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Government Warns Terrorists May Still be in Country

Aired September 14, 2001 - 14:57   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: If we can get back Boettcher and Ensor here -- Mike and David, respectfully, there were a couple of things that came up in the briefing that play into the conversation we were having about the possibility that other terrorists are still in country, where or what they might be.

Mike, let me start with you because you've been working the domestic side of this, and David's been dealing with the intelligence community, largely, though not exclusively.

Here's how I heard it: to the FBI director, We heard reports of a gray minivan carrying a chemical weapon. Can you tell us anything about that? And he said, I can't tell you anything, which tells me literally nothing. So tell me if you're hearing anything about that, or what to make of that.

MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well I can tell you I know zip about that.

BROWN: OK.

BOETTCHER: That was a new one.

But I will say that there is another list out there, which is right here. There are 52 people on this list, and these are people on a watch list being distributed around the country. Some have already been cleared, so the list is shrinking. But they want to talk to some of these people. We don't know as material witnesses, or as possible suspects -- Aaron.

BROWN: I want to get to that in a second.

David, let me go to you again. There's a lot of -- there's a lot of things out there right now. And a lot of it's rumor and a lot of it's not or, perhaps it's not -- we're not sure.

Have you heard anything about this minivan, and if you haven't, we'll move on from it.

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No, I have not...

BROWN: OK.

ENSOR: .. but they are worried about a number of different kinds of threats. They are not giving details.

You know, yesterday I was in streets of Washington and there was a bomb scare we haven't even reported yet, but -- on Connecticut Avenue. There may have been nothing to it, but there's a lot of that kind of stuff going on, and a good deal of nervousness among U.S. officials -- Aaron.

BROWN: All right, then let's go back to the beginning of your reports some time ago, sources telling you no reason to believe that all the terrorists have been found. And we were trying to figure out, in a sense, what that meant. And my concern here is on the lower third of the screen it said other terrorists' plots in play or something to that effect. I mean, there may be more to come.

Is that what they're saying -- that they believe that there is a plot out there that is not yet over?

ENSOR: I started by hearing from someone the negative -- the expression that I just gave you, that there's no reason to believe that there are not -- that all the perpetrators have been rounded up and are not dead or in jail. So I said, well, can we say it in the positive? Can we say that there are terrorists in the United States that you believe are -- have additional plans to attack targets? And he said, yes, you can say that; that is true.

BROWN: I think that, beyond the unsettling nature of the information, it gives viewers an idea of how difficult it is sometimes to focus the information in a way when you're dealing with sources and you did your job in trying to get it, as you always do.

They wouldn't give you anything on what the targets might be, what the plan is? I gather they're not saying a thing.

ENSOR: That's right. That's right.

BROWN: And Mike, do you see anything in the investigative side of this that says they are still -- that federal officials are responding in ways that suggest there may be a plot still out there?

BOETTCHER: Well, I think the fact -- a clue to that may have come from the press conference with the director in which he said they are assigning FBI agents to various airports around the country.

There are certain military teams that are propositioned who could respond to more weapons of mass destruction terrorism around. But I don't know any details or know of -- I have no knowledge about the deployment of groups like that.

And Aaron, I'd like to add one other thing; David was talking about funding of bin Laden and the attempts to cut that off. What we've seen in talking to terrorism experts who know this al Qaeda organization is that a lot of groups who operate under the al Qaeda umbrella, various terrorist groups in North Africa and others in the Middle East, have with theirselves (sic) instituted a policy of self- sustainment in which they are raising funds on their own on the ground basically using cyber crime. And a lot -- I attended a conference that had a lot of government intelligence officials in Scotland this summer and was called -- the title of it was called "Organized Crime and Terrorism" and how they're moving into organized crime, especially identity theft in order to sustain themselves for the long haul so they can operate for years at a time somewhere, and come through with missions like this.

BROWN: Mike, David, a lot of things have come up in just a very short time here. I know that you'll be back on the phones and working through some of this material. Thank you, and I apologize if I pushed you farther than you wanted to go or could go. We all have jobs to do today. Thank you.

Mike Boettcher and David Ensor who are working the investigative side of this.

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