Seeds of Terror
An Eyewitness Account of Al-Qaeda's Newest Center of Operations in Southeast Asia
Every major al-Qaeda attack since 1993 has had a connection to the Philippines, and Maria Ressa, CNN's lead investigative reporter for Asia and a Filipino-American who has lived in the region since 1986, has broken story after story about them. From the early, failed attempts to assassinate Pope John Paul II and Bill Clinton to the planning of the 9/11 strikes and the "48 Hours of Terror," in which eleven American jetliners were to be blown up over the Pacific, she has interviewed the terrorists, their neighbors and families, and the investigators from six different countries who have tracked them down. After the Bali bombing, al-Qaeda's worst strike since 9/11, which killed more than two hundred, Ressa broke major revelations about how it was planned, why it was a Plan B substitute for an even more ambitious scheme aimed at Singapore, and why the suicide bomber recruited to deliver the explosives almost caused the whole plan to fall apart when he admitted he could barely drive a car.
Above all, Ressa has seen how al-Qaeda's tactics are shifting under the pressures of the war on terror. Rather than depending upon its own core membership (estimated at three to four thousand at its peak), the network is now enmeshing itself in local conflicts, co-opting Muslim independence movements wherever they can be found, and helping local "revolutionaries" to fund, plan, and execute sinister attacks against their neighbors and the West.
If history is any guide, al-Qaeda revisits its plans over and over until they can succeed -- and many of those plans have already been discovered and are here revealed, thanks to classified investigative documents uncovered by Ressa.
Read an Excerpt
An aide drew the curtains as the official took the CD out of his bag. The ground rules were clear: everything I would see or be told was for background purposes; I couldn't report this for CNN; I couldn't even tell anyone else this meeting took place. The date was December 12, 2002.
"This is highly classified, Maria," he said. "No copies exist outside of the military command." He pulled the CD out of its case, inserted it into the computer, and clicked the mouse. Seven files appeared on the computer screen. He clicked on one of the icons, and a black-and-white photograph appeared. taken from 7,000 feet... see more