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Interview With Alex Jordanov; Iraq Ready For Self-Government?

Aired April 20, 2004 - 20:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. Thanks for joining us tonight. I'm Paula Zahn.
It is Tuesday, April 20, 2004.


ZAHN (voice-over): Held hostage for four excruciating days. What did this journalist learn during his captivity? I'll ask him tonight.

Will Iraq be ready to run its own country by the end of June? And, if not, how long will the U.S. stick around?

GEN. RICHARD MYERS, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: There's nobody that believes, Iraqi or coalition, that on 1 July, the security situation is going to dramatically change.

ZAHN: On the fifth anniversary of Columbine, a rare glimpse of two of the families profoundly affected. What happened to the parents of Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris?

LYNN BARTELS, "ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS": I feel they're prisoners.

ZAHN: And politicians talk sports, so why do don't we ever hear athletes talk politics? Tonight, Carlos Watson gives some NBA players a shot at the presidential race.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole Bush thing was, you know, I think it was just a vendetta.


ZAHN: Well, my interview with the former hostage starts right after the headlines. We're going to pick up with those now. Here's what you need to know right now.

Iraqi leaders have set up a tribunal to try ousted dictator Saddam Hussein and other members of his regime. Seven judges have been picked. Others will be named. As yet, there's no date for the trial.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was asked about Bob Woodward's explosive new book today. Rumsfeld tells reporters he doesn't remember saying or doing some of the things Woodward describes in the book "Plan of Attack." In the murder trial of Terry Nichols, the man in the blue jacket, the prosecution's star witness today testified that Nichols was actively involved in the Oklahoma City bombing plot. Nichols is serving a life sentence, but could get the death penalty if convicted in this case.

"In Focus" tonight, the captives in Iraq. Italian officials are hoping for word perhaps within hours about three missing civilians, the companions of an Italian killed by his captors. There was heartbreaking news earlier today. Halliburton announced three of the four bodies discovered last week have been identified as its employees. The three Americans had been missing since insurgents attacked a fuel convoy on April 9. Halliburton says the fourth body is not that of an American.

In all, that means at least seven people of diverse nationalities are being held by Iraqi militants tonight. In Ohio, the vigil continues for Army Reserve Private Keith Maupin, also missing since April 9. His hometown is not giving up hope.

We turn now to the amazing story of French journalist Alex Jordanov of Canal Plus TV. He was freed last Wednesday after four days in Iraqi captivity.


ZAHN: So you were traveling with your convoy, you got separated from your cameraman and that group when you came under attack. And at one point when you heard the captors taking a different group you heard talk of jihad. At that point, did you think you were going to be killed?

ALEX JORDANOV, FORMER IRAQ CAPTIVE: I didn't know what was going on. I just was put in a car by force by four men, and we kept driving through the bamboo fields. And I ended up with in a madrassa, which is a Koranic school, where they took my clothes off and dressed me up as a religious Iraqi person, so to speak, and told me to sit down and wait and not to speak.

And from then on, it was a four-day trek to 10 different locations, where we kept changing guards and changing people that were from -- we went from the Saddam Fedayeen contingent, to the combatants, to the religious guys, to even some Shias at one point were guarding me. And it went on and on, for like four days like this, day and night.

ZAHN: And you were blindfolded, were you not, when you were transported from location to location?

JORDANOV: They would let me like see them and speak with them, as long as we were in a house or a farm or an abandoned building. But, yes, for transport, where they would like throw me on the ground and keep me there until we get to the next location, yes.

ZAHN: Besides throwing you on the ground, were you physically hurt otherwise? JORDANOV: No, they didn't exactly hurt you physically. They would just rough you up to let you know that they were in control, but there were other tests, like psychological tests, weird questions that were asked, and you never knew who was in charge or who was making the decisions, who was, you know, like decide whether you were going to be released or not.

ZAHN: So you said you were constantly being tested. They asked you weird questions. What kinds of things did they want to know from you?

JORDANOV: It would range from religious questions, like is Esau the son of God, Esau being Jesus in the Koran, to making you draw maps of France to make sure you're French, and asking you to locate like obscure cities after they checked it up on an atlas.

ZAHN: And, obviously, as you're being held, you're trying to figure out how to survive. In the end, what is it do you think that kept you alive?

JORDANOV: Well, in this kind of situation, you don't think much about anything else, but how to get out and how to like try to dialogue with them. But dialogue windows close up pretty quickly.

And the last group of people, which happened to be the Islamic party, there was this little window of opportunity where you could actually talk about family, soccer, friends, this and that, which I believe that -- that's my gut feeling. I never knew how and why they released me, but that human rapport made it the balance in my favor at this point.

ZAHN: And what do you think it was? You inspired a sense of guilt in them, an appeal to their sense of humanity in some way?

JORDANOV: I'm not so sure. That's my gut feeling.

I really had the best rapport with the last group, and only two or three hours before my release, they decided to take me back to Baghdad to the Grand Mosque.

ZAHN: But, when you were taken to the mosque, even at that point you weren't sure they were not going to kill you, were you?

JORDANOV: No. I heard so many things in four days of so many different options, so many different -- they went from, we're going to kill you, to, you're our friend, we're going to take you to Amman, we're going to take you to the desert. You never know where you were going. So at that point, I thought, well, this is another stop on the tour here, and the imam asked me, he said, well, do you feel free? I said, no, sir. I'm still in a room. So he opened the door and said, please, go, go outside, and see the sun, the skyline.

ZAHN: The one thing that you were mindful of throughout your captivity was not to appear to be American, not to speak English and to separate yourself from the U.S. war on Iraq. How difficult was that? JORDANOV: I had to like demand always to have a French-speaking person brought in, which was rather difficult. And, yes, they looked at my passport. They looked at my press credentials. And to them, you know, that doesn't mean anything. They kept telling me, Americans have foreign passports if they want to infiltrate us the most that had press credentials. I mean, who are you?

And at the third day, they came back and they said, look, we've been watching Al-Arabiya, Al-Jazeera, nobody is mentioning your name, and who are you? And that was a difficult, you know, question. Every single time you change locations, there was a different group of people, so you had to start all over again and explain yourself and go through different tests again and again and again.

ZAHN: Do you think, had you been American, they probably would have killed you?

JORDANOV: I don't know. I can't really answer that question, but the animosity towards the coalition people is there, and they really, really wanted to get somebody from the coalition, yes. The tide is changing at this point. They haven't killed the Marine yet because of the pressure the coalition forces put on Muqtada al-Sadr.

ZAHN: Alex, what is your most searing memory of your captivity?

JORDANOV: You know, Paula, there's so many things I'm still trying to like, you know, compute this whole data that, you know, that keeps coming back to me. It's all very confusing.

I can't really -- being on my knees at night blindfolded in a forest was not a very pleasant experience, because you never know what's going to happen. You don't hear anything besides, you know, dogs barking in the background and the river, the hiss of the river. Or, you know, when they take you to the toilet with a bucket of water and watch you, you know, go to the bathroom is not very pleasant at well.

There's so many things that I can't really tell you right now. I have to like sit down and it will take a while, I believe.

ZAHN: Sure. And you say although you weren't physically hurt in a violent way clearly that threat hung over you every minute of the day.

JORDANOV: Oh, yes. You can feel it. You can feel it. There's always one guy in the group that wants your skin, you know, wants to get on with you.

But you have to find that dialogue line, open it, and try to like be humble, lower your head down, and basically try to communicate with them, with my supposedly little English and their little English. And from time to time, the French interpreter would help, but it was a 24/7 testing.

ZAHN: Alex, I know you need some time to work through the horror of what you've been through, but as a journalist you volunteered to go to Iraq. Do you ever see yourself going back?

JORDANOV: I think I'll go back.

You know, watching the world go around live, as opposed to on TV, is what we do, you and I, and that's my passion. That's my work. So, yes, I will go back.

ZAHN: Well, we're glad you were delivered back home safely. And thank you very much for sharing your story. Good luck to you.

JORDANOV: You're welcome, Paula.


ZAHN: And more now on Keith Matthew Maupin, the only known member of the American military confirmed to be a captive in Iraq.

That tape of the young private surrounded by armed masked militants was chilling, but a family spokesman says they're actually relieved to see he was apparently unharmed. The Pentagon has asked the family to limit its comments, but a family friend has agreed to tell us with how the Maupins are coping with an excruciating and very challenging situation.

Mia Supe joins us tonight from Cincinnati.

Good of you to join us.

MIA SUPE, MAUPIN FAMILY FRIEND: Thanks for having me.

ZAHN: First of all, I know his family has great hope that he'll come home, as does his community. When you hear a story like Alex's and the fact that he was released after four days of captivity, does that bring you even more hope?

SUPE: Yes, it absolutely brings me hope.

ZAHN: And what sustains his family now?

SUPE: Their faith and the positive attitudes and their community and the people that they have around them. They just choose to believe that you know, Matt is going to be home very soon.

ZAHN: We were all just looking at that tape, and it was chilling for us to watch those masked militants holding Keith. And in spite of the fact that we reported that his family was apparently heartened actually seeing him on TV, that might be difficult for some members of our audience to understand, because it's pretty scary-looking, this stuff.

Help us better understand what the reaction of the family was to this video.

SUPE: Well, of course, it's chilling. It would be chilling even if it wasn't your child. But the idea that we know that Matt is alive, and that was our prayer. And we continue to pray that he's being well cared for, and we just have to believe that he's going to be home with us soon.

And to hear stories about other hostages, and to lose focus of what we are trying to get through during this time, we just choose not to do that. We just have to stay positive.

ZAHN: And you're friendly with Matthew's mother, Carolyn. When did you last speak with her and what did she tell you?

SUPE: It's been quite a few days. It's probably been about five days. And it was early on, when all of this happened.

But she's very strong, I admire her. I'm learning from her every single day. I'm learning that, when your faith is strong, you can endure anything. She did tell me that she was absolutely sure that Matt could hear her prayers and the prayers of all the people that love him so much.

ZAHN: It's been moving to see the vigils that the community has been holding in his honor. Just describe to us the outpouring of support Matthew and his family have gotten.

SUPE: It's amazing. I'll never forget being a part of the crowds that come together praying and talking and sharing, you know, the things that are going on in the neighborhoods, whether it's people wanting to bring food over to her, or whether it's -- today, I heard that there was a young man at one of the junior high schools that wrote a letter and it just thrilled the family.

There's just things that are happening all across this nation from different support groups. And I think it's just really brought us back to where our focus needs to be, and that's back on our soldiers.

ZAHN: Well, I think this story has touched the nerve of every single American who has heard about it. There's no doubt in your mind about that, is there, Mia?

SUPE: No, not at all, not at all. Surely, God is going to bring something good from this incident.

ZAHN: Well, our thoughts are with you and the Maupin family. Thank you very much for talking with us tonight.

SUPE: Thank you for having me.

ZAHN: And coming up next, five years after Columbine, what has happened to the parents of the killers? We're going to take a look at their lives since then.

And the administration's campaign in Iraq comes under fire from both parties in a tense Senate hearing. Two members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee give us their take.

And some players on the Miami Heat talk politics. It's a different take on the issues, as Carlos Watson measures the "American Pulse." (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Time and again, President Bush has said the U.S. will hold firm to the June 30 deadline for handing sovereignty back to the Iraqi people.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Were the coalition to step back from the June 30 pledge, many Iraqis would question our intentions and feel their hopes betrayed. And those in Iraq who trade in hatred and conspiracy theories would find a larger audience and gain a stronger hand. We will not step back from our pledge. On June 30, Iraqi sovereignty will be placed in Iraqi hands.


ZAHN: Well, on Capitol Hill today, Senate committees wanted some details. Senators didn't get very specific answers, if they got any answers at all.

Two members of the Foreign Relations Committee join me from Washington, Democratic Senator Jon Corzine of New Jersey and Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island.

Good to see both of you. Welcome.


ZAHN: Senator Corzine, I want to start with you this evening. You just heard the president's defense of wanting to hand over sovereignty to the Iraqis. You would have to concede, if the date was postponed, it would cause some problems. Why are you so determined that it should be pushed back?

SEN. JON CORZINE (D), NEW JERSEY: Well, I'm not determined one way or the other about pushing it back, but I don't think we ought to go forward with that date if we don't have a plan, if we don't know who sovereignty is going to be transferred to and what the authorities of that sovereignty will be.

If the Iraqi people would be frustrated because sovereignty doesn't pass and then they find out that they didn't really have any authority post-June 30, if Fallujah was under siege and they had no control over setting the terms of how military operations are going to work, then I wonder whether they are going to think they actually have sovereignty. So I think we have a lot of questions to ask. And I think that we could end up hurting the long-run relationship with the Iraqi people by forcing something that doesn't fit in their circumstances.

And we didn't hear anything in the hearings today that told me that those answers were very clear at this point in time.

ZAHN: Let's revisit that issue now with Senator Chafee and listen to a small part of the news conference the president held last week about how the transfer would actually happen.


QUESTION: And, Mr. President, who will we be handing the Iraqi government over to on June 30?

BUSH: You'll find that out soon. That is what Mr. Brahimi is doing. He's figuring out the nature of the entity we'll be handing sovereignty over.


ZAHN: So here we are, Senator Chafee, some 81 days before the handover is supposed to happen. Was that an acceptable answer?

SEN. LINCOLN CHAFEE (R), RHODE ISLAND: Obviously not. There is no answer, it appears.

But I think the big question for the American people is, how about our military? And one of the questions at that press conference was, Mr. President, if the provisional governing authority has a different point of view than the commanders of our military, who rules? And I don't think we got a good answer from that, but that's a key question.

If we hand over the government to somebody, but they have a different view than our military, what is going to happen? I think most Americans just want our military boys, men and women, to come home and we want a safe, stable Iraq. But we also want our soldiers to come back home.

ZAHN: Senator Corzine, let's come back to your point you were making about the lack of answers that you think your committee was delivered today. What about Mr. Brahimi's plan? Was any further light shed on that?

CORZINE: Well, it's really only a repetition of a concept that the United Nations is talking about.

There was some discussion about whether it was even adequate with regard to being able to reflect the views of the Iraqi people. I think we need some hard answer. And, by the way, we don't need it from people outside the administration. We actually need it from the administration. One of the disappointments of today's hearing was, we only had outside experts.

We didn't have anyone prepared to talk on the record by the administration. Now, we're going to get some folks from the State Department to come along on Thursday and, hopefully, they will be very specific about some of the questions we have. But who is sovereignty going to be passed to? How is this body going to have the ability to make the kinds of decisions that Senator Chafee talked about? And many of us want to have answers to that question before we feel secure with that June 30 date.

ZAHN: And, Senator Corzine, you would have to admit tonight, you're being much more gracious than your colleague Senator Biden was today in terms of key members of the administration testifying. Let's see how he blasted the administration today.


SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: The fact that they're not prepared to send a witness either means they are totally incompetent and they don't have anything to tell us, which would constitute incompetence, or -- or -- they're refusing to allow us to fulfill our constitutional responsibility.


ZAHN: Which of the two is it, Senator Chafee, incompetency or not allowing you guys to do your job?

CHAFEE: Don't forget, I'm a Republican.

ZAHN: I know that. I know that. But Senator Brownback, a fellow Republican, also wasn't too happy about the way things played out today. So you would have some company.


CHAFEE: Yes, I am the only Republican to vote against the war in the Senate.

But I think one of the problems we have, we're in a whole heap of trouble, there's no doubt about that. But we have to be smart. And I do worry about some of the decisions being made, particularly between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and the effect it has on energizing our adversaries in Iraq. This is no time to make decisions that are going to make our job harder in Iraq. And I do have to question between what we're doing between the Israelis and the Palestinians. It does resonate in Iraq.

ZAHN: You wouldn't bite on that one at all, would you, Senator Chafee? I guess you let Mr. Biden do all the work earlier today.

CHAFEE: Well, yes, we would have liked to have had members of the administration before our committee. And to have outside experts, we hear them on CNN and op-ed pieces. We don't need that. We have questions for the administration.

They're the only ones that can give the answers and they're not there. And we have three days of hearing with only one minor State Department official appearing from the administration, three days of hearings.

ZAHN: Senators, we're going to have to leave it there. Senators Chafee and Corzine, thank you very much for both of your perspective tonight.

CORZINE: Good to be here.

CHAFEE: You're welcome. ZAHN: And what has become of the families whose sons committed the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history? We're going to back to Columbine five years later.

And does the government have the right to hold hundreds of captives indefinitely? Relatives of Guantanamo detainees take their case all the way to the Supreme Court.

And you've heard about the president from the polls and the pundits. Well, tonight, a different perspective on politics from some pro athletes.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are the United States. And we're No. 1. And in order for us to be that way, our leader has to think that way as well and has to represent it in that fashion.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... five years ago. It is my wish that someday the world Columbine will no longer be used as a metaphor for a terrible tragedy.


ZAHN: Those were live pictures from a vigil and memorial service in Littleton, Colorado, for the victims of the Columbine shootings.

As that gentleman just mentioned, those attacks happened five years ago today. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, seen here in a videotape that was discovered later, shot and killed 13 people. They wounded 23 others and then they took their own lives.

The question of how much did the parents of Harris and Klebold know of their sons' violent plans remains largely unanswered to the public at large. Over the years, the Harrises and Klebolds have settled numerous lawsuits totaling over $1.5 million to Columbine victims and their families. But while the two couples have been central figures in one of the nation's worst tragedies and a lightning rod for emotional charged public opinion, they have led remarkably private lives.

Here's David Mattingly.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Their faces are unfamiliar. The horrors inflicted by their children are not. Five years after the Columbine massacre, Wayne and Kathy Harris, parents of the young mass murderer Eric Harris, and Tom and Sue Klebold, parents of his accomplish, Dylan Klebold, live lives of surprising silence and seclusion.

BARTELS: No one, except people who have previously known them or just their neighbor or their circle of friends, had any idea what they looked like. And it was stunning.

MATTINGLY: They all continue to work in the community and still live in the same houses. Yet Denver newspaper "The Rocky Mountain News" didn't capture photographs of the couple until last year, when they were seen only briefly exiting court after privately giving their accounts of pre-Columbine events to victims' families.

At first, everybody thought, how great. They've really got their privacy there. I don't look at it as privacy as much as I do as, I feel they're prisoners.

MATTINGLY: The Harrises, we find, are insulated deep in a Littleton, Colorado, neighborhood, their two-story house tucked away in a quiet suburban cul-de-sac. The Klebolds live a short drive away on the outskirts of town. Threat house sit among the dramatic red rock cliffs surrounded by an electric fence with a gate at the end of the driveway.

JUDY BROWN, FORMER FRIENDS OF KLEBOLDS: I think the more you hide, the more afraid you are to come out.

MATTINGLY: Former Klebold friends Judy and Randy (ph) Brown at one time arranged a meeting between Sue Klebold and mothers of the victims, but the meeting never happened, canceled, they say, by a protective attorney.

BROWN: I'm telling you, lawyers don't understand matters of the heart. They do not understand. And I don't believe she'll ever heal.

MATTINGLY: Friends say Sue Klebold once sent letters to victims and their families expressing sympathy, and in return received letters of support. But at the same time, the Klebolds feared reprisals, deciding to have their son cremated to avoid graveyard vandalism.

DON MARXHAUSEN, FORMER KLEBOLD PASTOR: In a situation like this, the despair is unbelievable. It's beyond description.

MATTINGLY: Former Klebold pastor Don Marxhausen presided over Dylan Klebold's funeral. He says the parents have relied heavily on the care of concerned neighbors.

MARXHAUSEN: I helped them take walks, make sure they were eating right, making sure they were taking care of themselves.

MATTINGLY: The Harrises are said to rely on a small circle of friends as well, though neither their attorney, nor their neighbors agreed to be interviewed. A security camera keeps watch on the front door. And the Harrises reportedly never respond to knocks from strangers.

(END VIDEOTAPE) MATTINGLY: In a videotape made not long before the shootings, it was Eric Harris who may have accurately predicted what kind of lives his parents would lead after Columbine. In that videotape, he said, "they're going to go through hell before we're finished. They'll never see the end of it" -- Paula.

ZAHN: David, we're looking at that scene, participating in the vigil behind you. And it makes me wonder, just how raw the emotions must be tonight at this five-year marker time.

MATTINGLY: Everyone here says that when the anniversaries come up and all the national attention comes here and all the national media come here, they feel there's always a spike in the emotion. They try as hard as they can to go along with their daily lives. They say these anniversaries are good in some way and it allows them to continue the healing. It's also bad in some way that it reminds them of all those painful memories that happened here five years ago, Paula.

ZAHN: David Mattingly, thanks so much.

We'll change our focus on the other side. Hundreds of detainees held at Guantanamo indefinitely without trial or charges. The Supreme Court hears arguments on their rights. We're going to hear from the father of one of those detainees.

Politics and basketball? Issues from unusual people and places as Carlos Watson begins his new "American Pulse" series. And tomorrow, we're going to take you inside a new terrorist threat information center, an effort by the CIA, FBI and other agencies to pull together in the war on terror.


ZAHN: Here are some of the headlines you need to know right now. The editor of "USA Today" resigned suddenly this afternoon as the paper deals with a scandal over untruthful reporting by one of its star reporters, Jack Kelley. The woman around (ph) the paper has been there since 1999. The paper said a search was under way for her replacement.

With some conservative radio talk shows questioning John Kerry's military record, his staff today provided some documentation to show the senator earned his three Purple Hearts for shrapnel injuries in combat. Kerry's staff also provided records on his Silver Star and Bronze Star awards. Kerry's campaign staff has said they are putting the documents on their Web site for easy access.

The more than 600 detainees at Guantanamo Bay are in limbo. They being held indefinitely as enemy combatants in the war on terror, and they are not protected by the U.S. Constitution. But today the Supreme Court heard arguments in favor of giving detainees a chance to appear individually before military tribunal and prove they are not hostile to the United States. Fawzi al Odah is one of the detainees represented in the case. His attorney, Tom Wilner, spokes before the Supreme Court today, joins us now from Washington. Fawzi al Odah's father, Khalid al Odah, joins us by phone from Kuwait.

Mr. al Odah, I'm going to start with you. Is your son a terrorist?

KHALID AL ODAH, FATHER OF GUANTANAMO DETAINEE FAWZI AL ODAH: No, not at all. My son is a well-educated man, a lovable person. He's so good to his mother, to me, and to the whole family.

ZAHN: So why do you believe he was picked up in Pakistan and then later turned over to American officials in Afghanistan?

AL ODAH: There were announcements by the American forces to hand bounties and financial rewards for anybody who hand over any suspected alien over there. So the Arabs were being hunted down by everyone there in the tribe areas.

ZAHN: So you deny that your son has ever had any connection to terror activity.

AL ODAH: Absolutely. Absolutely.

ZAHN: Mr. Wilner, let's bring you into the discussion now. The government's position, of course, is that they can pick up some of these suspects on the battlefield to be interrogated. Once they're interrogated and they're not deemed a threat, they can be released. Is it plausible to you that the U.S. government believes that Mr. al Odah's son is in some way connected to terrorist activity?

TOM WILNER, ATTORNEY FOR GUANTANAMO BAY DETAINEE: I don't think the United States really has a position on it anymore. I think when they first picked up these people, people high up in the Pentagon were told everyone there is a terrorist. It later came out, as Khalid said, that a lot of people were picked up for bounties and a lot of people were picked up by mistake. And all we're asking for is some individual hearing so they could prove their innocence.

ZAHN: What the government is arguing, though, that they have no constitutional right to that, that these detainees have no standing in America. And furthermore, they argue that if you went to this sort of military tribunal process, some details in court might be revealed that would affect the security of American citizens.

WILNER: Our claim doesn't depend on people having constitutional rights. It depends on people who are held by the United States in a territory controlled by the United States having some access to the U.S. courts. And all we ask access for is so the United States will put in place the procedures mandated by the Geneva Conventions and the military's own regulations that demand an individual hearing of anyone detained if there's any question at all.

ZAHN: So Mr. Wilner, what has the government told you about why it is holding Fawzi al Odah?

WILNER: They won't talk to us about it. They have given no information that would indicate in any way that Fawzi al Odah is a terrorist or was a combatant against the United States. ZAHN: But you can't, with 100 percent assurance, tell us tonight that he Fawzi al Odah is not a terrorist.

WILNER: No, but -- I can't, and -- but I think the key thing -- and this is so fundamental to our principles as Americans -- is everything should have the right to a hearing to prove his innocence. Somebody should be able to come forward and say, Hey, you've got the wrong guy, and I can show you why.

ZAHN: We've heard this voice from many e-mails over the last couple of months that this nation is at war and the president has a right to use these kind of powers to not allow these detainees to appear in a military tribunal.

WILNER: We are in a war on terrorism, and we've got to do everything possible to protect our security. At the same time, we should try to do so without, you know, violating our fundamental principles. We can't let the terrorists beat us by letting them take away our fundamental principles. A military tribunal hearing, which is mandated by the Geneva Conventions and our own military regulations, certainly doesn't threaten our security. It's the bottom line of what we must do and maintain our principles.

ZAHN: Let's go back to Mr. al Odah for a final thought. Do you have any expectation you will see your son any time soon?

AL ODAH: I always am optimistic of seeing Fawzi again, but I don't know if he will remain the same Fawzi I know. This is a question I am raising.

ZAHN: Tom Wilner, Khalid al Odah, thank you very much for your time tonight.

WILNER: You're welcome. Thank you.

ZAHN: And this word from the Justice Department tonight. It has told us that it does not comment on current cases and has no comment on the ongoing case regarding Guantanamo detainees.

John Kerry's trying to win over Florida's voters. We're going to find out if it's working in our new series, "American Pulse." And defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld's words set to music. Who's doing it and why, later on.


ZAHN: Tonight we begin a new segment called "American Pulse," and the pulse we have our finger on is Florida's. John Kerry campaigned there today. Both he and President Bush consider Florida a must-win state. So what are Florida voters' opinions about key issues? Well, CNN political analyst Carlos Watson has been taking their pulse. Good to see you.


ZAHN: All right. It doesn't take too long of a memory to realize that Florida was decisive in the year 2000. How critical will it be in this election?

WATSON: Critical again, not only because of the 27 electoral votes, almost 10 percent of what you need, but because Florida, if you will, in many ways is a microcosm of the nation -- rural areas in northern Florida is very much like the South, but south Florida, some people say, is a lot like the Caribbean. So it's a very diverse place, very diverse voter set. And so I think Florida's going to be very important, in terms of deciding who ultimately wins.

ZAHN: So you hung out with voters. Who did you talk to down there?

WATSON: Yes, we did something a little bit different, and we're going to do that throughout this series. Instead of going to people you think we'd talk to -- senators, members of Congress -- we talked to the NBA players, the Miami Heat and their fans. And you wouldn't believe what they had to say about war, about economy, about gay marriage, even, which you don't typically hear athletes opening up on.


Do any of you have family right now serving in Iraq?

JOHN WALLACE, DEMOCRAT: Just a cousin of mine. He's over there. He wanted to go. He's one of them gung-ho, I can't wait for another war to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) You know, it's just my opinion. I just feel we should have been pulled out of there. The death toll is surpassing 600 people. That's crazy.

RON CULP, ATHLETIC TRAINER: I question the reasoning now that we were given over a year ago for the war. I question -- I want to know where the weapons of mass destruction are. I want to know why the British felt they could be under attack in 30 minutes. I'd like to know the truth.

WATSON: So both of you here have huge reservations about the war in Iraq.

WALLACE: The whole Bush thing was -- you know, I think it was just a vendetta. He just needed another, like, a half a reason to go over there.

SAMAKI WALKER, INDEPENDENT: I do respect his sternness. It is very important to have a leader who's not afraid to react.

WATSON: So you don't mind when people criticize President Bush for sometimes seeming stern or seeming like he wants to go it on his own.

WATKINS: We are the United States. We're No. 1. And in order for us to be that way, our leader has to think that way, as well, and has represent us in that fashion.

WATSON: One of the subjects that blew up and became very significant at the end of last year, and moreso this year, has been the subject of gay marriage. You saw that President Bush proposed... WALLACE: Uh-oh.

WATSON: ... a constitutional amendment...


WATSON: He said, "Uh-oh." John said "Uh-oh."

WALLACE: You know, if you don't let them get married, if you don't let two guys or two women get married, they're going to still be together. They're (UNINTELLIGIBLE) together. They're going to act married.


WALLACE: They're going to do married things.

WATSON: Right.

WALLACE: You might as well just let them get married.

WATSON: Ron, where are you on this?

CULP: You can't legislate morality. If they want to coexist together, you know -- you know, I can't say you can't do that. You know, I have my family, if they want to have their family and that's what they consider family, then so be it.

WATSON: Karl (ph), what do you think?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To each his own. Let them live how they want.

WATSON: Samaki, where are you on this?

WATKINS: We as a people have become, you know, so small-minded. And at the same time, it kind of scares me because these are the same people that we're electing to lead our country. And if they're small- minded to, you know, such subjects, then, you know, at a broader picture, you know, how can they actually help me?

WATSON: If you were to ask most people, the stereotype of professional athletes is that they actually would be some of the people who would be most against gay marriage.

WALLACE: I'm not a homophobic, but, you know, if that's what they want to do, do that over there -- I can't even come over there because I know what I am. So that doesn't affect me one way or the other. You can't try to control someone else's life.

WATKINS: You normally find people who are up tight like that normally have insecurities of their own. And they'll show it in some -- you know, some shape or fashion, you know, whether they're a political leader or average Joe on the street.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ZAHN: So interesting here, what they have to say.


ZAHN: Because it sort of bucks the national trend. Don't the majority of Americans oppose gay marriage?

WATSON: Oppose gay marriage. And actually, what's very interesting, though, is they capture an interesting phenomenon. In Florida and some of these other Sunbelt states that are not the true South, people are actually more liberal on some of these social issues, if you will -- abortion, gay marriage, et cetera. And so what might be seen as a weakness for John Kerry in Alabama and Mississippi -- actually, his position on civil unions actually may play in states like Florida.

ZAHN: You took the opportunity to talk with some Miami Heat fans.

WATSON: These people...

ZAHN: What are they steamed about?

WATSON: Not only were they steamed in talking about the war and talking about the economy, but you would not believe who they think should be on the ballot this time and who they think John Kerry should select for vice president. I fact, I think we've got a little clip to show right now.


Could you seriously envision a woman candidate running next time around in 2008, running and winning?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're getting close.

WATSON: Is 2008 too soon, do you think?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Might be too soon. You probably think I'm nuts, but if you ever listen to Hillary Clinton speak...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's what I was going to say.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... she will floor you.

WATSON: Gene (ph), if Hillary Clinton were running instead of John Kerry...


WATSON: ... you would vote for Hillary Clinton?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd vote for her.

WATSON: Over George Bush?


WATSON: Very interesting!


WATSON: This is absolutely interesting. I'm sitting with a group here of five people, two people who are likely to vote for Kerry, three people who are likely to vote for Bush, and the one person that would get all five of your votes today is Hillary Clinton.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think she's smart...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... and knows the issues and pulls no punches.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think she'd make a difference.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think she would.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Face it, I mean, Bill wasn't the guy running the country.



ZAHN: They surprised me! Hillary Clinton, one of the most polarizing politicians in this country!

WATSON: Blew me away. If anyone had asked you or me, Who else should be on this ballot, who else would voters want on this ballot, both Republicans and Democrats, we would have said Colin Powell, we would have said John McCain. No way we would have guessed that three people who are voting for the president would have said, I'll choose Hillary Clinton, as well as two people who are going for Kerry.

ZAHN: And you head to Pennsylvania next week to once again turn over all conventional wisdom for us.

WATSON: You're going to be surprised where we go, Paula. If you liked this one, you'll love what we do in Pennsylvania.

ZAHN: All right. Thanks, Carlos.

WATSON: Good to see you.

ZAHN: Well, it wasn't bound to happen, but it did. The wit and wisdom of defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld in song.


DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we now know we don't know.



ZAHN: Welcome back. The word "musical" rarely accompanies descriptions of defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, but now a couple of composers have found that there's actually some music in his words, and maybe even a few hit songs. Here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Donald Rumsfeld briefed reporters, little did he know he was writing songs.

DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we now know we don't know.

MOOS: But there are also unknown unknowns.

ELEANOR WAHL, SOPRANO: (SINGING) We also know there are known unknowns. That is to say, we know there are some things we do not know.

RUMSFELD: But there are also unknown unknowns.

PHIL KLINE, COMPOSER: (SINGING) -- unknown unknowns...

MOOS: Who knew two composers, one on the West Coast, one on the East Coast, would separately put Secretary Rumsfeld's words to music.

KLINE: Rumsfeld is like this singer and dancer of language. He just spins stuff. He loves it, you can tell.

MOOS: Rumsfeld's words were first collected in a book of poetry. Now poetry has become song.

RUMSFELD: Everyone's so eager to get the story before, in fact, the story's there that -- that the world is constantly being fed things that haven't happened.

WAHL: (SINGING) The world is constantly being fed things that haven't happened.

I've become very good at keeping a straight face!

MOOS: Soprano Eleanor Wahl (ph) was asked by her composer friend Bryant Kong (ph) to perform the Rumsfeld songs. And no, they're not fans of the defense secretary's policies.

BRYANT KONG, COMPOSER: There's a gray area between satire and a good-natured roast.

MOOS: Phil Kline even made a song out of the defense secretary's reaction to TV replays of looting in Iraq.

RUMSFELD: And it's the same picture of some person walking out of some building with a vase.

KLINE: (SINGING) It's the same picture of some person walking out of some building with a vase.

MOOS: Both composers have released CDs.

(on camera): You can't imagine a song like this ever kind of being played on a radio and becoming, like, a hit song?


MOOS (voice-over): Rummy No. 1 on a hit parade?

RUMSFELD: There are things we do not know we don't know.

WAHL: (SINGING) We don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is wonderful. This is very strange.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They never did put Mr. Kissinger to music, did they?

MOOS: The Pentagon released a statement saying, "No one is more surprised than Secretary Rumsfeld that people find his work poetic." We wanted to ask the secretary himself about this at a briefing but were afraid someone would turn it into a song.

RUMSFELD: The world thinks all these things happened. They never happened.

WAHL: (SINGING) They never happened, never happened...

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


ZAHN: We're going to take a short break, give you a chance to go out and buy some of those hot new CDs.


ZAHN: This just in. The Dominican Republic says it will withdraw its 300 troops from Iraq as soon as possible, following the lead of Spain and Honduras.

That's it for all of us tonight. Thanks so much for being with us. Tomorrow, an exclusive look inside the top secret terrorist threat information center at the CIA. Thanks for joining us tonight. "LARRY KING LIVE" is next.


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