CNN INSIDE POLITICS
American Citizen is Accused of Bombing Plot; Intelligence Agencies Score a Victory; The Real Threat Posed by Dirty Bombs
Aired June 10, 2002 - 17:00 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.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington. A new turn in the war on terror. An American citizen is accused of plotting to explode a so-called dirty bomb in the United States.
DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: I'm David Ensor in Washington. I'll tell you how investigators were tipped off about the suspect's alleged conspiracy with al Qaeda.
JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I'm John King at the White House. After weeks of disclosures about embarrassing intelligence lapses, President Bush today was able to claim a major success.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm Bill Schneider in Washington. I'll look at the threat posed by dirty bombs and how officials might deal with the radioactive fallout.
WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us. U.S. officials say the unfolding terrorist plot they disrupted could have led to an attack right here in the nation's capital. Now the American citizen accused of acting as an al Qaeda operative is being held by the Defense Department as an enemy combatant against the United States.
(voice-over): Attorney General John Ashcroft announced the news this morning in a live speech from Moscow.
JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: We have captured a known terrorist who was exploring a plan to build and explode a radiological dispersion device, or dirty bomb, in the United States.
WOODRUFF: Ashcroft said Abdullah al Mujahir is an al Qaeda operative who was planning to use a conventional explosive to disperse radioactive materials. U.S. officials tell CNN the probable target was Washington, D.C. But the Pentagon says the plan was in its early stages.
PAUL WOLFOWITZ, DEP. DEFENSE SECRETARY: I want to emphasize again, there was not an actual plan. We stopped this man in the initial planning stages.
WOODRUFF: At the White House, President Bush praised U.S. intelligence agencies, which have been under fire recently for pre- 9/11 mistakes.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can tell you that we have a man detained who is a threat to the country. And that, thanks to the vigilance of our intelligence gathering and law enforcement, he is now off the streets where he should be.
WOODRUFF: Al Mujahir is a 31-year-old U.S. citizen, born Jose Padilla in New York. He took his Muslim name while serving time in a Florida state prison on gun charges.
Al Mujahir left the U.S. in 1998, travelling to Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he allegedly received explosives training and met al Qaeda officials. He was arrested May 8 at Chicago's O'Hare airport trying to reenter the U.S., but was not charged with any crime.
Facing a legal deadline, President Bush declared al Mujahir an enemy combatant last night, stripping him of many legal protections.
JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: We have acted with legal authority, both under the laws of war and clear Supreme Court precedent, which establish that the military may detain a United States citizen who has joined the enemy and has entered our country to carry out hostile acts.
WOODRUFF: Al Mujahir is now being held in a Navy brig in Charleston, South Carolina.
WOODRUFF: With us now, our national security correspondent David Ensor, senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre and senior White House correspondent, John King.
First to you, David. Now, I understand there's been another arrest in this case?
ENSOR: That's right, Judy. An associate of the gentleman has been arrested in Pakistan. We think it was some days before this man was arrested, which was May 8 in Chicago. So at least two and there may be others out there, we're told.
WOODRUFF: Now, what led investigators to this man named Jose Padilla?
ENSOR: In a word, Abu Zubaydah, the senior al Qaeda operative who has been in U.S. custody for many months now, under interrogation. Officials don't trust everything he says. But they cross check it. And in this case they say they have other intelligence satisfying them, that when Abu Zubaydah said this American citizen is working for us, he was telling the truth.
WOODRUFF: All right, now to the Pentagon and Jamie McIntyre. Jamie, they are calling him an enemy combatant. What exactly does that mean? What is it?
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, President Bush gave him that designation over the weekend after the Justice Department was facing a deadline: either charge him or let him go. Under this enemy combatant status, you basically have very few, if any, rights.
You are held indefinitely. There have -- you can be held during the duration of the hostilities, and that's not defined in the war on terrorism. It's pretty indefinite in itself. No legal representation is provided. In fact, no communication is provided. And you're subject to be interrogated by U.S. officials without any attorney present.
The main thing is, you have no access to talk to anyone. No way to secure your freedom, defend yourself. Because there are no charges to defend against.
WOODRUFF: Well, Jamie, how different is al Mujahir's status from that of John Walker Lindh, the American Taliban?
MCINTYRE: Well, the difference there, of course, is that John Walker Lindh is charged with a crime and has a day in court and is getting legal representation. The case of Muhajir is more similar to that of Yasser Hamdi (ph), who is also charged -- who is also being held without any charges, has no access to an attorney. That's being fought in court right now.
But there are two of them now. These are two American citizens who are being held and have no prospect of being released and no way to defend themselves.
WOODRUFF: Now to John King at the White House. John, this announcement of this arrest comes at a time of a lot of criticism of the intelligence community. Essentially, is this going to put to rest some of this criticism, that the FBI and the CIA have not been able to connect the dots?
KING: It is certainly, Judy, not going to put the criticism or the inquiries in Congress to rest, especially about what happened prior to September 11. The White House is hoping, though, that this arrest in which the government is saying the FBI, the CIA, the customs service and other departments, cooperated with each other as well as with overseas agency.
The administration hoping that this is some evidence to back up its claim that the lessons have been learned. That the FBI, the CIA and other law enforcement agencies are talking. Of course, the president is still trying to sell that new department of homeland security. And White House officials say cooperation would improve even more in that case.
But yes, they do hope that it quiets the criticism, anyway. That as people look at the evidence of what happened before September 11, they look at this and say, maybe they have their act together now.
WOODRUFF: Well, John, with the knowledge that al Mujahir was moving in and out of Pakistan, the report just now from David Ensor, that there has been another arrest -- a colleague, a cohort, in Pakistan -- is there concern in the administration that Pakistan is not doing enough in the war on terror?
KING: Yes, there is that concern. Now, Ari Fleischer, the press secretary, today saying that Pakistan is cooperating. U.S. officials saying that arrest that David Ensor just mentioned is proof of that cooperation.
Other officials, though, say that Pakistan is cooperating when the United States goes to it with evidence. The CIA knows this. We need to follow these people, things like that. They point to the incursions up in the Kashmir area. They say al Qaeda is involved in some of those.
They say there are a number of al Qaeda who have escaped Afghanistan into Pakistan, and they say many of them, yes, are in the ungovernable, remote areas of Pakistan. But they also say many of them, the CIA believes, are operating in major cities like Karachi.
And they do believe that Pakistan can and should do more. Even as they say that, they stress that the Musharraf government is acting when the United States asks for help. They just wish the government would do more on its own.
WOODRUFF: All right, John King at the White House, Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon, David Ensor here in Washington. Thank you, all three.
Today's announcement underscores earlier evidence that Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network has been working to make dirty bombs. Our Bill Schneider is here with more on those weapons and the danger they pose -- Bill.
SCHNEIDER: Judy, today the threat of a so-called dirty bomb suddenly became real. How big is that threat?
(voice-over): A dirty bomb is a conventional bomb that disperses radioactive material. The explosion is caused by TNT or dynamite, not by nuclear fission. It is not a nuclear bomb like the one dropped on Hiroshima during World War II, or the fictional nuclear bomb set off in an American city by terrorists in the current movie, "The Sum of All Fears."
Nor is it as destructive as the nuclear accident at Chernobyl in 1986, which involved much larger amounts of radioactive material than could be packed into a dirty bomb. The purpose of a dirty bomb is not mass destruction, experts say. It's mass panic.
ROGER HAGENRUBER, SANDIA NATIONAL LABORATORY: This would be a major psychological problem in a public way. But as a threat, it's not going to kill a lot of people, by and large.
SCHNEIDER: What makes dirty bombs especially dangerous is that unlike nuclear weapons, they are easy to build and deliver.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't need that many people to detonate a dirty bomb. It's not a very sophisticated device.
SCHNEIDER: The hard part is getting access to radioactive materials. But even that's not so hard.
DAVID ALBRIGHT, INSTITUTE FOR SCIENCE AND INTERNATIONAL SECURITY: There's probably 10,000 places in the world that have radioactive sources. The medicine industry -- there are far fewer places that have spent fuel. And that's protected much better.
SCHNEIDER: Some people are worried that if nuclear wastes are transported across the United States to Yucca Mountain, Nevada, they could become a moving dirty bomb.
SEN. JOHN ENSIGN (D), NEVADA: We're going to exactly give the terrorists plenty of opportunities by shipping this nuclear waste across the country through major metropolitan areas.
SCHNEIDER: Remember, dirty bombs work by spreading panic, not by spreading destruction. If the government can avert panic, the bombs become far less effective.
WOODRUFF: Bill, you've been talking to a number of experts. What did they say would happen if a dirty bomb went off here in Washington?
SCHNEIDER: Well, there was a study, a scenario developed by the Center for Strategic and International Studies I have here, that talked about what would happen if a dirty bomb exploded in an empty yellow school bus on the south side of the Air and Space Museum in downtown Washington on a workday.
They don't have actual figures, but they say the destruction, the direct deaths that would be caused, far less than the World Trade Center and certainly less than a nuclear explosion. When they talk about the effects, they say very little risk of dying if you're anywhere outside of ground zero, where the deaths would be caused only by the direct effect of the explosion.
The big risk is the potential prolonged term health implications in the form of increased cancer rates, plus a tremendous economic impact. Fear of radiation, they write, would drive away residents, tourists and businesses, would have tremendous costs to decontaminate the city and would cause enormous economic dislocations.
WOODRUFF: Well, Bill, what are you learning about what steps the government could take to head off something like this?
SCHNEIDER: Most important, the government has to plan for evacuation, for cleanup, and for treatment of people who are contaminated. You know, people are less likely to feel panicked if they think the government is in control of the situation. And that's the most important task: educate the people about the real risks of a dirty bomb going off, which are a lot more limited than people realize. WOODRUFF: Al right, Bill Schneider, thanks very much.
Now we turn to a military and threat analyst who wrote the book in 1999, "Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America." He is Josef Bodansky.
Mr. Bodansky, first of all, do you agree with what Bill Schneider was just saying, that the risks are more limited, that it's more difficult to pull this of than what a lot of people think?
YUSSEF BODANSKY, AUTHOR, "BIN LADEN": It is more difficult to pull it off because the primary impediment in building a radiological bomb is the radiation. That if the would-be terrorist or the would-be martyr is going to die in any case, then all of the precautions needed to be taken in order to protect oneself from radiation are no longer applicable.
An individual can expose himself and that's it. And by the time he blows himself up, he will be afflicted or contaminated by radiation. It's not the end of the world.
WOODRUFF: Let me ask you how surprised are you by this announcement today, that this man, al Mujahir, connected to al Qaeda, was involved?
BODANSKY: First on the impact, the No. 1 impact problem would be in fact the symbolism. If we had to clear buildings due to contamination, like Congress, for the duration of cleanup, that will look awful...
WOODRUFF: Just the symbolism of a famous building.
BODANSKY: And we force them out, that is the primary danger of radiological bomb, number one.
Number two, we have known since the late 1990s that they have been interested in radiological bomb. The Iraqis have been most interested in radiological bombs in the early 1990s. And they are known to have transferred the technology to bin Laden in '98, '99.
So we should not be surprised by now. Mujahir himself is small fry, with only to reconnoiter Washington area to see how security is here, and whether one can operate here safely or not, before the expert have been brought here.
We should not be surprised by the mere fact that he was captured not around this time, because bin Laden and company are talking increasingly openly about the use of weapons of mass destruction.
WOODRUFF: Talking openly about the use of weapons? Talking openly when?
BODANSKY: Among themselves. In the briefing, in the preparation of their own followers. They're bringing up the issues. The last time was bin Laden's spoke (UNINTELLIGIBLE) about a week ago. Although he stressed weapon -- chemical and biological weapons, as opposed to radiological.
WOODRUFF: Let me just clarify finally, Yussef Bodansky. Are you saying that it is quite easy to imagine how these people working together -- Pakistan, Afghanistan, United States -- could get the materials and have the expertise to put one of these together?
BODANSKY: Yes, we've been following several case studies of smuggling of material into, at the very least, western Europe. Probably the United States. And there have been several arrests over the last couple of years of people trying to smuggle.
So the material captured in these arrests is a small fraction of the material known to be moving along these lanes of smuggling. So it's safe to assume that there is enough material over here for a few bombs.
WOODRUFF: All right. Grim words. Yussef Bodansky, the author of a book on Osama bin Laden that came out three years ago.
WOODRUFF: Thank you very much. We appreciate your doing this.
WOODRUFF: We will talk about the dirty bomb plot next with two members of Congress who are investigating the CIA and FBI's response to terror threats. Do they believe the agencies are communicating better?
Later, Jeff Greenfield looks back on a big sports weekend to make a few political points.
And, did Janet Reno manage to upstage the president? Not President Bush, President Bartlett.
WOODRUFF: "On the Record" this Monday, two lawmakers with key roles of the government's response to terror threats. GOP Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona is a member of the intelligence and judiciary committees. Republican Congressman Chris Shays of Connecticut chairs the subcommittee which will hold hearings this week on the proposed department of homeland security.
Senator Kyl, to you first. As Mr. Bodansky was leaving just a moment ago, he said to me this discovery by the intelligence agencies, of al Muhajir, is in his words, more luck than substance, more luck than hard work. What does it say to you? Does this mean the intelligence community is getting its act together?
SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: Well, we're learning a lot since September 11. And as a matter of fact, much of the information is coming from people who have been picked up, arrested and are being questioned. If he means by luck, that we got information from an informant who had been picked up, I would consider that good intelligence work.
But sometimes there is luck involved in these things. Stopping some of the millennium bombing activity was a stroke of luck. It simply shows how much bad stuff is out there, and how vigilant we're going to have to be.
WOODRUFF: Congressman Shays, what's your read on this?
REP. CHRIS SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: Well, it was partly luck. But also, how they handled it. Making sure he came into the country. Arresting him then. Keeping him under wraps a bit. Getting information from him. They're on top of this as much as they can be on top of it.
But as your show pointed out, there are tens of thousands of places to get radioactive material, and a lot of bad players.
WOODRUFF: Senator Kyl, what does this say about the success of al Qaeda, being able to recruit a U.S. citizen?
KYL: I think we're going to find more and more that there are U.S. citizens and people who don't necessarily look like Middle Eastern Arab men. Although that will continue be the primary focus, at least in the short run.
But al Qaeda is an organization with roots in perhaps 60 countries, including a lot of people here in the United States. It's a pretty amorphous group. People don't hang around together at a meeting on Friday nights. So it's not easy to find these people and track them down.
WOODRUFF: Representative Shays, your committee is looking into the proposed department of homeland security. We're told that the information that led to Mr. al Muhajir's arrest came from the Department of Defense, Defendant of Justice, perhaps others.
Does it appear a department of homeland security would have been involved in this? How do you see that?
SHAYS: Oh, they definitely would be involved. Let me just say that the good news is, people are talking with each other. We might not have known about it in the same way.
And what homeland security does, it puts 100 percent of this focus in one department. But it will be the customer of other departments. It will be the customer of the Defense Department. It will be the customer of the CIA and the FBI.
I think it's an extraordinarily well-thought-out program that really answers some questions we didn't have answers to when we were first looking at reorganization.
WOODRUFF: Senator Kyl, is it entirely clear to you at this point, what role homeland security -- if a new department is created, what role it would play in a situation like this, or a similar situation? KYL: Perhaps not entirely clear. But it will evolve as Congress holds its hearings and we act on the legislation, which I hope we will do quickly. But Representative Shays is exactly right. We should distinguish between the activities of the new homeland department, which will include a lot of things, all the way from customs to the Coast Guard and border patrol and so on, from the intelligence agencies, who's job it is to collect information. And that includes the FBI.
This new agency, like the Defense Department, like the Justice Department and the State Department, will be a customer of this intelligence information. So it's not going to be out collecting the information in the first instance, by and large.
SHAYS: What it will do is it will fuse all this information together. That's the new element of the fusion of data from so many different sources -- even public sources.
WOODRUFF: Congressman Shays, let me ask you about this. Last month a nuclear regulatory commission reported it cannot account for hundreds of sources of radioactive material that was intended for medical or industrial use -- materials that could be used to make a dirty bomb.
Now, the NRC is saying that these sources were small and unlikely to be used. But does this make you concerned?
SHAYS: Oh, I was concerned before. Not just from the United States, but material that can be bought overseas. We have a lot of radioactive material -- some of it medical waste, some of it used in weapons and some of it more toxic than others.
But it's one of the legs of the administration's proposal, is chemical, biological, radioactive material, and nuclear. So, that's going to be one of the focuses of this department.
WOODRUFF: But, Senator Kyl, if the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is saying they're not as concerned because, again, the sources are small, they're unlikely to be used for this purpose. Does that give you any -- does that ease your mind at all?
KYL: Let's make two points here. First of all, the easier stuff to steal and embed in high explosives and blow up thus causing some radiological damage is the least lethal. So there could be panic immediately when small doses of radiological material would be found. But it would be relatively easy to clean up and not very much human damage.
The harder stuff to steal is the weapons-grade material, which probably could be smuggled in from a place like Russia, for example. That stuff can cause real damage, but it's a lot harder to get your hands on. It's harder for the terrorists to handle and to embed in this high explosive.
So the good news is that the more dangerous stuff is harder to get. However, that doesn't mean it's not going to happen. WOODRUFF: Let me ask you both quickly, do you think the government is prepared to handle? If one of these went off, is the government prepared to deal with it, Congressman Shays?
SHAYS: We're prepared to do deal with it. I think the public needs to know that we will have attacks and some may succeed. And we can't panic about it. But one of the points of the administration is to reorganize so that we can deal with this more effectively.
We are vulnerable more now because we aren't organized to deal with this.
WOODRUFF: Senator Kyl?
KYL: I agree. We have to have a way of responding to this that first of all doesn't panic people, and that does treat the people that may be injured, and then make it clear that we can clean up very quickly they site that may be damaged, if in fact there is a radiological...
WOODRUFF: And you agree with Congressman Shays, that this is definitely coming?
KYL: Well, you can't say definitely coming. But we do know that al Qaeda and other groups want to do us harm. They have the capability of doing different kinds of harm. And when they find an area where they can do it with impunity, they'll do it.
WOODRUFF: Senator Jon Kyl, Representative Chris Shays, gentlemen, we appreciate your joining us, even though the subject is not a pleasant one. Thank you.
Why cooperation is such a popular word today. Ahead in our taking issue segment.
Also, Israel's prime minister meets with President Bush. An update on their conversation and the stalled efforts at Middle East peace.
WOODRUFF: Checking the stories in our "Newscycle": Up to 40,000 people soon could be forced to evacuate their homes south of Denver because of a rapidly-spreading wildfire. The fire has doubled in size just since last night and is now estimated at more than 60,000 acres.
Convicted Mafia boss John Gotti died of cancer today at a federal prison hospital in Missouri. He was 61 years old. Gotti was the onetime high-profile leader of New York's Gambino crime family. He was convicted of murder in 1992. Gotti avoided conviction in three previous trials, picking up the nickname "Teflon Don."
Well, as we have reported, the government today announced the capture of an American man said to be an al Qaeda operative who allegedly was plotting to explode a radioactive dirty bomb inside the United States. Abdullah al Muhajir was born Jose Padilla 31 years ago in New York. He was captured last month at the Chicago Airport. He is being held at a Naval brig near Charleston, South Carolina, classified as an enemy combatant of the United States.
With me now to talk more about the day's top stories are Rich Lowry, editor of "The National Review." He is in New York. And here in Washington: Maria Echaveste, former deputy chief of staff to President Clinton.
Rich Lowry, does the announcement of the capture, the arrest of this al Qaeda operative mean that the intelligence community in the United States is working better than many thought?
RICH LOWRY, "THE NATIONAL REVIEW": Well, it's certainly a sign they're probably communicating better. But, then again, it would have been difficult for them to communicate any worse, if the stories we've heard recently are true.
Judy, I think the most important lesson from this incident, though, is that the fight for homeland security is going to be won overseas. It's because we rooted al Qaeda from Afghanistan and then went through Pakistan and picked guys up like Abu Zubaydah that we were able to get the information that allowed us to make the arrest. So, to me, that indicates that winning the war overseas continues to be the most important aspect here.
WOODRUFF: Are you saying the Department of Homeland Security is not necessary or just that we need to understand it differently?
LOWRY: Well, it may or may not be necessary.
I think putting some of the border stuff together makes sense. I am not sure about the rest of it. I think it needs a good cold, hard look in Congress. But I think, no matter how you kind of play with the bureaucratic boxes, it's overseas. It's Don Rumsfeld who needs to do his job to make us safer.
WOODRUFF: Maria, do you believe, if there had been a Department of Homeland Security right now that it would have helped or hindered the efforts to pull this together?
MARIA ECHAVESTE, FORMER CLINTON DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, I am not convinced that a Department of Homeland Security is actually the right way to go here.
And we should all take comfort that it seems that our agencies are working closer and they are more cooperative. So, they got it right on the big thing. Congress has a responsibility here to take a good cold, hard look at whether putting all these different agencies together will in fact improve communication. It has taken years after the Department of Energy was created, or even the EPA, to really start to see the benefits. So, the good thing is that there does seem to be more at work, more competence, at least from the little that we know right now.
WOODRUFF: Let me turn you both quickly to the Middle East. Rich, today, President Bush said, in so many words, that the time is not right for the peace process in the Middle East, that the leadership of the Palestinian has not come together. What should the administration be doing at this point? Should it be holding back, as the president suggests?
LOWRY: Yes. That would be an encouraging sign for me.
I think that the administration should just adopt a clear, easily understandable policy, which is that we support a Palestinian state, but one is not going to be created until there is a decent, pluralistic, transparent political entity there on the West Bank. And, if the Egyptians and the Saudi Arabians want to help create that, great. And they can get back to us when they are successful.
The problem is, of course, that the Egyptians and Saudi Arabians are themselves -- have corrupt, authoritarian, dictatorial governments, so I doubt they are going to be very successful in pushing Yasser Arafat to reform.
ECHAVESTE: Well, all those people who are suffering in the Mideast in Israel, to personalize the removal of Arafat the way Sharon has, to make him the symbol is, I think, the wrong way to go to try to create a peaceful process, because it is personalizing the dispute of very complex issues.
Having been at Camp David, knowing how important it is, the relationships among people, how can Sharon and Arafat ever find a way to work together? What this has done is made the Palestinians rally around Arafat, making it less likely that the kind of pluralistic, more democratic institutions will in fact be created. He has boxed himself in a corner.
WOODRUFF: How much a rebuff is this to President Mubarak of Egypt, Rich?
LOWRY: Well, I don't know whether it's much of a personal rebuff.
But if the administration, weeks ago, had just sort of set out this kind of policy clearly, you wouldn't have the confusion. And the thing about the Middle East: You don't necessarily need to be liked, but you should be understood and feared. And I think, over the last couple weeks, the administration has had an incoherent policy, so it seemed up for grabs. So, the Saudis and Mubarak think they could influence and shape it in a fundamental way. And I think we never should have created that perception in the first place.
WOODRUFF: Maria, quick final...
ECHAVESTE: Well, no question. I find myself agreeing with Rich more often than I thought would be possible. (LAUGHTER)
LOWRY: Don't do that. That's dangerous.
ECHAVESTE: That's very dangerous.
But, really, the issue here is that Bush's policy towards the Mideast is confused. At one point, he's supporting Israel no matter what, whatever Sharon does. Now he says he supports creation of a Palestinian state, but is unwilling to work with a very important ally, Egypt. So, where are we going? Meanwhile, people are dying.
WOODRUFF: Maria Echaveste, Rich Lowry, we thank you both.
And we're going to show you now live pictures from the airport in Kansas City, Missouri. This is Gracia Burnham, who is the U.S. missionary who was freed at the time her husband was killed. The two of them had spent more than a year of captivity by Abu Sayyaf. These are the militants in the Philippines, in the Southern Philippines. She is just returning back to the United States after what has surely been a horrific few days. They were released -- or, rather, she was freed by a group of Philippine soldiers in a shoot-out in the jungle in the Philippines. And, in that shoot-out, her husband, Martin, was shot to death.
So, this is clearly a time of very mixed emotions. She is obviously glad to be home, but has lost her husband.
Our coverage continues in a moment. INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.
WOODRUFF: And now Bob Novak is here with the "Inside Buzz."
All right, you've got some information about the White House view of Attorney General Ashcroft?
ROBERT NOVAK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
On this dirty-bomb situation, it was supposed to be a very decorous, careful joint announcement with the Department of Defense and Justice Department in Washington. But Attorney General Ashcroft jumped the gun with the announcement in Moscow, where he is. And it was a very, very scary announcement. A lot of people thought that they had caught somebody with maybe an atom bomb.
And what really upset the people at the White House is, they're worried about the stock market. The stock market had just been having a little bit of a rally. And, bang, down it went when Ashcroft said that. So, they were not happy with the attorney general.
WOODRUFF: Well, it's almost reassuring they have time to think about the stock market.
NOVAK: Yes. WOODRUFF: Tom Ridge, a lot of speculation about whether he's going to be part of any new Department of Homeland Security.
NOVAK: I've done some reporting on that reporting on that. And that will be one of the biggest surprises in Washington if he is. I don't think he is going to get the job. I think there's a feeling inside the administration that Tom Ridge is a fine man. He was a good governor of Pennsylvania. But he was the wrong man for this job.
But he's going to stay on, I think, as a homeland adviser. But they're going to find somebody else for the Cabinet department. I asked somebody if it might be Rudy Giuliani. And they said, "No, Rudy is not going to play second fiddle or third fiddle to anybody." So, they don't know who they are going to put in there.
WOODRUFF: Well, I guess they've got a little bit of time to think about it.
WOODRUFF: Global warming: There were some words from the EPA. And then the president had something to say about it last week. Where does all that stand?
NOVAK: If you remember, last week the EPA put out a report to the United Nations where they said, "Yes, Virginia, there is global warming." And the president was very upset. He said, "Well, that's just the bureaucracy."
Well, the story behind the story is, he didn't get any notification, the president didn't, in advance that the EPA was going to make that announcement. And he was really fried. So, there's a little tension between the president of the United States and his own Environmental Protection Agency, not on the same wavelength.
WOODRUFF: Last but not least: Vice President Cheney has talents that we may not have even known about?
NOVAK: As a stand-up comic, sort of, anyway.
Last week, Judy, former President Jerry Ford was in town. And they had a reunion at the Capitol Hill Club of former officials close to the press. And the main speaker was the secretary of defense, Don Rumsfeld. And he was being introduced by Vice President Dick Cheney. And Cheney turned it into a little bit of a roast.
You know, years and years ago in the Nixon administration, Cheney worked for Rumsfeld. And the vice president said, "You know, he still thinks I work for him." And then he said, "The trouble with Rumsfeld is, he thinks he's the best secretary of defense ever. Does anybody remember Secretary of Defense Cheney?" He was just kidding, wasn't he? Or was he?
WOODRUFF: What do you think? NOVAK: I think he was kidding.
WOODRUFF: All right, we'll find out. Bob Novak, thanks very much.
NOVAK: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: We'll see you again soon.
And among the headlines in our "Campaign News Daily": Primary voters head to the polls in four states tomorrow. Statewide primaries are scheduled in Maine, South Carolina, North Dakota and Virginia.
In South Carolina, Republicans who hope to challenge Democratic Governor Jim Hodges could be headed for a runoff. A new poll finds Lieutenant Governor Bob Peeler leads the field with 39 percent. Former Congressman Mark Sanford is more than 10 points behind. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote tomorrow, the top two vote-getters will face each other in a run-off.
The White House is taking a special interest in South Carolina races. Vice President Cheney is headed there this Friday. Cheney will attend a fund-raiser for the state party and Congressman Lindsey Graham. It was just over two months ago that President Bush dropped by the Palmetto State to help Graham raise money for his Senate campaign.
The rest of the world calls it football. A lot of Americans apparently call it boring. Up next: our Jeff Greenfield on the American tendency to go it alone and political lessons from the world of sports.
WOODRUFF: As Americans returned to work this Monday after a busy sports weekend at home and abroad, Jeff Greenfield joins me with some thoughts on the sport of politics -- hi, Jeff.
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Hi, Judy.
You know, if there is one thing that dominates American political conversation, it is the sports metaphor. A campaign is a horse race that often goes down to the wire. Debate analysts always ask if there was a knockout punch. Losing candidates try a Hail Mary pass, especially when it's fourth and long in the ninth inning. We also mix metaphors a lot.
Well, since we've just finished one of the more hectic sports weekends and since we don't have any new polls from the New Hampshire and Iowa caucuses and primaries just 21 short months before they happen, let's turn to the sports pages to see what political lessons they might bring.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) (voice-over): Item: War Emblem fails to win the Triple Crown, finishing eighth, as Sarava, the biggest longshot in Belmont Stakes history, wins the race.
Political portent? Don't rely on early polls. A campaign is a marathon, not a sprint. Or, to be more precise, it's the mile-and-a- half Belmont, not the shorter Derby or Preakness. Also, an early stumble can sometimes make it impossible to catch up. Think of what happened to Ted Kennedy's challenge to Jimmy Carter back in 1980.
Second portent: War Emblem's principal owner is Saudi Prince Ahmed bin Salman. This loss could suggest that the Saudi wealth can be overcome by speed and strategy. Could this be a signal for the United States to develop a crash program of energy independence?
Item: The Los Angeles Lakes go up three games to none over the New Jersey Nets for the NBA championship. Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant prove unstoppable. Political portent? Often, the conventional wisdom is right. Everybody loves the story of the scrappy underdog who confounds the experts. But don't forget, the only presidential candidate who ever pulled a Harry Truman was Harry Truman. The reason you get such great odds on the underdog is, they usually lose to the overdog.
Item: Lennox Lewis knocks out former heavyweight champ Mike Tyson. The former champ, once the most feared man in sports, was a shadow of himself, clearly outgunned by Lewis. Tyson had fought only 18 rounds of boxing in the last five years. Political portent? Sometimes you have to know when to leave the ring or you put yourself in danger. After all, even the longest-reigning undefeated champion must exit sooner or later.
Final item: As the World Cup soccer competition rages on, the entire world watches, mesmerized, except the United States, one of the few nations in the world where soccer remains a minor sport. But one possibility: If the underdog U.S. soccer team somehow becomes a genuine threat to win, interest here at home will suddenly boom.
Political portent? The United States remains a self-interested nation, less connected to world events than other less powerful counties, often committed to going it alone. Hey, you call that football? No, this is football. But once American interests are involved, then we start to pay attention.
GREENFIELD: Now, next week, Judy, we'll be talking about what the outcome of the U.S. Open tells us about how to reorganize the government for better homeland security. Remember, you don't get this kind of analysis anywhere else. Thank goodness.
WOODRUFF: I don't know what you guys would talk about if you took away all the sports metaphors, Jeff.
WOODRUFF: Jeff, now, I understand that 30 years ago today, someone we know very well was born. Is that right?
GREENFIELD: More or less.
GREENFIELD: The date may be wrong, but thank you, yes.
WOODRUFF: It's my way of saying happy birthday, Jeff.
GREENFIELD: That's very kind of you. Thank you
WOODRUFF: Enjoy. We'll see you tomorrow.
To Florida and governor's race: The stars are coming out. Up next: Acting president Martin Sheen helps Janet Reno try to counter the political influence of the real commander in chief.
WOODRUFF: Much like the fictional president he plays on TV, Martin Sheen is stepping up his campaign appearances in an election year. The actor is stumping in Maryland today with gubernatorial candidate Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. This weekend, he was at the side of another Democrat, Janet Reno.
CNN's Mark Potter reports on the extra dose of star power in the Florida governor's race.
MARTIN SHEEN, ACTOR: Ladies and gentlemen, a nation's pride and Florida's next governor: Florida's own Janet Reno.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At campaign stops over the weekend, Janet Reno was introduced by the acting president of the United States, Martin Sheen, of the popular TV show "The West Wing."
Sheen says, in joining the former attorney general, he has now met one of his heroes.
SHEEN: She's a public servant. There isn't anybody more qualified. There isn't anybody more gifted.
POTTER: Sheen's appearance follows a visit to Miami three weeks ago by the real president, George W. Bush, who announced a tougher Cuba policy and drew cheers from Cuban exiles, a powerful voting bloc. His brother Jeb, the incumbent governor, stood close by his side. The president plans to return to Florida for a Republican fund-raiser later this month. (on camera): As the campaigns head to the fall election, even more celebrities and high-level politicians are expected to weigh in here, underscoring just how much this state gubernatorial race is of national concern.
(voice-over): At a fund-raiser in Coral Gables, Janet Reno was serenaded by rock 'n' roll legend Bo Diddley.
BO DIDDLEY, SINGER (singing): Janet, Janet Reno. Everybody, come on. Janet, Janet Reno.
POTTER: Recently, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani threw his support to Jeb Bush, an important development, according to pollster Jim Kane.
JIM KANE, CHIEF POLLSTER, "THE FLORIDA VOTER": His endorsement means something to people, because he has political experience. A fake president of the United States doesn't have quite the same connect with voters as a true mayor of New York City.
POTTER: Polls taken earlier this spring suggest Reno is still way ahead of others seeking the Democratic nomination. But she also lags considerably behind Jeb Bush, a gap the Reno campaign argues it can close by November if Democrats flood the polls.
JANET RENO (D), FLORIDA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: We can show the United States of America that you can get elected governor even if the other guy has a lot more money, even though the other guy has somebody in Washington.
POTTER: A Washington issue that could soon face Reno is the congressional investigation of FBI and CIA failures in the war on terrorism. Reno will not comment on whether the Justice Department, under her command, missed any warning signs.
RENO: I've not been briefed on what has been developed, so I could not comment with intelligence about what could have been done, if anything could have been done.
POTTER: One question Reno is answering is that of her health. She even makes light of her hand shaking because of Parkinson's disease.
RENO: As one lady said: "I don't care about her hand shaking. I care about her head. And her head seems just fine."
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
POTTER: A colorful race of national interest aggressively under way.
Mark Potter, CNN, Miami.
WOODRUFF: Colorful is right. Well, more INSIDE POLITICS ahead, but first let's look at what is coming up on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."
Here's Wolf. Hi.
WOLF BLITZER, "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS": Hi, Judy.
We will have a special edition of "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" coming up, with extensive coverage of the dirty-bomb plot. We will go live to an emergency room to find out how prepared the nation's hospitals are for this nightmare scenario. And two experts will be taking your phone calls and answering your questions.
It's all coming up right at the top of the hour, right after INSIDE POLITICS.
WOODRUFF: We take you live to Kansas City, Missouri.
(INTERRUPTED BY CNN COVERAGE OF A LIVE EVENT)
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com
Agencies Score a Victory; The Real Threat Posed by Dirty Bombs>