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PAULA ZAHN NOW

Interview With Saudi Prince Bandar; New Book Sends Shockwaves Through Bush Administration; Rage in Gaza

Aired April 19, 2004 - 20:00   ET

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


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. Welcome to a brand new week. I'm Paula Zahn.
It is Monday, April 19, 2004.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): A new book sends shockwaves through the Bush administration. Was Colin Powell out of the loop?

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: With respect to my support for what the president did, it is complete.

ZAHN: I'll get perspective from Secretary Powell's predecessor, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Rage boils in Gaza after Israel targets and kills the leader of Hamas. Can the peace process survive?

And if diamonds were your best friend, he was your worst enemy. A master jewel thief turned author shares some of the secrets of his former trade and drops some of the names of his victims.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Also ahead tonight, what the voters think of President Bush and John Kerry. Plus, a hometown rallies around a family whose son is one of the captives in Iraq.

First, though, some of the headlines you need to know right now at this hour. President Bush has picked John Negroponte to be the U.S. ambassador to Iraq when sovereignty is turned over on John 30 -- if, that is. Negroponte is currently the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Spain's defense minister says it will take less than six weeks to pull the country's 1,400 troops out of Iraq. The government elected after the Madrid train bombings took power over the weekend and pulled out of the Iraq coalition.

And Jordan's King Abdullah has put off Wednesday's scheduled visit to Washington in order to allow for more time for negotiations in the Middle East peace process.

"In Focus" tonight, the question just about everyone in Washington is asking and around the country: Did Bob Woodward get it right? His new book, "Plan of Attack," would seem tonight ultimate insider's view of the Bush administration's path, some might say even rush to war in Iraq.

Senior White House correspondent John King joins us from the North Lawn with details on the book's controversial allegations.

Good evening, John.

Did the president brief Mr. Bander on the Iraqi war plan before he talked with Colin Powell?

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No, the president, Paula, did brief him Prince Bandar.

But the White House says, when he briefed him, he had not made the decision to go to war just yet. And the White House insists that Secretary Powell knew everything about the plan at that point. Overall, the White House says it likes this book and it encourages people to read it. But that is one of the points the White House is trying to rebut.

And you see the secretary here. He was in the Oval Office today when the president made that announcement of John Negroponte to be ambassador to Iraq. Secretary Powell also giving an interview this evening in which he says any suggestion that he was out of the loop is wrong.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: The question that has arisen seems to be that Prince Bandar received a briefing on the plan, with some suggestion that I hadn't. Of course, I had. I was intimately familiar with the plan and I was aware that Prince Bandar was being briefed on the plan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, again, that briefing too Prince Bandar was last January, just before the president decided to go to war, a month or so before that. The administration insists the president had not made the final decision yet. Still remarkable, though, Paula, that Prince Bandar did get a detailed briefing on a highly classified war plan. The administration says it needed to give him that briefing because it needed Saudi Arabia's support to put some special forces along the Saudi-Iraq border.

ZAHN: There is another allegation I can't believe the Bush administration would like when you just characterized they're actually liking this book, the allegation that the Saudi government offered to fix oil prices to help swing the election.

KING: Well, they don't like that either. They do overall like the book. That's another key point.

And that one has the potential to be a blockbuster, because gas prices are at record highs in this country. Senator Kerry, the Democratic opponent, already coming after President Bush on this issue. Bob Woodward suggests in the book that Prince Bandar, you see him here at the Bush ranch in Crawford, Texas, promised the president that Saudi Arabia would open the spigots, if you will, and put more oil on the market close to the election, therefore, driving down prices here in the United States.

The administration says that never happened. It says, yes, the president did talk to Prince Bandar about the impact a war might have on oil prices overall, but the White House insists, Paula, there was no secret deal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN BARTLETT, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, that's clearly not the case. What President Bush was talking to Prince Bandar about was a very real concern and the concern they had 10, 12 years ago in 1991. That was, if there was a military conflict in Iraq, what would it do to world oil prices and particularly how would it affect consumers here at home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: So the White House says no secret deal. Senator Kerry raise this on the campaign trail. And late tonight, congressional Democrats, Paula, saying they want an explanation from this White House to make sure that there was no deal, again, as Bob Woodward suggests in that blockbuster new book.

ZAHN: All right, John. Appreciate it.

Meanwhile, members of the Bush administration were apparently encouraged to speak with Bob Woodward, John just reported, while he was researching his book. This afternoon, Secretary of State Colin Powell said he and others fully cooperated with the journalist.

Still, the secretary is disputing some of Woodward's suggestions. We're going to get some perspective now from Mr. Powell's predecessor.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright joins us from Washington. Good to see you.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Good to be with you, Paula.

ZAHN: First of all, your reaction to a couple of these allegations in the book, one, of course, which Secretary of State Colin Powell is denying tonight, that the president's advisers actually briefed a foreign ambassador to these war plans in Iraq before the secretary of state was briefed. 7 ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that we have to take Secretary Powell at his word. If he says that he knew about this before Prince Bandar, then one has to believe him.

But I think that there are some interesting questions as to why Prince Bandar, according to the book, was shown some maps and things like that that were classified. And I think there are questions about all of this. I think it is very troubling, Paula, because generally what we need at this period in such a terrible international situation is to make sure that our credibility is in place.

You -- even the most powerful country in the world needs to have its credibility in place. And when there are questions about how decisions were made and who was briefed and what the timing was and what money was used, I think those are the kinds of issues that not only are difficult to answer within the United States, but are difficult in terms of our international position and our credibility.

ZAHN: But the administration arguing that it was important for Prince Bandar to understand what the war plan was.

ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that there are obviously times that it is important for countries that are neighbors and in the region to know what the plans are.

Frankly, that is the job of the secretary of state to brief the ambassadors and to explain what is necessary in terms of assistance. But we all know, Prince Bandar, as I think you mentioned, has been in the United States a long time as ambassador. He is the dean of the diplomatic corps. And so it is conceivable he got special treatment.

But the bottom line here is that the job of secretary of state is a very difficult and an important one. And it is important for the secretary of state to have the ability to represent our country with the full confidence of the president.

ZAHN: You don't think Secretary Powell had that?

ALBRIGHT: Well, he thinks he does. And I'm just saying as a matter of action, of fact, that, when I was secretary of state, I found it very important to know that I had a very good and close relationship with President Clinton, as the chief diplomat.

And what happens here is I think that we are in a very, very difficult time. And our soldiers are dying in Iraq. It is a terrible mess there and I think that to have this kind of allegations out there now about all these divisions and questions about planning and who decided what when I think is something that concerns the American people and we have an issue now about our credibility abroad. And we need all the credibility that we possibly can muster in order to get support for this very terrible situation in Iraq.

ZAHN: How would you characterize the credibility you now think the U.S. carries?

ALBRIGHT: I think we don't have it at the moment. I think people are doubting our word across the board as to why we went into Iraq, what our plans were about how to handle it afterwards, and what we're thinking about doing now.

And I have the highest respect for Ambassador Negroponte, but he is now going to have a very difficult job running the largest embassy that the United States has and still having a completely American face on the tragedies and disasters that are happening in Iraq. And we need to get help from other countries. And the only way to get that is if we have the kind of credibility where other countries believe that we are telling the truth about how our decisions are made.

ZAHN: Well, do you think it is a step in the right direction that the president has indicated at least that he would at least agree with a very important U.N. role in Iraq?

ALBRIGHT: I do.

I wish he thought about that a long time ago because I believed from the very beginning that the U.N. could and should play a very important role. Now the U.N. has been hurt by the fact that its major negotiator, Sergio de Mello, had been in that terrible bombing attack. And a lot of people in this country are very critical of the United Nations because many people in the administration were. And so now the U.N. has to do an even bigger job in a much more difficult situation.

And I do think it is great that President Bush has decided to use the U.N., but we have to give it our support and think about, also, having some kind of an international entity that maybe is blessed by the U.N. to be able to help in really developing a civilian leadership in Iraq.

ZAHN: Let's move on to the issue of 9/11 Commission over what actions were allowed to be taken against Osama bin Laden, a story breaking today that the Clinton White House apparently believed that they had authorized killing him, but the CIA officials thought only his capture was authorized. How could that happen?

ALBRIGHT: Well, I don't -- you know, this is something that has come up, that came up in the 9/11 Commission. And Sandy Berger and others have said that there is no doubt in anybody's mind about what the instructions were to the CIA.

And I believe that George Tenet also indicated that there was no doubt in his mind about the instructions, that President Clinton had said that there could be lethal force used against Osama bin Laden. And, by the way, you know, we did use lethal force against him when we launched cruise missiles against his camp. So there should not have been any question about what the instructions were.

ZAHN: Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, thank you for your time tonight.

ALBRIGHT: Thanks, Paula.

And just what does the Bush administration think about the Woodward book? Terry Holt is a national spokesman for the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign. He joins us from Washington with the White House's viewpoint.

Welcome, sir.

TERRY HOLT, BUSH CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: Thanks, Paula. ZAHN: John King characterized the White House as being fine with the book, but there have got to be some things that you're not too crazy about. What about the allegation that the president -- not the president, but the administration actually briefed Prince Bandar on the issue of this potential war with Iraq before Secretary of State Powell?

HOLT: Well, this is a complex series of events. The president bringing the country together, the levers of power in Washington together, working in the international community to make sure that everyone understood what the threat was and what the potential problem was that we needed to face.

ZAHN: But did he learn about it before Secretary of State Powell?

HOLT: Well, no, obviously not.

The decision to go to war was made very late. You know, the president's first stop was at the U.N. Almost the last stop was at the U.N. And intervening the president had to talk to our allies, of which Saudi Arabia was an ally in the war on terror, to talk about the eventuality, what we faced, that this time it was serious, and obviously we're also going to talk about one of the major economic shocks that can happen to this country, the fact that oil could go through the roof if there were a war in the Middle East.

And we talked to our ally, Saudi Arabia, about helping us to make sure that that wasn't -- that wasn't too much of a shock when war occurred.

ZAHN: A lot of people have problems with the definition of Saudi Arabia being an ally -- they say, well, wait a minute. It wasn't part of the coalition and wouldn't even let the U.S. use its air bases in any attacks against Iraq.

HOLT: Well, Saudi Arabia has a very complicated standing in the Middle East. They are a very long-standing government. They've been an ally of the United States on a number of fronts. They obviously let us participate on their soil when we removed Saddam Hussein.

Remember, Saddam Hussein attacked his neighbors, went to war in Iran, went to war and took over Kuwait, tried to assassinate an American president. That the Saudis have been able to help us through various means over the years has been helpful in that region.

ZAHN: But are you satisfied with everything the Saudis are doing now in this war on terror and vis-a-vis Osama bin Laden and future potential terror attacks?

HOLT: Well, Paula, they're on the front line in the war on terror. And yet they have a very different governing philosophy. They have a very complex domestic situation. We all know that some of the terrorists came from Saudi Arabia. So there is a tumult and there is chaos that they have to deal with as a front-line nation in the war on terror. But, ultimately, if we're going to conduct a well-thought-out and deliberate strategy to remove Saddam Hussein with a viable military option, then it makes complete sense that the president would reach out to all of the important people and make sure that we had the ducks in the row so that when it came time to go to war, we were ready.

ZAHN: Let's move on to the other allegation in this book, that the Bush administration agreed to some kind of deal they made with the Saudis to actually lower gas prices in the advance of the upcoming election in November. Your response to that?

HOLT: Well, you know, I think that's one of those things -- in a big book like this, there's a few details that might get -- that might get lost or that we might disagree with. Overall, it is a really riveting and dramatic telling of a president going from 9/11 and putting the country on war footing.

But as for manipulating gas prices, come on, please. Gas prices have been high all spring. We have talked about that. And obviously if we can help it, we'll prevent economic shocks. You know, one of the president's commitments when he was running for election last time was to work to make sure that people out in the OPEC community understood that they needed to work with us on gas prices. But any kind of political deal, that's ridiculous.

ZAHN: So you're saying absolutely, definitively tonight, there was no quid pro quo here.

HOLT: Didn't happen.

ZAHN: Didn't happen.,

What about the range of the gas prices, settling on that price from -- we have seen various accounts of 28 cents a gallon to 32 a barrel?

HOLT: Well, dollars.

ZAHN: Dollars, excuse me.

HOLT: I'll tell you what. The real thing here is this economy since 9/11 has gone from recession into recovery. And anything we can do, including holding gas prices down, is going to have a net benefit for consumers, for businesses and for employees out there in the country. It is very important that we keep a handle on gas prices so the transportation and commerce and this economy can grow and expand.

ZAHN: And a final thought on one of the allegations that Madeleine Albright made earlier, as she -- basically characterizing the credibility of the United States internationally as at an all-time low.

HOLT: Well, it is ridiculous. I think -- I heard her comments. And I think they're partisan comments sort of thinly wrapped in the diplomatic language of the secretary of state, as she served the country honorably. She's still a partisan. I would say, I'll tell you, from Pakistan taking a 180 and helping us fight the war on terror, the logjam that has been broken just last week in Israel with regard to two-state solution and the president being the first American president to call for a homeland for the Palestinians, when you talk about Moammar Gadhafi, giving it up, giving us all of the access to weapons of mass destruction that he had, the president has fundamentally changed the national security picture in the Middle East.

And it is a tough road. It is a long road. But he's making real progress.

ZAHN: Terry Holt, we're going to have to leave it there this evening. Thank you very much for dropping by.

HOLT: Thanks, Paula.

ZAHN: And we want you to be sure to stay with CNN as Larry King interviews author Bob Woodward, who has stirred up this storm. That is tonight immediately following this program at 9:00 Eastern on "LARRY KING LIVE."

The Kerry campaign sails through another week of bad news for the president, but is the senator picking up any steam?

And Palestinians bury a second Hamas leader in less than a month. Have the Israeli assassinations weakened the militant movement?

And a master thief makes tens of millions of dollars worth of precious gems from the stars. Coming up, he's going to tell you how he did it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: And welcome back.

We continue our coverage of some of the fallout from Bob Woodward's book. He talked with the president. The White House is characterizing that they actually like the book. But they dispute some of the allegations in it.

And joining us right now on the phone for an exclusive interview, Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan.

Thank you, sir, for joining us.

PRINCE BANDAR BIN SULTAN, SAUDI ARABIA: Thank you, Paula. Good evening.

ZAHN: I want to give you the opportunity to respond to some of these allegations.

First of all, were you briefed before the secretary of state on Iraqi war plans?

BIN SULTAN: No, I wasn't. I was briefed on the war plans, but I was told that the president has not made a decision yet. And I was aware that the secretary of state was already -- had knowledge of the plan.

ZAHN: How detailed was your briefing?

BIN SULTAN: It was detailed professionally, but it was like a deja vu.

In 1990, I was briefed by Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney and General Colin Powell on the plan of what could be happening with Saddam after the invasion of Kuwait. So this is natural. Saudi Arabia has a long border with Iraq. And, as you can guess, we have a big interest to see what their plans, what they're doing. So that was the context.

ZAHN: And yet, a lot of Americans were wondering about the strength of your actually calling yourself an ally to the United States, because you wouldn't let the U.S. use any bases in Saudi Arabia?

BIN SULTAN: Well, we were allies. And we helped our American friends in the way that was necessary for them. And that was the reality.

ZAHN: And Secretary of State Albright in the Clinton administration just suggested that maybe it was inappropriate for you to have learned some of this information that could potentially have been classified.

BIN SULTAN: Paula, Secretary Albright is one of my favorite American diplomats I ever met.

As you remember, I said before she has a lot of cojona (ph). And I do respect her and like her. But this is -- one, I was not briefed before Secretary Powell. And, second, I was briefed by colonel -- by President Clinton and Sandy Berger many times, when I realized later that she was not knowledgeable about what happened with the White House. So don't blame me for that. You talk to the White House people, not me.

ZAHN: And, in being briefed, what was it then that Saudi Arabia was trying to anticipate? What exactly did you use that information for?

BIN SULTAN: You see, this was during January. And the president made the decision in March, I believe.

I personally did not know the war was on until the night of the war, when I was informed by the White House that the war is on in about an hour. So, between January and April, or March, we -- the question was, if there was going to be a war, what is the objective? What are we going to do? Who is going to do what and if it is the best option?

So there were many questions that needed to be answered or looked at. And, of course, I can assure you, nobody is crying over the fact that Saddam Hussein is not there. I think that was a great event. But, in January, everybody was wondering what is going to happen now. Saudi Arabia's interest at that time was that all diplomatic attempts would be made before we come to a final decision on war or no war.

ZAHN: OK.

BIN SULTAN: And I was assured both by Vice President Cheney, by Secretary Rumsfeld, by General Myers, that what they're telling me is not the war decision, that the president has not decided.

Well, when I met with the president, he did not tell me that he had decided to go to war. He just told me, we have a plan and we want to know your views on it and this is what we're going to do.

ZAHN: Right.

BIN SULTAN: So, at that time, we were -- we wanted to have a political solution. And I was informed actually by the president that Secretary Powell was leading an effort in the U.N. and with the allies to get the U.N. resolution going.

ZAHN: OK.

On to the final allegation in this book, that there was some kind of deal struck between your government and the Bush administration to have a plan to lower gas prices in advance of the November election, agreeing to keep prices in the range of $23 to $28 per barrel. Is that true?

BIN SULTAN: No, that is not true, because our policy has been always to keep the prices between $22 to $28. And the oil situation is something constant. The president -- President Bush was very interested to make sure oil prices don't go high because it will affect not only the American economy, which was his interest, but the world economy. I had...

ZAHN: So you deny trying to throw the American election or trying to swing the American election to President Bush?

BIN SULTAN: That is absolutely not true, because I had the same conversation with President Clinton in the year 2000 about the same issue.

I, in fact -- to be honest with you, Paula, I had the same conversation with President Carter in 1979. So, oil prices and Saudi Arabia and American politics are intertwined. But I wish we can influence the oil price situation, but we cannot, unless it is our issue. In this case, America has a problem with refining capacity, not with availability of oil. Saudi Arabia is committed to provide whatever crude oil required supplies to the United States and to the world economy.

That is not the problem, though. Is doesn't matter how much oil we produce today. You cannot refine enough. You have not built a refinery for 20 years, new refinery. So the gas prices has nothing to do with oil supply at this stage, unfortunately.

ZAHN: All right, sir, we're going to have to leave it there. We appreciate your calling in. I understand you were watching this broadcast and wanted to take the opportunity to respond to some of these allegations you've heard. We appreciate your joining us, Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia.

BIN SULTAN: Thank you, Paula. I always watch your show.

ZAHN: Well, I'm delighted to hear that, sir.

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: I hope you're there every night from now on.

BIN SULTAN: You bet.

ZAHN: All right.

We're going to continue our coverage of the fallout to Bob Woodward's book on the other side. We're going to hear from some political pundits to see how this might play with all of you out there.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: And welcome back.

We continue our coverage of some of the fallout from Bob Woodward's book on some of the inside workings of the White House.

To consider how all this might play with all of you potential voters out there, "New Republic" editor Peter Beinart. He joins me from Washington. Here in New York, "Wall Street Journal" columnist John Fund.

Good to see you both of you.

First of all, Peter, your reaction to some of what Prince Bandar just told us on camera, first of all, denying that he was briefed in advance of Secretary of State Colin Powell about the clearance to go to war with Iraq?

PETER BEINART, EDITOR, "THE NEW REPUBLIC": It is hardly surprising that he would say that.

I think what is significant about this is that it will be seen as Powell distancing himself for an Iraq war that is not going well, that it is seen by many, including many conservatives, as failing. That is it seems to me more important here than who was briefed or not. It will be taken as a sign, this book, that Powell is trying to jump off a sinking ship.

ZAHN: But Secretary Powell said in a couple of interviews today that he always made it clear to the president he was going to listen to the president but as secretary of state he had to put out some critical questions about what this would mean long term, particularly when it came to the postwar plan.

JOHN FUND, COLUMNIST, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Paula, we knew about Powell's reluctance -- not to go to war. This simply drives it more out into the open.

The real question for the voters and the impact on politics is how will the war be going in six months, because I can assure you, if the war is going to better in six months, Colin Powell will be saying nicer things about it.

ZAHN: But, once again, if we're going to talk more about some of the details in the book, the allegations is that this administration was hell-bent on going into Iraq and had a war plan two months before 9/11, Peter. Does that surprise you?

BEINART: You know, no, no longer.

The truth is, if this was the first book to come out and suggest that, it might make a bigger ripple. After Clarke's book and after the O'Neill book, this is old hat by now. Basically pretty much everyone is conceded that this administration was very focused on Iraq before September 11th, certainly from the first days after September 11th. That's not really controversial anymore. I think John is right. The real question is was this tremendous overriding focus own Iraq, was it the right way to prosecute the war on terrorism and in six months if it is not going better than it is going now, I think most Americans will say no.

FUND: Well, look, a year ago every western intelligence agency thought that Saddam Hussein had weapons mass destruction, including Hans Blix -- weapons of mass destruction. A year ago every Democratic presidential candidate whose name was out in Howard Dean was silent about whether or not we should go to war or favoring it. Whatever the second guessing or the Monday morning quarterbacking we're going through now doesn't tell us what should we do now that we're in Iraq, what should we do to repair the situation to make sure we don't lose more Americans and stabilize the situation there. All of this foreign policy quarterbacking -- yes it's like sausage and making laws, you don't want to see how it happens.

Now that we're here, what are we going to do?

Should we look forward rather than look backward?

That's the question.

ZAHN: Peter, your reaction to Prince Bandar's -- actually denial that in fact any sort of Bush administration-Saudi deal was cut on oil to bring down the price of gas before the election.

Do you buy it?

BEINART: It was an interesting denial. He said Iraqi -- Saudi oil is always intertwined with American politics. And he mentioned that he had talked to Bill Clinton in 2000 -- in election year and Jimmy Carter in an election year. He seemed to be simultaneously suggesting that he hadn't done it and suggesting that he does it every four years with American presidents. I think this would be a good topic for people to report out more, including in Saudi Arabia and we'll see.

ZAHN: Peter, Are you buying into the premise then that he was trying to change the election results in any way?

BEINART: I think the bush administration to give you credit probably wanted the price of oil to go down because that would be good for the American economy and of course they wanted the Saudis to bring the price of oil down for the election. I think, Bandar, in his own way was implicitly conceding that.

FUND: The price of oil could only be changed if it is an OPEC position. Saudi Arabia couldn't have done it unilaterally. It wouldn't have done it unilaterally, it wouldn't have done it unilaterally.

ZAHN: But they could change their production quotas.

FUND: Everything about that conversations that he had with American presidents is true, lets take away the conspiratorial elements. If you're looking for conspiracy, look at the 10 to $13 billion stolen from the Iraqi people in the Oil For Food program through the United Nations auspices. That's a conspiracy we can actually prove and document. This is pure hypothetical nonsense.

ZAHN: So you say the Saudis are clean?

FUND: No of course not. They have these discussions every four years because they know -- the American presidents know they can influence the election. But you cannot rig the oil market. It is far bigger than any government.

ZAHN: All right, John Fund, Peter Beinart, thank you, both.

Coming up, what effect could Israel's assassination of a second Hamas leader have on the Middle East?

We'll hear opinions from both sides.

And you're going meet a jewel thief who didn't settle for a simple autograph of stars like Phyllis Diller. The man who made a career out of conning the rich and famous to the tune of $35 million.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: The Palestinian militant group Hamas wants others to help it avenge Israel's killing of its leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi. Well, today they call on Arab and Muslim groups to unite to defeat the U.S. and Israel.

So is Hamas too weak to keep credibility among its supporters? We get the Palestinian and the Israeli perspective on this that.

First what Palestinians think. Joining us from Washington Diana Buttu, a legal adviser to the Palestinian Negotiations Team. Welcome.

DIANA BUTTU, LEGAL ADVISER TO PALESTINIAN NEGOTIATIONS: Thank you.

ZAHN: How much do you think this latest assassination has weakened Hamas?

BUTTU: I'm not entirely sure if it weakened Hamas at all. I'm not a supporter of Hamas. I can tell you after these type of actions support for Hamas generally increases. And that's because time and again Palestinians have been demonstrated by Israel that they are somewhat bee be beneath the law had it comes to Israeli politics. Let's remember there is no assassination of Israeli leaders and time and again what Israel is doing by continuing at assassinating Palestinians is simply shifting things to the right and shifting support to the right as well.

ZAHN: Some Palestinians charging that the U.S. colluded in this killing.

Do you believe that?

BUTTU: I don't necessarily believe that the U.S. colluded in this killing, nor am I aware of whether President Bush knew of this killing. But what President Bush has done is he's given Sharon a green light to basically do whatever it is that he wants to do with respect to the Palestinians. Last week when president -- when Prime Minister Sharon met with President Bush, President Bush basicly gave Sharon a green light in what he said to Prime Minister Sharon is, is his illegal settlements are now going to be legitimized. And he actually rewarded Israel For illegal action rather than punishing Israel for its illegal action. So similarly what I think President Bush has done is rather than perhaps knowing explicitly that this assassination attempt was going to happen, I think what he's done is he's given Sharon a green light to do whatever it is he wants to do with the Palestinians.

ZAHN: Of course, the U.S. Denies that. And meanwhile, you have many Israelis saying the Palestinians are completely incapable of any kind of compromise.

BUTTU: That's absolutely incorrect.

ZAHN: You to believe the Palestinians could consider any aspect of Mr. Sharon's latest plan?

BUTTU: Let's look at compromise. The Palestinians have already compromised. They've given up 78 percent of their historic home land to Israel. They've said to Israel, you can have it. We simply want to have -- establish a state on the remaining 22 percent that has been occupied since 1967. This is what is required under international law. But now even that 22 percent Israel is continually eating up by building more and more and more of these illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank and occupied Gaza Strip. Rather than being punished for building the illegal settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Sharon is now being rewarded for building these settlements by the U.S. administration basically saying they're going recognize these illegal settlements. These are contrary to international law and are now considered war crimes. So, Israel rather than being rewarded for it should have been punished for it long ago.

ZAHN: Diana, we have to move to the other side of the story. Appreciate your time.

Now for the Israeli perspective we turn to Isaac Herzog, the minority whip of the Israeli Parliament and one of the chief negotiators with the Palestinian Authority. Thank you very much for joining us tonight.

First of all, respond to what miss Buttu said, in taking out Mr. Rantisi, you're going stir up more resentment and cause perhaps a flood of people to go into Hamas and not weaken Hamas after all.

ISAAC HERZOG, MINORITY WHIP, ISRAELI KNESSET: It is interesting to see that I am as a representative, in fact, of the Israeli opposition in the parliament, outright support the steps that the Israeli military and the government has taken in cracking down on the leadership of -- the Hamas, one of the worst terrorist organizations in the world today.

ZAHN: Do you to think this weakens Hamas?

I absolutely believe that or does exactly what she says?

HERZOG: This is a long-term approach. You not say a fight terror in whatever means there are and then not to do whatever is necessary to do. It will absolutely weaken the Hamas. It will weaken its backbone. It will weaken its capabilities. It will not diminish its desire to carry out terror, clearly. And for that you need a political process. But it will weaken the Hamas big time.

ZAHN: Which is completely contrary to what Ms. Buttu said. Why won't it unify the opposition?

HERZOG: It clearly -- in the initial stages, of course there is a kind of a unifying element as a result in the Palestinian camp. But you have to look at this long term. That means that you have to look at the organization level and the capability of carrying out terror.

On the other hand, when the dust settles down, it can help and assist the moderate elements in the Palestinian camp to take over and understand that this cannot go on, that there is a golden opportunity for them to grab the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) initiative and move on with their life.

ZAHN: Meanwhile, the U.N. is -- the Security Council is considering a resolution to condemn Israel for the assassination of Mr. Rantisi. You even had Prime Minister Tony Blair saying that he didn't agree with that action. Your reaction to that criticism.

HERZOG: At the end of all of this, I respect criticism, and definitely we listen to what the world has to say. But at the end, we have to take our decisions in the way we tackle our enemies.

When I send my kids to school every day, I want to make sure that their bus, God forbid, does not blow up. I have to make sure that nobody gives instructions on the other side to suicide bombers to go into my coffee shops, restaurants or shopping malls. And therefore, the war against terror is a constant war. And it requires all the tools, including the tools of hitting the leaders who take the decision of saying, now you go and blow up in the streets of Tel Aviv.

ZAHN: Mr. Herzog, we have got to leave it there this evening. Thank you.

HERZOG: Thank you very much.

ZAHN: ... for your perspective as well.

Coming up, famed Olympic champ and actor Johnny Weissmuller was just one of the celebrity victims of the man some call the greatest jewel thief ever. You'll meet him.

And sorority life may be fun, but you're not going to believe behavior one young woman found when she went undercover at a southern sorority. We'll show you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Well, the rich and famous may not know our next guest very well, but some unfortunately will never forget his work. For 30 years, Bill Mason stole high priced gems from celebrities, he even broke into the safe of a Mafia boss once. Now that the statute of limitations has run out on his crimes, Mason has written a book about how he stole $35 million worth of jewels. It is called "Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief." And earlier I spoke with Mason and asked him how he got away with it for so many years.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL MASON, AUTHOR, "CONFESSIONS OF A MASTER JEWEL THIEF": Well, I got away with it mostly by not telling anybody about it. I kept all of this inside to myself for years. And this is one of the things that opening up a little bit has helped me with.

ZAHN: What made you so good?

MASON: I didn't realize at the time I was good. I was just determined.

ZAHN: How did you do it?

MASON: Each one was different. There was a lot of climbing, a lot of circumventing things, it was like a big jigsaw puzzle. I tried to put everything together and figure out a way to circumvent a lot of security systems and get to it and get out with the loot.

ZAHN: But you specifically targeted celebrities, people like Phyllis Diller. Walk us through the process of how you planned a typical heist. You would read about these people in society pages? You'd read about these people in society pages.

MASON: A lot of them I read about in society pages. Phyllis Diller now, for example, I saw at the music carnival in Cleveland, Ohio. I first saw her on television on Mike Douglas' show, years before that, and she was wearing a lot of jewelry. I went to the music carnival. I followed her to an area where she was just staying in a motel, and figured out a way to get past some of her security and up over the end of the roof, and drop down on her balcony while she was performing one night.

ZAHN: And all the stuff was just left there in the hotel room?

MASON: All of the stuff was just left there...

ZAHN: None of it locked up?

MASON: None of it was locked up, no.

ZAHN: You didn't know that, right? You were taking the chance.

MASON: Well, I knew she didn't leave it in the hotel safe, because I watched her come and go a few times.

ZAHN: What kind of equipment would you use?

MASON: Mostly grappling hooks and ropes and various things of this order.

ZAHN: There was a story about you making off with Olympic athlete Johnny Weissmuller's gold medal...

MASON: Yes.

ZAHN: And then, what, you suddenly got a sense of conscience?

MASON: Well, I felt very bad. You had to work so hard for those. And on a trip to Cleveland, from South Florida, I put it in an envelope, a padded envelope, and mailed it back to him. I made sure all the fingerprints were gone off of it, and mailed it back to him. I wanted him to have it back. I didn't mean to take it in the first place.

ZAHN: A lot of the crimes you write about in this book you say have never been reported before. So people are automatically going to look at your story with some skepticism.

MASON: Correct.

ZAHN: As I have. Why should we believe any of these stories, particularly if you haven't been charged with any of these crimes and there didn't seem to be any good leads on any of these investigations? MASON: Why would I not tell the truth now? I mean, why would I open up after all these years and not tell you the truth?

ZAHN: To make some money off of a book.

MASON: If you knew the way I felt about all this publicity I was getting, you would know that's not true. I mean, people have been trying to get me to talk about this for 20 years. I never was open about it. Now at least I'm open. I got a new aspect of my life coming along here.

ZAHN: Do you feel guilty about what you did over the years?

MASON: Yes, I do feel guilty. I think writing this book has made me feel a lot of guilt. Guilt towards my family, guilt toward some of the victims.

ZAHN: Obviously to carry off these crimes, it had to be a combination of ingenuity and brawn. I guess my question to you now is do you understand what drove you all these years?

MASON: It became a thrill. It's like climbing a mountain. You wonder why people climb mountains sometimes, you wonder why people do this. Well, this just happens to be a little more lucrative.

ZAHN: Whose watch are you wearing tonight? Your own?

MASON: My own. It's a $10 watch.

ZAHN: Oh, good. We just didn't want to report anything to the -- have to report anything to the authorities tonight.

Thank you for sharing your story with us.

MASON: You're quite welcome.

ZAHN: It's absolutely fascinating.

MASON: It's very, very nice to meet you.

ZAHN: I'm glad you have come clean.

MASON: Thank you. I am too.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And coming up, what young women will do to become sorority sisters. A revealing look at what really goes on at some college sororities.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: We have all seen stories about sex, drugs and alcohol abuse at college fraternities and sororities. Recently the Red Cross was shocked to discover an e-mail urging a group of sorority sisters to lie about their health if they had to in order to get maximum points for their sorority in a blood donor drive. That's one example of extremes to which some young women seem to be willing to go to for sorority status. "Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities," a controversial new book on sorority life. Earlier, I asked author, Alexandra Robbins if she understood why a sorority sister might lie knowing it could cost someone their life.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALEXANDRA ROBBINS, AUTHOR, "PLEDGED: THE SECRET LIVES OF SORORITIES": Before I wrote this book I wouldn't have understood it at all. Now I see what it is. They're under such pressure to make their lives completely sorority-centric. Girls go into this, normal people, kind, sweet, intelligent girls with good intentions. But the national offices put such pressure on them to prioritize the sorority above classes, above family, and in this case above public health.

ZAHN: So what is the worst thing you saw happen as someone either got into a sorority and tried to stay there or simply tried to get in.

One thing that shocked me is I went to a Greek leadership conference where I saw firsthand the kind of warped attitude that some of these national offices had. I sat in as something of an undercover reporter on a lecture to sororities and fraternities about undercover reporter and how to deal with the media. And the lecturer not only told the students to emulate wag the dog to spin their image, but he also actually said one death takes 10,000 hours of community service to make up for the public relations aspect.

ZAHN: Didn't that make you sick?

ROBBINS: I was trying to not to let my jaw drop. I didn't want people to know I wasn't a sorority member myself.

ZAHN: You talk about the pressure the national offices put on these rushees. Talk about the culture of parents who very much want their daughters to be a part of this world.

ROBBINS: Mothers will sometimes hire rush consultants which are sort of like pageant consultants to help guide a girl through the rush process.

ZAHN: What do you learn? What do you have to know how to do?

ROBBINS: There is wardrobe, there is conversation, there's the proper designers, you need your Kate Spade bag. There are all sorts of tips they'll pass on to rushees.

ZAHN: Tell us a little bit more of the culture once you're inside the sorority house. There is something that you wrote about that caught my eye and frankly made me sick to my stomach. You talk about puke-out parties that these young women have. What are those?

ROBBINS: There is such pressure -- not in all sororities but in some sororities there is such a pressure on body image. At the school where I went undercover, every single sorority admitted to having an eating disorder problem. I've heard of some groups having puking contests after dinner. I think it is a problem that arises from the self-esteem issues when girls are forced to live in a house together and encouraged to conform to one specific sorority image.

ZAHN: It is not all bad across college campuses. You do put in a few good words about the value of joining a sorority, a sense of community.

ROBBINS: The four girls I followed did like their sorority experiences. And there are positives to the sorority whether it be confidence or the social schedule or the humor. But I think theres a balance and both sides need to be exposed.

ZAHN: Parents beware. Alexandra Robbins, thank you for your fascinating look at sororities, an undercover look at that.

And we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Before we go tonight, here is another look at some of the developing news heard first here on PAULA ZAHN NOW. In an exclusive interview with Saudi Arabia's Prince Bandar bin Sultan, he told us that in fact he was not briefed on the Iraqi war plans before Secretary of State Colin Powell was. This contradicts suggestions made by journalist Bob Woodward in his explosive new book. Mr. Bandar also says he was informed about a possible strike but was told President Bush had not yet made a decision. He also says there is no plan to lower gas prices in advance of the November election. That also conflicts some of the book's claims.

We will see what the author of that book has to say himself. Bob Woodward, he is "LARRY KING LIVE's" guest. He is next. Thanks so much for joining us tonight. Hope you'll be back with us same time, same place tomorrow night. Good night.

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