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Interview with Michael Battle; Pataki Announces Tip Line

Aired September 16, 2002 - 14:21   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go back to Buffalo, where we have been talking about those arrests that have been made recently with regard to a sleeper cell existing in that area of Buffalo.
Susan Candiotti with more now, she just got outside of the courtroom -- Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kyra, we are joined now by the U.S. attorney here in Buffalo, Michael Battle. He just left the hearing that I just left as well, just a short time ago, which was the first appearance for Mr. Al-Bakri -- can you please tell us what you -- what happened inside the courtroom?

MICHAEL BATTLE, U.S. ATTORNEY: Yes, in the matter of the United States v. Mukhtar Ali al-Bakri. Mr. al-Bakri was arraigned this afternoon pursuant to a complaint which set forth charges that he knowingly and unlawfully provided, attempted to provide, and conspired to provide material support and resources to the foreign terrorist organization known as al Qaeda.

This was all done in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2339B and Section 2, carrying a maximum penalty of 15 years imprisonment, a fine of $250,000, or both.

Now, it should be noted that the defendant, having been charged, these are merely accusations, and he is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

CANDIOTTI: Mr. Battle, is there any chance -- is there any difference, would you characterize this man in the level of his involvement, compared to the other five people who made their initial court appearance who were arrested over the weekend?

BATTLE: I would not be at liberty to discuss that at this time.

CANDIOTTI: And when will he appear in court next time?

BATTLE: He is scheduled to appear before the honorable Judge Kenneth Schroeder, who granted our motion that he be detained. We will be back in court on September 18 at 2:30 p.m. with the other defendants.

CANDIOTTI: Mr. Battle, thank you very for joining us. Again, all the -- there are now six defendants, and there are two uncharged conspirators who remain at large. The authorities say they believe they are in Yemen, but they are not yet picked up -- back to you, Kyra. PHILLIPS: Susan Candiotti, thank you.

And not far from Susan, in Lackawanna, Governor George Pataki, talking about setting up a statewide hot line to allow people to call in tips about suspected terrorists -- let's listen in.


GOV. GEORGE PATAKI (R), NEW YORK: ... United States. I wanted to come here to commend the people of Lackawanna. This is a great city and a great community, a diverse community that has people from literally every corner of the globe.

And since the arrests that were announced recently, this community has stood together, and has understood that individuals are charged with serious crimes, no family, no community is charged with anything.

The community of Lackawanna, including the Muslim community here in western New York, has been very supportive during these investigations and as those investigations are ongoing.

And I think it's absolutely essential that we respect the freedoms that those terrorists tried to take from us: freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of religion.

So I wanted to meet with the community leaders to thank them and to reassure them that I know the people of Lackawanna and western New York, and I know the people of New York state. And we are going to win the war against terror. And we are going to make sure that the freedoms and the right to live in the greatest state in the greatest country in the greatest world are preserved for every New Yorker and every person in America.

I'd like the mayor of Lackawanna to say a few words. We had a meeting with community leaders from across the spectrum here in Lackawanna, including leaders from the Muslim community in western New York. And we thank them for their leadership and for the response this community has made. It's been outstanding and I'm confident it will continue to be outstanding.

Mayor, would you like to say a few words?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Governor.

First, again, I'd like to thank the governor and the county executive. Obviously the city of Lackawanna has gone through a lot in almost the last 72 hours.

It's hit home, being born and raised here in the city, something that I would never imagined possibly seeing on national news of what has happened here in this community.

But just to reiterate what the governor said, I'm so proud of this community. And that's what I'm here for from today forward is about this community here in the city of Lackawanna. We must stand together, be one.

Again, individuals have been charged, not a community, not families, nobody of certain ethnic backgrounds. Individuals have been charged in this case. So I'm asking everybody in the city of Lackawanna, including myself, other elected officials, responsible members of the community, to be leaders, be responsible parents, talk to your children about this. The school system has to take a proactive approach in meeting this morning to handle some of the maybe possible problems we may have.

Again, this community will survive. We're a strong community, as the governor talked about. We're 19,000 strong. This will not bend us, it will not break us. We will be here, I'm here for everybody in the community. And again I reach out to the Muslim community. Thanks for all your help in this investigation. I will be here for you, my staff will be here for you, and I know you will be there for us.

So if anybody else would like to say a few words.

PATAKI: Mayor, if I might, let me thank you and also our county executive, Joel Giambra, who's been here for his leadership, Sheriff Pat Galavan (ph) of western New York.

And I'd like the western New York head of the American Muslim Council to say a few words. We've had the chance to speak on Saturday and then meet and sit down today -- Dr. Khalid Kazi (ph).


DR. KHALID KAZI (ph), AMERICAN MUSLIM COUNCIL: Thank you very much, Governor. I really want to convey to you and the county exec, too, and the mayor, as well as Tom (ph) and other elected leadership, our heartfelt appreciation of you taking time out from what we know is truly a very busy schedule for you these days to come to Lackawanna and spend time with us, talk to us, listen to us and hear what our concerns are.

And we truly are proud of your leadership in the state. And I can tell you that we have one of the best communities in the entire nation that has come through repeatedly, not only last two or three days, but came out with flying colors right after the dastardly acts of September 11 last year. And I want to tell you that you can take this community and present it on a pedestal anywhere in the state, in fact, anywhere in the country.

And I am not putting any extra words there, I'm not exaggerating it, I am telling you what I have seen truly in this community. The support, the friendship, the camaraderie of different ethnic groups, different religious groups, different cultural groups that come together at a time like this.

And we only hope that with adversity we will come out much stronger a community, as the country has come our much stronger since September 11 of last year.

And I want to thank you again for highlighting your concern for the freedoms that every single person enjoys in our community, and also that, even though there may be accusations against a few people, that does not indict any group, any family or any community.

And we want to make sure that the media plays its role so that there is no guilt by association, so that there is -- the public court decisions are minimized, I'm losing the exact word here.

So thanks again, Governor, for this opportunity.

PATAKI: Thank you, Doctor.

And we'll take a couple of questions; we don't want an extended question-and-answer on this.

QUESTION: At one point, Governor, it's been reported that members of the Muslim community here cooperated to the extent that they were of significant help in the cracking of this alleged terrorist cell. Would you deal with that?

PATAKI: I don't want to comment on any specific element of the investigation or the arrests. The FBI will make all those announcements.

But suffice it to say that from the beginning of the investigation continuing through right now the Muslim community here in Lackawanna in western New York has been extremely supportive and helpful.

QUESTION: On the terror tip line, who should be calling this and when they call what should they do?

PATAKI: I do want to announce that we are creating -- as we deal with this war against terror, we need to have coordinated law enforcement from the local police here in Lackawanna right up to the FBI and the Justice Department.

And with the Joint Terrorism Task Force here in western New York we had that. During this investigation and in this arrests there were representatives from the Lackawanna Police Department, from the Erie County Sheriff's Office and from the New York State Police that played an important role in this investigation.

So we have to have that coordination, and we do.

We also need cooperation from the community. The community are the eyes and ears of law enforcement. So we're encouraging people when they see suspicious activity to be alert and to report it. We are still at an orange state of alert, a heightened state of alert in New York and in America.

So we are creating, through our Office of Public Security and run by our state police, a terrorism tips hotline: 1-866-SAFE-NYS. It will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, be manned by the state police, so if that someone sees suspicious activity -- not something where there's an imminent crisis, that's for 911 -- instead of calling 911 and tying up emergency services, they can call this hotline and it will be referred either to the Joint Terrorism Task Force or to the local appropriate level of law enforcement for follow up.

It's an important new tool for the people of New York. And we would encourage them to use it responsibly and with common sense.


QUESTION: ... it could be overkill with the use of this number; and secondly, that Muslims could be targeted unfairly?

PATAKI: Certainly, we want to make sure that no community, and in particular the Muslim community, is not targeted because they have been helpful. And to in any way discriminate against anybody just allows the terrorist a victory.

That's what they want to do. They want to frighten us and divide us so we pit each other against others in our community. We have to stand shoulder-to-shoulder. That's how we got through September 11th by understanding what...

PHILLIPS: Governor George Pataki there, announcing the state is setting up a statewide hot line to allow people to call in tips about suspected terrorists. This public security tip line will be available 24 hours a day, according to the governor, seven days a week, and it goes into operation later this week.

And of course, this comes on the same day that we have been talking about the recent man in custody, now making a total of six men that have been arrested in western New York, who were allegedly trained in an al Qaeda terrorist camp.

The governor pointing out that this shows the need for having the public alert suspicious activity in communities like Lackawanna and also Buffalo, and that entire area.


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