CBS ’60 Minutes’ Episode Guide (May 14): Life on Mars; The Osama Bin Laden Documents

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CBS ’60 Minutes’ Episode Guide (May 14): Life on Mars; The Osama Bin Laden Documents

Is Earth the only planet in our solar system that has life on it? Scientists can’t say for sure, but life could have flourished on Mars, based on data gleaned by the Mars rover Curiosity. Bill Whitaker reports on the sights and data beamed back more than 30 million miles from Mars by Curiosity, information that’s telling scientists a lot about the red planet and Earth. Whitaker’s report will be broadcast on “60 Minutes,” tonight, May 14 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

Whitaker visits the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., to bring viewers on a trip to Mars. JPL’s monitors show incredible images from the planet’s surface, such as a sunset and Martian terrain. But information from Curiosity’s internal lab offers evidence of essential organic chemicals, leading JPL’s chief engineer, Rob Manning, to consider an even wilder trip. “Could have been that Mars was habitable before Earth was, and life got its foothold on Mars and took its journey to Earth, and we’re all Martians.”

Manning explains further. “When a meteor comes along and hits Mars, a rock from Mars can be lifted up, travel in circles around the sun until someday it will bump into Earth,” he tells Whitaker. “We’ve found Mars rock…we’ve found them all over the Earth.” Manning says Earth rocks have travelled to Mars in the same way and that life could have survived the journey.

Curiosity travelled to Mars four years ago and has been collecting information and beaming it back ever since. The device is controlled by technicians at JPL, who can instruct it to perform tasks each day, such as capturing images of the surface or drilling and analyzing Martian rock.

The device is a modern marvel that weighs a ton. One of the biggest challenges for scientists was executing a safe landing for the heavy machine, the main piece in a program that costs more than $2 billion. The solution involved a flying saucer, giant cables and retrorockets. There were skeptics.

Says lead engineer Adam Steltzner, “The man in the street says, ‘That looks crazy.’ I could have told you it was crazy.”

Then, later in the “60 Minutes” broadcast, personal letters seized in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden reveal the Al Qaeda leader’s son, Hamza, to be a young man who adores his father and wants to carry on his murderous ideology. That son today is poised to lead a stronger, larger Al Qaeda and is bent on avenging his dad’s death, says an ex-FBI agent familiar with those documents. Holly Williams interviews Ali Soufan, the former FBI agent who was the bureau’s lead investigator of Al Qaeda after the 9/11 attacks, on the next edition of 60 MINUTES, Sunday, May 14 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

Soufan describes a letter from Hamza that was collected in the raid and now declassified. “He tells him that…he remembers every look…every smile you gave me, every word you told me.” Hamza would be about 28 years old now and wrote the letter when he was 22 and had not seen his father in several years. Hamza also wrote this: “I consider myself to be forged in steel…The path of jihad for the sake of God is what we live.”

Hamza’s potential as a leader was recognized years ago when he was still a boy, says Soufan. The child was used in propaganda videos, sometimes holding a gun. “He was a poster kid for the Al Qaeda…and for members of Al Qaeda, who were indoctrinated with these propaganda videos, he means a lot to them,” Soufan tells Williams.

The U.S. has named Hamza a “specially designated global terrorist” – the same classification his father once held. He even sounds like his father, says Soufan. “His recent message that came out, he delivered the speech as if it’s his father…using sentences, terminology that was used by Osama bin Laden.”

Hamza has recorded four audio messages in the last two years. Soufan believes Hamza can inspire and unite the jihadi movement. Says Soufan, “He’s basically saying, ‘American people, we’re coming, and you’re going to feel it. And we’re going to take revenge for what you did to my father…Iraq…Afghanistan….’ The whole thing was about vengeance.”

Al Qaeda now has footholds in about a dozen countries and has grown since the Arab Spring revolts destabilized regimes and created power vacuums. In Syria alone, it’s estimated to have about 20,000 followers, many in control of towns and villages. Some groups are eschewing the name Al Qaeda to avoid attention from the West and gain local support, but they are Qaeda affiliates, says Soufan.

“Al Qaeda is stronger than ever. I don’t believe even bin Laden in his wildest dreams thought that he will have followers who command armies, troops, lands,” Soufan says.

“60 Minutes,” the most successful television broadcast in history, began its 47th season in September 2016. Offering hard-hitting investigative reports, interviews, feature segments and profiles of people in the news, the broadcast begun in 1968 is still a hit in 2015, making Nielsen’s Top 10 list nine consecutive weeks in the fall of 2014.

Over the 2013-2014 season, “60 Minutes” continued its dominance as the number-one news program, drawing an average of 12.2 million viewers per week – almost twice the audience of its nearest network news magazine competitor and three million viewers ahead of the most-watched daily network evening news broadcast. The average audience for a “60 Minutes” broadcast still dwarfs the biggest audiences drawn by cable news programs.

Anderson Cooper, Steve Kroft, Sanjay Gupta; Lara Logan, Scott Pelley, Morley Safer, Lesley Stahl and Bill Whitaker all serve as correspondents and contributing correspondents.

The above press release was issued by CBS.

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