When the Chechen roots of Boston bombing suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev became public, it threw me back in time to the end of September 2002 when I delved into Chechnya’s links to al-Qaeda’s global jihad.
I was in a small cubicle on the 6th floor of the North Tower of CNN’s headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. For nearly a week, I had spent 16 to 18 hours a day wading through 251 videotapes from Osama bin Laden’s personal collection. Afraid they’d be mistaken as members of al-Qaeda, the Afghans who found the tapes buried them again until after the arrival of US troops. Then they dug them up and gave them to CNN’s Nic Robertson and Mark Phillips.
One by one, I shook the sand out of each tape, placed it in the deck and watched the video roll, taking notes I still have today. The video was graphic, at times horrifying and extremely alarming. CNN’s investigative producer in charge of the tapes, Henry Schuster, asked me to go through all of them to look for faces and places from Southeast Asia. I watched everything closely, aware we were seeing this before governments and security agencies.