SCRANTON — Hundreds turned out Thursday to listen to the very rare experience of a western journalist: a chance to interview Osama bin Laden.
Journalist and author Peter Bergen was at the University of Scranton where he talked about meeting the former leader of al-Qaida in 1997.
An enthusiastic crowd of about 450 greeted Bergen at the DeNaples Center in Scranton.
“He wasn’t friendly and he wasn’t unfriendly, and he was there to get his message out and they were also concerned about his personal security, which is why it took so long to find him after 9/11,” said Bergen. “They were a very paranoid, secretive, disciplined group of people.”
Bergen said he had no fears for his own safety meeting with the then-leader of the terrorist group al-Qaida.
“It was an era before journalists were being targeted in that part of the world. That changed after 9/11. Daniel Pearl was murdered by al-Qaida in January of 2002,” said Bergen.
Bergen was invited by the Lackawanna Bar Association to talk about his latest book, “Manhunt: The 10-Year Search For bin Laden – from 9/11 to Abbottabad.”
“It’s a detective story of what happened to the CIA. It’s about the evolution of U.S. Special Forces,” said Bergen. “And also what happened to al-Qaida after 9/11, which is basically they were dealt a tremendous blow by the United States and its allies.”
Many at the lecture were university students, including sophomore Bridget Campbell.
“I figured as an International Studies major it would be foolish of me not to and I’ve always been interested in the conflict in Afghanistan,” said Campbell.
Christian Burne is studying Political Science and a member of the ROTC.
“A better understanding of some of the motivations that caused some of the problems we have in the middle east,” said Burne.
Bergen also talked about how 9/11 shifted the way the entire country goes about its daily business.
“You know, if somebody starts fiddling with their shoes on a plane or acting suspiciously, a lot of people, it’s going to attract a lot of negative attention,” said Bergen.
Bergen said he feels al-Qaida remains weaker than it was during 9/11 since it hasn’t been able to launch a successful attack in the U.S. since then.