Osama bin Laden is charged with masterminding the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in
East Africa, is believed to have had a role in the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole
in the Yemeni port of Aden, and now is a chief suspect in the September 11, 2001, attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center. In FRONTLINE's "Hunting bin Laden," a Pulitzer
Prize-nominated team of New York Times reporters and FRONTLINE correspondent Lowell
Bergman investigates the man who has declared holy war on the U.S. -- a wealthy Saudi
Arabian exile believed to be hiding in the mountains of Afghanistan with a $5 million
bounty on his head.
Who is bin Laden? This newly updated report and companion Web site
offer background and insight into his life and motives, from his formative experience
in the Afghan jihad against the Soviets, to his scathing criticism of the Saudi royal family and his campaign to drive American "infidel" troops out of Saudi Arabia, to his statements and fatwahs calling for the murder of Americans.
In tracing the trail of evidence linking bin Laden to terrorist attacks, this report
includes interviews with New York Times reporters Judith Miller and James Risen, and
a new interview with former CIA official Larry Johnson. They discuss the attacks which
are suspected to be tied to bin Laden's complex terrorism network, outline the elements
of his international organization (with new details of its alliances and its
tactics), and explain the challenges confronting U.S. intelligence and
counter terrorism efforts.
This report also raises tough questions about the evidence used to justify Washington's
retaliatory missile strikes in Sudan against bin Laden following the U.S. embassy bombings in 1998. Drawing on interviews and official documents, "Hunting bin Laden" shows how U.S. officials have backed away from their original statements that the targeted Sudanese factory was linked to chemical weapons production.
Is the U.S. fixation on bin Laden justified? While U.S. investigators have targeted him as
the leader and financier of a terrorism network with active cells all around the world, some informed observers believe the U.S. has exaggerated his role and, in doing so,
turned Osama bin Laden into a folk hero.
"There is nobody who would even consider that bin Laden isn't the new North Star, the new motivating factor that will bring us together, replacing almost the Soviet Union,"
says Milton Bearden, a former CIA agent in Afghanistan and Sudan.
While we don't know where the investigations into the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon will lead, the activities of Osama bin Laden and his
organization pose profoundly unsettling questions for the U.S. and its allies. Even if the U.S. finds sufficient evidence to target him, and succeeds in retaliation, what price might it pay for his martyrdom? What would be the effect on America's relations with the peoples
and governments of the Islamic world? And how will America's declaration of war against global terrorism affect U.S. society, politics, and Americans' understanding of themselves and the world?