tv Declassified CNN September 29, 2019 9:00pm-10:00pm PDT
operative come to new york to blow up the subways. our job was to stop it. >> as a former fbi agent and chairman of the house intelligence committee, i had oversight of all 16 are our nation's intelligence agencies. my name is mike rogers. i had access to classified information gathered by our operatives, people who risked everything for the united states and our families. you don't know their faces or their names. you don't know the real stories from the people who live the fear and the pressure until now. >> 9/11 was a wakeup call to the united states that we're vulnerable to terrorist attacks. it was also a wakeup call that our law enforcement intelligence community had to work together in the future.
pre-9/11 what you didn't have is the connective tissue of information between law enforcement and intelligence community assets. and the consequence is you're not seeing what is going on inside the country and it's not easy to connect that to outside the country. and that was noted in the 9/11 commission report. there's a lot of lessons learned after 9/11. a lot better sharing of information and intelligence, communication lines being more open, walls coming down. >> we're going to do whatever we can to stop terrorism. that is our goal. >> the metadata program were enacted to protect this country from the attacks we saw on 9/11. >> today i'm pleased to sign landmark legislation is that is vital to the security of our people.
the bill will allow officials to quickly and complete ly review communications here at home and abroad, while we can respect the liberties of americans here at home. >> so 702 authorizes the nsa to go after certain forms of communications, terrorist communications that, are coming from outside the country to inside the country. and the metadata collection program is information about information. this is the phone up in, two and from, date, time and duration of the call. that is all that is in the database. there is no conversations. there is nothing about your communication or mine. once a number is confirmed to be associated with a terrorist group, nsa can look and see who is that individual communicating with inside the u.s.
people assume the meta data program has the content of phone calls. it doesn't. >> why is everyone so scared of this? >> because they don't understand. it's sensationalized and enflamed, not informed. >> they're not reading random e-mails or listening to random phone calls of normal citizens going about their business. there is no such thing. >> do you think the programs will prevent a 9/11? >> yes. i think post 702 and the metadata program would have stopped it. >> in 2009, nsa was tracking an e-mail address in pakistan that belonged to a man at yahoo.com. this individual was associated with a known al qaeda operative. he was one of the conspirators in the attack on the aircraft
coming out of great britain in 2006. so he and this communication is happening. and then 6 september 2009, nsa intercepted a message from paktana communicates with someone inside the united states. under the 702 certification process, we were authorized to get the content of that e-mail. and when we read it, it had code words in it. they're indicative of a terrorist act. and it had a phone number. what it didn't say is who is the guy inside the united states? where does he live and what's he up to? so we would take that and say this is important. so we gave that e-mail to the fbi. the first e-mail that came
across was from that address to a yahoo account. and then there were three e-mails from firstname.lastname@example.org saying get in touch with me right away. i need the formula, the marriage is ready for flower and oil. the term marriage is a term that we all know and understand to mean attack. the other problem is that these e-mails are occurring just days before the anniversary of 9/11. everybody is concerned that we had a major problem on our hands. >> the fbi takes that e-mail and goes to the internet service provider to find out who is this person? what's his name? gets the information back that says this is his name and the phone number is his.
and we were able to identify an address through the carrier to an apartment in aurora, colorado. once he was identified through the e-mails, we were trying to scramble to figure out everything that we could possibly find out about him. we had our joint terrorism task force working together as a team. the joint terrorism task force involved agencies from the area, state, federal, local law enforcement, agencies working under one roof. and so almost immediately we were able to set up 24/7 surveillance on that apartment. on september 9th, 6:00 a.m. he leaves the apartment. he goes over to a car rental company and rents a vehicle that was a red chevy impala.
and then we see him getting into the car and driving in an eastbound direction out of the city of denver. he was on the move going at a very, very high rate of speed. this thing is a day to a day and a half old. and there was a lot of pressure. nobody knew what was going on. i mean, is this a person that is fleeing the scene? is he attempting to get out of town before this thing occurs? is he going to an area where the attack is going to take place? we just didn't know. >> we utilize our partnership with the patrol. they have them pull him over for speeding. and the trooper goes up. looks in the car. talks to him. the trooper is asking about questions and he's on the way to new york city. i own a coffee cart business and there is a problem with the individual running it and i need
to get there and figure it out and make it right. at that point he's allowed to leave because what do we have under which to arrest him. there was nothing. you're at a point that you have to allow things to play out. you have to figure out exactly what is going on. but the car moving at a high rate of speed toward new york city near the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that does not sit well with anyone. but particularly the new york field office. >> so it's september 9th, 2009. i'm sitting at my desk reading e-mail ands looking through papers. i get a call from one of my counterparts at fbi. and he says do you know the name naji bulazazi? i said, no, never heard of him. he said literally he's coming at you at 90 miles an hour potentially to detonate a bomb.
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fancy feast. introducing savory centers. paté with a center of gravy! on september 8th, 2009, i had never heard his name. by september 9th, 2009, i knew he was a terrorist on the way to new york. likely to detonate a bomb. >> i was actually an assistant special agent in charge with the new york terrorism joint task force. don was the other special agent in charge. and don comes up to me and he says nsa got information through
their technical means that this individual zazi was communicating with a known al qaeda e-mail address about making a bomb and was basically coming at us at a fast rate of speed to commit an act of terrorism on the anniversary of 9/11. i'm like, what? you know? wasn't expecting that. wasn't expecting that. >> there is a huge responsibility that it cannot happen to new york. it cannot happen again. my role in new york was to try to take that information coming from the nsa and eric and his team in denver and then come up with a plan to deal with the threat to new york. for me, it was a pressure cooker situation. by the time he started driving to new york, it was about 48 hours since he initially came to our attention. so this was a breakneck pace
that we were operating under. especially given the fact that we were two days away from the anniversary of 9/11. we also have our surveillance vehicles following him the entire way. so from denver across the country, we have surveillance in the sky. we're doing everything we can to make sure we know where this guy is. >> while najibullah is on the road trip, we continue our investigation. we still knew very little about him. but we started to accumulate information. we started to look at his immigration records. we learned that najibullah was born in the northwest frontier region of pakistan. then najibullah and his family came to the united states in 1999 when he was 11. and lived in flushing, queens. from there you build on what you know about these people. anybody that touched najibullah zazi, we assumed was radioactive. they were potential threat.
essentially the nsa part was to use the metadata program and determine who else in if the u.s. zazi is communicating with to help the fbi understand who are the key terrorists they have to go after? two of the key figures in this investigation were these gentlemen. two of his very close friends that he met in high school. they went to the mosque together. and they got jobs in new york. zazi had had the coffee cart. zarine was driving a cab. and adis was a doorman. they continued to hang out. they remain frindz. >> looking at the flight manifest, we concluded that in august of 2008, before he came to colorado, zazi traveled with adis to the fatah region of pakistan. the federally administered tribal areas of pakistan. >> we thought at the time he had gone to a terrorist training
camp. to receive terrorist training, bombmaking. these are all the real critical pieces of information that we needed to know the magnitude of this threat. and this has gone from a highly probable to an emergency case. you join the fbi because you want to get in the fight. you want to take bad guys off the street. i never had anything like. this this seemed to be a real full blown tier one trained bomb making guy with potentially a bomb in the trunk of his car coming into my territory with dangerous counterparts here in new york to kill people. the adrenaline just starts going through the roof. >> now it's the day before 9/11. we start trying to game plan how is this guy going to make it into new york? and so what they did was they set up individuals at all entry points into new york city.
great thing about working with the joint terrorism task force is you have nypd. you have the port authority. so we're talking with the port authority cops. >> we cannot let this guy get into manhattan with a bomb in his car. so we need to do a vehicle stop and we need to try to do it in such a manner to not overly raise his suspicion. >> he's coming up the jersey turnpike. and we got the surveillance team calling it out. where is he? we start at the outer bridge crossing. he doesn't take that. and then he goes up to the other bridge. he doesn't get off. then he goes to the holland tunnel. then he goes to the lincoln tunnel. he doesn't get off. the only place we go now if he's coming to new york and s. the george washington bridge. i think it's 15 minutes from the last tunnel to when you get to the g.w. bridge. so in 15 minutes we set up a gam game plan. we're going to set up a roadblock. it can be for drugs or dui.
these checkpoints are done all the time. >> you always worry about the bad guy knowing that you're watching them. but in this situation, threat to life was paramount. and while we weren't loving the idea of a car stop, we had had really no choice. we can't let him just drive into manhattan and potentially blow something up. the last thing you want to be is responsible for another smoking crater in your city. don't frogs have like, two legs? so they should have two of these? since i'm active duty and she's family, i was able to set my sister up with a sweet membership from navy federal. if you hold it closer, it looks bigger. eat your food my big sis likes to make tiny food. and i'm okay with that. navy federal credit union. our members, are the mission. [ song: johnny cash, "th♪sthese are my people ♪
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najibullah is driving to the bridge. it looks like he is going to come into man hat via the george washington bridge. what we're thinking about is we cannot lose this guy. >> zazi was the picture of an imminent threat. travel records had indicated that he had been to pakistan in 2008. potentially that he attended terrorist training camps with adis and his two new york counterparts. but we just didn't know what they were up to. >> so we're going to set up a roadblock. >> we were going to have the oufr that had a canine search the car to try to figure out if zazi had had a bomb or anything
else dangerous in the car. so he is in one lane of traffic. you have resources following him. calling out what he's doing. finally somebody made the call to essentially shut the bridge down. and as zazi is coming up, he's pulled over. but, remember, we're doing this to other cars in the line. so we're doing this to make it look like he is just another car in the line. >> the port authority officer with the canine did a sweep of the car including the dog smelling around the various places and nooks and crannies of the car. >> we let the dog go around. the dog does not sit. he did not detect a bomb. >> even though he didn't have a bomb in the trunk of his car, with he knew he was dangerous. and knowing that you can build a bomb with things that are available in the open market, we thought it likely he could get to new york and then build the bomb. >> remember, the connection was
zazi was ralph. and their communication is going back and forth. so he was talking to people who had made bombs. and so we firmly believe that the plot was still an imminent threat. >> there was a discussion at that time about whether or not we would allow him in new york city at all. new york just did not want to take the risk of something going wrong where we would have a very, very bad situation on our hands. ultimately, the decision was made to allow him into the city to learn more about what his plan was, what he was up to, who he was going to go meet. in this case, we took risks. i mean, there was no way around it.
if we went to zazi and said, mr. zazi, we know that you're going to commit an act of terrorism and he goes home, we still you have to follow him and do everything that we are doing anyway. probably for the rest of his life. because with he know that he is somebody that wants to commit an act of terrorism. so we can't let him be operational. but we can let him do operational things so that we can arrest him for those. >> so the show goes on. the surveillance continues with traffic and taxis and subways and everything else that goes into try to follow somebody in the borough of manhattan is not easy on a good day and even much more difficult when you think that the guy you're following is a terrorist. >> so they're following him through manhattan through the bronx and we follow him into queens. >> zazi drives to the apartment of one of the other
co-conspirators, ahmedzay. then they go to the muslim center of new york. we didn't know what they were up to and if they were meeting with people, if this was all part of the plot. surveillance is watching to see if anybody else comes and goes. >> and by the way, we got surveillance going on adis at another location. >> then after a little bit of time, zazi takes him back to his apartment and he continues on. he's going to various religious locations and we really don't know what's going on. >> was this plot a religious plot? >> no. >> i don't think that they were overly religious. they were muslim. but it's really not about that at all. >> there might have been relinlon that they can base plot on because of injustices done by muslims by the west. i think there is a lot more to it than that. it's wanting to be part of something bigger.
of it's trying to find an identity. >> the way i look at it, and it's not the fbi, this is the way i look at it, is that they haven't fully enveloped the american dream with the american dream hasn't fully enveloped them. >> they viewed themselves and they believed in their minds that they were failures in life. and i think that the al qaeda members who talk to them and inspire them to conduct this attack knew that and capitalized on it. >> it's terrorism using whatever tools they can to inflict harm on us and to take misguided use like that, to do it. and they don't necessarily have to be islamic. they just want people to conduct attacks on their behalf. >> so the night of september 10th, he spends the night at a high school friend's house. tomorrow is 9/11 anniversary. we didn't know what the target would be, when it would take place, who exactly was going to participate. how it was going to happen. >> but there was no doubt zazi
and adis wanted to kill people. and we have to prepare for that. >> there was a lot at stake. any time that you're talking about terrorism, people could die. so you've got to be on your very best game. we've got to control this situation. and if we can't control it, we have to take it down. because we cannot let these guys commit an act on 9/11. our members shop a little differently. so we reward every purchase . let's see what kate sent. for you. for all of us. that's for me. navy federal credit union our members, are the mission. (woman) it wwere greateat at being human. and if all of mankind were made up of kind women and kind men. it would be spectacular if the golden rule
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it's the anniversary of 9/11. we know that they want to commit an act of terrorism. our mission is to not let that happen. so we have physical surveillance on him. we were following the individuals everywhere. >> wire watching and listening. and naj pul buhl najibullah leaves the residesidence where s staying. >> he has the rented car on a street in queens parked. he leaves the car. there zazi goes on his way. >> we follow him. he walks to a subway and takes a subway into manhattan. >> weren't you worried he was wearing a suicide vest? >> based on all of the information that we had, multiple sources of information --
>> what kind of sources? >> sensitive sources. we were confident that he wasn't wearing a suicide vest or we would not have let him on the subway. he would have stopped it right there. period. >> agents that were following him saw zazi go to the financial district and visit the individual who was run his coffee cart. the fbi's got surveillance all over him. but he's not doing anything illegal. this is a guy who is looking behind his back. he is trying to see, you know,
he is being followed? are people looking at him? we knew he was suspicious, obviously, he was pulled over a couple different times. so we didn't know for sure if the plot was still active. but i believe that at that time he was essentially killing time trying to look innocent and adis was still under sufficient veilance. so now we've got the opportunity to search the car. >> nypd comes in and they impound the car. we get it over to a hangar that is not being used. and so we can go in there and covertly out of the view of everyone search this car. and i mean when i say search his car, this was a csi moment. we have our evidence response team. they come in and they take photos of where the dirt is in the car, they take photos of where cups are in the car. so when we pull the stuff out of the car, when we're done, it goes into the car the exact same way. we were looking for anything
that can make a bomb. or anything that can indicate that a bomb was made. so we're looking for chemicals. we're looking for documentation. >> ultimately searching that car led to getting his laptop computer and our computer forensics team makes a copy of the computer. >> they say you need to see. this i'm thinking, oh, jesus. the computer forensic department found a document on the computer. this document is like my organic chemistry lab notes. it's got drawings of beakers and tubes and chemical formulas. this is one of those oh, shit moments but it was a good oh, shit moment. because now we have something. so i call fbi headquarters and tell them i need the chief chemist. they get the chemist on the phone and i start relaying to him what i'm seeing on this document. and within a minute, the chemist tells me this is how you make tatp. tatp is very, very powerful
explosives that can be made with ingredients that are easily purchased. it's an explosive material used in suicide vests and ieds. it's tools of the trade for terrorists. we strongly believe before we found that document that he was the real deal. this just cemented everything that we knew. but it is not illegal to have bombing notes. so at this point, all with he got is a guy that came to new york, some nsa analytics and the bomb making note. can we arrest him? maybe. can we convict him? i can defend against that. so we're in a conference call with our headquarters. we're strategizing about how to go forward. and somebody says we just got some bad news. somebody from the team had a source of information that a person that actually knew zazi and during the investigation the imam was contacted. we were trying to get as much information as we k why is he in town? what is he doing? as it turned out, the imam was not to be trusted because after
talking to our team, the imam contacted zazi and basically warned him he was under investigation by the fbi. >> at this point zazi knows for a fact the fbi was after him. so he called off his plan. so the next day he jumps on a plane and heads back on the 12th to denver. he may have abandoned the september 11 plot, but he is still a dangerous guy. so surveillance continues to denver and then we hand him off to eric and the other denver people. >> we have to make sure that he doesn't disappear into the wind or attack some place else. and so we have the surveillance up because we just didn't have enough at that point to charge
him with substantial crimes. >> meanwhile in new york, we didn't know if the plot was going to continue via adis and zarine. >> we decided to do raids or their houses on september 14th. we were hoping to find evidence of a bomb plot. so we get teams from across the fbi and bring in more task force o officers, nypd, port authority. the teams go out and they hit the locations. at both of their houses, we found computers and during the searches of the computers, we did find al qaeda propaganda. now having the al qaeda propaganda on your computer is not illegal. but it was bad. by the end of the raids, it was in the news what we were doing. >> the fbi agents and new york police launched a series of raids early monday morning linked to an erik terror
suspect. >> the media quickly realized that zazi was the common thread among all of the searches going on. and did the legwork then to trace him back to colorado. media was camping outside his lawn and knocking on his door. >> you have nothing do with al qaeda? >> of course not. i have nothing to do with al qaeda and any link or anything with al qaeda. >> with the media presence at his house, the pressure starts to build on him. and i remember our chief division counsel walked into the room and he sat down and he said you're never going to believe this i just got a call from zazi's attorney, they want to come in and talk. we didn't see that coming. most . the nation's largest and most reliable network. the best network is even better? best, fastest, best. enough. sprint's doing things differently. they're offering a new 100% total satisfaction guarantee. i mean i think sprint's network and savings are great, but don't just take my word for it. try it out and decide for yourself.
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much najibullah, najibullah's attorney, his associate, myself and another interviewing agent. but little did he know on the very next door there were hundreds of people running leads, doing whatever they could in the background while i sat and talked to him. >> what i think we can do today is we just have an open discussion. maybe we can clear the air a little bit. >> he started to tell us, this is a misunderstanding. i don't know why all the suspicion is on me. i haven't done anything wrong. so i indicate to him that we found your computer. and on that computer we found what looks like bombmaking notes. do you know anything about this? i can see him back pedaling a little bit. how am i going to explain that away? >> i did that by a mistake at one point. i downloaded one of the books. it was a long time ago. as soon as i see it, i say this is not something that i need to see. it has to be my computer right away and deleted it.
>> he said i found them online and they're in a book. we came back and we said that's your handwriting. then the story changes again. well, i actually took notes. but then i realized what i was doing could be a problem so i tried to get rid of them. in other words, you wanted to distance yourself from the notes but yet you scanned them. why you would do that if you were trying to distance yourself from the notes? it doesn't make any sense. >> i would have liked to have been there to see the look on his face. i believe that was the point in najibullah's mind where he said they got me. >> so the proffer agreement was offered to him and that's essentially an agreement he signs to be completely honest with us. but then none of his statements can be used against him. but they can used for purposes of following up on various other
leads. he would come back the next day and the day after that. and i asked him about his trip to pakistan. he indicated he was going to see his family. but then he came in contact with an individual over there who is an al qaeda figure. that person talked to him about conducting an attack here on u.s. soil. and it interested zazi very much. >> why would he tell you that? >> i think he realized i was taking an interest into what he had to say. i don't think throughout his life that anybody really listened to him about anything. and so according to zazi in august of 2008, he attended the al qaeda training camp. the camp was about two weeks and it was learning hand to hand combat, small arms fire and part of that training also involved an explosives related course on tatp. tatp is an extremely volatile explosive material. the main ingredient being
hydrogen peroxide which can be purchased in a beauty supply store. >> and we were able to obtain video surveillance of him from 2009 walking around the beauty supply warehouse pushing a cart around with up to 12 bottles of very, very highly concentrated hydrogen peroxide product. he rented a hotel and gone there and done the chemical combination and a couple times it didn't work. and then did it work on the final time. after it worked is when he started traveling to new york. he went from a normal guy to a full-blown real-life terrorist with the training and the tools and the intent to kill people. to kill his neighbors. to kill fellow citizens. >> he talked to me relatively stress-free about his attending the training camps, what he was going to do.
but remember, we couldn't use his statements against him. but we knew we could use any sorts of remnants or evidence that were found and so while we're talking, a team was deployed to go and search that hotel room up and down and thoroughly. we were looking for certain materials that would actually as he was cooking down the materials would go up into the vent and as you swab the vent some of the materials still existed in the vent. and so all of that was being evaluated to make the overall case. but we knew about his friends and as i led him down the path of talking to me about their potential involvement, he was very uncomfortable about doing that. it was almost like they were
nonexistent in his telling of the story. and so it was at that point that we called off the interview for the day. and the following morning his attorney called and said we are by that evening we were enroute to his house to arrest him. breaking news, we learned aziz has been arrested by federal authority. >> based on what he accumulated, formal charges came from the eastern district of new york, these charges consisted of weapons of mass destruction. preparing for use. i was happy to see najibullah arrested. but the others were under investigation in new york. >> they are apart of a conspiracy, the case is not over. we know they want to be terrorists. (vo) morning, noon, night;
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we wanted to see the stamps. we got subpoenas. on january, we sent two agents to adis's house to get the passport. they given the subpoena, adis is actually fairly conversational. they get the passport and go on their way. when he saw the subpoenas, it says he's being investigated for terrorism and it freaked him out. minutes later, he came running out and jumped in the car. and races away. >> not a good sign. he's going like a bat. he's on the way to the expressway. he calls into 911. >> he goes my name is adis, my name is adis, i love death more than you love life. >> hello, do you need a police or an ambulance? hello?
>> adis believes that he's going to commit an act of jihad at this point and take out as many people as he can with his car. he's driving one direction, going in the same direction as the car in front of him. he goes and rams the car at 65 miles per hour, hitting the car, going 55 miles per hour. thankful he does not understand physics. he says the biggest explosion is what he hopes for. he gets a fender bender. adis gets out of the car and starts running. there happens to be a police officer behind him. the cop gets out of the car and yells at him, hey buddy, you are involved in an accident, do back in here. he comes back to the car. the cop goes hey, it is a fender bender, why are you running? adis says the fbi wanted me for terrorism. the surveillance shows him running up to adis is. the cop sees him and pulls out his gun and tells him to lay
down. we bring him back and agents go in and start question him. he waives everything and he starts to talk. he tells us about zazi. he tells us about the terrorist training camp when they were in pakistan. he tells us they wanted to blow up a subway. the plan for al-qaeda that they'll be suicide bombers, backpacks and going to the subway and blow them up in three different locations. because he was proud of it. he was bragging to us. this attack could have very likely go on undetected. we were days if not hours away from this thing happening. at this point, because of everything adis gives us we put him under arrest.
at or around the same time, they would arrest zarein ahmedzay. they pull him out of his cab and arrest him. >> it is also the beginning of another chapter and that's preparing a case for trial. >> they would eventually plead guilty while adis would take his case to trial and would be convicted. >> when we were coming to trial, we made a bond according to zazi recipe. it had the force to blow up in a subway car. >> this was one of the most serious threats since september 11th, 2001. if it were not for the combined work of the intelligence network and police department it could have been devastated. >> the fall out would have been
new york shattering. if not america shattering. >> the way we work together with the intelligence committee with law enforcement, i don't know how it can be better in a case like this. this was not the first threat after 9/11. there were a series of terrorist activities that fbi and cia have stopped. some of the cases like this one we share because it was important for the american people to know that what the country is doing was to keep them safe, not to spy on them. and i believe that if it were not for the 702 program that this attack would have happened. without the receipt of those initial e-mails, there would have been a very devastating attack that would occurred in new york city. i am 100% certain about that. >> the zazi case was the highlight of my fbi career. there is not a lot of cases
where you go to bed at night and go we saved a lot of lives today. it is a pretty rewarding feeling to be able to say that. you can imagine the feeling this would evoke if we didn't have to censor it for tv. now imagine how you feel if you saw this before anyone had taught you anything about sex. everyone kid who had access to a computer or smartphone has access to porn. i am going to type in the word "porn" here and see what comes up. >> sexually explicit materials