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Hamas Leader Rantisi Assassinated; Does U.S. Intelligence Need a Make-Over?; Troops Welcomed Home at Fort Dix

Aired April 18, 2004 - 08:00   ET


CATHERINE CALLAWAY, CNN ANCHOR: We would like to on it read your e-mail this morning. Our question again, is U.S. foreign policy on the right track? Here's our address,
RENAY SAN MIGUEL, ANCHOR: In the meantime, the next hour of CNN SUNDAY MORNING begins right now.

And from the CNN Center in Atlanta, it is Sunday morning, April 18, and this is CNN SUNDAY MORNING. I'm Renay San Miguel.

CALLAWAY: Good morning everyone. I'm Catherine Callaway.

Coming up in this hour, mobs of angry Palestinians in Gaza bury a Hamas leader that was struck down by an Israeli missile. A look at the big picture for Hamas and Israel coming up.

And a Minnesota family grieves anew as the spring thaw reveals the awful fate of their daughter, who has been missing since November.

And what will it take to fix U.S. intelligence operations? We'll take a look inside the FBI and the CIA.

SAN MIGUEL: Here's what's happening at the hour. An American soldier falls in Iraq. The U.S. military says the soldier died of his wounds after a roadside bomb exploded near his convoy in Baghdad.

And according to an embedded newspaper reporter, five Marines and scores of insurgents were killed in a 14-hour battle near the Iraq- Syrian border.

Pope John offers the Vatican is appealing for the release of hostages in Iraq. He's offering that the Vatican can serve as mediator in negotiating their release. The pontiff is also addressing issues in the Middle East by calling for an end to inhuman bloodshed.

In Gaza, the Islamic military group Hamas is keeping the identity of its newest leader under wraps. Former Hamas chief Abdel Aziz Rantisi was killed in a targeted assassination attack by Israel yesterday.

In Iowa, some call the disturbance at Iowa State University a riot. It took police several hours and some tear gas to get things back under control. It comes amid the two-day festival that's billed as the largest student run alcohol-free celebration in the nation.

CALLAWAY: New escalation in the Middle East conflict after Israeli forces assassinate the leader of the Islamic militant group, Hamas.

Thousands of Palestinians are in the streets of Gaza city, demanding revenge now. Israel says that Abdel Aziz Rantisi was directly responsible for numerous terrorist attacks.

And CNN's John Vause is joining us now live in Gaza City with the latest on events there.

What can you tell us, John?


Well, I can tell you that Abdel Aziz Rantisi's body has now been buried at a cemetery not far from his home here in Gaza, but earlier his body with his face exposed was carried through the streets of Gaza, along with the bodies of his driver and bodyguard. All three killed by an Israeli missile strike here last night.

Through that procession, tens of thousands of people turned out, throwing flowers and candy, a tradition at funerals in Gaza. They're all vowing revenge. There were protests, too, in other West Bank cities like Nablus and Jenin.

In Nablus, for example, they burned effigies of Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, and also U.S. President George W. Bush, a sign that many in this region link this Israeli-targeted killing to the United States, as well.

Rantisi promised a massive retaliation once he took office after the killing of Sheikh Yassin, the spiritual leader of Hamas. He never delivered on that promise, but right now Hamas is vowing revenge for the killing of Rantisi, saying it will plan and carry out 100 retaliations for this assassination by the Israelis. Many doubt, though, that Hamas right now has the power to carry out such retaliation.

Nonetheless, Israel remains on high alert. Its security forces have been deployed throughout the region. In the last 24 hours, according to Israeli security sources, 50 terrorist alerts.

They believe that the "big bang" if you like, the one that was delayed after the targeted killing of Sheikh Yassin, is now only a matter of time, and the border between Gaza and Israel was closed and remains closed until further notice -- Catherine.

CALLAWAY: Thank you, John Vause in Gaza City.

And Rantisi's assassination is being condemned by world leaders and the Arab League but not the White House, which says that Israel has a right to defend itself.

Let's go right to White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux, who's joining us with more on that.

Good morning, Suzanne.


the White House is really in a very difficult situation here. Publicly, it is saying that Israel has the right to defend herself, that Hamas is a terrorist organization, Rantisi, a terrorist leader.

But privately senior administration officials are expressing concern and dismay over the timing of this attack. This is the second Hamas leader that has been killed in the last four weeks. There is a great deal of concern that the possibility of violence to ensue.

And after hours of huddling, trying to figure out a response, the White House put out this statement, Scott McClellan yesterday just saying that "the United States is gravely concerned for regional peace and stability. The United States strongly urges Israel to consider carefully the consequences of its actions, and we again urge all parties to exercise maximum restraint at this time."

What complicates this is even more, the pictures we saw just three days ago, President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Aerial Sharon, together at the White House, the president endorsing this plan for Israel to pull out of Gaza but still keep some of those West Bank settlements in place. It is a plan that was widely rejected by the Palestinians and many other Arab leaders.

And this strike only fuels the perception from some Arabs that Sharon got the green light from the United States. There are State Department officials who is say that is not the case. They did not receive advanced warning of this.

But as you can imagine, this just complicates matters. This is a White House that is trying to win the support of Arab leaders in countries when it comes to the situation in Iraq.

And what we're going to see in the coming weeks is the Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage traveling to the region. Also President Bush meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah on Wednesday, trying to smooth over these matters -- Catherine.

CALLAWAY: All right, Suzanne, thank you. That's our White House correspondent for us this morning, Suzanne Malveaux -- Renay.

SAN MIGUEL: In a new book, journalist Bob Woodward writes about how Colin Powell and Dick Cheney butted heads over the war in Iraq. And the now two reportedly don't speak to one other.

In "Plan of Attack," Woodward writes that Cheney and other members of the administration were focused on Saddam Hussein from the moment they took office.

In a "60 Minutes" interview tonight, Woodward said, quote, "The secretary of state saw this in Cheney to such an extent he, Powell, told colleagues that Cheney has a fever. It is an absolute fever. It's almost as if nothing else exists," unquote,

"Plan of Attack" comes out tomorrow. In the latest news out of Iraq, five U.S. Marines reportedly have been killed in a large ambush near the Syrian border. That is according to a newspaper correspondent embedded with the Marines.

Also, the U.S. military says that an American soldier was killed yesterday by a roadside bomb in Baghdad. At least two major highways into the capital have been shut down. The military says it is to repair bomb damage.

In Najaf, third party negotiations have failed to broker an end to a standoff between an armed Shiite militia and about 2,500 U.S. troops.

The wife of civilian hostage Thomas Hamill says she has appealed to the Reverend Jesse Jackson to negotiate her husband's release. We spoke to Jackson about that last hour.


REV. JESSE JACKSON, RAINBOW COALITION/PUSH: I already talked to the Hamill family and them (ph) and seven other citizens who are held as well. Of course, the U.S. is holding a significant number of theirs, and I think that in a situation like this, as they seem to get back to the table in Fallujah, negotiation and prisoner swap must not be out of the picture.


SAN MIGUEL: There is no new information to report this morning on the fate of Private Matt Maupin, a U.S. soldier also being held hostage. A coalition spokesman was emphatic today that no negotiations would take place with the hostage takers who want to exchange Maupin for prisoners held by the coalition.

We want you to tune in at Noon Eastern Time today when joint chiefs chairman General Richard Myers will be the guest on "LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER."

And in the wake of the current situation in Iraq and the Middle East, we want to know what you think. Our e-mail question of the day, is U.S. foreign policy on the right track? E-mail your thoughts to WAM -- W-A-M -- at CNN dot com. We'll be reading those e-mails throughout the morning

CALLAWAY: After what's being described as five months of living hell, a mourning of period begins for the family of a woman that's been missing since last November.

Police found Dru Sjodin's body yesterday morning in a ditch just northwest of Crookston, Minnesota. Medical examiners are now working on a definite I.D. The 22-year-old University of North Dakota student disappeared after leaving her job at a local shopping mall last year.

Her father reacted to yesterday's grim news.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ALLAN SJODIN, DRU SJODIN'S FATHER: It's a bittersweet, day. It's kind what -- it's kind of what we've been preparing ourselves for, you know, mentally, but, you know, it's just a devastating day, obviously. We don't have our little baby anymore. She's going to watch over us now. She's going to lead us. She's going to direct us and take care of us.


CALLAWAY: In other news this morning, military honors for five naval reservists in Baltimore. The five helped rescue 20 passengers from a water taxi accident that occurred last month.

The reservists received a medal, commendations signed by President Bush and the secretary of the Navy, as well as congressional commendations. The rescue crew saved 20 people in the March 6 accident in Baltimore Harbor. Five others were killed.

SAN MIGUEL: The Bush administration is seriously considering an overhaul of the nation's intelligence agencies. We'll take a look at lessons learned from 9/11.

CALLAWAY: And after a year in Iraq, these troops from New Jersey learned at least one thing: it is good to be home.

SAN MIGUEL: And then later on "HOUSE CALL," for awhile it seemed cure-all for some, but now new information about the risks that come with hormone replacement therapy. Dr. Sanjay Gupta explores options for women, still ahead.


SAN MIGUEL: Good morning, Washington D.C. It looks like it's going to be eye beautiful morning there. It will be a good chance to get out and check out the cherry blossoms. Your complete weather forecast ahead in about ten minutes from now. CNN SUNDAY MORNING continues in just a moment.


CALLAWAY: A member of the commission investigating the 9/11 attacks says that she has received death threats. Jamie Gorelick says she received harassing e-mail and a bomb threat last week.

Some have charged that her work prior as deputy attorney general in the Justice Department contributed to the failure to thwart the terrorism attacks.

Gorelick says that she will continue serving on that commission, and the FBI is investigating the threats.

Meanwhile, the final report from the 9/11 commission may help determine whether the country's top intelligence agencies will undergo an overhaul. Here to talk all about that and to discuss a likely outcome, Ronald Kessler. He is author of the book "The Bureau: The Secret History of the FBI," joining us live from Washington this morning.

Thanks for being with us.


CALLAWAY: There have been some major changes with the FBI since 9/11. We have new head of that department. What has been the best change that you've seen so far?

KESSLER: You know, people understand that with a company like G.E., the CEO is critically important. We had someone like Jack Welch, and he made such a difference.

It's the same with agencies, and the fact that Mueller, who took over a week before 9/11, is so focused on prevention, understands technology, understands the need for analysis -- started some of that even before 9/11 -- has made a tremendous difference.

CALLAWAY: Twenty-five percent of the agents now assigned to counter terrorism. That's a big change.

KESSLER: Yes. That compares with about six percent before 9/11. But still, the FBI has 11,500 agents total. That compares with about 40,000 New York City police officers. I think the FBI should be doubled. I think that would make a big difference.

CALLAWAY: Double the size of the FBI?

KESSLER: Yes, the FBI has to investigate some 300 federal violations, organized crime, white-collar crime, political corruption, espionage, as well as terrorism. And it really doesn't make sense to have an FBI at the current level, in my opinion.

CALLAWAY: Communications was a big problem with the FBI and the CIA. I know we heard John Ashcroft repeatedly talking about that wall. We know the FBI now is highly computerized. Have you seen major changes within that agency now of knocking down that communication barrier?

KESSLER: Yes, there's this new threat integration center, which allows the FBI to share information in real time with the CIA.

Because of Mueller, they've ordered thousands of new Dell computers. They do -- they are upgrading technology, whereas Louis Freeh, the previous director, had the computer in his own office taken out as soon as he took over. That showed the difference.

But the important thing is still penetrating these organizations, and that doesn't -- that's not a matter of sharing information. It's a matter of getting the information in the first place. And to do that, you need the resources. You need the commitment. President Bush has shown that by meeting every morning with Mueller and Tenet, applying pressure. That's very important.

CALLAWAY: All right. So you want to see that FBI, the numbers increase or the number of agents that they have. But now we're hearing about this proposal from the White House to create this new post that would sort of be the mother of all agencies and oversee that, you know. Would that be advantageous, too?

KESSLER: I think a lot of that is just a lot of media talk and congressional talk. The White House is not going to go for that.

It's a foolish idea. It's just something that would make things much worse, because it would create a new agency, which would not have law enforcement powers, would not be guided by criminal laws. Therefore, it could get into violations of civil liberties. And if they needed to make an arrest, as they would, they would have to go to the FBI and try to persuade the FBI to arrest the person. It's just a nutty idea, believe me.

CALLAWAY: But you know what? We did find out what we've been hearing about the investigations into 9/11, that indeed the communication was the problem, that a lot of things could have been prevented that occurred on 9/11.

What about this culture of secrecy? Does it still exist at all between these agencies?

KESSLER: No. Things have totally changed since 9/11. And so a lot of what you're seeing from the 9/11 commission is old news. They really are sharing now, and that's making a big difference. The MI-6 idea, or MI-5 idea, is not pushed by anybody who's actually investigated counter terrorism.

CALLAWAY: That's interesting.

KESSLER: It's simply a lot of academics trying to publish papers.

CALLAWAY: Ron Kessler, thank you very much for being with us this morning.

KESSLER: My pleasure, thank you.

SAN MIGUEL: Home at last. National Guard troops return from Iraq to a very warm welcome.

CALLAWAY: And breaking with royal tradition, Prince William tries out a different kind of polo, coming up.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: J.K. Rowling is living a fairy tale. The creator of schoolboy wizard Harry Potter is the first $1 billion author and last year topped the list of highest earning British women, wealthier than even Queen Elizabeth. Not bad for a former single mother on welfare.

Rowling, who is credited with getting scores of kids interested in reading, wrote the first Potter book in a coffee shop while her daughter napped. J.K. ROWLING, AUTHOR: I thought I was writing quite an obscure book. I never expected it to have broad appeal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rowling couldn't have been more wrong. So far, she's written five books. The latest, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," broke publishing records set by previous Potter books.

Harry's transition to the big screen also captivated audiences. The first two movies, "The Sorcerer's Stone" and "The Chamber of Secrets," grossed nearly $2 billion worldwide, and the third will be released in June.



SAM MIGUEL: The Scottish National University's water polo squad in Cardiff, Wales, got some royal help from Prince William this weekend. But it was all for naught as the Scottish team lost to Ireland and Wales in the Celtic Nations Tournament.

The prince didn't score, but that didn't seem to matter much to the female fans in the crowd. You know, he always seems to score with them.

I'm sorry. I've been reading too many British tabloids. I apologize.


CALLAWAY: Here's another look at our top stories this is morning.

In Gaza City, thousands of Palestinians vow revenge for the assassination of Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi. He died after an Israeli gunship fired a missile into his car.

And in Minnesota, the spring thaw reveals the awful fat of missing college student Dru Sjodin. She disappeared back in November. Authorities have yet to decide if they will seek federal murder charges against a convicted sex offender awaiting trial on kidnapping charges.

SAN MIGUEL: Want to get to a couple of more e-mail questions. This is the -- e-mail answers for you for the question is the U.S. foreign policy on the right track with what's going on with Iraq and the Middle East.

CALLAWAY: Here's one from Scott in Huntersville, North Carolina. "In my opinion, yes. For eight years we were attacked without consequence, and one can only guess if there would have been a 9/11 if a war on terror had started during the last administration when it should have.

SAN MIGUEL: Larry in Texas takes a decidedly different view. "Are you serious? No, it is not on the right track. We have started a combined Zionist and fundamental Christian crusade against Islam. How could any thinking person think that is the right track?"

The address is, again WAM -- W-A-M -- at CNN dot com. Is U.S. foreign policy on the right track?

Well, if absence makes the heart grow fonder, then there are a lot of happy hearts in New Jersey's Fort Dix today. After a year in Iraq, all members of a National Guard unit are back. And after a period of demobilization, they'll be going home.

Adaora Udoji was there when the company arrived.


ADAORA UDOJI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Families came early to Fort Dix. Thrilled and overjoyed, they came so ready to welcome their soldiers home from Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My heart's racing. Tears are coming already. I'm just excited.

UDOJI: Armed with signs for the troops, even messages from the family dog.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Glad to see him home!

UDOJI: It was a day of great celebration for the return of 160 New Jersey National Guard reservists, as part of a rotation of 137,000 troops there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's up, buddy!

UDOJI: some family members could barely express their emotions. Some, like Buffy Hinckler.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm kind of speechless right now which doesn't happen very often. I'm just so happy to have him home.

UDOJI: Much has changed in the year the troops have been gone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This one, you got very much bigger.

UDOJI: The soldiers of the 253rd Transportation Company consider themselves fortunate they came back whole. Not one of them suffered any serious injury.

(on camera) For now, these reunions only be lasting for a couple of hours, and that's because these soldiers will be staying on this base to begin what the military calls the demobilization process.

(voice-over) For up to two weeks, they will hand over equipment, update their records before discharge.

(on camera) Did you think this day would ever come?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, God, for a minute, no.

UDOJI (voice-over): Nicola Harvey (ph) knows the Pentagon has postponed scheduled departures of roughly 20,000 soldiers in Iraq. But relatives in this room, while sending prayers to the families, feel so fortunate their loved ones have come home.

Adaora Udoji, CNN, Fort Dix, New Jersey.


CALLAWAY: Coming up, on CNN SUNDAY MORNING, your HOUSE CALL. A look at what options women have, now that hormone replacement therapy has fallen out of favor.

And in the next hour on "CNN SUNDAY," a look at the volatile situation in the Middle East and whether yesterday's targeted assassination makes it even more dangerous.

And then later next hour, we will meet a documentary filmmaker who got a unique look at Osama bin Laden's family.

The headlines after the break.



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