CNN Europe CNN Asia
On CNN TV Transcripts Headline News CNN International About CNN.com Preferences
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
SERVICES
 
 
 
SEARCH
Web CNN.com
powered by Yahoo!
TRANSCRIPTS
Return to Transcripts main page

CNN WOLF BLITZER REPORTS

Sniper Witnesses Say They've Seen Weapon, Shooter; Bush Signs Resolution Authorizing War

Aired October 16, 2002 - 17:00   ET

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

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
WOLF BLITZER, ANCHOR (voice-over): Sniper on the loose. Are the clues starting to add up? Witnesses say they've seen the weapon and the shooter.

CAPT. NANCY DEMME, MONTGOMERY COUNTY POLICE: Unfortunately, distance and darkness and perhaps adrenalin have made them unable to give us a clear composite.

BLITZER: Scared in the suburbs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have this feeling that we're not safe here anymore. It's really sad to say that but we are not safe anymore.

BLITZER: The impact on a community. Are news organizations playing into the killer's hands? I'll ask veteran journalist Bob Schieffer.

President Bush signs the resolution authorizing him to go to war.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Controlling the threat posed by Iraq is necessary by whatever means that requires.

BLITZER: Inside Iraq, an exclusive look at a safe haven beyond the reach of Baghdad. And he sleeps in secret locations but he rises early to swim. He likes movies, especially "The Godfather." We'll get a close look at Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: It's Wednesday, October 16, 2002. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

The latest sniper killing is generating the most clues yet and hundreds of federal agents are in on the hunt for the killer but are authorities any closer to halting the rampage that's terrorizing the Washington area?

CNN's Kathleen Koch is joining us now from Montgomery County, Maryland with the latest on this investigation -- Kathleen.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, authorities are doing their very best to crack this case with a lot of help from the public. Since that consolidated tip line went into effect last week, they have received more than 69,000 calls. They got 15,000 alone after Monday night's shooting in Falls Church, Virginia. You know, Wolf, but it may be the growing number of witnesses who help police crack this case.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KOCH (voice-over): During Monday night's shooting, police say that witnesses for the first time actually saw the killer shoulder a gun. It was a man who three witnesses at that and one other crime scene described as having olive or darker colored skin, but a set back there is too great a disparity in their recollections.

DEMME: There are a couple of people who saw, believe they saw a man shoot. Unfortunately distance and darkness and perhaps adrenalin have made them unable to give us a clear composite that we can disseminate.

KOCH: One witness says a weapon was an AK-74 military assault rifle, which looks like this but is easily modified; however, police warn the shooter could be switching weapons and vehicles. Sources believe the shot was fired from just 30 yards away. A knowledgeable official says investigators probing the Falls Church shooting are looking at surveillance tapes from Home Depot and two nearby buildings.

Authorities are also checking tapes from police cruisers responding to the scene as well as traffic cameras for any potential clues. Local officials say though they can't put a price tag on the investigation. Money is no object.

DON CLARK, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: I want to assure the public that every resource available, whether it's local, state, or federal is being brought to bear in this case in an unprecedented display of cooperation. There is nothing that's being held back because of a lack of funding.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KOCH: Of course everyone here is very much on edge. Every truck backfiring, every firecracker is being called in to police and forcing them to respond, so Maryland's governor took the unprecedented step today of banning outdoor gunfire in four southern counties until this sniper is caught. So, Wolf, that means an end to deer hunting season, which was supposed to begin tomorrow, back to you.

BLITZER: Thank you very much Kathleen Koch on the scene for us in Rockville, Maryland.

The federal government has made its vast resources available to the sniper investigation. The FBI is providing 400 agents and its sophisticated laboratories. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is deploying 250 agents and analysts. Up to 50 Secret Service agents are involved in the hunt. Customs Service helicopters are making surveillance flights, and the U.S. Marshal Service and Park Police are also providing help. Investigators say they're getting the most details, clues, yet from the latest shooting, including for the first time multiple witnesses.

Our National Correspondent, Bob Franken, is on the scene for us in Falls Church, Virginia. He's got more -- Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And, Wolf, we're where the witnesses witnessed the horrible tragedy that occurred on Monday night. One thing that they agreed on is that the shooter and the van he was driving was about 30 yards, really close to the victim. Where that dolly is over there is the spot where Linda Franklin was shot to death.

Now, I want to show you just how close he was, the shooter. He parked his van, according to the witnesses. I'm walking to the spot now just about here, right over here, right parallel to where I am. This is where, according to the witnesses took aim and fired, pointing his van in a westerly direction to my left where he was able to quickly get into the vehicle and drive down this little road over to a quick right turn and then to the access road, another right turn. The access road is over there.

He was then able to go about a quarter of a mile up the road to an intersection and go in a variety of directions. He could go onto Route 50, which is the thoroughfare you see there. It's a major highway in this area, and he could escape very quickly, very, very quickly as a matter of fact before anybody could recover from the shock that accompanied the shooting.

That is pretty much the speculation about how all of this happened and it's an explanation, Wolf, for how he was able to get away before the police were able to react because it really just took a minute or two for him to escape.

BLITZER: And, Bob, is there any indication or do you have sense how long it took for the police to actually arrive on the scene and begin closing off streets, closing down the area?

FRANKEN: Well, according to various estimates, it took them about 15 minutes to put their plan into effect. Now, it's a gargantuan plan and police officials pretty much agree that that's a remarkable amount of speed even with all the planning, and the point here is, is that even given that, the person or people who were involved in the shooting, the ones who did the shooting, would have had ample time to get away.

It suggests to any number of people the fact that they were parked as they were right here with their van facing in the direction it was facing with the entire escape route very, very methodically planned, that these are people who are very thorough in their preparations.

BLITZER: Bob Franken in Northern Virginia for us tonight, thanks for that report. Tens of thousands of people have offered tips to investigators, but it hasn't always been easy.

Shawn Yancy of CNN affiliate WTTG has that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED RADIO CORRESPONDENT: The chief also confirmed they are still looking for a light-colored Chevy Astro van with ladder racks on top.

SHAWN YANCY, WTTG CORRESPONDENT: From the white van to the box truck and now a possible description of a suspect.

UNIDENTIFIED RADIO CORRESPONDENT: Investigators do have a number of potential suspects, some better than others...

YANCY: The regional task force has asked people in the Washington metro area to open their eyes and ears and report anything suspicious. The only problem with that, the consolidated tip line is constantly busy and inundated with calls.

MARGIE CURL, CALLED TIP LINE: I called it once for about three hours and didn't get through and I ended up calling 911 eventually.

YANCY: A viewer e-mailed us also frustrated she couldn't get through. She tried for two hours and then her cell phone battery died. An FBI spokesman says be patient, they've got 75 people in the Washington Field Office working eight hour shifts, 24 hours a day, answering every call and following up on hundreds of leads.

Spokesman Chris Murray (ph) says the calls started peaking Monday night after reports of the shooting at Home Depot. Since the tip line opened up October 10, investigators have received more than 43,000 calls; 11,000 of those calls flooded the line Monday. The calls have been coming in from Fredericksburg to Rockville and tip takers are hoping that one lead may help put an end to the terror that is blanketing our region.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: That was Shawn Yancy of our Washington affiliate WTTG reporting.

And this additional note, as of midnight, the total number of calls to the hotline stood at more 69,000. The sniper's rampage began in Montgomery County, Maryland's most populous and most affluent. It has a population of nearly one million people. The first five killings occurred there and that's where the investigation is centered.

Joining me now from Rockville, Maryland, Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan. Mr. Duncan thanks once again for joining us. You just heard that report. The lines seemed to be busy for a lot of people, thousands of people indeed, who were calling with tips, any progress on that front?

DOUGLAS DUNCAN, MONTGOMERY COUNTY EXECUTIVE: Well, they are working very hard on that. They've added lines. They've added agents but I want to thank the public for calling in. We had thousands of people calling in with information they think is going to help this investigation. We've gotten a lot of good leads out of the public and we want the public to keep calling.

If they have a problem, send us an e-mail; keep calling that 1- 888-324-9800 line until they get through. Don't give up. Don't get discouraged. Just keep calling and get us the information that you think is going to help us crack this case.

BLITZER: Can you share with us any new information, any new progress that may have developed over the course of the last day or two?

DUNCAN: Well, they are clearly tracking these leads down, talking to witnesses from the different shooting scenes, still trying to get more information out to the public. We did release the composites of the Econoline van and the Astro van asking people to call us with that but we are just saying give us a call.

Let us know what you saw or heard. Let us know if there's someone out there that we need to be talking to who might have an unusual interest in the case, might have weapons available to them, might have vehicles available to them, that sort of match what's been talked about here.

BLITZER: Eyewitnesses, as you know Mr. Duncan, have now come forward and offered some descriptions of the shooter or the shooters involved. Any plans anytime soon to release a sketch or a composite of the suspect or suspects?

DUNCAN: Well, what the police announced earlier today was that out of the Fairfax County shooting, they were not able to get a composite because of the distances, because of the darkness, because of different factors, so that we will not be getting a composite out of that. They are still talking to witnesses, still trying to get as much information as they can to assist the public in helping us catch whoever is doing this.

BLITZER: A lot of people who live in this area are affected, not only personally, psychologically, but economically it's causing an impact as well. How serious of an economic problem has this been so far in Montgomery County?

DUNCAN: Well, we are all struggling through this, whether you're an individual, a family, a group, a neighborhood or a business. Everyone in this region has been affected by this and is struggling to deal with this, and we're asking everyone to hold together, to reach out to each other in every way they can until we catch whoever is doing this. That's our primary mission.

Clearly people have been impacted in different ways. We're not doing any kind of economic analysis. We don't want to distract the investigators from doing their job. We don't want to divert county resources to look at things like that because those county resources could be applied to aiding in the investigation, to supporting the unprecedented teamwork that's going on here.

So, once this is all over, once we catch whoever is doing it, then whatever we need to do to help our community come back together, whatever we need to do to help the business community, neighborhoods, individuals, families, we're going to do that but the primary goal is just catching whoever is doing it as quickly as we can.

BLITZER: Douglas Duncan, Mr. Duncan thanks so much. Good luck to you. Good luck to the entire task force in this region. Hope you find this guy or guys very, very soon.

DUNCAN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you. And the Pentagon steps in to snag the sniper. The military turns its high tech surveillance gear on the D.C. metro area, and President Bush signs off on the Iraq war resolution. But now that he has the power, how does he plan to use it? We'll go live to the White House. Our John King is standing by when we return.

Plus, media madness over the sniper killer, have journalists stepped over the line? We'll have an assessment of that. That's coming up at the half hour. And, we want to hear from you. Overall, what grade would you give the news media for covering the sniper story? Log on to my web page cnn.com/wolf. That's where you can vote. We'll have the results later this hour. First, a look at news making "Headlines Around the World."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER (voice-over): Marking the 24th anniversary of his papacy, John Paul II announced changes to the Rosary, a Cycle of Prayers Catholics recite as they contemplate the life of Jesus. The pope said that by adding additional meditations to the Rosary, he hopes to renew interest in the tradition and its place in Christian spirituality.

A Russian rocket exploded just seconds after it was launched killing one soldier at the launch site in northern Russia and injuring eight others. An investigation is planned. The unmanned rocket was carrying a communications satellite and scientific experiments from several countries.

There was a big fire at a Russian navy arsenal along the Pacific Coast. Workers were trying to destroy old artillery shells. No injuries are reported but some nearby residents were evacuated.

Just days after winning the Nobel Peace Prize, former President Jimmy Carter has returned to his pro democracy work. He's leading a team of observers monitoring the Jamaican elections. Final vote results are expected tomorrow.

A famed ancient library is being reincarnated with modern technology. Hundreds of world dignitaries were on hand as Egypt opened a new library in Alexandria, the site of the world's first great library. The original library was said to have contained half a million scrolls before it burned in the fourth century. The new library's digital archive will include ten billion Web pages, and that's our look "Around the World."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Our coverage of the sniper on the loose continues. Coming up at the half hour, media in the mirror, are TV networks and newspapers playing into the sniper's hand? I'll ask CBS News veteran correspondent Bob Schieffer, and media watchdog Tom Rosensteil. Then living with the fear of a sniper how life for the average family in the Washington area has changed. That's at 50 after the hour all here on WOLF BLITZER REPORTS.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. While hundreds of federal agents help local authorities hunt for the sniper who's terrorized the Washington area, the U.S. military is also being called in to give investigators a high tech eye in the sky. Here's CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Army reconnaissance planes will fly over Washington, D.C., military eyes in the sky that everyone hopes can help catch the sniper on the run if there is another attack. The RC-7 known as the Airborne Reconnaissance Low can operate day or night in all weather staying aloft for several hours.

The plane with a crew of seven was originally designed to be used by the military for drug surveillance operations. It is packed with sophisticated sensors that can survey the ground and record imagery, pictures of what is happening below. It will be able to track vehicles on the move. Communications gear will allow that information to be transmitted quickly to hundreds of law enforcement personnel on the ground.

A U-21 beach craft like this one with advanced reconnaissance equipment and a crew of eight will also be part of the mission. Pentagon officials again emphasize the operation is run by law enforcement. The military will operate the aircraft and pass intelligence to an FBI agent that will be onboard. But the FBI will decide if any of that information represents a target to pursue. That will ensure the entire operation is within the law. The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 prohibits the military from taking a direct role in law enforcement activities.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: Wolf, this military technology is going to provide law enforcement with a capability it does now not have and that's the ability to stay in the sky, watch what's happening around the clock and be ready to move in if the sniper attacks again -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Barbara, you know I used to cover the Pentagon. They used to be quite sensitive to releasing some of this kind of information publicly. Have the details that are now coming out of this new operation helping local law enforcement? Has that caused any heartburn over at the Pentagon where you are?

STARR: Well, that's a tough question to answer but the Pentagon is taking a very practical approach to this. No. 1, they say, they could not really keep secret the fact that military aircraft were operating over Washington, D.C. in this type of operation. It was something they felt the public had a right to know was going on. They also say that there are very strict laws governing what they can do and what they can not do and they want the public to have a very clear understanding that they will be operating inside the law, well inside the law.

But there's another interesting aspect that we learned about today and again it's a very practical matter. This is very busy commercial air traffic space here in the Metropolitan Washington area. As you know, there are two major airports in this area.

These aircraft are now going to have to be integrated or fit into the commercial air traffic patterns here in this area, so it is something the FAA is going to have to work on and it was believed that small aircraft pilots, small planes would see these other aircraft and it would become a known fact anyhow. So, they decided to say what type of aircraft. They would strongly prefer that the news media not discuss all of the details, which we are not doing.

BLITZER: All right, Barbara Starr, nothing we want to do is going to we hope undermine this investigation. Thanks very much for that report. Barbara yesterday broke this story right here on CNN.

And how has Saddam Hussein survived this long? A look inside the Iraqi leader's world, from his obsession with security to his personal habits with best-selling author Mark Bowden.

And tracking a sniper with cameras and microphones are the news media jeopardizing your security when covering spree killings. First, today's news quiz. Which notorious serial killer was actually two people: Jack the Ripper, Hillside Strangler, Green River Killer, Son of Sam? The answer coming up?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back, much more coverage on a search for a sniper coming up, but there are also major developments in the showdown with Iraq. With the stroke of the pen, the president today cleared the way for a possible use of the sword.

Let's go live to our Senior White House Correspondent John King for details -- John.

JOHN KING, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you know presidents are not required to sign congressional resolutions but Mr. Bush very much wanted to stage an elaborate event here at the White House today, a bipartisan group from Congress on hand. Mr. Bush has some very difficult and delicate diplomacy still on the Iraq question, the event today, so Mr. Bush could say that on this issue in his view the United States is speaking with one determined voice.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING (voice-over): The signing ceremony marked a victory at home, congressional authority to use military force against Iraq. Mr. Bush used the stage to send a message to Baghdad.

BUSH: If they have any doubt our nation's resolve, our determination, they would be unwise to test it.

KING: And a message to those resisting the U.S. call for a tough United Nations Security Council ultimatum to Iraq.

BUSH: Those who choose to live in denial may eventually be forced to live in fear. Every nation that shares in the benefits of peace also shares in the duty of defending the peace.

KING: It has been five weeks now since the president told the United Nations he wanted action on Iraq within weeks and the administration is losing patience with the slow pace of debate and with continued objections from Russia and France.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Iraq also a lead topic in the seventh meeting here at the White House today between the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and President Bush. Mr. Bush said he fully expected that Israel would retaliate if Iraq launched an unprovoked attack, but the two leaders sidestepped the much more difficult issue, what would Israel do if Iraq launched a missile its way during a U.S. led military confrontation?

In the last Gulf War, Israel agreed to stay on the sidelines and let the United States handle the fight. Mr. Bush wants it that way this time, but Prime Minister Sharon has said he would be inclined to retaliate. U.S. officials extraordinarily reluctant to discuss the details of the private meeting today, although Mr. Bush did appear to buy himself some time for continued deliberations, consultations with Israel, saying he has not made the decision to use military force yet, the implication being that question is still premature -- Wolf.

BLITZER: John King at the White House for us. Thank you very much, John.

And the United Nations began formal discussions today on what to do about Iraq. The U.N. Security Council is considering a new resolution on Iraqi weapons inspections and it will be hearing debate from members of the General Assembly through tomorrow. The Secretary- General Kofi Annan is backing a resolution that would demand unrestricted access to suspected Iraq weapons sites.

And despite the international storm clouds, the Iraqi President Saddam Hussein says he still has the support of his people. Iraq held an election, so-called election, yesterday and today and the government says Saddam Hussein was elected to another seven year term by a vote of, get this, 100 percent. Saddam Hussein's supporters celebrated in Baghdad. Critics, of course, say it's a joke. One Iraqi dissident said this: "Who else but a dictator gets 100 percent of the vote?" And there was 100 percent turnout as well.

There's no voting in the Kurdish safe haven of Northern Iraq. The region comprises about ten percent of the country but operates independently with protection provided by allied air patrols in the northern no-fly zone, the U.S. and Britain doing that. Those who live in this area enjoy much more freedom than their counterparts under Baghdad's control, and although many followed the election, they also felt free to criticize it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People are afraid so they choose him and choose his own government and his own party, so it's just a play. It's not for real.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: At the end of the Persian Gulf War, Saddam Hussein appeared to be utterly defeated but the Iraqi leader has proven himself to be a survivor and experts who once counted him out are trying to determine how much damage he could do in a new conflict.

The award-winning author and journalist Mark Bowden wrote about Saddam Hussein in a recent issue of "The Atlantic Monthly." His latest book is called "Finders Keepers." He joins us now live from New York. Mark thanks for joining us. A lot of our viewers are fascinated by the personal details of Saddam Hussein and his life. Just briefly give us a little flavor of what this man does on a day- to-day basis.

MARK BOWDEN, AUTHOR AND JOURNALIST: He actually lives a kind of a healthy lifestyle, Wolf. He apparently only sleeps like five or six hours a night but he has a bit of a bad back so he likes to swim, both to keep fit and also to help his back. He eats healthy foods. He likes a lot of seafood and greens, and this food is flown in for him from Europe and it's cooked by European chefs after it's tested for poisons and eradicated to kill any possible germs in it.

Saddam is a little bit of a germaphobe. People who visit him are frequently asked to strip and to sort of wash down with antibacterial soaps and things. He likes to read a lot. He rides horses. He likes to walk, although he walks with a slight limp, so he tries to take his walks behind the walls of his palaces.

BLITZER: And I know he's a very vain man also. He tries to look younger than he actually is. What does he do in that respect?

BOWDEN: Well, Saddam I think he's about 65, 67 years old. There's no clear fix on his birth date but he definitely has gray hair at this point and a gray moustache but he dies them black. He need reading glasses to read his speeches, so he doesn't want to be seen wearing glasses so he has the speeches printed out in very big type so that he can read them without his glasses.

He wears custom-tailored suits, and I think he -- you know, I think all these things, in addition to him being vain, are examples of him trying to project an image of youth and vitality, which I think he needs to do in order to hang on to power.

BLITZER: There's been a lot of speculation lately about his body doubles -- the people who go out there and pretend that they're Saddam Hussein. What have you learned about that?

BOWDEN: Well, I know that his whole life is built around the need to protect him, because there are so many people who would like to kill him. Not the least of which, apparently, is the United States government. And so in pursuit of that, his whole daily activity, his nightly activity, is structured around keeping people guessing about where he is.

And part of that is that he apparently has three or four men who look exactly like him, may have even undergone plastic surgery to more closely resemble him. And they make public appearances for him. I doubt Saddam Hussein has appeared in public at all in the last five to six years.

BLITZER: Briefly, what is his ultimate goal, as far as you could learn?

BOWDEN: Well, Saddam appears to be motivated not by any kind of ideology or not by a desire to amass a huge fortune, which are things that have been the goals of dictators in the past. He seems to be motivated by a desire to go down in history as a great man.

And he admires some of the great men in history, somewhat indiscriminately. He admires Stalin, for instance, and he's also apparently an admirer of Winston Churchill. But he writes novels, he writes his own speeches.

He -- and he considers himself to be one of the great statesmen of modern Arabia. And I think his goal is to be seen in 100 years' time, or 200 years' time, as a real champion for pan Arabism and Arab culture, in a time when it's not in its ascendency.

BLITZER: Mark Bowden, he's one of the best journalists, one of the best writers out there. Thanks for joining us.

BOWDEN: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: We have new information on the hunt for the sniper. That's coming up.

Plus, wall-to-wall coverage of this search. Are the news media, for example, going overboard or providing a crucial flow of information? Two news veterans join us live. We'll have an assessment when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. We're going to go straight back to Montgomery County, Maryland, Rockville, the police headquarters. That's where CNN's Kathleen Koch is standing by. She has some breaking news on the sniper investigation -- Kathleen. KOCH: Wolf, CNN has learned from a highly-placed source very close to the investigation that task force members have taken those partial plates that some witnesses were able to get from that light- colored Chevy Astro van at the site of the shooting in Falls Church, Virginia, Monday night.

They've taken those plates and they're running them through the computers at Maryland's Department of Motor Vehicles. It was apparently a partial Maryland plate that was spotted.

Now, we don't know whether they saw a group of numbers or a group of letters that they recalled. But again, authorities are running a check on those. They're running that now and we haven't gotten any word as to whether or not they found a match.

It could be a very time-consuming process because they only found one or two numbers. It takes quite some time, a very lengthy, time- consuming computer search, to narrow down and find out which of those numbers might also match, might be on a light colored Chevy Astro van. Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And, Kathleen, as far as you know, this is the first time that they've even gotten close to looking at partial numbers on a license plate, isn't that right?

KOCH: It is the first time, Wolf, and it can be be very important, especially if this van is part of a fleet. Say, a fleet belonging to a company where they bought 10 vans at the same time. The vans have very similar numbers at the end of a license -- 1234, 1235, 1236. And so if they caught, say, the last three or four numbers, that could give police a real jump in this investigation.

BLITZER: Kathleen Koch, stand by. We'll be coming back to you as more news becomes available. Appreciate it very much.

We turn our focus of attention to the news media's coverage of the sniper attacks in the Washington area. The story, of course, has received lots of air play, locally as well as nationally. But what about the quality of the coverage?

With me to talk about about that, Bob Schieffer. He's the chief Washington correspondent for CBS News, the host of "Face the Nation." Also Tom Rosensteil, the director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

Gentlemen, thanks for joining us. Bob, well, you're an honest guy. You're one of best in the business. Have we gone overboard or are we doing an adequate job?

BOB SCHIEFFER, HOST, "FACE THE NATION": I think it's a tough job to do, but my answer is no, I don't think so. I think it's very important for the public be to be kept informed, for the public to have credible information and knowledge of what's happening here.

Because the other side of it is, if you shut off all the information, then rumors get started. And especially in this day and age, with the Internet and so much information bombarding us, you set off rumors and you run the risk of panic setting in. So I think it's a very important part of this process, for the public to be kept informed as to what the state of the investigation is.

BLITZER: Tom, I get tons of hate e-mail out there; people saying we're going overboard, we're playing into the sniper's hands, we're making matters worse, we're undermining the investigation.

TOM ROSENSTEIL, PROJ. FOR EXC. IN JOURNALISM: Seems to me there are two questions. The first one is, are we providing information that gives us the killer insight into the way that the cops are working, and to the way that police investigate these things? Not unlike wartime, are you helping the enemy?

And I think there may be occasinos, particularly when we have criminologists who are not involved in the investigation, speculating on what police are doing, police procedures, where we may be educating the killer into procedures that we shouldn't.

The second question...

BLITZER: Let me just pick up on that, then we'll get to the second point. How do we avoid doing that, Bob? You and I have been in Washington a long time. And we sort of learn as we go along, but we don't want to do anything tha'ts going to help the killer.

SCHIEFFER: And I think that's very important here. I mean, I think a lot of the complaints you get is simply frustration from the public. I mean, let's face it here. There are no two sides to this question. Everybody wants to catch this killer. The news media is on the side of the police. We're all on the same side here. Nobody's trying to undermine the police.

I think Tom raises the very interesting and the key thing, though, is, in time of war, in Vietnam, we would never, when we were going out with troops, would ever have broadcast troop movements. And that's one of the things that when you're covering a military campaign, you don't broadcast strategy. You don't give away what -- what's about to happen.

But -- and I don't think that's happened here. But I think that you do get this public frustration because they're like we are. They want to catch this guy and they want to see some progress.

BLITZER: And, Tom, there's a widespread assumption out there that he or they are watching the news media all the time and maybe reacting to reports and doing certain things as a result of what they're seeing.

ROSENSTEIL: And police presumably want to play on that. They want to use that. They want to use us. And part of our job is, while we're on the side of the police, we're not an extension of the police. We are also a watchdog over whether they're doing a good job.

The second question I think is, are we covering it too much, not just what are we covering. And there the line for me is, when you see us doing reports that have no news, and we're doing them simply because we think we're going to get -- generate ratings, that's the point where we're making a marketing decision and not a journalistic decision. And I see that all the time on television, but I'm not sure I've seen that in this case.

There is such an enormous public demand for information that governs how we live our lives, where do I go, what's the profile of the killer, how do I want to restrict my movements? The police today in a briefing talked about what to do if you're a witness -- how to behave and recall things.

BLITZER: That's some useful information for all of our viewers.

ROSENSTEIL: We, as citizens, are in a sense players in the investigation here. So there's a very important need. Outside Washington it's a tougher call, national broadcast...

BLITZER: When the CBS affiliate, also CNN affiliate channel 9 here, WUSA, reported the other day on the tarot card. And Chief Moose, Charles Moose, the Montgomery County police chief, he was very he upset about that. Because supposedly the killer left a note, don't let this get out. Did channel 9 and subsequently "The Washington Post" and all of us do the right thing by reporting this?

SCHIEFFER: I think it's a very tough call. But I think the thing we have to remember is, the reporter, who is a veteran crime reporter, Mike Buchanan, who is the one that got that story -- knows every cop within a hundred miles...

BLITZER: He's been around Washington forever.

SCHIEFFER: He didn't find the tarot card. Somebody gave him that information, one of the investigators. And it's my understanding that he was told they wanted it out. They wanted the news out.

BLITZER: The Prince George's County investigators, as opposed to the Montgomery County investigators.

SCHIEFFER: We don't know, I don't know the details on that.

BLITZER: He says, Tom, on this particular point, he told the Prince George's County police, I'm going with this. And nobody said to him, no, no, no, don't do that. Because if somebody would have said to him, hold back, he would have.

SCHIEFFER: Well, exactly. And I know Mike and I know that in fact he would have done that, had he been requested. But the point I'm trying to make is, part of that investigative team thought it was a good strategy to put that information out, for the obvious reason.

They would say, you know, somebody would hear that and say, oh, I know a guy who was always fooling with these tarot cards. Well, maybe that's a right strategy, maybe it isn't. But when you're covering a story like this you can't go out and ask all the police officers in the whole county to vote on whether to put something out or not.

BLITZER: Just button it up in 10 seconds.

ROSENSTEIL: I think what our job is, in that case, is to ask the cops, is there any reason why I shouldn't go with this? And if you disagree, if you want to override what the cops do, you have an obligation to explain to the public, we asked, they said not to do it, we're going to do it anyway and here's why. We need to be transparent with the public about why we're making the choices we are.

SCHIEFFER: And no responsible reporter would refuse a police request in a situation like that.

BLITZER: Although I must say, all of us are still learning as we're going along.

SCHIEFFER: Absolutely.

BLITZER: And this is not a perfect science. We do make mistakes.

SCHIEFFER: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Bob Schieffer, good friend, Tom Rosensteil, thanks for joining us.

Here's your chance to weigh in. Our Web question of the day is this: Overall, what grade wuld you give the news media for covering the sniper story? WE'll have the results later in theis program. Vote cnn.com/wolf.

While you're there, send me your comments. I'll try to read some of them on the air each day at the end of this program. It's also where you can read my daily online column, cnn.com/wolf.

The guns, the bullets, shell casings -- police use every clue to hunt down a cold-blooded killer. On the path of the sniper, when we return.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have this feeling that I'm not safe here anymore. It's really sad to say that, but we are not safe here anymore.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: A day in the life with a sniper on the loose. A closer look at residents trying to get on with their lives. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Earlier we asked, which notorious serial killer was actually two people? The answer: the Hillside Strangler. Two cousins are blamed for a five-month killing spree in Los Angeles between 1977 and 1978.

Investigators say one witness to Monday night's shooting tells them the sniper used an AK-74 military assault rifle. CNN law enforcement analyst Mike Brooks is joining me now from Atlanta with more on this weapon.

Mike, when you take a look at what you know about this -- and I know you're still very well plugged in to the Washington area law enforcement community -- what are you hearing?

MIKE BROOKS, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I'm hearing, Wolf, that this particular weapon, the AK-74 -- not to be confused with the AK-47, which most people have heard of before -- this particular weapon was supposedly seen in the hands of the shooter by one witness at the Home Depot scene.

So law enforcement officials have said they're looking into that fact. But this AK-74 is not a common weapon. There's only been one -- apparently only one version of the AK -- of the AK-74 that actually will fit a 223, and that's a Chinese version that's not as common as the AR-15.

So police are looking at that, but they still think that it possibly could be an AR-15 that has been used by the shooter.

BLITZER: And the actual casing, the bullet, you could go into what, 30 or 40 of these high powered rifles?

BROOKS: That's exactly right. The 223 round is a fairly common round. But there was a shell casing that was found at the Tasker Middle School. There was also a shell casing found at the first Spotsylvania County site, in the parking lot of Michael's craft store, where the woman was wounded.

But one of these shell casings, the one that was found at Tasker Middle School, there was actually some marks that were leading law enforcement to believe that it was an ejector mark, that was consistent with an AR-15 semiautomatic-type rifle.

BLITZER: What, if anything, does it tell us, if in fact it was an AK-74, about the shooter?

BROOKS: Well, I don't know how much you can really glean from saying, you know, this particular gun as opposed to the AR-15. The AK-74 is not as accurate of an weapon as the AR-15. The scope is not as easy to mount on the weapon as it is on an AR-15. That's why you really can't draw any conclusions from an AK-74 to an AR-15. But the AR-15 is more common. And I think law enforcement is still leaning to the AR-15 semiautomatic.

BLITZER: All right, Mike Brooks, thanks for that information, very good information.

When we come back, living life in the crosshairs. Everday activities now complicated by new realities. We spent the day with one mom trying to cope with a sniper on the loose.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS CORE, WMAL RADIO HOST: I know it's taking a toll on everybody's nerves. It's taking a toll on my nerves, it's taking a toll on yours, every place you go.

I heard a woman today, she was talking on a cell phone walking down the street -- you know those people -- and she was staying to her friend on the other side of the phone, "You mean you actually gassed up yourself today?"

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That was Chris Core from Washington radio station WMAL, touching a little on how life has changed so dramatically for all of us who live in this area since the sniper began his rampage.

For many people who live near the scene of the latest attack, it's the fear and uncertainty of when and where the sniper will strike next that's hardest to take. CNN's Serena Altschul talked with some of them.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SERENA ALTSCHUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As people here in Falls Church, Virginia mourn the latest victim of the sniper shootings, this spontaneous memorial continues to grow.

(on camera): You park in this parking lot every day that you work here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every day, yes. Like I said, it could have been me, it could have been anybody that I know. I have this feeling that we're not safe here anymore. It's really sad to say that, but we are not safe anymore.

ALTSCHUL (voice-over): Safety is on the minds of many people here. We met a young mother who lives just a block away from the last shooting.

(on camera): You're raising her on your own, you're a single mom.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I am a single mother and I raise her all myself. She's my heart. Mommy couldn't live without you, right?

ALTSCHUL: Are you still -- are you afraid at this point?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm just so horrified, for my daughter's sake and for mine. Because what if something happened to me? Then I couldn't be here for my daughter. And if something happened to her, I just wouldn't even want to go on living. Especially smoe sicko out here, just killing people at living.

ALTSCHUL (voice-over): Jessica feels she has no choice but to keep her daughter indoors as much as possible. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was here in my neighborhood, blocks away. I take my daughter out to ride her bicycle. Did you ride your bicycle outside with Mommy?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. But I am definitely not taking her out until this guy is captured.

ALTSCHUL: And as long as the sniper is still out there, Jessica's nerves are on edge. We were interrupted by sirens.

(on camera): It makes your heart jump though, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am like oh, my God. Every second is like, oh, my goodness.

ALTSCHUL (voice-over): It's often the uncertainty of it all that's most difficult to deal with.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I look at any guy, I look at any woman, anybody. I mean, I'm just sick to my stomach every moment. I will not sleep or feel safe until this guy is off the streets.

ALTSCHUL: Serena Altschul, CNN, Falls Church, Virginia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: A lot of people feel just like that, unfortunately. Time is running out for you to weigh in on our Web question of the day. Overall, what grade would you give the news media for covering the sniper story? Log on to cnn.com/wolf. You can vote right there and we'll have the results immediately when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here's how you're weighing in on our Web question of the day. Earlier we asked this question. Overall, what grade wuld you give the news media for covering the sniper story? Look at this, 14 percent of you say A, 18 percent, B, 20 percent, C, 20 percent D, 28 percent of you say F, that's failure.

You can find the exact vote tally and continue to vote on my Web page, cnn.com/wolf. Remember, this is not a scientific poll.

Let's get some of your e-mail. Martin is writing this: "What concerns me about these shootings is the possibility that someone misght start committing copycat shootings. Since the original sniper hasn't been caught, we'd never know how many killers we're dealing with."

Jim writes this: "Why are the media referring to this killer as a sniper? Snipers are trained by the military and do not target innocent civilians. To call the killer a sniper is a degradation of real snipers, who are highly skilled and trained to protect our citizens." That view from Jim. Remember, I want to hear from you. E-mail me. Go to my Web page, cnn.com/wolf.

That's all the time we have today. Please join me again tomorrow, 5:00 p.m. Eastern. Also, please join me for my new program, "SHOWDOWN: IRAQ," weekdays noon Eastern.

Tonight, special coverage of the sniper on the loose. First, at 7:00 Eastern, a "CROSSFIRE" town meeting. At 8:00 Eastern tonight Connie Chung devotes her entire program to this story.

I'll be be back tomorrow. Until then, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Lou Dobbs "MONEYLINE" is next.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com



Signs Resolution Authorizing War>

© 2004 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser.
CNN.com does not endorse external sites.