CNN NEWSNIGHT AARON BROWN
Bush's Plan to Reduce Widfires Causes Controversy; Pro- Palestinian Florida Professor Faces Firing; Tape Reveals al Qaeda's Access to Explosives
Aired August 22, 2002 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: We sadly report tonight that our team lost. Our team was from Harlem in the Little League World Series. They lost to the kids from Worcester, Mass. And we're sure they're good kids too, but our hearts are with the kids from Harlem.
A week ago we weren't even sure Harlem was going to be able to play in the Little League World Series because someone anonymously had questioned just whether some of the kids actually lived within the Harlem boundaries. A messy investigation came after that. One of the kid's picture was plastered on cover of a New York tabloid, which says a lot about the tabloid, by the way -- but why start that little fight.
What the league and the reporters found out before Harlem was cleared is that these kids have had it pretty rough. They'd been in and out of different homes, living with different relatives, not always a parent, rarely both parents. Kids from broken homes with not a lot of money and, by the way, not too many places in the neighborhood to play ball.
One woman, the mother of one of the boys, said to a reporter that he lives now with his grand dad. But she added this: My son loves to play ball. He's worked very hard to get where he is.
The constant in their lives, it seems, is baseball. And the Harlem Little League program, a program started back in the late '80s, was designed to do just that: be a constant for kids who needed it; to let kids play ball in places where it was hard, if not impossible, to find a field.
So we were rooting for them because of all the work they've done in a sport we love, and because in some ways baseball is one of the few real kid things in their lives.
Onto the news of the day.
And it begins with the president, and the intriguing story about the environment, whether the answer to forest fires is more logging. That is quite an interesting political story, as well. And the president out in Oregon tonight found some protesters, too.
Senior White House correspondent John King working for us.
John, a headline. JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, the president took a firsthand look today at some of the devastation of this year of record-setting wildfires. Mr. Bush says he has a plan to help down the road. Environmentalists don't like it. They say the only ones who would benefit is the timber industry.
BROWN: John, thank you.
A very different story next: a professor and whether his support for Palestinians ventures into something more sinister.
Mark Potter out of Miami tonight with that.
Mark, a headline from you.
MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Aaron. Professor Sami Al-Arian, who has been investigated but never charged for possible terrorist ties is fighting for his job. He says he's the victim of post-9/11 hysteria and guilt by association -- Aaron.
BROWN: Mark, thank you. back with you, John, others as well as we get going tonight.
Also coming up on the program, what's happening at Fort Bragg. There's been a string of murders there, and now people are looking at a certain drug that some of the murderers may have taken. It is a drug designed to prevent malaria.
Also tonight, our latest from Nic Robertson and the al Qaeda tapes. Tonight, al Qaeda bomb-making. And no, we are not providing anyone with cliff notes for terror. But it does seem like pretty clear evidence of just how much a threat we are still facing.
And a fascinating story tonight about one rural county in Ohio, a judge who said a man on trial for an especially vicious murder cannot face the death penalty because the county can't afford to pay for a proper defense.
All of that and more in the hour ahead.
We begin with the wildfires and what to do about preventing them the next time. From a scientific standpoint there is not a whole lot of disagreement about the nature of the problem: A policy of fighting each and every fire that comes along has worked too well. The nation's forests have become overgrown tinderboxes waiting for a spark. Where people start to differ is over what to do about it. There's a tension here between wildlife, the people who live near it and the companies that make their money from it.
That's the debate the president entered today.
(voice-over): It has been one of the worst wildfire seasons in modern history out West, Colorado, Arizona, Oregon. Six million acres and still burning, twice the annual average. GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can prevent fire by good, sound practice.
BROWN: The president saw firsthand the devastation a wildfire can do. Oregon's biscuit fire has been burning since mid-July, almost half a million acres gone, threatening hundreds of homes.
And today the president unveiled what he hopes to do about it.
BUSH: There are some high-priority areas that we need to declare emergencies, and get to thinning now before it's too late.
BROWN: If what the president calls the Healthy Forests Initiative is to work, Congress would have to pass procedures which would give loggers greater power to cut larger, more commercially valuable trees as well as the denser needless brush underneath, while limiting environmentalists' right to sue.
BUSH: We want to make sure our citizens have the right to the courthouse. People ought to have a right to express themselves, no question about it.
But there's a fine balance between people expressing themselves and their opinions and using litigation to keep the United States of America from enacting common sense forest policy.
CARL POPE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SIERRA CLUB: There's nothing wrong with the concept that we need to deal with the fire risk. The disappointing thing about the president's program is it really won't do anything to help the problem, in spite of his rhetoric.
BROWN: For Sierra Club's Executive Director Carl Pope and other environmentalists, too, it is the protection of communities at risk which ought to be the priority.
POPE: What the administration is saying is, instead of thinning areas around communities, which by and large costs money, we're going to thin areas wherever the timber industry wants to cut big trees. That's typically not in the areas where communities are at risk.
BROWN: There are 470 million acres of federally managed forests, 190 million of which are considered to be at risk.
Can this plan work? Will it work?
As one forestry expert put it, the devil, as it so often is, is in the details.
BROWN: That said, the president has taken his share of knocks on the environment, fair or not is for others to say. But the criticism boils down to this: Whether it's Alaska and oil or Oregon and timber, the solution offered by the administration, say the critics, always seems to benefit big business. Again, fair or not, it is part of the national political landscape. And for more on things political in the president's journey out West, we're joined by CNN senior White House correspondent John King -- John out in Portland.
Just before we get into the politics of trees and timber, tell me about the protest the president encountered tonight.
KING: Some protests earlier today up near Medford, Oregon where there president was. More protests here in Portland today. About a -- more than 100 tried to walk up on the president's hotel. Police here in Portland used pepper spray to keep them away. There was some feisty altercation between the police and the protesters. After the police asked the protesters to leave the area around the president's hotel, as I said, some pepper spray used there. It is a calm situation now.
Not unusual for the president to encounter protesters, especially when his focus is on environmental issues. But it has been some time -- not since those international gatherings, since we've seen some jousting like this -- Aaron.
BROWN: Did the president see any of this?
KING: He did not, to the best of our knowledge. He was inside the hotel. He is always briefed when this happens by the staff, especially when the incident involves law enforcement personnel. But to the best of our knowledge, the president did not physically lay eyes on it.
BROWN: Now back to the forest plan and the politics of it all. Given that the president is kind of in the crosshairs on these environmental questions, does the White House see this as a plus for them, that they can convince enough people that good, solid forest management and not big business or big timber industry is what's in play?
KING: On this one they think they will win. And the reason is, the plan the president is pushing actually dates back to 1994. It was crafted during the Clinton administration, a Democratic president. Here in Oregon it has the support of a Republican senator Gordon Smith, a Democrat, Ron Wyden, Western governors are for it.
And, the White House notes, the biggest Democrat of all in the Senate, Tom Daschle, the majority leader, recently put some money into an emergency budget bill, a supplemental spending bill, to do the very same thing, thinning, they call it, in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
The president did make a point today -- he understands the politics here of noting in his speech, if it's good for South Dakota, why isn't it good for Oregon and the rest of the country?
BROWN: And at the risk of making you absolutely crazy, can you simply explain how the president plans to limit the litigation that often follows this sort of thing? KING: Well, Congress would have to pass a law there, and that will be the big test. This won't happen this year before the elections. It will not happen.
The president needs Congress to pass a law that limits the number of appeals; that says, if you want to challenge this, you have to go into the district federal court. You then get an appeal up the line, but then it stops. You cannot, once issue is settled, go back to court or go to a different court. Congress would have to litigate that.
There are such laws in place, whether they be medical liability or other laws, the president needs to have the Congress pass the process. It's difficult to get the Congress on any issues that limits lawsuits, whether it affects the environment or not. It's a very difficult issue in the Congress.
On this one, though, the White House thinks it is much more a geographical divide than a Democratic/Republican divide. Most lawmakers from the West understand the problem, they don't necessarily agree with the president on all the details of the solution.
BROWN: John, thank you; senior White House correspondent John King out in the rose city of Portland, Oregon tonight.
And now on to a tricky story out of Miami. The rough outlines might sound familiar enough. It's about an academic who's a very loud and fierce supporter of an unpopular cause, especially unpopular since 9/11. The public gets outraged about things he's said, and his university tries to get rid of him. Not an easy thing to do when the academic has tenure, and not to mention the right of free speech.
The tricky part, as is usual, is in the details. Is this professor doing more than just spouting off on a cause? Is he supporting, even funding, terrorists?
Once again, here's CNN's Mark Potter.
POTTER (voice-over): Sami Al-Arian says the university's efforts to fire him violate his free speech rights and the spirit of academic freedom. He blames what he calls hysteria following September 11.
AL-ARIAN: I'm a minority, I'm an Arab, I'm Palestinian, I'm a Muslim. That's not a popular thing to be these days. Do I have rights or don't I have rights?
POTTER: Al-Arian came to the United States in 1975 and taught computer engineering at the University of South Florida near Tampa.
He also ran an Islamic charity and a think tank knows as Wise. He espoused passionate views on the Israeli occupation.
AL-ARIAN: I've explained this over and over again. I am a pro- Palestinian person. I don't wish death to any people. POTTER: But for years the U.S. government has investigated Al- Arian for possible terrorist ties. In 1995, agents raided Wise, the think tank, after one of its members, Ramadan Shallah (ph), returned to the Middle East and assumed leadership of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a U.S.-designated terrorist group.
Federal law enforcement officials say they are still investigating whether Al-Arian knowingly used his charity to transfer money that may have funded a 1995 suicide bombing in Gaza which killed a U.S. student, Alisa Flatow. No charges, however, have ever been filed.
(on camera): Did you have anything to do with that?
AL-ARIAN: Absolutely none. And I have absolutely nothing to do with any of these things. How would I? I mean, come on.
I mean, this is ridiculous. This is absolutely ridiculous for people even to insinuate that.
POTTER (voice-over): After September 11, the university placed Al-Arian on paid academic leave when his appearance on a television talk show led to death and bomb threats against him and the school.
The university is now asking a court to rule on whether it can legally fire him.
JUDY GENSHAFT, PRESIDENT, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA: I believe that Dr. Al-Arian has abused his position at the university and is using academic freedom as a shield to cover improper activities.
POTTER: In attempting to fire Al-Arian, the university is opposed by a national professor's group.
MARY BURGAN, AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF UNIVERSITY PROFESSORS: He has the right of any individual in this free country of ours to express his opinions outside the classroom. And the university, we feel, should respect that right and not seek to deny him a job.
DAVID HARRIS, AMERICAN JEWISH COMMITTEE: This is not about free speech, it's a smokescreen, it's a camouflage.
What this is really about is whether Al-Arian has been connected directly with a terrorist group that has been banned by the United States.
POTTER: And now the controversial case heads to court. Professor Al-Arian says important principles are involved, and that he would never even consider resigning -- Aaron.
BROWN: Mark, thank you; Mark Potter for us in Miami tonight.
Ahead on the program: part four of "Terror on Tape." Al Qaeda archives show household materials being turned into powerful explosives.
Nic Robertson joins us when we continue from New York.
BROWN: The al Qaeda tapes, now. Tonight's installment deals with making explosives out of easy to find and hard to control materials, in case you needed another reason to lie awake in bed tonight. We ought to point out here that portions of the tape you're about to see in no way provide anywhere near enough specific information to make a bomb. But taken in their entirety, the tapes are a different story, which, of course, is precisely the point.
Here's CNN's Nic Robertson.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): When we first put this tape from the al Qaeda library in a VCR, this is what we saw. Another Grade-B action film, but fast- forward, and this is what you see.
At first glance, little more than a simple chemistry lesson. In fact, that's exactly what it's intended to be. But this is not some harmless high school laboratory project. The first clue is a declaration at the beginning of the lesson, quoting the Koran and urging Muslims to fight in the cause of God.
This is a training video for select al Qaeda recruits, delivered by an instructor, whose face we never see, with all the steps needed to make pure TNT and high-explosive bombs from scratch. What we are going to show is enough detail from the three-hour tape to illuminate what al Qaeda was up to.
But nowhere near enough, say our experts, to allow anyone to make a bomb.
TONY VILLA, COUNTERTERRORISM EXPERT: You'll see how it runs down, and then you have a quick flash.
ROBERTSON: Tony Villa is a consultant for the U.S. government on terror tactics and bomb making. Like most experts in that field, he knows terror groups already have a good knowledge of how to make a bomb. What he found shocking in this video was how far al Qaeda has refined the art.
VILLA: I did not think that they were able to -- they would have that capability at this point. And it's not so much the fact that they've manufactured explosives, but the type of explosives they have manufactured, and that they have manufactured their own detonators.
ROBERTSON: That's a detonator and fuse the instructor on the tape is inserting into the explosive. A detonator is used to set off the main explosive charge in a bomb.
The experts say it's not just the major step that al Qaeda can now make detonators, but that the whole bomb-making process utilizes easy-to-get chemicals. That means bomb makers don't draw attention to themselves, are harder to catch.
VILLA: They can pick a target venue or a target city with nothing on them, arrive in that city, and based on what we are seeing here, using common materials.
ROBERTSON (on camera): Have you seen this before?
ROBERTSON: Does it surprise you what they have developed?
VILLA: Yes, it does.
VILLA: Historically, this has been very difficult to manufacture. To realize that they are able to manufacture this in a make-shift lab really speaks volumes to their studies and their commitment to this.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): A commitment that CNN began to uncover last November, with the discovery in an abandoned al Qaeda safe house of laboratory manuals, detailing step-by-step the manufacture of high explosives, including TNT.
Among those documents, a shopping list of required chemical ingredients, a list so detailed, it explains how key chemicals can easily be extracted from household products, purchased in pharmacies and grocery stores.
For Villa, the training video confirms his fear. The group's techniques are now so sophisticated, al Qaeda can cheat detection. Terrorists can move from country to country without explosives.
VILLA: The significance of it is they are very hard to trace, that they are able to maintain their autonomy and their elusiveness. More importantly, they can arrive in a target venue, or city if you will, and get all of the materials, virtually buy the materials, the materials will be something that are off the shelf.
ROBERTSON: Listen to the instructor as he shares one of the many steps in the complicated manufacture of mercury foraminate, one component in the detonators.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Let me mention that this nitric is locally made. Put it in a glass bowl, add the mercury to the nitric acid, mix the whole thing together until the liquidation process is over. Watch out for the smoke that's coming out of the mixture, avoid it.
ROBERTSON: It is the combination of this detailed training video and the written manuals that concerns counterterrorism expert Magnus Ranstorp. MAGNUS RANSTORP, UNIVERSITY OF ST. ANDREWS: It gives them a great operational advantage. They can acquire these chemicals on the open market. There is both the written manuals on how to put it together, but more importantly, perhaps even the best guide you can ever have is the visual imagery of how do you mix these things together.
ROBERTSON: So why was the instructional video embedded inside a Grade-B movie? Experts say it was to disseminate their explosive knowledge without getting caught.
RANSTORP: It is like a virus that they can then miniaturize the space which they require. They don't need the mountains of Afghanistan. They can train them in the basements, they can use basements to do training.
ROBERTSON: For al Qaeda, a new level of invisibility, and the possibility the information can be or already has been passed to other terror groups. It is not clear how long this video has been in existence.
VILLA: We may be at the threshold of a whole new wave of terror, potentially. This information getting in the wrong hands, obviously, would cause quite a bit of havoc to our society and to our country and to our allies. It makes the detection of the terrorists that much more difficult.
ROBERTSON: And al Qaeda has had plenty of successes with its bomb-making technology. In 1998, the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania destroyed by truck bombs. Two years later, the terror group's bomb makers attacked the USS Cole that harbored in Yemen.
(on camera): And one foiled attack gives insight into how al Qaeda uses the technology is disseminating. In December, 2000, four suspected al Qaeda members were arrested in Germany on suspicion of plotting to blow up Strasburg's ancient cathedral. When investigators dug more deeply into their possessions, they discovered a collection of chemicals that experts say the terrorists were planning to turn into a bomb.
(voice-over): In the other al Qaeda documents, recovered by CNN last November, details of how TNT, similar to that manufactured on the training video, is key to al Qaeda's efforts to build a radioactive, or so-called dirty bomb.
RANSTORP: Pure TNT is extraordinarily dangerous and may be linked towards trying to circumvent the process of making a nuclear device.
ROBERTSON (on camera): In what way?
RANSTORP: In dispersing the material radiologically.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): There's nothing in any of the 64 videotapes CNN has obtained to show al Qaeda has acquired the components necessary to manufacture a dirty bomb; no lessons, for example, in handling radioactive material. But, experts say, the videos, combined with the documents, raise plenty of concern about al Qaeda capability for dirty bombs and other kinds of explosive applications.
VILLA: You can't rule anything out in terms of what their capabilities are and where they're going with this. I would have to think it's more of a suicide bomber.
ROBERTSON: Whatever the process, dirty bomb, suicide bomb or high explosive-bomb, it seems al Qaeda has already ignited the fuse on a chain of events that, for now, may be undetectable.
BROWN: Nic Robertson, one more installment to come. And in its own way, to our eye, at least, it's the most disturbing -- not for anything graphic we see -- but for the sheer scope of it all, the grand sweep of the tapes Nic uncovered, what they say about al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.
CNN's coverage begins tomorrow morning as we wrap up the series on "AMERICAN MORNING WITH PAULA ZAHN." It continues throughout the day.
To put it all in perspective -- or at least try to; we always do -- wrap things up on NEWSNIGHT tomorrow night. We hope you'll join us for that.
Coming up on the program tonight, the woman behind some of the most powerful images of the last century. Her passion was film. One of her leading men was Hitler. That's towards the end.
Up next, five murders among the ranks at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. Now the Army wants to know if an anti-malaria drug is somehow connected.
That story and more as we continue from New York.
BROWN: There is a strong tendency in human beings to look for trends, explanations to things that seem random or unexplainable. And, of course, there's a big risk involved of trying to pin an explanation on something that may be random. So it's with that in mind that we approach our next story.
A string of murders this summer at Fort Bragg, all but one were soldiers who investigators believe killed their wives. Three of those four soldiers had been deployed to Afghanistan, and it is possible -- possible -- these men took a drug to prevent malaria before they went, called Lariam. This is a drug that, some say, can have severe psychological side effects in some people.
You can see where this is going now, but at this point, it is just an intriguing possibility, one that the Pentagon plans to look at. Joining us tonight from Raleigh, North Carolina Tanya Biank, who covers Fort Bragg and other military matters for the "Fayetteville Observer."
It's nice to see you again.
TANYA BIANK, MILITARY AFFAIRS REPORTER, "FAYETTEVILLE OBSERVER": Hi Aaron, thanks for having me.
BROWN: Let's talk first about what the Army -- the Army is sending a team of investigators to Fort Bragg?
BIANK: That is right. There is no date that has been set yet when an epidemiology team from the office of the surgeon general will be coming down to Fort Bragg to look into the medical aspects concerning these murders. And one of those aspects will be Lariam.
BROWN: And the side effects which are not, as you know much better than any of us, since you actually took the medication in one point -- that's one the scariest things that could happen in television, what happened right there. I think we lost the satellite, right?
And we'll try and get it back, and while we do that let me give you a couple of quick things going on around the country, and we'll work on the satellite problem.
It begins tonight with Martha Stewart, who is facing a different challenge, another legal problem, though, for her. A shareholder of her company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, filed a lawsuit against her today. It accuses Ms. Stewart of dumping shares of her own stock because she knew she was being investigated in the ImClone case. A company spokesman said they believe the lawsuit is without foundation.
And an interesting science story involving anthrax. Scientists at Rockefeller University here in New York have come up with a new anthrax drug they say will destroy any antibiotic strain of anthrax that may be produced. Research continues there. We continue to work on the satellite problem.
Let's take a break first. A couple of things still to come on the program. We'll talk with one of the great baseball writers in the country about the possibility of a strike. We're eight days away from the deadline. And when we come back, who knows, but very possibly justice, we knew, was supposed to be blind. We did not know it was also broke.
We will tell you more when we come back.
BROWN: All right. Let's just pretend that last little incident with the satellite never happened. We go back to Raleigh, North Carolina and Tanya Biank, who covers military affairs at Fort Bragg for the "Fayetteville Observer." Talking about the drug Lariam, which is used to treat or prevent, I think, malaria, and it has some possible side effects. That's where we were, and a possible tie-in to the murders, domestic violence murders in Fort Bragg. Let's talk about the side effects. What can the drug do in some people?
BIANK: Sure. Aaron, first of all, it is important to note that most soldiers and travelers that take Lariam do not have many side effects other than upset stomach or nausea. However, in some people they do experience anxiety, hallucinations, depression, anger, and a very small percentage may have suicidal tendencies.
BROWN: And do we know if any of the soldiers involved here were in fact, had in fact taken the drug. Do we know that?
BIANK: Aaron, that's the million dollar question. The Army refuses to comment on that. However, there is a possibility that these soldiers had taken Lariam while there were in Afghanistan, since that is often the anti-malarial medication that's given to many soldiers.
BROWN: And it is not terribly big leap to suggest that if the Army is concerned about this in coming down to take a look at and study it, there may be some suspicion that at the very least, that the soldiers took the drug. But the fact is that there were other problems in most of these marriages, isn't that right?
BIANK: That it true, Aaron. And there are many people that will tell you that linking Lariam to these murders is actually taking the discussion away from domestic violence in families and taking responsibility for one's actions.
BROWN: One of the things that's intrigued me about this is that clearly the Army has taken these incidents, and there have been a number of them, very seriously, to see if there's anything in how they -- in the ways they bring guys back from Afghanistan that may have caused the problem, whether it's this drug, whether there are domestic violence issues, the Army certainly hasn't hid from the problem?
BIANK: Absolutely, Aaron. And I think there are many people out there that believe that the Army is looking at all possibilities when it comes to these murders, because people really want to know what happened. And I think that's human nature, to want to be able to hang your hat on something.
But in the end I think we have to prepare ourselves for the fact that we may never know what caused these men to murder their wives.
BROWN: Around the base, when you talk to people, is there a sense of unease about all of this, that these things have happened this summer?
BIANK: Absolutely, Aaron. These murders happened in June and July, and here we are towards the end of August, and it has really gripped the Fayetteville and Fort Bragg communities. This is something that people are talking about daily. BROWN: Tanya, thanks for sticking with us tonight. There was a little bump in the road there, but you recovered nicely even if we did not. Thank you very much.
BIANK: Thanks, Aaron.
BROWN: As we look at what is a very troubling situation at Fort Bragg.
On we go. One of the arguments proponents of the death penalty sometimes use has to do with money. Why should we pay to keep these killers alive in prison, free food, free medical, cable TV.
Setting the cable TV part of the argument aside, we understand the argument, and it makes sense except for this: generally speaking it is far more expensive to keep a man in prison for life than to execute him, generally speaking. Death penalty cases can cost a fortune because there can be and often are years of appeals.
It starts at the trial, and that brings us to the dilemma of one judge in one cash-strapped corner of the United States: to give a man his due process would cause a huge strain on the county. His solution to the dilemma was unique and pleased almost no one.
(voice-over): Across America there are lots of small towns like Mcarthur, Ohio, towns with one stop light, one statue in front of the courthouse, towns with one bitter economy.
MICHAEL BLEDSOE, PRESIDENT, VINTON COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS: There's not a new car dealership in the county that you can buy a new car at. There's not an outlet store that you can buy a new television at, so the sales tax, we're kind of used to that being low anyway.
BROWN: There's also only one criminal judge in Mcarthur, this man, Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Simmons. And earlier this month, he clearly had the county's bad economy in mind when he threw the town and, for that matter, the state of Ohio's legal establishment into turmoil.
He ruled that prosecutors here could not seek the death penalty, in what police called an especially vicious murder case, because his town and his county could not afford to pay its share of the costs, which could exceed $100,000.
JOE CASE, SPOKESMAN, OHIO ATTORNEY GENERAL: The state's position is quite simple. It is that the judge did not have the legal authority to make the decision to remove the capital specifications from the murder charges that are at issue.
BROWN: The defendant is 24-year-old Gregory McKnight, accused in two unrelated murders, the killing two years ago of a Kenyon College student named Emily Murray and a young man named Gregory Julious. Ms. Murray's body was found in McKnight's trailer, hidden in a carpet. She had been shot. Julious' body was found dismembered near the same trailer.
Only the Murray case has carried the possibility of a death sentence, because the prosecution requested it.
TIMOTHY GLEASON, COUNTY PROSECUTOR: It's a horrendous case. It's something that is extremely rare for our community, but it did happen here, and we need to deal with it.
BROWN: Because McKnight cannot afford a lawyer, three area attorneys were selected; their salaries and expenses for what may well be years of trial and appeals scheduled to be paid by Vinton County and the state of Ohio.
ROBERT TOY, MCKNIGHT ATTORNEY: I can tell you this: We had a judge who had the courage to probably announce what every prosecutor and defense attorney's done who has some experience out there, which is take financial considerations and take it out from the cloak it's under and reveal it and say, we just can't try this case because it's not there.
BROWN: In Mcarthur, it seems safe to say that public opinion is not on the judge's side.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't agree with the decision, but I respect the man because Vinton County is a can-do county. We get down, we'll find a way to get back up. And even though a trial like this would put a hardship on us, we'll find a way to get out.
JUDGE JEFFREY SIMMONS, VINTON COUNTY COMMON PLEAS: Thank you, please be seated.
BROWN: This week Judge Simmons told attorneys for both sides he would think about changing his mind, provided the state would drop its appeal of his ruling, which prompted McKnight's attorneys to say the whole issue of money should be explored in open court.
ROBERT MILLER, MCKNIGHT ATTORNEY: There are certainly financial issues that are going to have to be addressed, and I think this court was correct.
BROWN: Somewhat lost in all of this, of course, are the victims and their families. Emily Murray's parents declined to talk on camera, but they did say in an e-mail to NEWSNIGHT: "As we understand Ohio law, removing the capital stipulation from the charges would mean the maximum sentence that could be imposed for Emily's murder is 20 years to life. You do not need to be a supporter of capital punishment to regard the prospect that this man would be eligible for parole in his 40s as both a grave injustice and a danger to the community."
BROWN: And it's one of those stories we'll keep an eye on. We'll see what the judge decides to do.
Before we go to break, a couple of other quick things to mention. The first item, U.S. reaction to Pakistani President Musharraf's grab for more political power over the weekend. Somewhat muted response to our ear. President Bush today saying it is important for friends of the United States to promote democracy. But then the president added to Musharraf, he is still tight with us on terrorism. And the president went on to say, that's what I appreciate.
Meantime, in Central China, more flooding. At least 600,000 people have been evacuated now from around a giant lake. Everything is big in China, it seems. The government has deployed at least 1 million workers in a massive sandbagging effort on the levies and embankments that hold the lake in -- or, at least, are supposed to.
Ahead on NEWSNIGHT tonight: Hitler's favorite movie maker turns 100.
But first, baseball columnist Murray Chass, T-minus eight days and counting to a possible strike.
This is NEWSNIGHT on CNN.
BROWN: Baseball, more than any other sport, has produced wonderful sports writers. There are the beat writers who have to come up with 162 game stories a year and make it sound fresh and interesting, even if their team is 25 games out.
Murray Chass has been writing about baseball for 42 years, 33 with the "New York Times." He is off the daily grind of beat writing, and now writes a column and covers the negotiations -- which is becoming a grind -- between the players and the owners.
Mr. Chass joins us tonight to talk about the talks.
Nice -- very nice to have you here. We're very pleased.
MURRAY CHASS, BASEBALL WRITER, "NEW YORK TIMES": Aaron, nice to be here.
BROWN: You have a piece in the paper tomorrow; can you tell me the lead?
CHASS: What I did for tomorrow, because there wasn't much that happened in the talks today, was to lay out where the two sides are on the two key economic issues and sort of try to give an indication where a compromise might lie, what they might be thinking.
It's -- they have a week left before the strike date.
BROWN: The two issues are revenue sharing first, and then this luxury tax or competitive balance tax, depending on which side you're on.
Do these appear to be, at this point, gaps that can be bridged? CHASS: They're actually getting pretty close on revenue sharing. The only problem is they can't finish off revenue sharing without having an agreement on the tax because the union won't do one without the other because they want to know what the total cost is going to be to the owners before they agree to either one of them.
BROWN: Over the years -- well, any -- they've had a tough week or so. These talks seem to have gone nowhere in the last week, and the rhetoric has gotten a little harsher.
Any sense that they'll get there in a week?
CHASS: You can't say that the talks haven't gone anywhere this week, because they have moved closer on revenue sharing. I think they might be within range of each other at this point. The tax hasn't gone anywhere, but that will in the next couple of days.
Once the clubs' negotiators see where the union is willing to go, then I think we'll have an idea whether a compromise is possible. But we might not know that until the weekend.
BROWN: To my eye, over the years, and in this case, too, the players union is a very disciplined negotiating union. They don't say a lot out there.
The owners go through this dance where they start spouting off; and that's happened in the last week, too. A couple of owners -- Texas and in San Diego have been talking. George here in New York has had a piece, too.
Is this a predictable dance that's going on?
CHASS: Absolutely. You know, the owners -- there are only 30 owners, and they all are millionaires, billionaires, however far they go. And it's frustrating them not to be able to speak out on these issues. and the commissioner has a gag rule on them in which he is threatening $1 million fine.
And he, in fact, has told all three of the owners you mentioned, Hicks, Moores and Steinbrenner, that they will be fined. He just hasn't said how much.
But yet they will speak out because they can't help themselves.
BROWN: In the same way they can't help themselves to throw -- I mean, not to take sides here, but for Mr. Hicks down in Texas to be complaining about the salary structure is a bit much, given that he threw $200 million at Alex Rodriguez.
CHASS: Well, he says that if there's tax threshold over which he would have to pay tax, he would stay under the threshold.
Well, right now the owners are proposing a threshold of $102 million, and the Rangers have a payroll of $131 million.
And he, indeed, gave Rodriguez the biggest contract in sports, $252 million for 10 years, and nobody else was offering anything closer than $100 million below that.
BROWN: Now, the way I look at it, if he does have to get below, I have a reasonable chance of signing with Texas, because that's about what he can afford.
Did the owners, who have gotten beaten up pretty badly in these negotiations over the years, are they a more disciplined bunch from what you could tell this time? Are they more together than they have been?
CHASS: They started getting it together in that way in 1994. They held together, they held firm, and that's what resulted in the strike in '94 and the loss of the World Series.
They are together this time. Bud Selig, the commissioner, does a great job of getting the owners together. He is a master at building consensus. He knows how to do it. He has the owners in a position where he's telling them, you be quiet and let me take care of this and I'll get you what you need.
BROWN: Can I throw you one compliment? Your Sunday column is about as much fun reading about baseball as you can get.
CHASS: Well, thank you very much. I appreciate that, Aaron.
BROWN: Murray Chass of the "New York Times." Hopefully there won't be a strike, but if there is, hopefully they'll come back.
Still ahead on NEWSNIGHT, art for art's sake. Celebrating 100 years of a most controversial filmmaker. We'll be right back.
BROWN: Finally from us tonight, art and the moral life of an artist. When the lion roars at the beginning of every MGM movie, the Latin words underneath read "Art for Art's Sake."
The notion that painters paint, dancers dance, and filmmakers film, not for society or humanity or anything but the art. No bigger picture here, just the picture itself. We bring this up to mark the 100th birthday of a famous -- some would say infamous -- artist. A filmmaker, and that's just one of her talents, who created some of the most powerful images of the 20th century, in the name of art, she says, but also in the service of a monster.
Here's CNN's Garrick Utley.
GARRICK UTLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As she approached her 100th birthday, Leni Riefenstahl knew why people are still fascinated by the story of her glamorous, acclaimed, and compromised life.
LENI RIEFENSTAHL, FILMMAKER (through translator): They want to know whether I am still alive, she said. UTLEY: She is very much alive. The ambitious headstrong girl who became a movie star, then a director, and then she met Adolph Hitler.
When the Nazi leader asked her to make a film, Riefenstahl agreed. She had found her perfect leading man.
RIEFENSTAHL: The people are crazy. They love Hitler and there was a big enthusiasm. And we tried to find it with our camera.
UTLEY: With her camera she turned film into a powerful political tool at the Nazi Party rally in Nuremburg in 1934.
"Triumph of the Will," she called it, and she introduced or advanced techniques that would change filmmaking. She used no commentary but let the images and sounds and voices speak for themselves.
She was the first to use a moving camera to put Hitler at the center of attention from all directions. Above all, she established a dramatic and political intimacy between Hitler and the masses, who were looking for a strong leader, a dictator. "Triumph of the Will" would win international acclaim and prizes for filmmaking.
(on camera): But was this art or propaganda? Can an artist be forgiven for supporting evil through the power of her images, the power that grows out of the way she was able to manipulate those images at an editing table? That's the question that would follow and haunt Leni Riefenstahl for the rest of her very long life.
But first, there would another film.
(voice-over): Of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Here too, critics charged that by glorifying the human body and the will to win, she was serving the Nazi idea of a master race.
At the end of the war, Leni Riefenstahl was arrested by the allies, tried, found to be a Nazi sympathizer, and then freed. What would she do with the rest of her life? Go where no one knew her. Go to Africa in the 1960s to photograph the tribespeople in southern Sudan.
RIEFENSTAHL: Nobody asks me, how was Hitler? Why have you make the "Triumph of the Will?" I was a newborn, I was newborn.
UTLEY: She went underwater. In her seventies, Leni Riefenstahl learned to scuba dive to photograph marine life. But it is for the "Triumph of the Will" that she will be remembered and reviled. She has never apologized for it. She is still mesmerized by her beloved images.
It had nothing to do with politics, she says. It was a technical matter.
Like Leni Riefenstahl's many controversial lives, it was a triumph of her will. Garrick Utley, CNN. (END VIDEOTAPE)
BROWN: That's our program for tonight. Good to have you with us. Hope you join us again tomorrow night 10:00 p.m. Eastern time. Until then, good night for all of us. NEWSNIGHT.
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