these files. What jumps out from what your sources are telling you in terms of somebody watching at home? Should they be alarmed that attacks should be imminent? Should they be alarmed that they had specific bin Laden planned attacks?

BRIAN BENNETT, L.A. TIMES NATL. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, it does seem that there was no -- the plots that we found out so far, they were not far along enough that they could be executed immediately. That -- and also, the analysts I talked to tend to think that al Qaeda likes to take its time. They like to make sure they get a plan right and they would not take the risk of accelerating a plot and run the risk of having it discovered and pop up on the national security agency's radar, for example.

KING: What's your sense, in a big event like this, a signature event, bin Laden dead, and they've publicly acknowledged it. There was debate about whether they would do that right away. What would you look for?

ROBERT GRENIER, FORMER DIR., CIA COUNTERTERRORISM CENTER: What I'd be looking for in terms of intelligence?

KING: Yes.

GRENIER: Well, obviously, the same things that we look for when any major target is captured and materials are captured along with him. And that is actual information. Anything that would indicate that there may be an attack which is under way that has been planned and is actually moving forward and that actually has to be stopped.

KING: And, Paul, we're hearing that not only are these plans, and they -- again, everyone's emphasizing nothing imminent, nothing in such high detail. But some paper records that we are being told specifically involving bin Laden drafting. Bin Laden being part of planning.

What does that tell you after several years we've heard he's in the caves, he's on the run, he's a figurehead, he cannot be pulling the levers, if you will?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, it indicates that in the years after 9/11, bin Laden has continued to exert command and control over the al Qaeda organization. And not just strategic guidance by releasing videotapes and audiotapes, but more detailed instructions that he perhaps was able to pass to operatives through these thumb drives.

And, certainly, we're now discovering that information, detailed information, even about lower level plots against the United States were coming into bin Laden, into this compound, John.

KING: And when I heard of this statement this morning from al Qaeda -- as you know, we've all been discussing for days, would they publicly acknowledge this? Would they wake and try to pressure the administration to release photographic evidence? President Obama decided he would not do that.

And, Paul, to you first on this -- when I heard about the statement, I essentially took it as al Qaeda acknowledging they can't begin the search for a new leader until they come out and acknowledge the old one is dead.

CRUICKSHANK: That's right. And they've now released, it seems, this written statement acknowledging bin Laden is dead. In the next month, I think, we can expect a videotape where the message from the al Qaeda's new leader. That's very likely to be Ayman al-Zawahiri and also perhaps a martyrdom video that bin Laden prerecorded.

But Al Qaeda wants to get on with the succession. They want to get Zawahiri in place. He, according to the internal constitution of al Qaeda, will take over. And they vow that they're going to carry on their fight, carry on their campaign of global terrorism against the United States, John.

KING: Let's take a closer look at this. I'm going to walk over here, gentlemen. You can watch from where you are. I just want to go through the successes that both the Bush and Obama administration have claimed over the last ten years.

Mohammed Atta, killed. Abu Zubaydah, a big figure early on, killed. Captured Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

You go through here, killed, al-Zarqawi, killed. One of bin Laden's sons, killed. It begs the question there.

But then you have the question of this, when you bring this over. Bin Laden being the leader, those guys -- that's my mistake. Touch that again. It gets a little cranky sometimes. All right. I'll make that go away. Bin Laden being the leader. But you have al-Zawahiri. How would he be different? If he becomes the number two, how would he different?

You've heard in the past that Bin Laden is -- likes big grand scale attacks. He used the planes -- obviously, that plan on 9/11.

Is Zawahiri somebody who wants chemical weapons, biological weapons? Are they different in how they would approach things?

GRENIER: I think there's a lot that we really don't know at this point. And I'm not sure that there are big differences, if you will, with regard to the types of targets that are to be attacked between bin Laden and Zawahiri. Certainly not to my knowledge.

I think the real difference between the two really has to do with stature. Bin Laden is the founder, he's the chairman, if you will. In that sense, he is literally irreplaceable.

KING: Literally irreplaceable?

BENNETT: Bin Laden is -- it's going to be very hard. They're probably going to have to replace bin Laden with two figures, because no one can really unite the affiliates the way that bin Laden did. He had the pedigree. He came from a prominent Saudi family that had connections to Mecca and Medina. And he had the money to back him.

And when you come to replacing him, you're going to need to have both a propaganda, someone who can get the message out, Zawahiri can do that. So can Anwar al-Awlaki. And you're going to need to have an operational commander.

KING: Is that part, Paul, of perhaps why they came out with the statement soon? If Zawahiri has less stature, as Robert says. If he might not be as popular as bin Laden, does he need to try to do this as fast as possible before opposition could organize?

CRUICKSHANK: Well, that's right. He's been a polarizing, divisive figure within al Qaeda. All the Saudis and Yemenis within al Qaeda haven't really liked Zawahiri over the years and he's got a big decision coming up, Zawahiri. Who is he going to appoint as the new deputy commander of the group? Will it be another Egyptian? And will the Saudis and Yemenis accept that or appoint another figure, perhaps a Libyan, like Abu Yahya al-Libi, somebody with charisma into the number two position, John.

KING: Let's shift now to this word, this other breaking news we have tonight of the attempted U.S. military drone attack in Yemen against the American born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.

You were deeply involved in the CIA drone program. What does it tell you? This is a military drone, not a CIA drone. But what does it tell you that the administration days after getting bin Laden is trying to get al-Awlaki in Yemen?

GRENIER: Well, I'm not sure that there's really a link between the two. There have been good reasons to launch attacks on Awlaki for quite some time now. From what I know, from what I can tell, the al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in which Awlaki is a senior figure has been targeting the United States for quite some time and doing so independently, not on the authority of bin Laden or Zawahiri.

KING: Almost more than a day-to-day threat, if you will, than bin Laden's al Qaeda over the last few years.

GRENIER: Absolutely, yes.

KING: No connection. We're told the intelligence did not come from the bin Laden compound files. This is separate U.S. intelligence. No direct connections.

However, the very aggressive muscular strike days after a very daring raid, is the administration trying to send a signal?

BENNETT: I think so. I think Obama is emboldened by the success of this raid and I think they're taking targets off the shelf and trying to let loose and show that they're going to keep the pressure on and increase the pressure on al Qaeda and the networks.

KING: And, Paul Cruickshank, keep the pressure on. Let loose. That's an interesting term there. A little danger in that of getting too risky, isn't it?

CRUICKSHANK: Well, they really want to kind of go after these key leaders of al Qaeda. No one more than Ayman al-Zawahiri and perhaps some of the intelligence coming out of this compound may help them go after Zawahiri, because Western intelligence agencies believe that Zawahiri and bin Laden continues in recent years to be in contact and were perhaps in relatively close geographic proximity.

Taking out these key leaders of al Qaeda is very, very important in term of degrading al Qaeda's capabilities, obviously, John. But while there are still people who subscribe to this ideology, it doesn't take too many people to launch a terrorist strike as the United States found out 10 years ago on 9/11.

KING: This has been a dizzying week. You start Sunday night with the word bin Laden is dead. We are now on Friday evening. We've learned so much during the week about the raid, about all of the materials seized, about the administration's strategy.

As you come to the end of the week, what's your biggest question about what next?

GRENIER: I guess one of my biggest questions is -- what does this mean for the global jihad? There are any number of affiliated organizations, organizations that are affiliated with al Qaeda, as we know, around the world -- are they going to begin to think of themselves and begin to launch attacks more as nationalist enemies and less as elements in a global jihad?

BENNETT: This is something we saw from some of the messages coming out of bin Laden's house over the last year, was that he was keeping a hand on al Qaeda, keeping them focused on the far end of the United States. And we may see some of these regional organization starts to focus on the near enemy, on local governments and launching more regional attacks, increasing their operational tempo.

KING: Paul?

CRUICKSHANK: Without bin Laden there, the key unifying figure, the linchpin of al Qaeda, will this organization start to fracture, to unravel? Will there be rivalry between the Yemenis, the Egyptians, other nationalities with their group? Lots of centrifugal forces within al Qaeda over the years. Bin Laden kept the lid on that here with the key unifying figure.

We'll see what happen next, John.

KING: Is it -- is it, in some way -- it's a tough analogy to make, but like the collapse of the Cold War, you knew the Soviets -- the one unifying enemy you were looking at, now with this splintering -- Paul, to you first -- the splintering, while it's a significant achievement, al Qaeda as we knew it, may be crippled, if not on its way to death. But does it in some ways make it more complicated to keep an eye on the other things happening?

CRUICKSHANK: Well, that's right. You know, there's really been a rise of the affiliates of al Qaeda in recent years. So, there's a more complex threat. There's also been all this rise of homegrown extremism, of people not even connected to al Qaeda launching attacks.

Bin Ladenism will carry on. But Bin Laden was absolutely crucial alive to bin Ladenism. And now that he's dead, they don't have that charismatic, inspiring, unifying figure anymore, John.

KING: So, not a singular, large, powerful organization, but still a complicated chase of less powerful groups?

GRENIER: Well, in a sense, it has always been a highly diverse organization. Let's remember that many of the affiliated groups weren't spawned by al Qaeda central. They started out as organizations that were devoted to a jihad in their own areas, trying to liberate their own governments. It was only as they failed that they then began to think of themselves in a much more internationalist light and to formally associate themselves with bin Laden.

Now, perhaps, things are going to begin to move back in the other direction.

KING: What's the biggest lesson the administration would have learned from this, whether it's the CIA or the military operations? In terms of something they did right this time that might be able to help them in the future.

BENNETT: I think we're going to see operations move on to the black side. I think we're going to see Obama be emboldened by the success of this and try to say, look, doing large military attacks and large military operations isn't always the best answer. We should think more about putting resources, huge resources into strategic and surgical strikes like this one.

KING: Gentlemen, thanks for coming in on a Friday evening, after a very important week. Appreciate your insights. Thank you all very much.

Ahead tonight, she was gravely wounded by a would-be assassin's bullet in January. Now, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is making a remarkable recovery. But can she ever return to her job? Dr. Sanjay Gupta investigates.

Plus, both Vice President Biden and his wife Jill had colorful descriptions of how the death of Osama bin Laden has impacted their lives.

That and the day's major developing stories -- next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back. If you're just joining us, here's the latest news you need to know right now:

Tonight, thousands of homeowners in Memphis, Tennessee, are being told to evacuate for the worst of the flooding on the Mississippi River. It's their low-lying neighborhoods. Up river in Missouri, the Coast Guard closed part of the Mississippi to commercial traffic today so the weight from barges won't cause already weakened levees to give way.

A White House statement tonight strongly condemns Syria's new round of attacks on protesters. Witnesses say at least 31 people died today and a prominent opposition leader was arrested.

Michelle Obama and Jill Biden hosted a military spouses' appreciation day event at the White House this afternoon. The vice president's wife told about waiting for her husband to come home from the White House after Sunday's raid on the bin Laden compound.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JILL BIDEN, V.P. BIDEN'S WIFE: He was late and I was outside waiting for my husband. I had on my bathrobe. And I was sitting on the steps of our residence and I could hear in the distance, because there were so many people that were outside, and I could hear them at the gates that opened to our driveway and there were people there singing "God Bless America."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: At Fort Campbell, Kentucky, the vice president had his own story about telling his granddaughter just where he was going today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I said, we're going to see the guys out there who got Osama bin Laden. It's absolutely true story. She said, "Pop," and she grabbed a little friend of hers and said, "My pop's going out to see the whales."

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN: Not the SEALs, the whales.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Little good humor there.

Next for us, Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us with the details on the recovery of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: NASA managers announced they won't try launching the space shuttle Endeavour until Monday, May 16th, at the earliest.

Staffers for Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the wife of the shuttle commander, Mark Kelly, say he will once again travel from her hospital in Houston to Florida for that launch attempt.

Our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta has been looking into Giffords remarkable recovery from January's gunshot wound. His special, "Saving Gabby Giffords," runs this week at 7:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN.

And, Sanjay, let's start with the threshold question. Obviously, if they think she is healthy enough to travel from Houston to Florida again -- how is she doing?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's a significant thing that they allowed there this past week. And, I mean, she's doing well. You know, we had a chance to visit with the rehab doctors and the staff that had been caring for her in Houston.

And a couple things about her to keep in mind that, you know, since this all happened, she really has been making a very quick recovery. She was able to follow commands, for example, at a time. You see some of the rehab that she's going through. I actually went through it to sort of see it myself.

A gunshot wound to me left side of the brain, John, the things you worry about the most are right-sided strength and speech. And these are the areas where she's working on. So, you know, learning to write, for example, with her left hand, learning to speak administrator spontaneously, learning to get up and use that right leg. You saw some evidence of that even she was getting up on the plane to fly to the shuttle launch originally.

So, she's been making quick recovery and that's usually a good indicator of the overall, the end point of her recovery.

KING: And this was our worry and our reporting fascination in the early days. And you've had time now to investigate it. Not only a gunshot wound, Sanjay, but a gunshot wound to a sensitive area of the head. GUPTA: Yes. No question, John. If you look at the statistic to sort of keep in mind is if you take all gunshot wound to the head, only about 5 percent to 10 percent of those patients survive. But there is something about those patients who survive that makes them more likely to do so. And that's one of the things I really wanted to get across in this documentary, to try and explain that.

So, to take a little bit of a look at how things unfolded for her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GUPTA (voice-over): The bullet was fired from a Glock 19 9- millimeter semi-automatic handgun. It entered from the front left side of the congresswoman's forehead, traveled the entire length of her brain and exited the back. It was a focused wound, meaning the damage was concentrated to one area of the brain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was just exceedingly lucky, right? When I saw that trajectory of where one hole was and where the other hole was, I was like, oh, my gosh, you know? however --

GUPTA: What do you mean? Because it was so far apart?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. It wasn't a little thing, it went through a lot.

GUPTA: Yes. It wasn't a glancing shot. It was --

UNIDENTIFEID MALE: Yes, it wasn't a glancing shot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GUPTA: And let me tell you, John, real quick, the reason that's significant when you talk about a through and through bullet injury, the bullet has a finite amount of energy. If it goes through and through, that means some of the energy is dissipated into space as opposed to within the skull cavity. And that's the reason that's important. That's a good thing.

Also, the fact that the exit wound was so small means the bullet didn't tumble, it didn't explode inside the brain as well. Those are very important for her survival.

KING: And as you talk optimistically about her survival -- will she ever be able to come back to Congress?

GUPTA: That's a good question. I asked all three of her doctors who initially cared for her, and they all say yes. To be fair, they're completely speculating and the answer is really unknowable at this point.

To be a congressperson, John, you know better than anybody -- there are several things. I mean, spontaneity of speech, you know, a lot of impromptu talks, a lot of moving around. You know, the right side of the body, I mentioned, are being weak. So, that might make it more challenging.

But they all say yes, but it's not going to be soon. You know, these types of recoveries are measured in months, not days and weeks.

KING: Sanjay Gupta for us. You don't want to miss it, "Saving Gabby Giffords," 7:00 p.m. Eastern, Sunday on CNN. Great work, Doc. Thanks for coming in to help us explain this. Thank you.

GUPTA: Thanks, John. You got it.

KING: Thank you.

When we come back, the Navy SEALs used a secret stealth helicopter. We'll show you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Throughout the week, we've learned a lot of new details about that raid, the Navy SEALs raid on the bin Laden compound in Pakistan that led to the shooting, the death of the al Qaeda leader.

One of the curious things we've tried to report throughout the week is: what about this helicopter we saw? I want to show you this here. This is a photo of the "Reuters" news agency posted of the Black Hawk helicopter.

Remember, the SEALs went in, one of the helicopters malfunctioned. They blew it up on the way out so that it would not fall into enemy hands, although some pieces were left behind.

We saw this and we said, wait a minute, it's a Black Hawk helicopter. We've seen those before, but never one that looked like that. This is the tail rotor here.

So, let's close this one and take a look at what we have learned over the course of the past week. Here's your standard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. Here is a potentially modified one, based on what we learned about the one used here.

Look at this difference. It might be a little hard to see, but see, there's a little bit of an angle here, of course, to the side there. This, like a stealth fighter jet to reflect radar. Remember, the Pakistani military was not told this raid was underway. This might help it detect radar.

Something else -- look at the tail fin here. And I'll just bring it around a different angle, to give you a different angle, to bring it around. Come back over here, come this way.

If you look here, again, shorter rotor blades, then the longer rotor blades. Why? It's more quiet. It's more quiet.

Look here, again, this is what you saw in that photograph. Here's your standard tail rotor here. Why? Muffle the noise, make it more quietly as it comes on in. Again, you see the stealth- like features here in the modification. Let me bring it around one more angle for you, you can see something else. If you look at the tail on this one, the stabilizer comes across, pretty much one piece, right? One piece like a spoiler almost on the back of a car, look here, a little more tilted, comes up like that. Very interesting different mix right there.

Let me bring it around one more angle just to take a look at it again in the back. You see difference shapes, more curving here, the tail fins are different here. A little bit of angles on the side and look at the difference in the color. Your Army issued Black Hawk painted normal. This, more of the metallic.

Think of the stealth fighter you have seen. Again a secret raid going in, not only to surprise Osama bin Laden but to surprise the government and the military of Pakistan, which was not told in advance about this. A fascinating look and we're learning more about it.

You see back here right here on Monday night. That's all for us tonight. Have a great weekend.

"IN THE ARENA" starts right now.