TSR: "...a window inside al Qaeda in Iraq like we've never seen before."

Length: 4:39

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Wolf talks with Michael about the al Qaeda files, and Michael elaborates on the kinds of documents found in the headquarters when it was taken over.

WOLF BLITZER: And now to a stunning and exclusive look inside al Qaeda in Iraq.

Our own Michael Ware and his Baghdad bureau colleagues have been very busy looking over the contents of computer hard drives filled with material seized from al Qaeda by U.S. allied Iraqi militias. Those militias provided copies of the al Qaeda hard drives to the U.S. military, as well as to CNN. Among the thousands of documents and hours of sometimes very graphic video, some fascinating insights about how al Qaeda does business.

We should warn you that some of the video is hard to watch.

CNN's Michael Ware has the story -- Michael?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, what we're about to share is a window inside al Qaeda in Iraq like we've never seen before. In fact, only members of al Qaeda itself or a few within the U.S. intelligence community have ever had such a snapshot. This comes from a trove of documents -- the largest collection of al Qaeda materials in Iraq to fall into civilian hands, which were taken from a headquarters overrun by U.S.-backed militia and given to CNN.


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, Wolf, what we also see from within the pages of these documents is that al Qaeda in Iraq had penetrated not just the Iraqi government with its spies, but even U.S. bases. Included on the hard drives were schematics for the construction of a bunker on a U.S. base that had been given to al Qaeda by one of its infiltrators -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Michael, what does all this tell us?

And it's really remarkable material you've gotten your hands on.

What does it tell us about al Qaeda in Iraq right now?

WARE: Well, Wolf, in our discussions with U.S. military intelligence and other intelligence agencies with whom we've shared this material and talked about it, they say that this gives us an insight into the inner workings of al Qaeda in Iraq. It reveals an organization far more sophisticated, far more bureaucratic -- indeed, in one headquarters alone, there were 80 execution videos that were never put on air or used for propaganda. They were merely used to just -- to verify the killings to their superiors.

So we get an insight of the like we've never seen into an organization more menacing than many had feared -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Michael Ware reporting for us from Baghdad.

Michael, good work, as usual. Thanks very much.

WARE: Thank you.

BLITZER: And Michael is going to have a lot more on these exclusive al Qaeda tapes, including the information he mentioned on terrorists infiltrating U.S. military compounds. That's coming up later tonight on "AC 360," 10:00 p.m. Eastern.