Experts: Al Qaeda "under pressure, in disarray"

A 2001 photo of Osama bin Laden (left) with Ayman al Zawahiri at an undisclosed location in Afghanistan.
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(CBS News) One year after the killing of Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda is an organization "in disarray," says the author of a book about the hunt for the terror group's leader.

Journalist Peter Bergen, author of "Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden, From 9/11 to Abbottabad" (Crown), was able to examine some of the declassified material retrieved by U.S. Navy SEALs from bin Laden's compound in Pakistan, and said Tuesday that the documents paint a picture of an organization "under enormous pressure" from U.S.-directed drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere.

On "CBS This Morning," Bergen said bin Laden was advocating his group leave the tribal areas of Pakistan for a remote part of Afghanistan, and told one of his sons to go to the prosperous oil kingdom of Qatar.

Bergen also said bin Laden was contemplating changing the name of the group, and told groups affiliated with al Qaeda not to use the al Qaeda name, "because it was bad for fundraising, you attract a lot of negative attention."

More than 10 years after the September 11 attacks, Bergen said the bin Laden documents describe al Qaeda as "an organization under pressure, in disarray, aware of its own failures. Bin Laden is blue-skying about attacks on President Obama and General Petraeus, [and] some of his subordinates pushing back, saying, 'Wait a minute, that's pretty complicated. Might be easier to attack American soldiers in Afghanistan.'"

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Senior correspondent John Miller, former Deputy Director at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, also discussed news reports from Die Zeit and CNN about data recovered by police in Berlin last year containing al Qaeda training manuals and plans for attacks, such as seizing cruise ships.

"I think that's a fascinating set of documents there, because that's very operational stuff," Miller said. "If anything, bin Laden was a little bit isolated from that. But here you have the plans of Rashid Rauf, who was the mastermind of that British planes plot from 2006 to blow up a dozen planes, talking about the chemicals, talking about the strategy and the recruiting. So that's going to be very valuable."

But the new documents, Miller said, signal that the idea of "al Qaeda central running a large, complex 9/11 operation is pretty much a thing of the past. They are counting on the Internet propaganda and the lone wolves to kind of come together and do it for them in large measure."

In terms of terror threat, Bergen remarked that "a lone wolf can come from anywhere. There's a 'good news' component of that: lone wolves are just not that capable. We had a classic lone wolf at Ft. Hood, Texas, in Major Nidal Hasan. He killed 13 people - individually each of those deaths obviously a tragedy. But this was not a strategic attack on the United States, or anything close."

The two also described the bin Laden they had each interviewed as a man who was not a "table-thumping revolutionary," unlike Zawahiri. "When you talked to Osama bin Laden, you had to lean in to listen," said Miller. "He was very low-key, soft-spoken. He spoke at length. He tried to mix in history and religion and examples and metaphors, whereas Zawahiri who spoke perfect English, I mean he was much like kind of the fist-shaking zealot who yells into the camera. Stark differences, I would say."

Bin Laden's final home was also low-key, said Bergen: "It was a rather squalid, suburban compound. Bin laden didn't die in a sort of spectacular martyrdom. He died surrounded by his kids in a suburban house. Each wife had their own kitchen, each wife had their own kind of setup. They were not living large. Their beds were made from hammered-together pieces of plywood and bin Laden's bedroom where he was killed, there was a little box of Just for Men - Pakistani version - which he would use to dye his hair. His toilet was this tiny little closet-like thing he would have to squat over. It was not like the lair of Dr. No or Dr. Evil."

To watch the complete interview with Peter Bergen and John Miller click on the video player above.