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Should Americans be Concerned by Increased Chatter on Internet by Alleged Terror Groups?

Aired July 13, 2004 - 08:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Terrorist threats against the United States and the investigation turns to the Internet. Who's voice is fueling this chatter?
Fears of a terrorist attack not changing the president's line. He says Americans are safer.

An awesome sight rolling through the American desert -- a wall of dust and storm winds keep blowing.

All of that and more on this AMERICAN MORNING.

ANNOUNCER: From the CNN broadcast center in New York, this is AMERICAN MORNING with Soledad O'Brien and Bill Hemmer.

COOPER: And thanks for joining us on this rainy Tuesday morning in New York.

I'm Anderson Cooper.

Bill and Soledad are off this week.


We are going to get to the terror threats in just a moment. Also looking at the elections and both campaigns, including our conversation with the chairman of the Democratic convention, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. He's got a big announcement this morning.

COOPER: He's going to be talking about who's talking at the convention.


COOPER: It's pretty interesting, that.

Also, changes are coming to the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay. Barbara Starr will be with us in a minute looking at how detainees might soon have a way to challenge the Bush administration.

COLLINS: And Jeffrey Toobin will be with us in a few minutes looking at Ken Lay and all the talking he's been doing since his indictment. Is he making a big mistake, though? We're going to talk about that.

COOPER: He appeared on "LARRY KING LIVE" last night.

COLLINS: He did.

COOPER: That was pretty interesting -- Jack, how are you doing this morning?


Thank you, Anderson.

Coming up in the "Cafferty File," the vice presidential getting to Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy on the floor of the Senate is now available on a sweater for your dog. We'll tell you how to get that.

And we'll tell you how to make a trip into outer space for just $1,000. The problem is you never come back.

That's coming up in the "File" shortly.

COOPER: All right, thanks.


COOPER: Homeland security officials say intelligence continues to indicate that al Qaeda is planning a major attack against the U.S. Now, including that intelligence can be found on the Internet and even if Internet postings are pure propaganda, experts say they still help terrorists accomplish their goal.


GABRIEL WEIMANN, U.S. INSTITUTE OF PEACE: If you are involved in psychological warfare, you know that the more targets you mention, the more panic you cause and it will be harder to defend against the attacks. I think al Qaeda knows that one of the most important values of terrorism is the psychological impact.


COOPER: So, should Americans be concerned by an increase in chatter on the Internet?

Evan Kohlmann is an international terrorist expert.

He is live in Washington.

Evan, good to see you this morning.


COOPER: Let's talk about these Web sites that are out there.

What should people know about them? KOHLMANN: Well, look, I mean the first thing to say is this, nothing on these Web sites should be taken literally. Everything is, indeed, propaganda. And everything should be taken with a grain of salt. We should understand that when they say the destruction of America or death blows, you know, they mean -- they may not be talking about death blows. They may not be talking about a weapon of mass destruction.

But, you know, at a time when the FBI and the federal government is so strapped for more information about this terror plot that everyone seems to think is coming, well, this is the last defense of America, it's the last resort, it's the place where we hope we might pull up the details, the small facts, the hints that we didn't pick up before 9/11.

And looking back now, we realize that there were hints given out on the Internet less than a month before 9/11, saying that a big event was about to happen, a big victory against America.

COOPER: So even though these sites may be propaganda, may be just sort of boasting, you say there is intelligence, there is information that can be gleaned from them that might be useful?

KOHLMANN: It's inadvertent. I mean they're releasing terrorist training videos. They're releasing videos of actual terrorist operations. They're talking about what their plans are. Now, they might not be specifically mentioning what target they've chosen for the next attack, but they're giving us an idea of the kind of targets they're looking at. And they're looking at Madrid style targets.

Unfortunately, that's not too terribly specific. This country is a country full of soft targets.

Nevertheless, it's at least a guide to what we should be looking for and at a time when U.S. intelligence is so closed off from the mind set of al Qaeda, this is the one window we really have into the mind set.

COOPER: I find it fascinating how media savvy a lot of these groups are, I mean, you know, making these videos of themselves. How much of these Web sites and how much of these videos that they make, the hostage taking videos, are really sort of promotional devices aimed at raising money in those communities that might be willing to listen to this message?

KOHLMANN: It's actually not even really aimed at raising money. It's aimed at recruiting. I think especially if you look at someone like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who's been featured in so many of these latest recordings, this is someone who wants to make a name for himself as a 21st century terrorist, the new generation of techno savvy terrorists that are cruel enough to cut someone's head off on live TV and at the same time appeal to this younger, militant generation of Middle Easterners who really are looking for someone to embody the, you know, the anger that they feel in their hearts, these people that really resent the United States. And while bin Laden is off hiding somewhere in Afghanistan and once in a while we get an audio message from him, Zarqawi is up and in front with his face and by his very hand killing Americans, on live television. It is tremendously media savvy and these guys are getting very good at this.

COOPER: Because we...

KOHLMANN: They're timing their releases.

COOPER: We also do have to remember that in some ways these groups are competing among -- I mean though they may be working together, they're also competing against each other for attention, for recruits, for any money that is out there. And I guess these videos are all part of that.

Evan, let's talk, though, a little bit about possible targets, because I mean we all focus so much on these big events, you know, on the Fourth of July or on the conventions that are maybe happening, on large gatherings of people. But there's really no way of predicting where an event might take place. And, in fact, I mean there could be an argument made that, you know, security is so tight around these large events that, you know, someone just taking a bomb into a movie theater or, you know, exploding a suicide bomber on the street might be the way they go about it.

KOHLMANN: Terrorism is an impossible science to predict and I don't claim otherwise. I think everyone realizes that unfortunately terrorists make their business by being unpredictable.

But certainly the conventions are a big target. I don't think the raises security levels at either convention, in New York or Boston, is significant enough to stop a major terrorist attack if it were to go ahead.

But like you said, it doesn't have to be a convention. An attack on a shopping mall or multiple attacks on shopping malls, movie theaters, even hospitals, right at the same time of the conventions, would have the exact same effect and there would be no need to worry about security.

Unfortunately, again, we're a country full of soft targets. We're an open country. As much as we try to enforce the idea of homeland security, there's always going to be a way in. And these guys are always going to be looking for a hold to exploit.

Now while they...

COOPER: And using...

KOHLMANN: Yes, go ahead.

COOPER: Sort of using our own technology, using our own, you know, implements, a tennis shoe, against us in sort of ways that I think we haven't even figured out, in ways that still surprise us.

We're going to have to leave it there, Evan Kohlmann, but we appreciate you joining us this morning.


KOHLMANN: My pleasure.

Thank you.

COLLINS: The war on terror and the nation's security front and center for President Bush on the campaign trail yesterday.

White House correspondent Dana Bash has our report.


DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president's unmistakable message uttered some half dozen times in his 32-minute speech...

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And the American people are safer.

BASH: Under fresh fire for invading Iraq based on faulty intelligence, Mr. Bush dug in saying war was about more than Saddam Hussein's illusive weapons.

BUSH: Although we have not found stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction we were right to go into Iraq. In the world after September the 11th that was a risk we could not afford to take.

BASH: The president has his work cut out for him. A recent poll shows 55 percent of Americans feel less safe from terror because of the war in Iraq, up 22 points in six months.

Mr. Bush spoke at this Tennessee site where officials are studying nuclear materials surrendered by Libya. He said Moammar Gadhafi got the message because America was so tough on Iraq.

BUSH: Because the Libyan government saw the seriousness of the civilized world and correctly judged its own interests, the American people are safer.

BASH: Some weapons experts say it's not that simple.

ROSE GOTTEMOELLER, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT: I don't really agree that it was Iraq that pushed Moammar Gadhafi into making the decision to give up his weapons of mass destruction. This has been a long diplomatic process.

BASH: In a refrain reminiscent of Ronald Reagan's, "Are you better off now than you were four years ago," Mr. Bush insisted Americans are more secure than they were three years ago when the U.S. was attacked. Ticking off relationships and reforms he's initiated he made this sweeping claim.

BUSH: The world changed on September the 11th and, since that day, we have changed the world. BASH: His Democratic opponent pointed to hotspots like North Korea, saying he begs to differ.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's not enough just to give speeches. America will only be safer when we get results.

BASH (on camera): Most of the arguments Mr. Bush made were not new but repackaged. Part of a coordinated White House effort to revive support for the president on an issue his advisers thought would be an easy sell on the campaign trail -- his leadership against terrorism.

Dana Bash, CNN, the White House.


COLLINS: President Bush is taking his campaign to the upper Midwest. Today, he is beginning a two day swing with stops in Michigan and Minnesota before heading to Wisconsin tomorrow.

COOPER: On the same day baseball stages its annual All Star Game, the Democrats unveil the starting lineup for their national convention in Boston beginning July 26. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, the convention chairman, will announce the key speakers and convention themes later this morning.

Earlier, I spoke with Governor Richardson.


COOPER: Governor Richardson, in 2000, a lot of time was spent at the convention selling Al Gore the man, talking about his biography.

Is that the way it's going to be for John Kerry, as well?

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: Well, yes, because this is the kind of convention that will introduce Senator Kerry to American people, Senator Edwards. So every convention highlights a nominee.

But this time there's going to be more pizzazz, more diverse speakers. Forty percent of the convention delegates, for instance, are diverse. We've got all kinds of spectacle, pyrotechnics. It's going to be a very exciting convention.

COOPER: How concerned are you that the Republicans have been able to, or successfully able to, in some voters' minds, to sort of define Senator Kerry as a flip-flopper?

RICHARDSON: Well, the reality, though, Anderson, is that the American people still haven't focused on the election. What happens is traditionally it's at convention time. This is why it's so important that we have a convention that isn't just a litany of speakers, but we're going to focus on themes of economic growth, opportunity. We're going to especially appeal to young people and veterans. And you're going to see the diversity and history of Boston and New England highlighted. So...

COOPER: Will you specifically, though, address, you know, sort of trying to readdress that flip-flop issue?

RICHARDSON: Well, I don't think that's caught on at all and Senator Kerry has some very firm positions. I know the Republicans are spending millions trying to define him that way. But I think you're going to see Senator Kerry come out with some, in his acceptance speech, economic growth themes, health, education, national security, opportunity issues.

This is the first time that the American people really, really focus on the election and our objective here is to give them an interesting, diverse, exciting convention, not like the old conventions where everybody gets up for three minutes and moves on.

COOPER: How much are you going to be speaking about the past? I bring this up because Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr. said at a Democratic platform meeting in Florida, he called basically Florida a crime scene.

Are we going to be hearing a lot about the -- complaining a lot about the 2000 election?

RICHARDSON: No, I think you're going to see positive themes. You're going to see what we want to do about the country, about health and education and economic growth. Yes, we're going to highlight some of our stars, and President Clinton is one of them. And we're going to have...

COOPER: Is Al Gore one of those stars? Will he be speaking in prime time?

RICHARDSON: Most likely, yes. But at the same time, we will highlight our ticket. Our ticket is probably our strongest asset. I think we have great opportunities all over the country with Senator Edwards' regional appeal in the South and rural areas and Senator Kerry having a very, very strong mainstream image that is really playing well in states like mine, New Mexico, and others.

So we're going to highlight our ticket, which I think is the strongest ticket we've had in a long time.

COOPER: Ron Reagan is also going to be speaking, reportedly, about stem cell research.

How did that come about? Who approached him?

RICHARDSON: Well, stem cell research is very important. It's in the party platform, the Democratic Party platform. We believe that President Bush has made a grievous mistake in not spending more research funds that will cure many diseases that somehow, because of this ill-fated policy, is not going to happen. And I believe that it was a party consensus that we try to highlight this issue and Ron Reagan has been very articulate on it.


COOPER: Governor Richardson went on to say he wasn't sure how it came about that Ron Reagan was going to be speaking, who approached whom.

The Republican national convention kicks off August 30 in New York City, about one month after the Democratic convention -- Heidi.

COLLINS: In an effort to comply with a Supreme Court ruling, the Pentagon is issuing a notice to the detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

Barbara Starr is live now at the Pentagon with the very latest on all of this -- Barbara, good morning to you.

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Heidi.

Well, indeed, to comply with that recent Supreme Court ruling that the detainees at Guantanamo Bay do have some legal rights, the Pentagon this week began notifying the 600 or so al Qaeda and Taliban suspected members being held at Guantanamo Bay of their specific legal rights under the Supreme Court ruling, a sort of legal aid from the Bush administration, if you will, to those detainees.

Now, it's been a very interesting process because they are having to notify them in 17 different languages, 19 dialects and for the many detainees who are illiterate, who cannot read, the notification is being told to them.

This notice to detainees includes several key points. First, it -- for the first time, tells the detainees that they are being held as enemy combatants. It also tells them that they can and will appear before special tribunals at Guantanamo Bay where they can challenge their status as an enemy combatant. If the tribunal rules in their favor, those detainees then will be released and sent back to their home countries.

However, the detainees appearing at these tribunals will not get lawyers. They will get what is called a personal representative. That is a military person from the United States. And not yet -- there's one other hang-up -- they don't yet have a process for notifying the detainees of their so-called habeas corpus rights, that the court said they had, that they could challenge in U.S. federal court their actual detention -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Well, even with all of this, though, Barbara, some legal scholars out there are saying it really isn't going far enough.

What's their argument?

STARR: Well, that's exactly right. Even with this very unique process being put into place, there's a lot of legal opposition, a lot of legal concern. One, that issue of a personal representative, what some legal scholars say is that doesn't go far enough, that the detainees have a right to an actual lawyer, just not some representative from the United States military. And on this issue of habeas corpus, the court said that the detainees had a habeas corpus right. In other words, they could challenge their detention in federal court. And so far the Pentagon has not come up with a process for that. They say they are working on one, but they have not come up with a process for giving those detainees the information simply on how they can contact a lawyer to represent them -- Heidi.

COLLINS: All right, Barbara Starr this morning from the Pentagon.

Barbara, thanks.

COOPER: It is 16 minutes past the hour.

Time for a look at some of the day's top stories.

Daryn Kagan is standing by in Atlanta -- hey, Daryn.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, good morning to you once again.

A Filipino man who's been held hostage in Iraq could be going home today. A diplomatic source in Baghdad saying the man will be released following an announcement by the Philippine government, agreeing to pull its troops out of Iraq ahead of schedule. It is not clear when that withdrawal would happen.

A preliminary hearing for Private First Class Lynndie England has been delayed again. The hearing was set to begin yesterday, but it's been postponed until August 3. The defense is requesting that a new military lawyer be added to the team. England is one of seven U.S. soldiers accused of abusing Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib Prison.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan urging the U.S. to lead the fight against AIDS. The head of the U.N. speaking today at the International AIDS Conference in Thailand, telling the U.S. that it must fight AIDS with the same commitment that it has shown to fighting terrorism. The Bush administration pledged $15 billion to the cause last year.

A groundbreaking American actress has passed away. Isabel Sanford, the actress who played Louise, or Weezie, Jefferson, has died at the age of 86. Sanford made history as the first black woman to win an Emmy for best actress in a comedy series. She won it for her star making role in the '70s sitcom, "The Jeffersons." That, of course, was a spin-off from "All In The Family" and it aired for 10 years.

The Orioles have bragging rights this morning. Miguel Tejada made a great impression at last night's home run derby in Houston. The Baltimore Orioles' shortstop won the derby. His win coming just hours after he found out that he'd be replacing New York Yankee Jason Giambi in the American lineup. Tejada shattered the record for home runs in a single round, getting an impressive 15 runs in the semifinal. Tonight is the big All Star Game and Roger Clemens, "The Rocket," will take the mound for the National League and Mark Mulder of the A's will take at least starting pitcher for the American League -- back to you. COLLINS: All right, everybody's going to be watching that one, I am sure.

Daryn, thanks so much.

The Phoenix area now preparing for more dust storms today. Take a look at this. A wall of dust swept through the area yesterday. Visibility cut to a few hundred feet, making it particularly dangerous for drivers, obviously. Thunder showers accompanied the dust, but the damage was limited from all of that.


COOPER: You probably noticed the news crawler, you know, running along the bottom of the screen. It's like right down -- there we go. Well, "The Daily Show's" Jon Stewart certainly has noticed it.

He talked to Wolf Blitzer about it last night.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: You like that crawl at the bottom? You like that?

JON STEWART, HOST: I love the crawl. I love the fact that the crawl has nothing to do with what's going on the TV.

BLITZER: No. It confuses me, too.

STEWART: My favorite one?


STEWART: The bodies of Uday and Qusay Hussein were being displayed and underneath it on the crawl it said, "Beyonce doesn't like the word 'bootylicious.'"


COOPER: I don't know if that's true, but it certainly sounds good.

COLLINS: Yes, he always makes it sound good.

All right, still to come this morning, if you've ever dreamed of a trip to space, well, here is your chance. There's really one big catch, though. We're going to talk about it next on the "Cafferty File."

COOPER: Someone is also going to have to explain to Jack Cafferty what bootylicious is all about.


COOPER: Also ahead, former Enron chief Ken Lay goes on TV and pleads ignorance. Will be enough to keep him out of prison? We'll talk to Jeffrey Toobin.

COLLINS: And the mystery of the lost and found Marine. Corporal Wassef Hassoun offers an explanation ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


COOPER: Time to check in with our own bootylicious, Jack Cafferty and the "Cafferty File."

CAFFERTY: What the hell does that mean, bootylicious? What does that mean?

COLLINS: Something about the booty.

COOPER: I'll explain it to you during the break.

CAFFERTY: Oh, you don't want to explain it to me now. You said during -- before the commercial you were going to explain to me what it meant, but now you don't want to do it? All right.

COLLINS: I'd like to hear it, too, Anderson.


COOPER: It's a little early for that, I think. I don't know.


Coming soon here on the "File," a chance to fire a loved one's remains into outer space. This is an idea that has a certain appeal, if you know what I mean. A company called Space Services will soon begin offering this. For between $1,000 and $5,000, the cremated remains of your mother-in-law can join 149 other bags of ashes for a trip to the great beyond, where they will orbit the Earth forever, never to return to your house.

Your dog, your toddler, your car, your computer can all mimic Vice President Dick Cheney. Ever since the vice pres launched the "F" bomb at Senator Patrick Leahy back on June 22, merchandise quoting him selling like hotcakes. A Los Angeles art gallery owner now has a line that includes dog clothes, T-shirts, thongs, baby clothes -- the kind of thing you want to put on junior to march him around the mall -- mouse pads, car stickers and hats, all bearing the vice president's salty language.

And one more here, a bulletin just in. Al Franken is going to change the name of his radio show. The liberal radio network, I think they call it Air America, and the word network is used loosely -- they're not even on the air in a lot of America's major markets -- will no longer air "The O'Franken Factor." From now on, it's the "Al Franken Show." Apparently Franken's tired of being trashed regularly on "The O'Reilly Factor," unlike "The O'Franken Factor," "The O'Reilly Factor" is a hugely successful program, in spite of the fact that it airs on the "F" word network.

There you have it. COOPER: Changing the name.

COLLINS: You know the space thing, send your mother-in-law up there? Is it disrespectful, do you think?

CAFFERTY: She's dead. What's the difference?

COOPER: I like that Jack referred to her as a bag of ashes.


COOPER: You know? Yes.

COLLINS: Only 149 other ones up there, too.

CAFFERTY: Well, they're going to send 150 bags at a clip.

COLLINS: Oh, I see. Oh, OK.


COOPER: Oh, so you've got to wait. It's like a bulk...

CAFFERTY: Yes. So you've got, you know, you make a reservation and then you get 149 other bags, they load them all in a thing and away they go.

COLLINS: And they won't be alone, either. They get to be together.

COOPER: Straight to the moon, Alice.

COLLINS: Yes, all right...

CAFFERTY: I can go home now.

COLLINS: Thank you so much, Jack.

Still to come this morning, if you thought you had your cholesterol in check, you might still have something to worry about. We're going to tell you about it in just a moment.

Plus, military sources say Corporal Wassef Hassoun is talking. What does he say was behind his disappearance?

It's all coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.


COOPER: Still to come this morning, Ken Lay says he didn't know about any crimes at Enron when he was in charge. But our Jeffrey Toobin says some people might find that kind of hard to believe.

That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


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