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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview With Louie Allen

Aired August 13, 2003 - 20:01   ET

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

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm joined live from Newark, New Jersey by Louie F. Allen. He's the special agent in charge of the FBI's office in Newark where the British national was arrested. Agent Allen, thanks very much for joining us.
Tell us about this operation. How long was it in the works?

LOUIE F. ALLEN, SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: This was approximately a two year investigation which started in the fall of 2001 and culminated with the arrest of the subjects yesterday.

BLITZER: What was the decision-making behind the decision to go ahead and make the arrest yesterday as opposed to letting it continue?

ALLEN: Well, Wolf, when you get a chance like this you have to arrest the individual and take him off the street. It's a matter of safety. We couldn't prolong the investigation any longer. We had all the information that we needed to make an effective arrest.

BLITZER: When you say it was a matter of safety, we're told, though, that the Russian made SA-18 antiaircraft missile, the shoulder-fired missile, was a dud. It really had no dangerous explosives or anything along that nature.

ALLEN: Well, that was just one; however, the investigation as I speak continues and we were still trying to find out if there were any other deals conducted by the subject or any other people. So, you have to do what you have to do and I couldn't let it go on any further and take responsibility and make the arrest. Our first concern is the safety of the public that we serve.

BLITZER: Mr. Lakhani, the suspect in this particular case, was he a big fish, a small fish, a medium-sized fish?

ALLEN: Well, you know, I wouldn't rather comment on that. We still have an investigation going but this is a significant arrest for the U.S. government. I'll say that.

BLITZER: I want you to listen to what President Bush said earlier today about this sting operation, listen to this Agent Allen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The fact that we were able to sting this guy is a pretty good example of what we're doing in order to protect the American people. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: How concerned should the American people be about the possibility that terrorists, if you will, could get one of these missiles and try to shoot down a U.S. commercial airliner?

ALLEN: Well, there is a concern but, again, you have to realize that all throughout this country we have joint terrorist task forces investigating allegations and matters like this and as far as the public concern, I wouldn't be too concerned.

As a matter of fact, I just flew in Newark Airport the other night so and I knew this investigation was ongoing and I really wasn't concerned.

We have people out there every day from all law enforcement agencies on the joint terrorism task forces which is the vehicle to address terrorism in this country and they're investigating matters and allegations like this every day.

BLITZER: Agent Allen, thanks very much for joining us.

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