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CNN WOLF BLITZER REPORTS
Were U.S. and U.N. delegations to Sudan misled? New information on Osama bin Laden, Tom Ridge alerts nation on terror threats, Mystery surrounding U.S. marine's disappearance deepening, Former Enron chairman Ken Lay surrenders to authorities
Aired July 8, 2004 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now. Tale of deception. Were the U.S. and United Nations delegations to Sudan deliberately misled?
And new information on what Osama bin Laden may be up to.
Stand by for hard news on WOLF BLITZER REPORTS.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): Terror threat. A warning that al Qaeda plans a large-scale on the United States but...
TOM RIDGE, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We lack precise knowledge about time, place, and method of attack.
O'BRIEN: So why go public now?
Safe and sound. That U.S. marine is no longer missing but the mystery deepens.
Busting the boss. Enron's former chairman surrenders and the feds unwrap the charges in one of the biggest corporate scandals ever.
One on one with Clinton.
BILL CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think by far your biggest problem is bin Laden and al Qaeda and it's my great regret that I didn't get him. I tried.
CNN's Christiane Amanpour previews her interview with the former president.
ANNOUNCER: This is WOLF BLITZER REPORTS for Thursday, July 8, 2004.
O'BRIEN: Hello. I'm Miles O'Brien at the CNN Center in Atlanta. Wolf is off again today. Al Qaeda is plotting a major attack on America tied to the political season. Sound familiar? It's not the first time the administration has sounded that alarm. And they admit there are still no clear details about where, when, or how the terrorists might strike. So what's behind the warning? Let's turn to our justice correspondent Kelli Arena -- Kelli.
KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Miles, officials say they wanted to update the public on the threat situation. They are very concerned about the constant stream of intelligence that continues to come in suggesting a major attack between now and the November elections.
ARENA (voice-over): With the Democratic convention in Boston less than three weeks away, the man in charge of protecting the homeland issued another terror warning.
RIDGE: Credible reporting now indicates that al Qaeda is moving forward with its plans to carry out a large-scale attack in the United States in an effort to disrupt our democratic process.
ARENA: Officials say that's exactly what al Qaeda believes it did in Spain. But Ridge says the intelligence about an attack in the United States offers no specific time, place or method and he says there are no plans to raise the national threat level. Critics suggest without specifics public warnings do not help the public.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They should avoid the dramatic monthly press conference and have a continuous dialogue with the American people on a much more nonthreatening level that keeps them appraised on a regular basis as to what's been done.
ARENA: Counterterrorism officials say there is intelligence suggesting terrorists are looking to hit transportation systems like they did in Madrid. And based on past overseas plots, intelligence analysts are particularly concerned about truck bombs which could be used to target tunnels and bridges. Officials also say al Qaeda remains very interested in aviation, either targeting aircraft or using it as a weapon.
RIDGE: These are not conjectures or mythical statements we are making. These are pieces of information that we can trace comfortably to sources that we deem to be credible.
ARENA: As for what's being done, the Department of Homeland Security just unveiled a new state of the art operation center for real-time threat monitoring.
Officials also cite a new pilot program to track high-risk trucks, the availability of handheld radiological detectors and constant Internet surveillance of certain chemical facilities.
ARENA: What's more. Senior intelligence officials say the U.S. is putting al Qaeda under heavy pressure along the Afghanistan- Pakistan border where top al Qaeda leaders are believed to be. Officials say intelligence shows those leaders including Osama bin Laden continue to give orders directing planned attacks -- Miles.
O'BRIEN: CNN's Kelli arena in Washington, thank you.
After days of mystery and confusion, U.S. Marine Corporal Wassef Hassoun is safe and sound and technically, at least, on U.S. soil. He's at the U.S. embassy in Beirut, Lebanon. Hassoun went missing in Iraq last month. Military officials are still investigating the circumstances of that disappearance including the possibility it was all a hoax. CNN's senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre is standing by -- Jamie.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Miles, at the Pentagon they expressed relief today that Corporal Hassoun is in fact safe and in U.S. hands, but suffice it to say, he has a lot of explaining to do.
MCINTYRE (voice-over): Before he got to the U.S. embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, Pentagon sources say it took three times to arrange a meeting but eventually Corporal Wassef Ali Hassoun turned himself over voluntarily to embassy officials.
He made contacts with us and arranged a place to meet and we went to pick him up and brought him back to the embassy.
MCINTYRE: Pentagon officials say Hassoun is now under military control and faces questioning by military investigators over the circumstances of his disappearance from his unit in Iraq and his reappearance in Tripoli, Lebanon 18 days later.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The investigation is ongoing and we don't know how he got there or what went on between the time that he was reported missing from his unit until he got into Lebanon.
MCINTYRE: When he was first reported missing, sources say the Marine Corps suspected he wanted to desert to Lebanon where he was born and still has family. Pentagon sources say investigators are also looking into whether Hassoun's capture by a previously unknown Islamic militant group and the video purporting to show him under the threat of beheading was real or a hoax staged to cover his desertion.
LARRY DIRITA, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: We have nothing for you on it. We'll just let this situation unfold and when we have got something to say, we'll say it.
MCINTYRE: Now the Pentagon is strongly cautioning against speculation, insisting that the investigation will eventually turn up the facts but should it turn out that Hassoun is charged with desertion, he could technically face the death penalty -- Miles.
O'BRIEN: CNN's Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon. Thank you.
As important as Florida turned out to be in the 2000 election, it should come as no surprise to you the newly minted Kerry-Edwards ticket descended on the Sunshine State today but that's just one stop on the trail.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Kerry and John Edwards!
O'BRIEN (voice-over): Another whistle stop in a whirlwind tour for the Kerry campaign. Day two with the new number two firing up the base.
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What I know is we're going to win this election. We're going to make America strong at home and we're going to create respect for America all across the world with John Kerry as our president.
O'BRIEN: On the heels of yesterday's rallies in Ohio, the new Democratic duo today took the fight to Fort Lauderdale in Florida perhaps the second most sought-after state in November, one the Democrats thought they won in 2000.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've got news for you. In 2004, not only does every vote in Florida count but every vote is going to be counted.
O'BRIEN: The politicking continues tonight when the team heads to New York for a star-studded fundraiser expected to rake in millions.
AD ANNOUNCER: John Kerry's economic record...
O'BRIEN: And they'll need it too, because starting tomorrow Bush-Cheney says it will launch another major campaign ad effort with a major new target. Traditional GOP turf and Edwards country, North Carolina. They'll also be pulling the much-talked about ad featuring Senator John McCain, replacing it on national cable and in battleground states with a new negative ad.
AD ANNOUNCER: Yet Kerry found time to vote against the Laci Peterson law that protects pregnant women from violence. Kerry has his priorities. Are they yours?
O'BRIEN: President Bush is off the campaign trail today but he's back on the stump tomorrow with several stops in Pennsylvania.
O'BRIEN: John and Teresa Heinz Kerry joins CNN's Larry King for an exclusive interview tonight. That's at 9:00 Eastern. 6:00 Pacific. Tune in for that.
An al Qaeda warning from one president to another.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: This has nothing to do with my being a Democrat and you being a Republican. I believe, objectively, I've been reading this for eight years and then watching this. I think by far your biggest problem is bin Laden and al Qaeda and it's my great regret that I didn't get him. I tried.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: Former President Bill Clinton in a candid interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.
The politics of terror. Why Democrats raise questions about the Bush administration's latest warning.
Plus, indicted but defiant. Enron's Ken Lay with a lot to say after his arrest.
ANNOUNCER: This week in history. In 1971 the world loses one of its greatest jazz musicians, Louis Armstrong.
In 1981, Sandra Day O'Connor became the first woman nominated to the Supreme Court.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do.
ANNOUNCER: And Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North began his testimony before Congress in the Iran-Contra hearings on July 7, 1987. That is this week in history.
O'BRIEN: Former President Bill Clinton says he warned President Bush of the threat posed by al Qaeda long before 9/11. Just one of the revelations in an interview with our chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour.
She joins us live now from Washington with more -- Christiane?
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Miles, I had a conversation with President Clinton entirely on foreign policy. He is going to Europe and around other parts of the world on his book tour, and things like terrorism -- obviously, Iraq, the Middle East peace process -- are on many, many people's minds, not only in this country, but around the rest of the world.
I asked him specifically about something that he had written in his book, describing how when he had met with President Bush shortly before President Bush's inauguration, he had said to him that your biggest national security threat, your biggest problem will be Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda, and terrorism.
And he said that President Bush didn't say anything about that and simply asked him about how he did his job as president. And President Clinton responded this way, in -- when I asked him about how he read that response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CLINTON: I said I know that your people have concluded, and I've read your statements, that Saddam Hussein and missile defense are the two big security issues.
And so, I said, this has nothing to do with my being a Democrat and your being a Republican, I just -- my -- I believe objectively -- I've been reading this for eight years, I've been watching this -- I think by far your biggest problems is bin Laden and al Qaeda. And it's my great regret that I didn't get him; I tried.
And I said the second problem, by far, is the absence of a peace process in the Middle East, because that's fueling all this.
And the third problem is the continuing tension between India and Pakistan, because they've both got nuclear weapons. And the Pakistani Military is full of people who have ties to the Taliban and, by extension, to al Qaeda.
Then, I would rank North Korea and then Iraq. I said that's just my opinion.
So, I didn't blame him for not saying anything, because I had presented him with a very different world view than he had been getting from these other folks. So, I didn't think it was that he didn't pay attention; I just think he thought -- he might have thought it wasn't prudent for him to say I disagree or I agree.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: The president also said that he wished that he had been able to go after Osama bin Laden, most especially after the attack on the USS Cole. And he told us he would have done, with no regard to politics or anything else that was going on in the world, had the FBI and the CIA come to him with a definitive conclusion that Osama bin Laden/al Qaeda had been responsible for that.
That conclusion did not come, he said, until just after he left office -- Miles?
O'BRIEN: CNN's Christiane Amanpour, thank you very much.
You can see more of Christiane's interview with former President Bill Clinton tonight on "NEWSNIGHT WITH AARON BROWN," 10:00 Eastern, 7:00 Pacific right here on CNN.
Indicted, arrested and maintaining his innocence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KENNETH LAY, FMR. CHAIRMAN & CEO, ENRON: It has been a tragic day for me and my family. We believe also, though, that an indictment came down that should not have occurred.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: That's just the start of what Enron's Kenneth Lay had to say to reporters. Live coverage from Houston up next.
The ruling Martha Stewart has been waiting for comes, and it's not a good thing for her. We'll have the latest developments in her case.
Plus, terror on the Web: surfers seeking out what's too intense for television.
O'BRIEN: Former Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay pleaded not guilty and then started pleading before the court of public opinion. He took the highly unusual step of holding a news conference today after appearing in court to answer charges linked to the collapse of the company he founded.
CNN's Jen Rogers has the story from Houston -- Jen.
JEN ROGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Miles, a very busy and dramatic day for Ken Lay, the former CEO and Chairman of Enron.
It started quite early here in Houston. He turned himself in to the FBI around 6:00 a.m. Central time. He was then photographed and fingerprinted, we are told, handcuffed and brought here to the federal building in Houston.
He then made a court appearance where they introduced the charges against him. There are 11 counts in the superseding indictment -- counts of securities, wire, and bank fraud. Prosecutors say if convicted on all charges, he could face a maximum of 175 years in prison.
Now, during his arraignment, he entered a plea of not guilty. He was released on a $500,000 unsecured bond, and he left in courthouse hand in hand with his wife, Linda Lay. They then headed to a downtown Houston hotel for a press conference -- a very unusual press conference where Mr. Lay spoke for 30 minutes, taking questions from reporters, addressing a wide range of issues, talking about the indictment and Enron's collapse.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAY: Indeed, it has been a tragic day for me and my family. We believe also though that an indictment came down that should not have occurred. As CEO of the company, I accept responsibility for Enron's collapse, as I've said before. However, that does not mean I knew everything that happened at Enron and I firmly reject any notion that I engaged in any wrongful or criminal activity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROGERS: Ken Lay's attorney Michael Ramsey called today's indictment a stretch, but in Washington, D.C. where the Department of Justice and FBI held their own press conference, they are calling it a milestone and a message to corporate America that if you disobey the law, you will pay the price. Ken Lay says that he will be asking for a speedy trial. Of course it's taken two and a half years to get to this week's indictment. He's hoping for a September court date -- Miles.
O'BRIEN: Thank you very much. Jen Rogers in Houston.
The founder of one of the country's largest cable companies convicted. That story tops our justice report.
A New York jury found Adelphia founder John Regas and two sons guilty of some of the 23 charges each were facing. Prosecutors accused them of stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from Adelphia for their personal use. Each faces 15 to 20 years in prison.
Motion denied. The judge in the Martha Stewart case says no new trial for the convicted businesswoman. Stewart's lawyers cited a government ink expert now accused of lying in his testimony. The judge said the alleged perjury had no impact on the verdict. Stewart expected to get up to 16 months when she is sentenced next week for lying to government investigators about a stock sale.
A federal grand jury has indicted two former pilots for America West Airlines. The men accused of being drunk at the controls of a flight in Miami two years ago. They were arrested before they could take off and subsequently fired and stripped of their licenses. Florida officials also pressing charges.
A word of warning about al Qaeda. Members have the will, but do they have a way to attack the United States? And how seriously should we take the threat? I'll ask homeland security adviser Fran Townsend.
And some say the message is more about politics than terror. We'll take a closer look at those claims.
And more U.S. casualties in Iraq as insurgents continue their attacks. The latest when we come back.
O'BRIEN: Welcome back. We'll have more on today's terror warnings from Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and we'll tell you why some folks in Washington are skeptical. But first a quick check of the stories now in the news.
A House transportation subcommittee looking into an air incursion that prompted a hasty evacuation of the Capitol during Ronald Reagan's funeral last month. The plane in question was carrying Kentucky's governor and had permission to enter restricted airspace but a series of mistakes led to a false security alert.
A lawyer for the woman accusing Kobe Bryant of rape says his client has hired another high-profile attorney to address media coverage and the accuser's privacy rights. The new attorney also represented the parents of Jon Benet Ramsey and Richard Jewell, the former Olympic bombing suspect.
New numbers out from the Labor Department show first-time jobless claims at their lowest level in more than three years. 310,000 people filed for unemployment last week, 35,000 fewer than forecasters were predicting. It's the lowest number of new jobless claims since October, 2000.
Keeping you informed, CNN, the most trusted name in news.
The Bush administration is warning of a large-scale al Qaeda attack on the United States but on Capitol Hill, a political battle has broken out over what the Senate is doing about the threat. Our congressional correspondent Ed Henry reports.
ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So the first to acknowledge that the threats are troubling but right now they're asking, why is the Senate focused instead on issues like gay marriage instead of homeland security?
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: We have an appropriations bill standing in line for homeland security that we cannot get to the floor. Instead, we're engaged in these nonsensical, feudal, parliamentary, political, partisan games. It is a shame and it reflects on all of us but it most reflects on the majority leadership of this body.
HENRY (voice-over): That anger was sparked by an unnerving closed-door briefing the Senate received from FBI and CIA officials about terror threats. Following the meeting, one Democratic senator in the room told CNN that the current state of alert was, quote, "the most worrisome situation since 9/11." Another leading Democrat said the threat is severe.
SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: We're called to a secret room in the Capitol. We have to discuss the threats to our country. This is very serious stuff.
HENRY: Later in the morning, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge publicly warned of potential attacks before the election.
RIDGE: We live in serious times and this is sobering information about those who wish to do us harm.
HENRY: Senate Democrats seized upon the news to charge that Republicans have misplaced priorities. The Senate is stalled over a bill that would limit lawsuits and Republicans are planning next week to bring up a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage even though it's unlikely to pass.
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: This Congress, this administration is sort of fiddling while al Qaeda plots. And they're playing all kinds of political games and things, you know, that they think will help score points in the election. Nothing will be more appreciated by the American people than making us safe from terrorism.
(END VIDEOTAPE) HENRY: Miles, an aide to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said Republicans are actually trying to bring up the homeland security appropriations bill but Democrats are blocking it. The aide went on to say as well that security could be a bipartisan issue but they think basically Democrats are playing politics with it today -- Miles.
O'BRIEN: All right. Thank you, Ed Henry, on Capitol Hill.
While many Democrats are questioning the timing and motivation behind Tom Ridge's terror warning today, some Capitol Hill insiders insist what's being said behind closed doors about the terror threat is very serious indeed.
Here to help us sort through the public statements, the private meetings and the politics of terror, California Republican Chris Cox, chairman of the House committee on homeland security and the ranking Democrat, Congressman Jim Turner of Texas. Good to have you both with us.
Mr. Cox, we'll begin with you. Did you hear any news in that Ridge announcement today?
REP. CHRIS COX (R-CA), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: Of course, what Tom Ridge told the country is two things. First, the al Qaeda threat has not abated. There is a steady drumbeat of reporting. And second, we have made significant progress in preparing for both potential attacks and our response to them.
I think if al Qaeda does attempt something on the order of 9/11 today, they will find it much more difficult than they did before.
There's an implicit message in what Tom Ridge is telling us with these periodic news conferences, and that is, in order to defeat terrorism, America has to go on with the rest of its business and the rest of its life.
COX: The terrorists want to make us afraid and we need to go about our business and rest assured that government at all levels, both law enforcement and intelligence, federal, state and local, is sharing information and preparing us in ways that were not, unhappily, the case before September 11.
O'BRIEN: Mr. Cox, you, of course, have heard the criticism from the other side of the aisle that, two days after the Kerry-Edwards ticket is christened, this comes up and there thank weren't a lot of new facts brought forward, although an important thrust and statement, nevertheless, we can all agree on. Is there some political motivation here and is it dangerous to play with the American public that way, if that is in fact the case?
COX: Well, I think that you'll notice 2004 is an election year. It will be all year. And so, unless we are prepared to say that there will be no more threat briefings of Congress and no more public announcements of normal progress between now and November, I think we have to say that this is just business as usual.
There's a good message in what's going on. And that is that, amidst all of the concern and the preparation in counterterrorism, we have not been attacked in the last 34 months, and, furthermore, we are better prepared both to prevent and meet such an attack in the future.
O'BRIEN: Mr. Turner, when you look at it from the administration perspective, it's a very difficult position to be in. You may not have a lot of substantive new facts, but there's obviously great concern. They're sort of darned if they do and darned if they don't, aren't they? Or is there something more political at root here?
REP. JIM TURNER (D), TEXAS: Well, I certainly wouldn't want to question anyone's motive.
But it is very apparent to me the there wasn't any new information in the press conference that Secretary Ridge had. We've known for a long time that al Qaeda is planning to attack America. Intelligence indicates that it may be some time between now and the end of the year. The real issue that we ought to be talking about is, are we safe enough, have we prepared enough to deter and to respond in the event of a terrorist attack?
And frankly I don't think the administration has done enough. I've been one, along with my Democratic colleagues, to advocate a greater investment in making this country safe. So I think that's the issue we need to be talking about. And if we're going to make America safe against terrorism, we've got to regain the sense of urgency that I believe we all had after September 11. That's what it's going to take, and it's a new way of looking at what we do to be sure we're making our country safe from the threat of terrorism.
O'BRIEN: Mr. Turner, a lot of talk today about the difference between what's going on behind closed doors and what we're hearing publicly. Do you make much of that?
TURNER: No, I don't think that there is any difference.
I think the reality is that we have known and through public statements made by our intelligence agencies for many months now that al Qaeda is planning an attack against our country. It's believed by many that it will be an attack that would be even more catastrophic than 9/11. But there's no specifics available, to my knowledge, and I think it's important for us all to remain vigilant, but to continue to urge the president and the administration and the Congress to make the kind of commitment that we must make to make America safe.
O'BRIEN: All right, thank you very much, gentlemen. I'm sorry. We're short on time. Jim Turner and Chris Cox, we appreciate your time.
COX: Good afternoon.
TURNER: Thank you.
O'BRIEN: So why this vague warning? Why now? For some further answers, we turn it to the president's homeland security adviser, Fran Townsend joining us now live from the White House.
Ms. Townsend, good to have you with us.
FRAN TOWNSEND, WHITE HOUSE HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: Good afternoon, Miles.
O'BRIEN: All right, what was the news item in that news conference that we saw today? Perhaps we missed it.
TOWNSEND: Well, I think it's pretty clear, actually.
The fact is that there's an emerging pattern from the intelligence and the threat information that we need, the American people and state and local law enforcement, to assist us in completing that picture so we can thwart an attack.
O'BRIEN: So why now? Was did Mr. Ridge come forward today? Was this something you advised him to do?
TOWNSEND: The answer is pretty clear.
The people -- we don't play politics with threat information. It's too serious and it's too important. The fact is, the bad guys, by their actions, and the intelligence community, by their window in, those things coming together determine when we go to the American people.
O'BRIEN: And politics has nothing to do with this in an election year?
TOWNSEND: That's exactly right.
Your prior guests were saying you're kind of damned if you do, damned if you don't. We have a responsibility to communicate to the American people what the state of information is. I'm a mother of two children. I want to know that I have got the information I can have in order to make informed decisions and what can I do to help law enforcement thwart the next attack. That's what we're trying to do today.
O'BRIEN: All right, there was a response that came out of the Kerry-Edwards campaign today. Let's put the words up on the screen. I'll read it to you. This is in the wake of the Ridge announcement.
Essentially, what they're saying here is, they have been unable to set the most -- they referring to the administration, Bush administration -- "They have been unable to set the most elementary requirements for protection and have no strategy to determine how to best protect our country from the threats we face and what steps need to be taken to do that."
That's a big statement which requires a long answer, I'm sure, but is there any way you can offer us a condensed response to that? TOWNSEND: Well, it suggests to me that they haven't read the president's homeland security strategy. The fact is that, through the Department of Homeland Security and through the FBI's joint terrorism task forces, we go at the state and locals. We ask them to be alert for certain kinds of information that we believe will assist us in thwarting attack.
Furthermore, we go to private industry. We go to them through sector conference calls and we talk to them about the kinds of information that we're looking for, what we might call preoperational surveillance or suspicious activity at private companies or sites.
And we ask them to report that to us. We take that information together. This president has turned around how we deal with terrorism and terrorism threat information. We have a Terrorist Threat Integration Center that pulls that information together and connects the dots, if you will, and turns that back around, so that we can take protective measures, smart, focused protective measures, in an attempt to stop the next attack.
O'BRIEN: All right, let's shift our focus just somewhat here. There's a piece out in "The New Republic" magazine, kind of a wag the dog allegation that suggests that the Bush administration is pushing very hard on Pakistan, pressuring the Pakistanis to deliver Osama bin Laden or a high-valued target sometime before the fall election.
What's your response to that one?
TOWNSEND: Miles, I wish it was that easy, that we could pick the date when we got high-value targets into custody. The fact of the matter is, the Pakistanis and others have been tremendous allies, but the Pakistanis in particular.
President Musharraf has faced two assassination attempts. Pakistani forces have lost significant numbers and suffered significant casualties. They have their own motivation. It's a threat to the regime and Pakistan, the governor, and it's a threat to the Pakistani people, in addition to it being a threat for us, very similar to what you see going on in Saudi Arabia. That government feels threatened and it takes actions. We don't control the actions of other governments.
We have been very fortunate to have some very strong allies in this war against terror. And we appreciate those efforts, because we too are the beneficiaries of it. But I think it's unfair to characterize it as pressuring them for our own political means.
O'BRIEN: Fran Townsend is the homeland security adviser at the White House. Thank you for your time. We appreciate it.
TOWNSEND: Miles, thank you very much.
O'BRIEN: All right.
Here's your turn to weigh in on this story. Our Web question of the day is this: Should the U.S. terror threat level be raised from elevated to high? You can vote right now at CNN.com/Wolf. We'll have the results a little later in this broadcast.
More violence, more bloodshed in Iraq, and now five more U.S. soldiers dead. New fears the insurgency is picking up steam.
Plus, from mainstream to Internet stream. It turns out some Americans are getting their images from Iraq online. And we'll explain why.
And later, honoring the fallen, an overview memorial for the other veterans of the Vietnam War. We'll get to that.
But, first, a quick look at some of the other news making headlines around the world.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): Observers report the fiercest fighting in northern Gaza since the current Israeli operation began 10 days ago; 10 Palestinians are dead, including a man identified as a Hamas leader.
Still silence. Israel Prime Minister Sharon still won't say whether Israel has nuclear weapons, but in a meeting today with the U.N.'s Mohamed ElBaradei, Mr. Sharpton did say Israel is willing to negotiate an agreement to ban nuclear weapons throughout the Middle East.
Reunion plans. Charles Jenkins, a former U.S. soldier who allegedly defected to North Korea in 1965, is heading to a reunion with his wife, a Japanese woman who was abducted to North Korea in 1978. Two years ago, she returned to Japan. He fears that, if he joins her there, he'll face U.S. desertion charges, so the reunion will be in Indonesia.
And that's our look around the world.
O'BRIEN: It was a bloody day for U.S. troops in Iraq in the northern town of Samarra. Insurgents rained mortar fire on a headquarters building. Five U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi guardsman were killed. While the insurgency rages on, are Iraqis getting tired of one of the terrorists behind it?
CNN's Brent Sadler explains.
BRENT SADLER, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): This deadly mortar attack is the latest indication, say Iraqi officials, that the insurgency is growing in strength and support, in the wake of a failed U.S. offensive to take Fallujah in April.
Since then, the city has inadvertently fallen under the influence of Taliban-style extremists, providing shelter, it has claimed, by U.S. and Iraqi officials for this man, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the most wanted terror suspect in Iraq.
MOWAFFAK AL-RUBAIE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Fallujah is not going to be a save haven for these terrorists. And nowhere in Iraq will be a safe haven for these terrorists.
SADLER: American jets have bombed Zarqawi's alleged hideouts in Fallujah, west of Baghdad, missing their man. But now it seems home- grown Iraqi vigilantes, calling them the Rescue Group, are also on his trail, threatening to eliminate Zarqawi if he stays in Iraq.
(on camera): Security officials here blame Zarqawi for the deaths of more than 200 Iraqis, civilian and security forces alike, turning him, they say, into a hate figure for crimes he's committing against the newly empowered sovereign government of Iraq and its people.
(voice-over): This is a talk show on Radio Baghdad. The host is deluged with calls from listeners berating poor security and blaming America. But Zarqawi's name crops up here, too.
"Why have you come to Baghdad?" asks this caller. "We're Muslims and you are Muslim? Would are you here?" Go to the Palestinian- Israeli fight.
AL-RUBAIE: If Zarqawi is given to the hands of the Iraqis, ordinary Iraqis -- forget about the government for the time being -- they will eat him probably alive.
SADLER: Officials are urging Iraqis to turn Zarqawi in. But in a surprising twist of tactics, they'll also offering a subtle caveat. If there's no time to alert authorities, they advise, do what's right.
Brent Sadler, CNN, Baghdad.
O'BRIEN: While U.S. television networks have shown much of the violence in Iraq, the folks in this newsroom are frequently faced with hard decisions on just how much is too much. But these days, there are many other ways to see what is deemed too shocking for the viewers of broadcast television, of course.
Our Daniel Sieberg has been online and he tells us more.
DANIEL SIEBERG, CNN TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You won't see the beheadings on TV. Nor will you see the most graphic images from the Abu Ghraib prison. And you won't see the most violent pictures of the American contractors killed in Fallujah on TV.
But millions of Americans are seeing it all on the Internet, whether they want to or not. A new poll from the Pew Internet and American Life Project asked Americans about these specific images and concluded that a new pattern is emerging.
LEE RAINIE, PEW INTERNET PROJECT: At the time when the Daniel Pearl kidnapping and beheading took place, we began to pick up evidence that people were using the Internet to get access to the images that were not displayed on TV or shown in newspapers.
SIEBERG: According to the study, out of 92 million Internet users nationwide, a surprising number of adults who surf the Net, about 30 million Americans, had see the Berg, Abu Ghraib or Fallujah graphic content online.
Many were searching for these images, but more than two-thirds said they just ran across them while surfing. That's nearly 21 million Americans who happened upon the content while doing other things online. About half were glad they saw them, while about a third said they wished they hadn't seen the images.
RAINIE: There are people who embrace the idea that it's good to have as much information as possible, even if it's very repulsive or graphic or extreme. We also see that, when a lot of people encounter these images online, they are very uncomfortable. In some respects, that validates the decision by mainstream news organizations not to display these pictures and make them available.
SIEBERG: The bottom line is that Internet users can choose whether or not to view graphic images online when the mainstream media editors and producers make those decisions.
SIEBERG: As the director of the study put it, many Americans believe in the idea of making an abundance of information available for people, so they can make up their own minds about a particular story.
But the survey respondents were divided. Perhaps not surprisingly, most Internet users approved of posting the graphic content online, while most nonusers felt it was inappropriate. Either way, the Internet continues to be a place where anyone can become a publisher -- Miles.
O'BRIEN: CNN's Daniel Sieberg, thank you very much. Appreciate it.
It's a humanitarian nightmare, refugees driven into exile, subjected to atrocities and starvation, but is an African govern engaged in an elaborate cover-up? We'll have that for you in just a moment.
O'BRIEN: It is widely considered to be the world's worst humanitarian disaster, the displacement of some one million people in the Sudan's Darfur region. But is the Sudanese government covering up the full extent of this human tragedy?
CNN's Brian Todd is on the story in Washington -- Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Miles, the accounts vary just on how far Sudanese officials may have gone to conceal the crisis, but last week, when a few well-known dignitaries visited Darfur, many officials say what they saw is a clear pattern.
TODD (voice-over): The American secretary of state moves through a refugee camp in Darfur, western Sudan, a security nightmare. Throngs are pushed back, children shooed away.
He doesn't stop moving, and only a select few are allowed close enough to talk to him, U.S. security, Sudanese minders everywhere, some of this to be expected when a dignitary visits a chaotic, ravaged land. But look at the clothes, faces and figures of people who are supposed to be starving, displaced. A journalist who was there says the choreography was obvious.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we saw at the camp were many faces of happy people, energetic people running about. We didn't have more than the 20 minutes that we spent in the camp to talk to people to find out much about their individual stories.
TODD: State Department officials tell CNN they knew the village Colin Powell visited last week was somewhat sanitized. They say they expected that beforehand, but it's a clear pattern. U.N. officials tell us when Secretary-General Kofi Annan visited another village last week, all the people were gone. They had been moved in the middle of the night.
U.N. officials were outraged, but were later told that those refugees were transported to a camp with better infrastructure. But look at this scene again from last week. U.S. Senator Sam Brownback is in the front seat, moving through Darfur, trying to get a real look at the crisis.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you hear? Did you hear mobile six? We still have friends tailing us. Over.
TODD: Senator Brownback and Representative Frank Wolf have just returned from Darfur. They've seen and heard from refugees who have been shot, raped, had family members killed and been driven from their homes by the janjaweed militia, an Arab-based group fighting non-Arab tribes in Darfur, a group that by many accounts is still getting support from the Sudanese government.
When they first got there, Wolf and Brownback say Sudanese officials tried to manipulate their visit.
SEN. SAM BROWNBACK (R), KANSAS: They sent minders with us, so that when we were interviewing people in the refugee camps, they would be intimidated. But the people weren't intimidated. They tried to bribe the people. We went into some camps where some of the refugees said, we were offered money by the Sudanese government not to talk. We were threatened not to talk. TODD: Here's what it took to get some semblance of reality.
REP. FRANK WOLF (R), VIRGINIA: Senator Brownback went off in one direction. I drove into another direction. Another group went to another direction. We went up and down the camps and just kind of left people and finally got alone. Then, in three of the camps, there was no minders with us.
TODD: We asked a top Sudanese official in Washington to respond to the charges of whitewash.
ABDEL BAGI KABEIR, SUDANESE EMBASSY: First, these allegations are absolutely untrue, simply because such moves cannot be taken in the presence of this much international attention.
The senator and the congressman, they did not even meet the officials. They refused to meet with officials, in Khartoum, as well as in Darfur. Bush even said that was not appropriate to do.
TODD: The Sudanese government has pledged to disarm the janjaweed and help get aid to the refugees. For a child who gave this drawing to Senator Brownback, it may be too late.
BROWNBACK: We saw several of these, where this is a janjaweed with a gun shooting an individual.
TODD: Now, it's also worth pointing inward here. A U.N. official on the ground in Sudan who I spoke with today says there are several Arab and Western journalists in the Sudanese capital who have been repeatedly denied free access to Darfur and he says those journalists don't complain about it nearly enough -- Miles.
O'BRIEN: CNN's Brian Todd in Washington, thank you.
Coming up, we're going to show you a different kind of war memorial. It's a monument to those who died some time afterwards. The results of the Web question of the day when we come back as well.
Stay with us.
O'BRIEN: Here's how you're weighing in on our Web question of the day. Remember, we've been asking you, should the U.S. terror threat level be raised from elevated to high? Look at this: 32 percent of you say yes; 68 percent of you say no. As we always remind you, it's not a scientific poll. You can continue to vote on our Web site, CNN.com/Wolf.
Let's hear from you and read a little bit of e-mail.
Jason writes: "It seems today's terror warning has been carefully timed to steal the press away from the Democrats again. Like with the previous warnings, there are no specifics." But Lori offers this counterpoint: "If the terrorists did pull off an attack and Ridge hadn't said anything, he would be torn apart. These warnings are important."
Honoring the hidden casualties of war, it's our picture of the day. A granite plaque was unveiled at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington honoring those who died after their service. It pays tribute to men and women who died from exposure to Agent Orange, post- traumatic stress and other ailments. The sister of one of the late veterans says it will remind people the price of war goes far beyond the battlefield.
A reminder, you can always catch WOLF BLITZER REPORTS weekdays at this time, 5:00 Eastern . I'm Miles O'Brien. I'll also see you again tomorrow. Until then, thanks for being with us.
"LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" starts right now.
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