AAM: "al Qaeda in Iraq is homegrown. It's lead by Iraqis."

Length: 2:53

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A replay of the section of the prepared piece that was shown on TSR yesterday, followed by a brief comment from Michael. They apparently hope to show the full piece tonight on AC360.

JOHN ROBERTS: Top secret files from al Qaeda in Iraq revealing that the group's extreme brutality may have led to its own unraveling.

The papers and never seen before execution videos fell into civilian hands after fighters started switches sides. A warning that some of the images that you're about to see are disturbing.

CNN's Michael Ware has this exclusive report from Baghdad.


MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): al Qaeda gunmen brought this man here to die. Staged for maximum impact, he's to be executed on this busy market street. We don't know why; the al Qaeda members who recorded this tape offer no explanation. But the anticipation is agonizing, leading to a moment we cannot show you.

A punishment for betraying al Qaeda or for breaking their strict version of Islamic law. Either way, it was public executions like this that would help lead to the unraveling of al Qaeda in Iraq. And al Qaeda knew it. Its leaders recognized their greatest threat was not the U.S. military, but the men in the crowds who witnessed the slaughters and who would eventually turn against them.

In fact, in this secret memo three years ago, a senior al Qaeda leader warned against a backlash for the public executions. They were being carried out, he wrote, "in the wrong way, in a semi-public way, so a lot of families are threatening revenge and this is now a dangerous intelligence situation."

But it took U.S. intelligence more than a year to understand al Qaeda's weakness. Most of these men were once insurgents or al Qaeda themselves. Now they're on the U.S. government payroll, assassinating al Qaeda and patrolling the streets. And it was one of these U.S.- backed militias, as unforgiving as this one, who overran an al Qaeda headquarters. They discovered computer hard drives with thousands of documents and hours upon hours of videotape and passed them all on to the U.S. military and to CNN.


WARE: And from those documents, John, we learned that as opposed to what some in Washington would have you believe, al Qaeda in Iraq is homegrown. It's lead by Iraqis. And the foreign fighters that you hear talked about by some in the administration are really just cannon fodder being used as suicide bombers. This is an Iraqi organization which the documents also revealed have spies inside U.S. bases. There's even architectural schematics for a U.S. bunker to be built on an American base -- John.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Revealing new insight there for us this morning. Michael Ware in Baghdad. Michael, thanks.

And you can see Michael Ware's entire exclusive report on "AC 360" tonight, 10:00 Eastern.