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Aired November 29, 2001 - 04:30   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.
ANNOUNCER: Seen in classrooms the world over, this is CNN NEWSROOM.

SUSAN FREIDMAN, CO-HOST: Welcome to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Susan Freidman.

SHARON FRAME, CO-HOST: And I'm Sharon Frame.

NASA prepares for its first shuttle mission since the September 11 attacks. I'll tell you more coming up.

FREIDMAN: And in war news, the United States is confirming the first American combat death in Afghanistan. CIA officer Johnny Michael Spann was killed during a prison uprising Sunday near Mazar-e- Sharif. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says President Bush regrets the death.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This is a very sad day. It's sad for the country. It's sad for the CIA. They are a very close family. And I think all Americans take note of this. And any loss of life in the war of Afghanistan is troubling to this country, and so, too, today's loss.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FREIDMAN: In another announcement, the Pentagon says U.S. warplanes did attack a Taliban leadership compound Tuesday night. The Taliban, however, say the target southeast of Kandahar was neither a Taliban nor an al Qaeda center and that their supreme leader Mullah Mohammed Omar is still alive. The Pentagon says efforts to break the Taliban's chain of command will continue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN STUFFLEBEEM, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: If we break the leadership of the Taliban and break the leadership of al Qaeda, there is very or there is reduced emphasis or a reduced motivation for troops to stay loyal to the cause and continue to fight. There will always be pockets who are going to fight to the death in any -- in any case. But getting the key leadership and breaking the chain of command is going to render much of that ineffective and so, therefore, the pressure is on that leadership. (END VIDEO CLIP)

FREIDMAN: U.S. Marines, meantime, continue setting up a forward base near Kandahar. The Pentagon says about 800 Marines are now there.

FRAME: Delegates at a conference on Afghanistan's future have agreed on a broad outline for the political rebuilding of the country. But CNN's Jim Bittermann has followed this process from the beginning and he reports the smooth sailing has, by no means, reached its port.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There were warm embraces and nervous good cheer as Afghans, some long departed from their homeland, gathered to begin their national reconciliation. And for the others in the room, the delegation from the Northern Alliance raised the most concern. Had the new rulers of much of the country come to the table to command or cooperate? The answer was immediate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

YUNUS QANOONI, HEAD OF NORTHERN ALLIANCE GROUP (through translator): In order to transfer power to the nation, we are totally ready for the country's transitional period through a mechanism which takes its legitimacy from the real representatives of the Afghan people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BITTERMANN: It was an opening that encouraged the skeptics and reassured the doubtful.

SAYED HAMED GAILANI, HEAD OF PESHAWAR GROUP: They at least expressed their commitment that, you know, past is past and everybody's looking towards a brighter future and a united future.

BITTERMANN: But it will take more than German hospitality and U.N. encouragement to achieve that. The delegates left for their more private meetings mindful that they have a huge incentive to find agreement. To rebuild Afghanistan, battered by more than two decades of conflict, international donors have pledged billions of dollars in aid if -- if there is a broad-based government in place for the international community to deal with. Not an easy objective.

(on camera): In a background conversation in a private suite, a senior U.S. official told us there are any number of sticking points which could develop here, ranging from how to provide security in Afghanistan in coming months to how to determine who gets what when it comes time to allocate posts in any new government. But few, it appears, want to labor over details now.

AHMAD WALI MASSOUD, ADVISER TO NORTHERN ALLIANCE GROUP: We are hoping that we can get everything done, hopefully, this meeting. If not, at least we should and we must get the main points as a principle, we should agree on the major things. BITTERMANN (voice-over): With peace and aid at stake, the conference on this mountaintop above the river Rhine presents, in more ways than one, what a U.N. spokesman called a golden opportunity. And after a day of talks here, there was every reason to believe the Afghans may be preparing to seize it.

Jim Bittermann, CNN, Koenigswinter, Germany.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FRAME: In Kabul there is some relief as aid workers hand out supplies to help Afghans survive the winter, but their efforts may not be enough. Food and shelter, especially in these coming months, are in very high demand.

As CNN's Harris Whitbeck reports, the lack of necessities places many of the nation's people in a vulnerable and desperate situation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two bags of charcoal, five woolen sweaters, blankets, plastic sheeting, a stove, pots and pans. 10,000 families around Kabul getting help to cope with winter, a winter the U.N. High Commission for Refugees says will be especially harsh.

DANIEL ANDERS, SR. EMERGENCY OFFICER, UNHCR: Afghanistan has not received aid for quite some time during the last three months. And people did not manage to prepare for the winter properly.

WHITBECK: Aid agencies now are scrambling to get help to those who need it most. Among them, Zamira, mother of five children. She's living in a borrowed room, after her house and fields were burned during fighting between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance.

"This is the first aid we've gotten in five years," she says. "We need to feed our children." Her children helping her, she carries the precious goods into their room on the outskirts of Kabul.

(on camera): Getting blankets and cooking utensils is one thing, but finding the food to cook is a different story.

(voice-over): Zamira says she needs rice and flour to feed her children. The U.N. says its World Food Programme has the food to deliver, but still can't get it to those who need it because of the lack of security and political instability.

ANDERS: What is at times difficult is when you don't have access to the people. And that is the most challenging situation. We have relief items for about 500,000 people in stock. And we can bring them here any moment, but it is not always possible to get to the people.

WHITBECK: Winter's approach, one more reason the people here hope Afghan leaders meeting in Bonn will be able to quickly hammer out their differences.

Harris Whitbeck, CNN, Kabul, Afghanistan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Jane Schalnat from Round Rock, Texas asks: "There are individuals being held as material witnesses regarding the terrorist attacks. What is a material witness?"

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: A material witness is someone who has very important information for a criminal investigation. As you can imagine, what constitutes important information or material information is in the eyes of the beholder. Unfortunately, the law is not always filled with bright lines and finite definitions, but require people to weigh the facts presented and exercise good judgment.

Some issues of material witnesses are obvious. For instance, an eyewitness to a murder would be a material witness in everyone's mind. But there are close cases when what is material information to one judge may not be material to another. Two people may disagree whether an apartment neighbor to a hijacker is a material witness or not. Note that not all material witnesses can be detained. In order to detain a material witness, a prosecutor must persuade a judge that the witness not only has information that is material or important to a criminal investigation, but that if the person is not detained, the person is likely to flee and not be available to the ongoing investigation.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FRAME: At campuses across the U.S., students from overseas have mostly been considered a cultural and financial bonus, paying full fees and bringing international diversity to college life. But then came September 11 and the revelation that one of the alleged hijackers was in the U.S. on an expired student visa. Now debate rages on Capitol Hill, should the student visa system undergo dramatic changes? This, as the government tackles additional civil liberties issues.

Here's Joel Hochmuth with the first of our two reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOEL HOCHMUTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A constitutional battle is brewing on Capitol Hill where the Bush administration has been called to defend some of its tactics in its fight against terrorism. The Senate Judiciary Committee is considering, among other things, Mr. Bush's decision to allow military courts to try non-U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism and the widespread detention of hundreds of suspected terrorists and immigration violators within the U.S.

Committee members disagree about whether the administration is going beyond new anti-terrorism measures Congress authorized last month. SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: In the wake of that achievement, the administration has departed from that example to launch a lengthening list of unilateral actions and that is disappointing.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: Most Americans worry that we are not doing enough to thwart potential terrorist attacks, not that we are doing too much.

HOCHMUTH: But constitutional questions are being raised, especially over suspects currently held in the U.S. The Justice Department says in a roundup of suspects since September 11, federal charges have been filed against 104 people and that 55 are in custody. The Immigration and Naturalization Service has another 548 in custody for immigration violations.

JOHN ASHCROFT, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We believe we have al Qaeda membership in custody, and we will use every constitutional tool to keep suspected terrorists locked up.

HOCHMUTH: But can the government continue to hold them indefinitely? Under the Sixth Amendment in the Bill of Rights, "the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial."

ROGER COSSACK, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: But reasonable to the attorney general may be a heck of a lot longer than that person who's sitting in jail saying, you know, I didn't do anything. I may have known someone who knew someone who knew one of these terrorists but I'm not a terrorist, and you don't seem to have any evidence that indicates that I am a terrorist.

HOCHMUTH: The Justice Department defends its actions saying they fall within constitutional limits and that they are necessary to combat so-called sleeper cells of terrorists in the U.S.

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL CRIMINAL DIVISION, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT: We face an extraordinary threat to our national security and physical safety of the American people of a character that, at least in my lifetime, we have never faced before.

COSSACK: Historically during wartimes in this country, the Justice Department and the government has acted in an aggressive manner because of the danger that is presented just because of war.

HOCHMUTH: For example, during World War II, the government rounded up thousands of Japanese-Americans and moved them to detention camps across the west. While no one is claiming the Justice Department's current actions present that level of injustice, many are asking whether one individual ethnic group is again being unfairly singled out. The Justice Department says it intends to interview 5,000 mostly young Middle Eastern men in the U.S. on temporary visas. Officials want to ask them about their possible involvement in armed conflicts, knowledge of terrorism and familiarity with weapons.

IMAD HAMAD, AMERICAN-ARAB ANTI-DISCRIMINATION (ph): I think people do not have but to feel that this is a form of racial profiling based on age, gender and nationality. And this brings very chilling feelings where people feel and wonder what could be next.

HOCHMUTH: The attorney general offers no apologies and says the steps are necessary to protect law-abiding Americans.

ASHCROFT: And the question has to be asked, are people going to accept their responsibility to help us prevent additional terrorist attacks or not?

HOCHMUTH: Critics of the Bush administration are hoping the hearings on Capitol Hill will prompt it to change some of its orders. So far there's no indication that will happen, but the debate goes on.

LEAHY: The constitution was not written primarily for our convenience, it was written for our liberty.

HATCH: Yes, the administration has been aggressive in using all of the constitutional powers at its disposal to protect Americans under these situations. But given what happened on September 11, wouldn't they be unforgivably derelict if they did not do everything in their power?

HOCHMUTH: Since September 11, students from Arab countries studying at American universities, in particular, have been under a microscope, especially when it was revealed one of the alleged hijackers was in the U.S. on an expired student visa.

As John Vause reports, for students and colleges alike, these remain troubling times.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ahmad Shinwari from Pakistan studying for his Masters in engineering management at George Washington University, just to get here he needed outstanding grades, proof he could pay full tuition and had to satisfy U.S. authorities he would return home after graduation. All worth it, he says, for a degree from an American university.

AHMAD SHINWARI, STUDENT FROM PAKISTAN: People in our country believe that it's a very good degree which is for sure (ph).

VAUSE: But like many other students from abroad, he's worried that others won't get the same opportunity. When it was revealed that Hani Hanjour, the alleged hijacker of Flight 77 which crashed into the Pentagon was illegally here on an expired student visa, it left many students stunned and worried about the repercussions.

LAURA VERDUZCO, STUDENT FROM MEXICO: Yes, I'm angry because this guy gave us all a very bad reputation as international students.

VAUSE: Congress is now considering tough new measures for visas, more scrutiny of applicants, banning students from countries which sponsor terrorism and requiring schools to track their overseas students. SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: The things that we're putting into effect here to ensure that these people are not terrorists and that they show up for class, I don't think are onerous.

VAUSE: But universities and colleges fear tough new rules will discourage many and send them to other countries. They argue real change is needed at the consulates and embassies where the visas are issued.

STEPHEN TRACHTENBERG, PRESIDENT, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: I don't think universities have the capacity to become grandnannies (ph) following adults who -- which -- what university students really are, from place to place on a -- on a daily basis. If we don't trust them in the country at all, then perhaps we ought not admit them to the country at all.

VAUSE: More than half a million students classified by the State Department as foreign were enrolled in American schools this year, a record number, spending more than $11 billion.

ALLAN GOODMAN, INSTITUTE FOR INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION: An international student comes here with two suitcases and the directions to Wal-Mart or Kmart.

VAUSE: And academics argue international students bring more than cash, they fill research positions in math and science where there's often a shortfall of American students.

SUSAN MARTIN, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: And then the diversity, the cultural fuse, the differences in experience that foreign students bring with them mean that the educational experience of the U.S. students is enhanced tremendously.

VAUSE: The visa reform act is still being debated by Congress. But even before any new laws are passed, universities and colleges fear there's already been so much speculation, so much uncertainty that many students just won't apply. Yet another victim, they say, of the terrorist attacks on September 11.

John Vause, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FRAME: A renewed sense of American patriotism has emerged from the ruins of the World Trade Center. The Stars and Stripes is a symbol of American resilience, and it is now headed to the war zone. A flag that flew at ground zero is being sent to U.S. Marines in Afghanistan. But this flag is heavier than others, it's full of heart-wrenching personal stories of loss.

CNN's Beth Nissen explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BETH NISSEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is the size of a small room, 12 by 18 feet of Stars and Stripes and heartfelt emotion. An American flag carrying hundreds of messages, inspired by the September 11 attack. The flag was one of many that appeared within days of the attack, hanging from almost every freestanding structure at ground zero.

LT. JOHN DURKIN, NYPD EMERGENCY SERVICE UNIT: The flag was found fluttering from the side of One World Financial Center. This one just so happened to be looking like it was starting the fall. It was brought back here to the Command Post and set up on tables.

NISSEN: For several weeks, the flag lay near the work maps of ground zero that noted the last known locations of the 23 NYPD officers killed at the World Trade Center. One day, someone -- no one remembers who -- marked the names of the lost officers onto the stars of the flag. Gradually, people inked in messages on the red and white stripes.

DURKIN: People started signing it. It was signed by the victims' families, their parents, their husbands and their wives, and other police officers and law enforcement officers who were here. They came in, they signed it.

NISSEN (on camera): How many of you signed the flag?

(voice-over): Workers who came through the Command Post, NYPD and Port Authority police, officers from the Department of Corrections, added their thoughts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had written that "we mourn for you as we mourn for our own."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Prayers and blessings on families and victims."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Guiding country," I wrote, and "New York City Department of Corrections."

NISSEN: The lost were memorialized in magic marker. "God bless all men and women who gave it all," wrote one contributor. "I will miss my brothers," wrote another, "I will hate their takers forever."

Many of the messages were angry, demanded payback for the attack.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We help everybody across the world and you know this is -- this is how we get repaid, shame on them.

NISSEN: Many messages called for God's blessing on America, wished God speed to America's fighting forces. The words "Semper Fi" appeared several times.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Semper Fideles, always faithful, former Marine.

NISSEN: Three of the 23 NYPD officers killed at the World Trade Center were former Marines: Sergeant John Cauflin, Sergeant Mike Curtin and Officer Vincent Danz. Someone suggested that in their honor, the flag be given to the Marines, and it was. The Marines are sending the flag by special courier this week to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit in Afghanistan.

MAJOR DAVID C. ANDERSEN, U.S. MARINE CORPS: I believe this flag is going to remind the Marines of why they're fighting. We're sending the flag to Afghanistan to close the loop. It started here in New York, the messages appeared on the flag and now we're going to bring the flag and the messages back to the people that caused this.

NISSEN: Beth Nissen, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FRAME: And what says American as the Stars and Stripes, how about the space shuttle. NASA's Endeavor is scheduled to lift off today from Kennedy Space Center in Florida headed to the international space station. In addition to supplies, the payload will include thousands of tiny American flags, which will be given to 9-11 victim's families upon its return.

FREIDMAN: As we conclude our series, "The Other Side of Africa," we turn to Ethiopia. The plights of famine and civil war have brought Ethiopia to the world's attention over the last 20 years. But the country has a rich history that predates the Old Testament. The legacy of the Queen of Sheba lies here, as does what some consider the eighth wonder of the ancient world.

Rudi Bakhtiar takes us on our tour.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RUDI BAKHTIAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A journey through Ethiopia is an intellectual and spiritual awakening. The African nation's historic route begins in the ancient city of Aksum. This former capital city dates back to about 100 B.C. Later, it was the first place in Ethiopia to adopt a new religion, Christianity.

At Aksum's heart lies the legend of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Aksum is believed to be the birthplace of the Queen of Sheba, who, according to the Old Testament, traveled to Israel to meet King Solomon. They had a son, Menelik, who became the first emperor of Ethiopia.

DANIEL TESFAYE, TOUR GUIDE: When Menelik was matured he returned to Israel to his father, and when he came back to Ethiopia, he took the original Arc of Covenant with him.

BAKHTIAR: To this day, Aksumites say the Arc, which once housed the Ten Commandments, is hidden in this building and guarded by a select group of monks whose life's work is protecting the sacred vessel. Many monuments in and around Aksum are more than 2,000 years old. Massive towering sculptures erected during the Aksumite empire pay homage to a mysterious past.

TESFAYE: The significance of this still was -- still is not known, still under study by the archaeologists. But they say that it was a very holy place, maybe one of the most important places. BAKHTIAR: Today, Ethiopia's religious tradition is reflected in various aspects of every day life. But nowhere does the spiritual energy echo more than in the monolithic churches of Lalibela, what some call the eighth wonder of the ancient world, that still attracts thousands of pilgrims every year during the major holy day celebrations.

TESFAYE: These churches are built in the 13th century but that doesn't make these churches special from other historical antiques or open museums. Still, these churches are giving the service for the local people.

BAKHTIAR: Another amazing fact, all of the 11 structures were carved from one stone.

UNIDENTIFIED TOURIST: The architecture is amazing. I mean how did they do it? It's like the church comes out of the rock.

UNIDENTIFIED TOURIST: Because I've read so much about it and seen so many pictures and I heard so much about it that I've been in Ethiopia for about three weeks and this is my last stop before I go back to Addis.

BAKHTIAR (on camera): And what do you think?

UNIDENTIFIED TOURIST: It's just wonderful. The pictures and what I read didn't prepare me for the scale of it and just how much it must have taken to do this.

UNIDENTIFIED TOURIST: It's not like anything you know back home. It's very different.

BAKHTIAR (voice-over): The churches were built by King Lalibela, the youngest son of the royal line of the Zagwe Dynasty, which at the time, ruled much of Europe.

Poisoned by his own brother, Lalibela would fall into a three day coma, during which it is said he was transported to heaven, where God told him to return to Roha and build churches, the like of which the world had never seen before.

(on camera): There are two type of churches here at Lalibela, rock-hewn and monolithic. This is a monolithic church, which means they dug a trench into solid rock and then created the church out of the remaining stone.

(voice-over): A complex maze of tunnels with crypts, grottoes and galleries connects the underground churches. The House of Mariam, containing treasured frescoes and paintings, was the first church King Lalibela had built. The House of Medhanialam, Savior of the World, is the largest.

TESFAYE: This church, it has about 72 pillars inside and outside and that church is a typical basilica type of church. It means Roman Catholic church.

BAKHTIAR: The House of Golgotha contains the king's tomb.

TESFAYE: The St. George Church is the last church built by King Lalibela and this church is also the best in its architecture and style.

BAKHTIAR: But the experience of Lalibela would not be complete without its charming accommodations. Perched on top of a hill in the village, the Roha Hotel mimics the architecture of the churches, with rooms that yield magnificent views of the mountainous countryside.

Upon request, the hotel provides local entertainment and there's always the local market, the exotic sights, sounds and smells a tantalizing challenge to the senses.

But perhaps the most inspiring experience comes from the people themselves, who exude a genuine warmth and welcoming spirit.

UNIDENTIFIED TOURIST: We feel like we're back 1,000 years behind. It doesn't look like it has changed at all. It's this really strange feeling.

BAKHTIAR: A short flight from Lalibela is Ethiopia's first permanent capital, Gondar. Here, King Fasilida united the country and made his mark on the landscape.

TESFAYE: Before him, it was a movable capital. They moved from here and there. But he was found a permanent capital here in 1632 and he decided also to have his own palace.

BAKHTIAR: Before Fasilida's reign, a civil war divided Ethiopia. As the nation healed, the king built a castle as never before seen in the country. A majestic structure in its own right, soon it was surrounded by other fairy tale buildings as Fasilida's successors followed in his footsteps, building a series of castles and palaces in the same compound.

Today, six of the original 11 castles still grace the landscape. Gondar remained Ethiopia's capital until the mid-1800s, growing in prominence both politically and religiously.

Of the 44 churches believed to be built during this time, only a few survived and the Church of Debra Selassie is considered the most noteworthy. This small church, unimposing and tucked into a hillside, contains some of the most celebrated frescoes in Ethiopia. Prevailing through the ages, the dazzling display of color depicts the life of Christ as well as honoring saints.

Its ceiling, row after row of angels who watch down on the congregation, because Debra Selassie, as most of the other ancient churches here, is still in use.

Ethiopia's past remains very much a part of its present, and visitors may savor it with each new discovery.

Rudy Bahktiar, CNN, on Ethiopia's historic route.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FREIDMAN: Check out our African travel log on CNNfyi.com. There you can watch all of our "Other Side of Africa" pieces plus find material available only on the Web.

FRAME: Sounds like a winner.

Well you know, Susan, the holiday spirit is indeed upon us and a part of the American holiday tradition is the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in New York City. First Lady Laura Bush and his honor Mayor Rudy Giuliani were on hand to hit the switch on the tree's 30,000 lights.

FREIDMAN: Tremendous, what a sight.

That's all for today. We'll see you tomorrow.

FRAME: Take care folks.

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