December 14, 2004 | Broadcast

360 Degrees with Anderson Cooper



COLLINS (voice-over): There may be more than one Middle East- based television network, but none is causing quite the same stir as Al Manar.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Al Manar makes Al Jazeera look like a Girl Scout cookie infomercial.

COLLINS: Al Manar, Arabic for The Beacon, is coming under the harsh glare of critics for its anti-American and anti-Israeli programming, and its ties to the terrorist group Hezbollah.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Al Manar, we have gone on the record on numerous occasions in response to what we consider to be in — trying to think of the harsh enough word for it — we consider to be disgusting programming that preaches hatred and violence.

COLLINS: Some critics say Al Manar is nothing but a propaganda machine for a militant Muslim organization.

AVI JORISCH, AUTHOR, “BEACON OF HATRED”: The station is looking to inspire what we call in the West, quote unquote, “suicide attacks,” and what they call, quote unquote, “martyrdom operations.” They’re very open about the fact that they support, rhetorically, these types of attacks against American soldiers and against Israelis.

COLLINS: Despite images like these, network executives say the charges are just not true. And while they share some philosophical ideals with Hezbollah, they don’t take direction from the group. Still, their statements show they don’t view the U.S. and its leaders kindly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: George W. Bush says that he’s a friend of the peace and is a peaceful man. So, I mean, this is distorting the realities and the facts. But we have never broadcast anything to incite hatred. COLLINS: There’s no way to know how many people are watching Al Manar. But the network does broadcast here in the United States. Yet despite Hezbollah’s designation as a terrorist group, the State Department is not following France’s lead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I’d say that television and its relationship with Hezbollah is something that we note, and follow carefully, but I would leave it at that.

COLLINS: Meaning, here at home, the war of ideas has found a new battleground.


COLLINS: The French and other European nations, as well as those of us in this country, apparently have every right to be concerned about Muslims being radicalized in Europe. After all, most of the recent acts of terrorism in this country have a connection to Europe.

Take the attempt to blow up LAX. The terrorists, caught in 1999, had been radicalized in Italy. Three out of four pilots on 9/11 planes had connection with al Qaeda’s Hamburg cell in Germany. The alleged 20th hijacker, Zacarias Moussaoui, is French, and the shoe bomber, Richard Reid, is British.

Joining us now to talk more about the problem is CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen.

Peter, thank you for being here tonight.

I know that you just recently wrote in an “L.A. Times” op-ed that the real threat for the U.S. is not so much this traditional al Qaeda organization that we talk so frequently about, but rather cells and affiliated groups that are based in Europe. So how so?

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, as your graphic indicated, you know, all the serious terrorist attacks, either planned or implemented, in the last — since 1999 have had a very strong European connection. It’s hard to imagine them without that European connection.

I think that trend is going to accelerate over time, basically for two reasons. One is that European governments have not, perhaps, been as proactive as they could have been in cracking down. Europe, of course, is a place that you can travel around very easily, open borders, easy to travel here, if you have a European passport.

And you’ve got 20 million Muslims in Europe. Obviously 99 percent of them are not going to engage in terrorism, but a small minority might. And that group is going to increase over time, because Europeans’ native populations are declining pretty dramatically, and they’ve got a serious problem in terms of keeping up social welfare entitlements and also filling their labor force. And they’re going to have to import a lot more labor from Middle East and also North Africa. COLLINS: And Peter, the first point you made, about Europe not being very proactive about tracking down possible al Qaeda connections, why? And what are they doing at this point?

BERGEN: Well, actually, I mean, in fairness, it depends which country. France has had a problem with its Algerian population and terrorism starting in the mid-’90s, and they have been quite proactive. Britain has a long tradition of tolerance of dissenters. That, I think, is beginning to change. They have arrested one notorious terrorist insider, Abu Hamza, within the last year or so. So I think things are moving in the right direction.

But the problem, of course, is that Europe has got in the European Union, you know, there are some 20 countries, all of which have, you know, different languages. And also, it is like the firewall problem here in this country between the FBI and CIA, except it is 20, 25 walls between each of these different countries. So it’s half of them to share information, and that also is beginning to change. The E.U. now has a counterterrorism czar, but I think there’s a long way to go.

COLLINS: Yes, and quickly, on that point, I mean, with all of those different countries and an inability, at least at this point, to talk, I mean, do you see, as someone who has been tracking this as closely as you have, any indication that that will improve, or an effort to start communicating?

BERGEN: I think it is improving, but I think that, you know, likelihood of a major terrorist attack in a city like London is much, much higher than an attack here in the United States.

COLLINS: All right. Peter Bergen, CNN terrorism analyst tonight. Thank you, Peter.

BERGEN: Thank you.